Thursday, November 16, 2017

November 16, 2017 - Glaciers

Today we drove to the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers, just inland from the west coast of New Zealand.  First up was the Franz Josef Glacier, which was just a few minutes from our hotel in Franz Josepf.  We got a very early start and got started on the trail at 6:30 AM.  Ours was the only car in the parking lot, so we had the place to ourselves.  It is a pretty easy walk to the face of the glacier.  Unfortunately, as with most of the glaciers in the world, this one is retreating and has lost more than a mile in the last 10 years.  There was a sign driving up that stated, "Glacier was Here in 1780".  About a half mile further was another sign saying "glacier was here in 1938".  Today the glacier is a few miles from where it was in 1938.  So, it's retreating quickly right now.  Anyway, it was great to see it without the large crowds that would begin arriving in a few hours.  As we got closer the air temperature got colder and colder.  We felt some of the runoff water and it was COLD!

Three waterfalls at once on the trail to Franz Josef Glacier

Our first view of the glacier.  There were many nice waterfalls along the way.

Getting closer.  The temperature is dropping.  Glacier clearly in sight.

End of the line.  This is as close as you can get, unless you
take a helicopter that will take you further up to a safe landing
spot.  That is VERY expensive.  We did not do it.

4 years and look how much this glacier has retreated.

We got our early start because Cindy really wanted to take one of the most difficult glacier viewing hikes here in Glacier Country.  More than 3000 feet elevation gain, rough, raw, and not frequently traveled.  I told here I would try my best.  We left the Frans Josef Glacier and went back to our hotel to grab our belongings and check out.  Then, we drove 25 minutes to Fox Glacier.  We found the trail head and parked.  First thing we see is a warning sign about the toughness of the trail.  We proceed, and sure enough, this is not a maintained path.  It is rough and raw, with fallen trees and debris on the trail.  It is VERY steep with some sections almost vertical as you climb up tree roots.  After about 40 minutes of this I am realizing that I am in no condition to this for 6 or 7 more hours.  We turn around and head back down.  I guess I am just too old and not in the shape I used to be, because 10 years ago this would not have been that bad.  Now, it was tortuous.  This kind of hiking is just not for me anymore, unless I get in better shape.  Cindy could have easily gone a lot further.  On the plus side, had we completed it, we would have seen nothing as the glacier ended up in the clouds in a few hours.

When your trail starts with a warning, you know it's going to be tough.

Cindy playing Tarzan swinging from a jungle vine.

Starting to get tough.  Climbing up, and up, and up.

Then down, down, down.

And back up we go.  This trail was exhausting.

We still wanted to see Fox Glacier so we drove back to the main viewing area and took the relatively easy walk up to the Glacier.  Just like Franz Josef this glacier is also retreating.  Sad.  There isn't much left to see compared to about 10 years ago.  However, we were allowed to go closer to the glacier here than at Franz.  The don't allow people to go out to the glacier anymore because it just isn't safe and many tourists have been killed when tons of ice have fallen on them.

Fox Glacier has also retreated quite a bit....

Close up of the Fox Glacier.

Cindy was upset last year when we did not take our boat to Alaska.
She proclaimed "I'll never get to see a glacier".  Ha, she was wrong!

We grabbed a bite to eat in town and then headed south along the coast and eventually turned inland headed for a town named Wanaka.  There is a HUGE hike Cindy wants to do there (but Steve suggested).  We will see how that goes tomorrow.   On the way we stopped at a few interesting places.  One was Thunder Falls.  It was not thunderous, but it was quite nice.  The other location was called Blue Pools.  That was absolutely amazing!

Thunder Falls

Heading to Blue Pools.  Another suspension bridge.
There was one more suspension bridge on this trail

Amazing, clear, blue water.  It just doesn't look real in person.

Cindy commented that the water reminder her of the clear blue water we
experienced in much if Mexico.

And now for the crazy van pictures of the day:

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