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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Rob Roy Glacier Hike

Mt. Aspiring National Park, New Zealand


It's less than a month since we returned from New Zealand and this was one of the most memorable outings we had during our visit. It's a lovely day-hike in the Mount Aspiring National Park, 54 km from Wanaka in the center of the South Island.

So much in NZ is about "adventure tourism". Selling you an experience of nature, flying you to walk on a glacier, jet boating into a canyon, bungee jumping over a river or a tour where you bike, paddle and roll down hill in an inflated sphere.  All true - it's called zorbing! It's all about experiencing the fastest, "baddest", scariest things in the most beautiful surroundings. Paying for the adventure and to be taken out to experience nature. The Rob Roy Glacier hike is exactly the opposite and to me this is the true joy of what NZ offers, something completely non-commercial but exceptional in terms of natural beauty.
The dirt road through farmland on the way in,  January 2011.
The beginning of the hike.
Before we took the hike I had read several warnings and was overly concerned about the drive in and the walk itself, particularly because it had been raining heavily for two days.  The Dept. of Conservation (DOC) said we needed at least four hours after the rain or we wouldn't be able to ford the streams which swell rapidly but dissipate quickly.

It's a wonderful walk, but to get to the trail head the final 30 km is on a unpaved road.

However it is a beautiful drive through farmland with more sheep and cattle than one can count. Because of the rain there were innumerable waterfalls and at the end of the drive we had to ford eight small streams on our way, a little nerve wracking in a small rental car. Don't be put off by the drive, even without the hike the views from the valley are stunning, but do check the weather forecast or call the DOC if you have any concerns.
Starting the climb.
The locals admiring the view!
The hike starts in a lovely alpine valley, and after crossing the river on a swaying rope bridge, the trail climbs through a beech forest with the sound of the river on your left. The forest, like so many we saw in NZ, was impossibly lush with a carpet of ferns and moss in jewel-like tones. Eventually the trees cleared, the path diverged from the river and as we climb towards our right the view opened up to the glacier high above us, spectacular.
Do fill up your car before you go, we had a nerve-wracking return trip terrified we would run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere!  Our worry was compounded by the fact that, having forgotten that we were on already well into the reserve tank, we picked up a German hitchhiker, and while we enjoyed his company it would have been humiliating to have ground to a halt having offered him a lift. Petrol problems aside we thought it was wonderful to be able to hitch to and from a trail like this.
Yoga as we go!

The glacier.

Almost back to the car.

We hiked over several of these bridges  in NZ.

The view on the way home.


Highly recommended:  It is a seven mile hike (round trip) with a 1,625 ft gain and we enjoyed every bit of it. It's a steady ascent but is quite manageable if you are reasonably fit. Take the time to go past the point where  others stop and make your way closer to the glacier for a more secluded picnic. On the way down we particularly enjoyed  ourselves with time to really see the forest. Though most of the other walkers sped down the trail as fast as possible. Although it's a very reasonable day hike many of our fellow walkers seemed to moving at high speeds and were be dressed to conquer Everest! Perhaps they had taken the the DOC recommendations to heart "Plan properly and ensure that your group has a capable leader"!

More information
The DOC website is a very helpful resource with extensive listings from short day hikes to multi-day tracks. Here's their page on the Rob Roy Track

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