As soon as I knew that I was awarded a sabbatical, this was the part of the trip that I knew I had to do this year. Hiking in Patagonia can only happen during summer in the southern hemisphere, which is a time of year that I’d normally be teaching. Because I knew I’d have December free, I centered the rest of my trip around making sure I’d be at the tip of South America right now.
First stop en route to the park was the nearby town of Puerto Natales. It’s the town everyone passes through on way to the park. I spent a whole day getting supplies and packing up my things and managed to do a little bit of sightseeing along the fjord as well.
One of the most unique things I found out about were mylodons. They’re extinct ground sloths that would have been about 10 feet tall and weighed about a ton. Some very well-preserved remains were found in a cave nearby and brought the town a bit of fame in paleontology circles.
PARQUE NACIONAL TORRES DEL PAINE
The roughly 80 mile trip I did is colloquially referred to as the “O” because on a map it’s basically a big circle. A lot of people hike the “W” which is the bottom half of the “O” and is half as long. In the map below, the “W” is the blue line and the “O” is both the red and blue lines.
Because I’m crazy and figured I’d only get this opportunity once in my life, I booked my campsites for the longer 9 day, 8 night trek almost six months ago. It’s a beautiful circuit of glacially carved landscapes and pictures will never do the actual views justice. Nevertheless, here are my favorite 3 photos from each day of the trek in hopes of giving you a small glimpse of the wonders of Patagonia.
Day 1: Welcome Center to Seron
Day 2: Seron to Dickson
Day 3: Dickson to Los Perros
Day 4: Los Perros to Paso
Day 5: Paso to Grey (plus kayak to the glacier)
Day 6: Grey to Italiano
Day 7: Italiano to Los Cuernos (including hike up the French Valley)
Day 8: Los Cuernos to Chileno
Day 9: Chileno to Welcome Center (including hike to the Torres)
This is, by far, the longest solo trip I’ve ever done. However, the path is filled with other amazing hikers and I never felt alone for very long. Since everyone is moving in the same direction and campsites are mandatory, I ran into people over and over again and made some true friends for life.
There are many things that went wrong on this trip. My stove was giving my trouble and I had to take it apart and put it back together twice. My aging backpack basically fell apart: one of the metal support spines broke, the front left pocket zipper is broken, and four growing holes appeared along pocket seams that I patched with duct tape. I tripped over a rock, leaving a big bruise on my left leg and my face was attacked by a couple of mosquitos. Yet somehow, looking back on the trip, I feel nothing but incredible wonder and joy for the beauty nature provides. The last few months have been a journey towards mental and physical healing and this trip took me a long way back towards feeling like myself again. Crazy, but blessed.