Photo by Dahn Pratt
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My Trail Story featuring Dahn Pratt

Dahn Pratt shares the jitters he experienced beginning his thru-hike or thru-tramp across New Zealand on the Te Araroa trail.

Natalie McMillan      My Trail Story       01/31/2019
Natalie McMillan
My Trail Story
01/31/2019
A man walks away from the Te Araroa sign that has his backpack hanging on it.
Photo by Dahn Pratt

A Jittery Thru-Hike Begins

By: Dahn Pratt

Te Araroa, 17 Nov 2017 – 17 Mar 2018

Age: 27 years old

 

It had been a number of years since setting foot on a “serious” trail and attempting to tackle a multi-month adventure.

My first steps onto the lighthouse of Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand was anxiety-inducing, to say the least. I had been planning this trip for the better part of two years and to finally be at the trailhead made my heart palpitate. A mixture of stress, nervous excitement, and adrenaline coursed through me as I put on my pack for what would be a 4 month walk.

The goal was to thru-tramp the length of both islands of New Zealand along Te Araroa, or the Long Pathway, a 3,000 km trail.

Many months removed from this initial contact I look back at the euphoric hiker that started this escapade. That feeling of eager enthusiasm for the many soggy ups and downs the trail would invariable throw my way is an emotion I find myself chasing, even today.

A thru-hike never really turns out the way you anticipate, no matter how much prior knowledge, experience, and planning you have. The often times schizophrenic Te Araroa is no exception. Within the first day, I had to throw out my playbook as howling winds gusting at upwards of 60 kph shredded my tie outs to my tarp, collapsing the wet fabric onto me as brave possums stormed my shelter to devour my rations.

A view of the mountains on the Te Araroa trail.
Photo by Dahn Pratt

The notoriously rainy and muddy Northland provided me with 6 weeks of clear blue skies after that harrowing night. A record 3(!) cyclones hit NZ during the four months I walked its length with constant flooding, blow downs, and at one point half a meter of snow! Flooded, impassable rivers forced me to take 3 days off in a backcountry hut, even though I had walked for two months without taking a zero.

The trail provides challenges, it is your choice how you tackle the obstacles it lobs at you. Most people opt to hitch, other detour, and some masochists walk. It is in the walk, the minutiae of the hike, where one finds their truth.

The one salient take-away is the trail provides ample time for self-reflection and self-actualization. Devoid of the distraction we experience in the “real world”, the trail makes life simple. Wake up, tear down, eat, walk, eat, walk, sleep. The monotony of it drives people insane. The sheer boredom causes unpleasant thoughts and experiences to creep in. This is important, the trail is a therapeutic endeavor, one that allows you to tackle the physical challenges and the intangible ones as well.

I had long forgotten this dimension of hiking and when faced with it’s reality, I felt incredible discomfort. But in that discomfort and confronting my past regrets, foibles, triumphs, and failures is where growth occurs.

There is something so pure and innocent about that person who took those first steps with a permanent grin glued to his face. He isn’t the same person that sits here reminiscing. They say a thru-hike changes you, and not in ways you can predict and that’s certainly true. Te Araroa changed me, well beyond expectation. It peeled back everything until all that was left was my true self.

A hiker on the Te Araroa trail.
Photo by Dahn Pratt
A view of a lake on the Te Araroa trail.
Snow covered mountains on the Te Araroa trail.
Photos by Dahn Pratt

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Te Araroa

The Te Araroa is New Zealand’s premier long-distance hiking trail, stretching 3000 km (1860 mi) across the country’s two main islands. The trail travels from Cape Reinga on the North Island to Bluff on the South Island, passing through 9 distinct regions on its way.

3000 km / 1860 mi       US$39.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
Cape Reinga, North Island, New Zealand, Te Araroa
Photo by T L
A view from Cape Reinga on the Te Araroa on the North Island of New Zealand looks over beautiful blue ocean, white sand beaches, and green hills.
Cape Reinga, North Island, New Zealand, Te Araroa
Photo by T L
Get our hiking guide for this area!

Te Araroa

The Te Araroa is New Zealand’s premier long-distance hiking trail, stretching 3000 km (1860 mi) across the country’s two main islands. The trail travels from Cape Reinga on the North Island to Bluff on the South Island, passing through 9 distinct regions on its way.

3000 km / 1860 mi
US$39.99 full guide
Explore the Trail
About the Author
A woman wearing a baseball cap and American flag tank top stands in front of a beautiful view.

Natalie McMillan

Natalie grew up hiking in Arizona where she fell in love with the outdoors. Her favorite hikes are to Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, UT. She loves taking pictures of people and places and nature, which might explain why she has almost 23,000 photos currently residing on her phone. She takes care of all things social media/marketing-related and might be seen frolicking around Flagstaff taking photos of the Arizona Trail.