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How to Milford Sound: Adventure Day in New Zealand

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New Zealand is a wilderness paradise, and Milford Sound is the best of the best.  We set out to do some water-based adventure on one of our days.  It went something like this.

Milford Sound

We started way early.  So early, in fact, that the only person who had breakfast was me.  The morning rendezvous at the water’s edge was set for 8:00am.   The boat that Descend runs is pulled out of the water to load and unload which is kind of interesting.

The sand flies were out in force in the early morning (and repellent, natural or otherwise, just failed to work).  Nevertheless, we tried on our 8 mil wet suits just by the boat on a tarp laid out over the dusty gravel and hopped on the boat while it was still in the parking lot.  Besides the 4 of us, there were two other divers, one of whom was completing a dry suit certification, and 3 crew members. This was Jack’s first dive!

The water in Milford Sound is cold, so three layers on the torso is mandatory.  We looked like a family of space people.

Underwater, Milford Sound is interesting and unique. Many of the species you can see above 22 meters are usually only found much deeper. Because of the ecology of the sound which includes lots of brackish fresh water from the glaciers, black coral has been thriving for centuries and is a sight to behold.

We completed a first dive near seal rock. I had real trouble with my bouyancy and was (as usual) the first diver up. 8 mil suits are floaty and sinky at the same time and the saw tooth was too much for me to control. Eli spent another 15 minutes below.

Amy and Gary underwater

Eli is the only diver with great form in our family

Next, Jack did an assisted dive.

Then we moved on to a second dive location. Eli dove with the dry suit crowd. I did an assisted dive with an instructor that was just incredible. Nothing like worrying about nothing to preserve air.

We passed by the Stirling waterfall on our way in.

Stirling Falls

Family dive

We just had time for a touristy lunch at the Milford Cafe and a walk by the water before it was time to Sea Kayak. We were a bit concerned about the wind, but in the end showed up to don more “gear belonging to other people.” Our guide Ben was a talkative, high energy guy.

Not our usual clothing

Rosco’s sea kayaks take you out on a power boat and you paddle back home. Our crew included two french canadians. We started just past the waterfall at the “usual spot,” and were soon back at the Stirling Falls with time to kayak under them.

Oh, and all of this happened on Thanksgiving day. Our “turkey” dinner was postponed until 10pm when we had lemon, butter, and garlic chicken at Knobs Flat.

Eagles and Econolines: The Shenandoah River in July

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Back in May we paid a visit to the eagles lining the Shenandoah just north of our house. They’ve all grown up and are now flying around. On our latest trip down the river (it flows north, so just how to put that is kinda tricky), we saw 7 eagles. A few of them were captured on film.

The day itself was majestic and crystal clear.

The Shenandoah River

All of the eagles’ nests we know how to find along the route (three) were empty this trip, but there were lots of eagles flying around up and down the river.

spot the eagle

the view

spot the eagle

Oh and we ran across an Econoline 360 too. No doubt left by the big 2018 flood. This is perfect for our friend TC Boyle.

Econoline in the river

Amy paddled over to check it out

But really, the eagles.

turns out there were two in this tree

fly away

Shenandoah Flood of 2018

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Puck senses danger. Tail up!

We started flood preparation in earnest the day before the flood crested (assuming that it crests today, that is). Fortunately, the great people at NOAA have a hydrograph that is extremely helpful for flood preparation. Here is the sensor nearest us at Millville.

The Millville hydrograph was wrong this time

Predictions said that the river would crest at 7am on June 4th at 15.6 feet. The prediction was off by 2 feet so far, but as far as we can tell from observation, the crest will happen soon.

We moved the boats up and rescued the submerged tables.

prep time minor flooding

the garden still above water

river peninsula already under water

truck full of table

Amy took out her kayak. The dogs followed.

Then it was time for a cocktail. The Last Word…hmm.

Last Word, hopefully not appropriately named

mogli got a workout in the flood

The flood in earnest started overnight. First major indication of prediction error was that the car bridge submerged around 10pm. Jack and Eli arrived from DC (Jack came down from NY) around 11. We ignored the road closed signs, drove in the back way to our car bridge and forded the now lake-like creek in the dark.

In the morning, we woke up to discover that the crest had not yet happened. Time to move the cars!

getting close to the cars

The river is getting very close to the house now. About 2-3 feet of vertical elevation left before the basement floods. This calls for some kayaking.

the new lake house

garden down

solstice fire spared

driveway or boat ramp?

road sign

visiting the neighbors by kayak

solstice fire, from the new lake

checking the fence line

garden swampland

the house

the new driveway