The Queenstown Dream - Page 2
Work With Pleasure
A fortuitous junction of work and pleasure is what delivered me to Queenstown. My career work as an insurance broker occasionally offers trip rewards with insurance carrier partners, and "work" in Queenstown consisted of river jet-boat rides, guided safari tours, sailing, bungee jumping and full-course meals with heavy portions of socializing. Before and sometimes after "work" each day, I voraciously ran trails.
Queenstown's restaurants, stores, coffee shops, hotels and public transportation are all easily reached by foot. Lake Wakatipu and the immediate surrounding walls of mountains act as natural town borders and create an dearth of buildable land. This occurrence gives Queenstown part of its charm, a small footprint. Nor is any building structure or home taller than a few stories, reducing the eye's competition when gazing up towards the mountains, visual in every direction. Trailheads dot the town's periphery, making for convenient access to steep singletrack, which disappears quickly into the mountains.
Shaped like a 50-mile-long lightning bolt, Lake Wakatipu is a focal point of Queenstown (pop. 28,000), which lies 1200 feet above sea level, and New Zealand's longest lake (and the country's third largest). Its glacier-fed water is crystal clear, filled with large trout and along Lake Wakatipu's shores is the only place you will find flat trails.
Queenstown Gardens, for example, is an excellent locale for a flat recovery run as well as an enjoyable picnic. Occasionally, a sailboat might pass by. Queenstown Gardens' fine graveled doubletrack trails transition to the Frankton Arm Walkway on its eastern border and eventually connect with the adjacent town of Franktown. On the west side of Queenstown Gardens, a rolling singletrack heads through native bush toward Sunshine Bay's jetty. As if the fragrance of eucalyptus trees wasn't enough, runners are also rewarded with unobstructed views of the lake and the exceedingly steep, craggy Remarkables mountain range.
Steep trails define the area, though. Popular quick hits include Queenstown Hill, a seven-plus-mile out-and-back trail with 1500 feet of climbing, and Ti Ki Trail on the north end of town, which features similar vertical gain but at a much steeper grade. The climb offers several options of hiking and mountain-biking trails zigzagging their way up the mountain beneath the Skyline Gondola (reputed to be the steepest gondola lift in the Southern Hemisphere).
From atop Skyline, the trails continue upward, becoming even more technical and remote; favorites include Fernhill Loop and Ben Lamond and Moonlight tracks (New Zealanders often refer to trails as tracks). To reach the summit of Ben Lamond runners must ascend another 3200 feet in three miles.