There's no other day hike in all of New Zealand that is as diverse as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. The terrain is so unique, the location was used to portray "Mt Doom" in the Lord of the Rings films.
The nearly 20 kilometer trail winds into high altitude through the dormant crater of a volcano and down the steep slope of another. As the path winds back down into the forest, it passes by three emerald lakes, made green thanks to minerals and chemicals present in volcanic environments.
Our hike occurred on a day of variable weather. The morning began with sun, but moments of thick cloud cover would obscure the trail enough that the path was barely visible only meters in front of our toes. As we approached the Emerald lakes, the clouds were the thickest we'd seen. But just as quickly as they arrived, they parted in time for us to glimpse the vibrant green pools that lay before us. A memorable moment of clarity and kismet atop a mysterious mountain.