Saturday, May 31, 2008

Exploring Wanaka, Tourist-Style

One of the great bonuses of having guests is that we get out and do touristy things. We spent a cool, blue-sky day traveling over the Crown Range and exploring Wanaka with Grams and Grandpop. The grandparents’ visit hit the peak of fall color.

We stopped for some pictures along Lake Hayes, drove over the Crown Range and then had a lunch at the Cheeky Monkey Café in Wanaka. After lunch we parted ways. Doug and Don went to the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum. Marcia, Colin, Liam and I headed to Puzzling World. We decided to pit age against youth. Liam and Colin were one team and Marcia and I were the other team. We raced each other through the maze. It took us most of an hour. Youth dominated age. Liam and Colin won by about 5 minutes. Then we explored the crazy exhibits, like the tilted room.

Doug and Don picked us up from Puzzling World and we head out for late afternoon wine tasting at Rippon Vineyards. As the grown-ups sipped wine, Liam and Colin played hide and seek. While we were sitting outside the tasting room, enjoying our wine and gazing over the vineyards in the late afternoon sunshine, a harrier swooped down and got entangled in the netting draped over the vines. Only one young woman was working in the wine tasting room. She and I put on some big leather gloves and she grabbed some clippers. We walked down towards the flaying harrier. Luckily, at the last moment, the harrier shook itself free and flew away. Phew! I had no idea exactly how we were going to free it without getting scratched and clawed. It looked big and fierce.

p.s. If any of our friends in the United States want to enjoy some Rippon Vineyard wines or other Otago wines, our new neighbors own Station Imports, a wine importing company that brings wines from the boutique vineyards of Central Otago into the United States. When Andy and Penny aren’t here in New Zealand, they are in Colorado Springs just down the road from Denver, our old home. Strangely, their daughter is attending Colby College in Maine and majoring in Biology/Environmental Science as I did. We discovered this connection at a Christmas party and even found we had some of the same professors (who were much younger in my day).

Friday, May 30, 2008

Happy Trails

While the Grandparents were visiting, we spent lots of time hanging out with the horses.

Liam and Colin wanted to show off their cowboy skills to their grandparents. Both boys have gained lots of confidence. Now all they want to do is charge around at top speed. Ruby, the Clydesdale cross, is huge, but good-natured. Out on the trails she generally heads where they boys want to go, unless she sees something good to eat. When she reaches down for a bite of grass Colin holds on to the reins, pinwheels forward with his legs pointing straight up in the air. Once Ruby finishes her nibble, she raises her head and Colin rights himself in the saddle. He’s laughing the whole time.

Grandpop (aka Don) was especially taken with the horses. Don didn’t mention to me that he hadn’t actually ever really ridden a horse before until he was in the saddle. (Note to self: Always ask about experience level first.) Don grew up on a farm in the country so I just assumed he was an old pro. Even after all these years, I learning about my father-in-law. He and Ruby headed out on the trail and became fast friends immediately.

Don and I rode out towards Moke Lake and stopped at an old hut. Marcia, Doug, Colin and Liam came out to join us for a mid-afternoon cup of tea. We took the saddles off the horses and turned them out in a small paddock next to the hut. We were lounging in the sun when Doug leaped up and yelled, “Watch out!” A mountain biker had come along the track behind the paddock and startled Ruby. From a standstill, Ruby leaped right out of the paddock almost into Doug’s lap. Almost every outing with the horses seems to reaffirm Doug’s opinion that my equine friends are big, crazy, and unpredictable and maybe out to get him. Ruby swerved around Doug and charged out into the field beyond the hut. I assumed she would high tail it for home jumping all the gates along the way. Colin and Liam had already left to run home. I was envisioning Ruby barreling down the track right over them. I just hoped they had the sense to dive in the bushes. As I went to find her bridle wondering how I would catch her, Ruby came trotting back to me. I opened the paddock gate and she ambled back inside the paddock. I had heard rumors that Ruby could jump over anything, but I thought I was hearing exaggerated horse stories. Now I know, Ruby girl can jump!

I am riding Poppy now. I have kept quiet about my new horse until I was fairly certain this relationship was going to work. I am leasing Poppy for the winter. She is a beautiful 15.1 h, dark bay Thoroughbred mare. She is silly and full of energy, but (so far) has no buck or nastiness. She and I are having lots of fun. I decided leasing for a season is the perfect option. There is the option to buy Poppy next spring, but no commitment if this relationship doesn’t work out for the two of us. So we’re in a committed relationship for a season and then we’ll see how we’re doing together.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nine Days

Nine days until Coronet Peak opens!

We missed the 07-08 Ski season in the northern hemisphere.

We are ready for the 2008 season in the southern hemisphere! We have our ski passes. Colin got new boots yesterday and Liam got new skis. We've dusted off the rest of our gear. We joined the Wakatipu Ski Club on Coronet and the boys are signed up for Queenstown Alpine Ski Team (QAST) Junior Programme. We've had some snow and are ready for more!

In addition to Coronet in Queenstown, we have The Remarkables opening 21 June. Also, there is Cardrona, between Queenstown and Wanaka on top of the Crown Range, opening 27 June. Treble Cone in Wanaka opens 30 June.

Our pass covers Coronet and Remarkables and another smaller ski field, Ohau. We plan to check them all out our first full season here, but will probably spend most or our time at Coronet and Remarkables.

swish, swish

p.s. Feels like winter's coming - I've got a wicked head cold, ugh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hello. Sorry for the disappearance the last week.

I have been distracted as of late.

The weekend before last we were invited to dinner by Liam's classmate, Hebe, and her family. At dinner I learned that Hebe's father is the Project Director for the NZ United World College Trust (UWC), which is working to establish the next UWC here in NZ. I wasn't very familiar with the United World Colleges, but I was familiar with Kurt Hahn, the founder of Atlantic College which was the first United World College. Dr. Hahn also founded Outward Bound. In addition, Round Square, a world-wide association of more than 60 schools, was inspired by Dr Hahn's educational philosophy. Dr. Hahn once said, "I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion." I learned the power of this approach to education while teaching at The Athenian School in Danville, CA. Athenian is a Round Square School. I never expected to make this connection here in Queenstown. I was just going over to the house of some new friends to get to know one another.

To make a long story short. I am now volunteering with the NZ UWC. I met John on Saturday night and by Wednesday I was in his office finding out how I could help establish our UWC in New Zealand.

A few other notes:

1. Tonight I burst into tears as I was helping Colin fill out his reading log when I realized that today is 21 May 2008. I first kissed Doug 23 years ago tonight. Sounds like a cliché, but time flies. How did we get from the bank of the Sespe River to a hillside above Lake Wakatipu? Colin looked perplexed, wondering what could possible be that wrong with his reading log?

2. Doug wants to share the vermin count update:

Mice: 16
Rats: 0
Possum: 6
Hedgehog: 1

I am just thankful for zero rats (knocking on wood as I write). I'm coping with the mice, possums, and hedgehogs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Overnight Cruise, Doubtful Sound

The photos don't capture the wild, isolation of this place. There are no roads beyond Deep Cove. Seven meters of rain a year is hard to imagine until you enter the cove. Every inch of the mountains is covered with vegetation or waterfalls, but there is no sediment. Soil just washes away. Huge trees cling with interlocking roots to the moss-covered, rocky cliffs. There are tree avalanches. If one tree loses its hold, a whole mountainside of intertwined trees can come crashing down into the water. We were fascinated. It was incomparable to any place.

I am not a fan of cruises and usually think that traveling with a big group of people on a small boat sounds claustrophobic, but this cruise was the perfect length and three generations of Kirkpatricks were entertained the whole time. The incredible scenery captivated us throughout the cruise. We started the afternoon with tea and big, homemade muffins. Doug, Liam and I went out for a kayak. Marcia, Don and Colin took a tender craft ride. After time in the water there was a late afternoon soup to help us warm up. The rest of the afternoon and evening the boys ran around on the decks, usually right out on the bow. When they were finally cold and windblown, they joined Grams for board games in the main cabin. Don chatted with the captain, swapping stories and discussing navigation instruments and technology. Marcia (a.k.a. Grams) made a new friend with a fellow passenger. The boat anchored in Crooked Arm for the night. There was a great dinner and slideshow. After tucking the boys and grandparents into their cabins, Doug and I snuck out for a little star gazing between the clouds. It was completely dark except for a single light from one other boat in the distance and even that light disappeared from time to time as the fog drifted across the arm. The darkness and the cold, wet night seem to send everyone else inside and we had the bow to ourselves for quite a while. It was romantic if you like light drizzle and wispy, spooky clouds like I do. The cabins were small but clean, cozy and quiet at night. We woke when the boat's engines kicked on. As we dressed and headed down to breakfast, we started our cruise homeward. The highlight of the morning was watching a pod of bottlenose dolphins splashing about in the early morning light. By lunchtime we were back in Manapouri, and I hadn't had time to feel trapped on a crowded boat.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Colin and Liam write

Today Colin and Liam had their first student/parent/teacher conferences for the first quarter of the school year at Queenstown Primary School. In their Learning Journals they both included pieces that they wrote this fall. Colin wrote about his Outdoor Education Week and Liam wrote about hiking the Lycian Way in Turkey on our trip through Europe. The Lycian Way hike appears to have been an important experience for Liam because he has written several pieces about it. Both boys enjoy writing, like their Uncle Matt and Grandy!

Outdoor Education Week, by Colin:

The Lycian Way, by Liam:

Vermin count update:
Mice: 16
Rats: 0
Possum: 5
Hedgehog: 1

p.s. Doug did a little research and found out that New Zealand has approximately 4 million people and is estimated to have at least 60 million possums. With these numbers each person needs to trap 15 possums to rid New Zealand of this invasive, forest-devouring pest. That means, to do our fair share, our family has 55 possums to go...

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Happy 87th Birthday Great-Grandpa!

Dear Great-Grandpa,

We were so busy with Grams and Grandpop that our Birthday cards to you will be a wee bit late. Our cards are in the mail to you so you can keep them forever, but we wanted you to see them on your birthday so we posted them on the blog.

We hope you have an awesome birthday. We wish we were all together like in Las Vegas. We miss you!


Liam and Colin

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hike to Lake Sylvan

Our visit with the Grams and Grandpop was busy and we haven't had time to edit and upload many pictures. Now that the house is quiet (and a little lonely) without grandparents and with both boys back in school, we have some photos ready to share. Hopefully we will entice a few more friends and family to visit!

Out beyond Glenorchy, right near the Routeburn Track, we hiked through a beech forest to Lake Sylvan. The day was cool, but once we disappeared into the forest we were sheltered from the wind. After about 45 minutes of meandering through the dense moss covered trees and over a series of footbridges, we emerged from the forest onto a rock outcrop overlooking Lake Sylvan. The lake glistened in the midday sun, especially to our eyes adjusted to the dark forest. Layers of mountains in the distance faded from greens to blues.

I first drove out to Glenorchy August 2006 and immediately called Doug to tell him that I wanted to move to Glenorchy. Doug had learned not to get too excited, because I had called him almost every night of my reconnaissance trip to say I wanted to move to that night’s locale. However, I was truly taken with Glenorchy and, in the end, we moved just thirty minutes away. I now have a map of the area and am planning many more adventures into the wilds of this area.

Good-bye Grams and Grandpop

We said good-bye to Grams and Grandpop at the Queenstown Airport this afternoon. All of us were teary eyed and sad, but laughing hard as we sang

Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang
Ooo eee, ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang...

Grams taught this song to Colin and Liam. Now all of us have it stuck in our heads! Here's a version, in case you don't have this song stuck in your head yet.

As we get ready for bed, we are thinking of you, Grams and Grandpop. You should be in Auckland, getting on the flight to Los Angeles. Sleep tight and we'll talk to you on your Tuesday.

Lots of love,

Carolyn, Colin, Doug and Liam

Photo: overnight cruise on the Fiordland Navigator, Doubtful Sound, 25 April

Wakatipu Moonrise

photo by Doug, evening, 20 April

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Matt - Way to go!

This weekend my baby bro, Matthew Parker Reed, receives his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from University of Alaska Anchorage. We have yet to read his thesis and Matt, ever the modest guy, tells us nothing. Through his girlfriend Jamie and Mom, however, we keep reading the impressive comments by reviewers including the dean of the UAA graduate school and author Ron Carlson. Matthew also just received an award for the best thesis of the year.

We all worried, especially Mom, because Matthew didn't speak until he was two years old. He seems to have complete mastery of the English language now!

Today on the far side of the world, we celebrate your accomplishments Matt!

Much Love,

Carolyn, Colin, Doug and Liam

p.s. Message to Uncle Matt from Colin and Liam: The snow started this weekend, so get your skiing bum down here right now!