National Geographic : 1978 Jan
the following day from Quintin to Sutherland Falls, the world's seventh highest. But with rain continuing, we choose to rest. Our last day covers 13 miles of water ravaged paths to Boatshed, Mackay Falls, Giant Gate Falls, and Sandfly Point, where a boat takes us to Milford Sound, beside the fiord of the same name (following pages). With blisters making walking an agony, Pat boats down Lake Ada and catches an eight-pound brown trout. His prize turns up as a superb first course at dinner that night at the Milford Hotel. The next morning we sail down Milford Sound to the Tasman Sea, in the thrall of the spectacular: Bowen Falls, gushing from cliff top to sound, generating power for the Mil ford Sound Hotel; soaring Mitre Peak and its neighbors, all black monoliths rising sheer from the water; and a colony of some twenty brown seals frolicking among the rocks. Weather Does an About-face Determined to walk the track again in the hope of good weather, we return to Te Anau and there learn the full scope of the storm we had endured. From the ten inches of rain that fell during that Sunday, 40-mile-long Lake Te Anau rose some three feet overall, while the wind whipped waves up to seven feet. And the same winds, sweeping on to Mount Cook, blew a hut off the mountain and killed four climbers huddled inside. By helicopter we fly low over the Milford Track route, from Glade to Pompolona, to MacKinnon Pass, to Quintin, where we peel off for a sight we had missed on the ground. Sitting in the copter's transparent bubble, we flutter above Lake Quill, a filled cup sur rounded by high, bare, and rugged peaks. We follow the waters of Quill as they slip through a mere slit in the rock and plunge in three stages 1,904 feet to the valley, a leap of sheer est beauty known as Sutherland Falls. Returning for our second hike, we are blessed with the kind of weather that con firms the track's reputation as the world's finest walk. For me it becomes the walk of a lifetime. From Glade to Six Mile, Phil Turnbull gives us a lift in the jeep that carries supplies to Pompolona. He stops to show us the foun dations of a cabin built by explorer Quintin MacKinnon, who discovered the pass in 1888 and helped open a track for visitors in 1889. Afoot, we walk a path white with flowers of the ribbonwood-"like a bridal path of orange blossoms," Jan says-and thread a field of dandelions, purple clover, and Queen Anne's lace near Hidden Lake. There, under blue skies, we sun on the beach, fish for trout, and swim in tonic-cold water. Uptrail, with clouds now a canopy, I sit alone by Lake Mintaro. It is a place made for dreams. The still, gray face of the lake haunt ed by mist. The enormous trees, hundreds of years old, with wisps of cloud entangled in their branches. The silence, broken only by silvery chimes of the bellbird's song. Spry as a man half his age, William Anderson at 85 keeps building huts, cut ting trails, and writing. His definitive his tory, Milford Trails, draws on his years as the Quintin hutmaster and trail foreman. Upholstered in moss and lichens and car peted with ferns (facing page), the trail alongside the Arthur River could serve as a setting for a fairy tale. "Walk of a Lifetime"