Day 95 – Copland Track, originally uploaded by bexadler.

I just spent the last month working as a volunteer hut warden up at Welcome Flat Hut in New Zealand’s Copland Valley. it was one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had and left me with a vastly enhanced appreciation for wild places.

I spent the month hanging out with two Kiwi guys who were doing maintenance work on the Copland Track, which is the trail leading up to my hut. In the beginning I was afraid of near everything. I didn’t like leaving the trail for any reason, I didn’t feel comfortable crossing the numerous swinging bridges, and I was on the constant lookout for ankle twisters. But toward the end I started to feel like the Copland Vally was my very own forest. My Kiwi friends taught me how to bush bash, how to hop stones and climb boulders, and how to feel at home in the wild. I bathed under waterfalls, slept on boulders naked in the sunshine, drank straight from passing streams, walked through the forest at night with no light but for the moon and the soft light of glow worms all around me, and felt more free and alive than I can ever remember having felt. I hope I can carry this feeling of pure contentedness with me for a very long time and always remember my adventures in the forest.

Note: The skinny dipping and naked sunbathing were done on solo trips, not with the boys. When they were around I was the picture of modesty, wearing my bathing suit or sports bra and undies. One of them was only 22; I didn’t want to scar him for life.