South Crater, Tongariro National Park,
When the steep inclines subsided, we came across a massive, rocky crater as if we had just landed on Mars. Besides finally getting a needed breather before the next rigorous section of Tongariro's 18-kilometer hike, we got a chance to be astronauts on Planet Earth. I kicked around some meteoric rocks, felt crystal-clear oxygen enter my lungs, and decided not to look for the space ship that would take us home.
Emerald Lakes, Tongariro National Park,
This otherworldly view of the brilliant Emerald Lakes was earned by several hours of steep ascent through Tongariro National Park. Like a line of ants, we hikers scurried forth on a well-marked trail for a closer look at this volcanic wonderland, only to realize that going down was not necessarily easier than going up.