I took a hike a couple weekends ago to Gillespie Pass. Though I mentioned the trip already, the epic scenery and ideal weather of the trip really merits its own trip report.
We had originally planned this one for February 2020, when my sister Susanna was visiting. But foul weather to the south dictated that we change our destination last year, leaving Gillespie still on our to-explore list. Our original group had been winnowed down by a broken ankle and a pregnancy, so it was just Carrie and me on this adventure.
Yes, we totally felt like softies stepping out onto that river bank after taking the jet boat with a crowd of seniors…but, hey, NZ domestic tourism needs our support after all. Only doing our part. Thanks Wilkin River Jets!
By then it was only about 4:30, and it was still a warm basking sort of afternoon, too hot even for sandflies to be very pesky. I decided to sit in the long grass and see if I could discover which type was pollenating so copiously. It’s amazing what you see if you sit still. Besides discovering that it was the purple foamy grass that was shedding pollen and reacquainting myself with grass flower morphology, there was a lot of other business to admire. There was an assassin bug hugging its sandfly prey, various solitary and bumble bees hectically visiting the yellow asters, and lots of orange and black butterflies with green fuzzy thoraxes and spiral tongues chasing each other in loops. I tugged at the grass leaves and examined where they grip to the stem–the structure of that sheath and the hairs on the leaf base would tell me which species I was holding, if I could have remembered the grass key. The light purple harebells had white downy stigmas, and they didn’t seem to mind their resident thrips. Down near the river miniscule coprosma plants were heavy with orange berries, and their neighbour plants held their bare black seeds cupped in a white fleshy receptacle. Turn over a river rock and creepy crawlies scuttered away, gills quivering (maybe mayfly larvae?). The undersides of the rocks shelter perfect pebble pupa cases too, glued on strongly to make safe homes for…? Occasionally I heard a kea, but never caught glimpse of it. The cicadas were loud, and I brought an empty moult in to Carrie to show her the thread-like trachea linings, and tell her about the rest of the gorgeous miniscule world. “You’re frothing!” she commented. Yep, I was. I spent an hour and a half exploring the petite, and next time I’ll carry my 10x lens.
Uhm… I thought I wrote a comment, but it’s not here? (Was it too long to get published? Is it needing to be moderated? Hmm. I might try again.)
Okay, that’s probably a bit too much excitement, but… AAAAAAAA!!! You’ve done it! 😀 Your photos and words brought such lovely memories back to me. I loved that track so much, especially the side-trip to Lake Crucible. And I am totally a supporter of Wilkin-to-Young travelling direction, too.
Have you come across stories of Ally Willen – the girl who died in Young river a couple of years back? They really resonated with me. One thing is the incident analysis in Federated Mountain Clubs bulletin that appeared shortly after, https://wilderlife.nz/2017/03/a-preventable-tragedy-in-the-young-valley/. I read it at a time when I was still analysing how we ourselves got swept down a river when heading to Gillespie, so I was intrigued by other people’s stories. That then lead me to a foundation her family started after Ally died, “Live Like Ally Foundation”
There are a whole number of stories her family have written on the foundation’s blog, but some that stood out more: Ally wrote down this quote in her travel journal, “I have to be young and stupid before I become old and wise.”
Also, she was writing letters back-and-forth with a man who was serving a life sentence at a Texas prison. The way her sister described it, Ally “believed that every living thing was good and worthy of unconditional love. ” https://www.llafoundation.com/prisoner-768543/
Thank you for reminding me of all that. And I’m so glad you’ve been to Crucible lake, too! I was there in early January, when ice floes were still floating around. I stripped down – undies and all – and jumped in for a quick swim, pushed one of the floats out of my way a bit when climbing back out :). Such a neat place.
That story of Ally was in my mind the whole way down the valley from Gillespie to the Young hut as I looked down into the apparently tame Young creek (you’d hardly call it a river the day we were there). Weather is not to be trifled with.