We met up with our friends Dirk and Gretchen of s/v Peregrine while in glacier country, and they had the brilliant idea to do a backpacking trip up the Copland Track, a lesser known hike in the peaks south of the Fox Glacier. The track is 18 kilometers each way, and held the promise of thermal pools, glacial views, and a well maintained hut where we could spend the night, so we were definitely game to join them.
We got lucky and found a sunny weather window between two storms, but we could still enjoy the effects of the water. There were rivers to be forded, and at times the trail itself was more stream than solid ground. The huge benefit: we were treated to waterfall after waterfall after waterfall—dramatic cascades on the side of the trail, sheets of water streaming from boulders, and mossy gullies sprinkling water all around us.
Not to mention it was a gorgeous, warm day and we could watch the river flow below us and the clouds swirl around the serrated crags of the mountain tops. There was even a moment when we could see Mt. Cook, New Zealand's highest peak, in the distance.
Naturally, we found a variety of swing bridges to enjoy.
The thermal pools were a bit underwhelming—more puddle than pool and more than the occasional sandfly. But they were nice and hot and had killer views, and were a refreshing soak after our hike. Staying in the hut was an adventure in its own right. It was clean and felt like a hostel: a large communal area downstairs, large picnic tables and a cooking area with four or five sinks; the upstairs was divided into dorm rooms, each with one large slated plank area and a number of generously sized mats for individuals to put their sleeping bags on. It wasn't luxurious, but it was comfortable, clean, and far superior to lugging a tent and sleeping mats 18 kilometers up the mountain.
Our co-campers for the night consisted of more Americans than we have met in one place since being in New Zealand, so there was a fun homecoming feel when we were chatting with our bunk mates. The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast, explored the surrounding area, and made our way back down the mountain.