I have successfully completed one of the "9 great walks" of New Zealand. Of course all great deeds come with caveats. Technically, the northern circuit starts and stops in Whakapapa. Since I did the stretch from Whakapapa to Mangetapopo hut (about 8 km) on Wednesday (see Tongariro Crossing Post) and the weather was going to be good enough to add in a summit of Mt. Ngarahoe (Mt. Doom, see Tama Lakes Post) I decided to take the shuttle from Whakapapa to about 1 mile down from Mangetapopo. So technically, I covered the full length of the Northern Circuit but on 2 different days. My Saturday Total was 25 miles. Of course the watch ran out of battery at mile 23...
I took some photos with my phone. This first one is the map from my watch. Which is broken again (the cover on the usb stick likes to break). If anyone has Nike connections in the US, let me know. New Zealand Nike in Aukland (much closer than Colorado) can replace it with authorization from the US, but I don't seem to know how to get that authorization. Otherwise I have to mail it to Tom and have him do it.
Another view from the top. The rest of my run goes past the brown lake looking area, up the ridge from there and then down through the valley you see on the right.
I passed a similar sign about 700 m before this saying "Volcanic Flying Rock Zone next 700m do not stop" and failed to take a picture of that one. Up the hill (did not come out in a picture) are vents spewing all kinds of nasty stuff. Apparently rocks come flying out occasionally too.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7981643/Tongariro-eruption-possible-within-a-week. In fact the Te Maari crater is not doing too much at the moment, but just over from it a whole bunch of new vents opened in the last week. My bus driver took me to see it with some binoculars. I told him about the vents on the North side of the Red Crater and he was surprised by how much gassing there was. The area is very active at the moment.
One last note. If you watch the footage posted on with the article in the link. What is amazing to me is that the hillside that has the new vents, looked on Sunday exactly like Te Maari looks in this footage just before it blows. It made me very glad this trail is closed (which depending on wind, angle and how it blows, could be right in the path of a pyroclastic flow).