Known as the best one day hike on the North Island, the Tongariro Crossing is probably the most popular hike in all of New Zealand. It's popularity no doubt increased substantially after Lord of the Rings was filmed here several years ago. Not sure we wanted to do the entire 12+ miles up and down several peaks we opted to start at the far end of the hike, and go as far as we liked before turning around. This proved to be an excellent decision as almost everyone else starts at the visitor center and then arranges to be picked up via a shuttle service at the other side. However this did entail getting up at 5 AM to snag one of the very limited parking spots at the far side. The weather decided to cooperate, a very good thing as most of this hike is above tree line.
Start of the trail in a very lush section full of warning signs about possible volcanic flows coming down the mountain
Emerging out of the woods, the first fumaroles were highly visible.
Continuing up more fumaroles visible
I was hiking faster than Bill and so eventually we got separated, and figured we would meet up on the trail somewhere near the half way point. After a few of hours of hiking seeing very few people, I started noticing more hikers who had started very early from the other side. Just a trickle at first, the numbers increased dramatically until there was almost a continuous stream of humanity. Eventually, I got to a high alpine lake and stopped to a have a bit of lunch.
Although not noticeable in this photo, there were hundred of people sitting on the opposite bank/i]
[i]Your's truely, not far from the lake
Beyond the lake, a large flat area with Mt. Doom visible in the distance
Continuing on, I got closer to Mt. Doom.
Fumaroles near the bottom
On a summit next to Mt Doom, many folks were descending, some practically running
It seemed rather dangerous to be going against the traffic, and so this is where i decided to turn around. I had already been hiking more than 5 hours and figured this was close to the half way point. I assumed that I would run into Bill somewhere on the way back. Unfortunately this was not to be. Apparently there were just so many people on the trail that we must have walked right past each other.
The descent was also beautiful
Billl was not there when I got back to the trailhead. After more than 1 and 1/2 hours went by and he didn't show up, I began to worry. Just as the parking lot was clearing out and the last shuttles leaving, he turned up. As I later found out, he continued up to the same point I did before turning back, but it took him an additional hour or two to make it back down.