Team RailRiders member Crystal Brindle is currently down under in the land of the Kiwis. Securing a job as a Hut Warden in Abel Tasman National Park, she set off on this adventure in October, committed to spending a full season in the Land of the Long White Cloud. New Zealand is famous for its landscapes, and perhaps even more famous for personifying Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s interpretation of Lord of the Rings. One thing is for certain: Crystal has taken advantage of her 8-day on, 8-day off schedule as a Hut Warden to adventure around much of the country and take some of the most incredible photos we have ever seen. Here is the story of her journey told through photographs, and the captions from Crystal herself! If you want to purchase any of this photography, you can contact Crystal or find them on her website: www.inpursuitofthewild.com
10/27/14: “Today I begin my first 8 day shift as a Hut Warden on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track. Here’s to unplugged living and days spent hiking and working on beautiful beaches!”
11/18/14 – Boulder Lake in Kahurangi National Park. This is part of a stunning series of pictures by Crystal that you should all check out.
11/20/14 – “A quick iPhone shot from an absolutely spectacular morning spent in the glorious Mount Cook National Park yesterday. I can’t say that I’ve ever been more impressed with a landscape. I could spend a lifetime exploring the wonders of this park. Pictured: one of the three swing bridges along the Hooker Valley track with Mount Sefton and the Footstool dominating the background. Stunning.” This iPhone shot is better than any photograph I have ever taken.
11/24/14 – “Aoraki – the tallest peak in New Zealand catching morning light over Hooker Lake. A spectacular morning spent in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. Thanks to Will and Ben for the great company and for getting up at 4:15 with me to photograph the lake at sunrise!”
11/23/14 – “Continually blown away by New Zealand’s beauty! Lake Wakatipu this morning near Glenorchy.”
11/26/14 – “After planning to tackle most of the Routeburn Track in a day from the road end to Lake Mackenzie after a spur of the moment decision to include the Great Walk in my weekend plans, I was surprised to find myself on an unexpected helicopter flight over the alpine section of the track! This surprising turn of events was the result of a closed section of track and empty seats on a helicopter that was assisting with the monitoring of avalanche conditions. What fun! Will and I just barely made it to this spectacular lake thanks to everything falling into place. I had a wonderful time photographing the lake and listening to stories from the local hut warden who hosted us for the night. Heavy rain and all around awful weather cleared for the day of our hike out and created this scene as well as enabled us to hike the alpine portion of the track we had previously skipped. I was in complete euphoria after spending time at the lake and reconnecting with the landscape of Fiordland that is second to none. The hike out over an alpine wonderland was brilliant! Lakes, waterfalls, deep valleys, and soaring snow-capped peaks created a visual overload of beauty. I cannot say enough for this track and the national parks it spans. You have to see it to believe it!”
12/3/14 – “The ever beautiful Lake Mackenzie from above – taken from the tussock fields above the lake as the Routeburn Track winds along to Harris Saddle”
12/22/14 – “Monday morning sunrise as seen from Mount Arthur – after four days of rain over my weekend I made a quick trip to Mount Arthur to soak up the forecasted good weather before heading back to work. It was quite the long trip and I ended up hiking 28 miles in 30 hours. I hiked in from the Cobb Valley to a place along Mount Arthur’s ridge to camp on Sunday night. I had hoped to camp on the summit but strong winds and low cloud changed my mind. After a stormy night, I summited the next morning before sunrise and watched a clear and calm morning unfold over the mountains and sea below. Clouds hung low in the valleys to the west but the sun rose bright and golden in the east. What I find most difficult about summit photography is choosing the best composition – it’s so difficult to choose which view to photograph when they’re all beautiful and unique. I chose to shoot due east and thus included Tasman Bay, Winter Peak, and the summit of Mount Arthur in the photo. This was an incredible sunrise experience and I wasn’t ready to leave! After all I’ve seen and done in New Zealand so far it’s amazing to think that this time last year I had yet to set foot in the country. What started as only a vacation this time last year has turned into so much more!”
1/1/15 – “The Mueller Hut in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park set against a perfect backdrop of majestic peaks – Mount Sefton, the Footstool, and the tallest of all, Aoraki. I was fortunate enough to bring in the new year from this fine vantage point on the ridge of Mount Olivier. As one of the first countries in the world to greet the day, watching the sunrise in New Zealand has special significance. The first morning of 2015 did not disappoint. Our group hiked to the Mueller Hut on New Year’s Eve in drenching rain that turned to snow as we climbed in elevation. My rain gear did not stand up to the conditions and I was soaked upon arrival. Climbing 2,000 steps, hiking through gushing streams, and jumping waterfalls soaked my boots to the core. We were warned by visitor center staff that a few people had turned around due to the conditions but we decided to push on in order to be at the location for the forecasted clear weather the next day. The snow didn’t stop until sometime in the night and I was worried that the scramble to the summit of Mount Olivier would prove challenging. However, when I woke at 5 a.m. I found perfectly clear skies and crisp air. To my surprise almost everyone in the hut woke before sunrise and climbed part way up the ridge. The enthusiasm for the sunrise was contagious and I hurried to a high point on the ridge with Will. We watched as the tallest peaks in the land caught the first pink glow and listened to the crashing icefalls from the hanging glaciers all around us. The raw power of this landscape was evident everywhere we looked. The Mueller Glacier filled the valley beneath us and waterfalls poured from sheer cliffs above. The western view from the ridge encompassed range after range of mountains and opened to braided rivers glowing with light and shimmering Lake Pukaki to the east. Without a doubt the most impressive landscape I have experienced.
This photo only shows one piece of this fabulous landscape and falls short of representing its full glory. I’ll post more over the next few days that will help piece together what I experienced on this morning. I’ve decided to make watching the sunrise on New Year’s Day from a great vantage point a habit for the future. It helped me grasp the arrival of the new year in a visual way.”
1/7/15 – “Golden morning clouds over Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, the two tallest peaks in New Zealand, reflected in Lake Matheson as captured from Reflection Island.
After visiting this famed lake last year and seeing nothing but grey clouds, I was ecstatic to find this scene on last Friday’s visit. I tried to make Thursday a perfect photography day by shooting the sunrise at the Mueller Hut and then driving 6 hours to Lake Matheson for sunset. Although Will and I pushed the limits of speed over Haast Pass we arrived with little time to spare and found the mountains obscured in cloud. I then had to take the second best option and go for sunrise. I awoke to find the jagged peaks crowned by a backdrop of glowing red clouds and quickly made my way around the twisting forest path of the lake. I found another photographer at Reflection Island who had a motion controlled timelapse set up – how awesome! We both watched as a cool grey dawn turned to gold as the sun rose. The drifting mist off the lake surface added a special element as did the many bird calls and flights across the lake. What an ideal place to bring in the second day of the new year! Each time I visit the glacier region I am astounded by the deep valleys and the dramatic rise of the Southern Alps from the sea. As with every place I visit, a walk to the terminal face of these glaciers or a morning spent at Lake Matheson reminds me of why I chose to come to this far off country that was so unlike anything I had seen before yet so full of the best lifestyles and landscapes one could imagine. In this new year I’m feeling settled with my life in New Zealand and embracing adventure and discovery at every turn.”
Find more of Crystal’s favorite photos on her website, and stay tuned for more fantastic photography from her season in New Zealand! In the meantime, we will all continue to live vicariously through these photos and resist the temptation to fly across the Pacific Ocean.