Patagonia Dias Uno a Siete

“The tragedy of this life is not that it ends so soon but that we wait so long to begin it.” 

The cinnamon whiskey is hot as it’s sweetness hits my throat and coats my belly. It makes me feel good and warms me up. Although the inside of our paper-thin ultralight tent is like a sauna inside, I’ve been freezing all day. I lay back and hear the murmured whispers of other people around us. Backpackers are rolling into camp, setting up their room for the night. The wind is hard, and it’s whipping the thin material of our tent vestibules, making it hard to rest. The sun is still high. Today, thank God, was an easy hiking day. I need to sleep. Only a day prior, I had been fever-ridden, sleeping restlessly in a hostel in Puerto Natales, Chile piled four-high with sheepskins for warmth. I lay back wondering if it was smart to start this journey. It was risky. I had considered staying back in Puerto Natales and sending G on his way, but I had to give it a shot, knowing that once we started, there was no turning back. No search and rescue, no way off of the O except finishing it in its entirety. That’s the stubbornness in me. 

When I had woken up this morning, the fever had broke. I still felt like death when we boarded the bus in Puerto Natales that took us to the ranger station of Torres Del Paine in Laguna Amarga. This is a two-hour trip, so I slept on the bus and prayed that this sickness would leave me. There was too much planning, logistics, and heart that had gone into this trek — one of the hardest travel plans we’ve EVER made. 

We climb out of the bus with 60 other backpackers, check-in, and start our day. It’s slow, my chest incredibly congested, my nose stuffed. Even on a good, healthy day, I knew this journey would have some difficulty. I second guess my decision to start. What if I literally cannot make it? I have to! We are carrying everything we need for the next eight days on our backs, and even though we are accustomed to this and have packed light, my pack feels heavy. I am so congested. My breathing incredibly labored. 

The mostly flat/rolling terrain and 13-kilometer hike was a blessing on this first day out of Laguna Amarga. I was still star-struck with the whole idea of us being in Patagonia. Pata-freaking-gonia, I kept thinking. It’s one of those trips we’ve talked about and dreamed about for years. Now I’m sick and miserable and fighting each step to get to our first camp. 

As I lay back in our tiny Big Agnes tent, I think, “there’s no turning back now.” 

We are at Serón. 

Logistically speaking, this trip was outrageous! We didn’t want to go with a guide, a team, a mule train…you get my point, so I was left to the booking arrangements. There are three players in Patagonia;  Fantastico Sur,  Vertice Patagonia, and CONAF. These are the three places you will go to for booking all camps and refugios. We had decided to hike both the W and the O circuit; The “O” includes the “W” trail, with the addition of the backside, or northern section of the mountain to make it a long loop, – 130 kilometers. A max of 80 people are allowed onto the backside O a day. It’s undoubtedly a more challenging trail, and it’s also without refugios, but it’s all worth it when, as you finish climbing John Garner Pass, you get an unprecedented view of the icecap Glacier Grey. 

The booking process was maddening. Very strict dates are required, and none of these agencies work together. Not to mention they ALL hold different camps and refugios on different parts of the trek, and not in order. CONAF being the government-held camps does not even open for registration until much later in the year, so as we booked Fantastico and Vertice camps in August for our February trip, we could not book CONAF until sometime around November. The spots fill quickly, so as you can imagine, by the time CONAF rolled online for reservations, the dates we had booked through the other two agencies didn’t work out into the CONAF schedule. The day we landed in Santiago, Chile, we didn’t have a full camp itinerary, and let me tell you, as you walk into each camp, they check your reservations, along with your passport and the PDI slip. If you are off by a day, you will be asked to go back. 

Campsites are arranged like this:

Vertice Patagonia – Campsites: Dickson, Los Perros, Grey and Paine Grande

Fantasticosur – Campsites: Serón, Los Cuernos, El Chileano, Central and Frances

CONAF – Free Campsites: Italiano, Paso and Torres Ranger Station & Camping

After arriving in Santiago, Chile and spending a day and night we flew down to Punta Arenas and stayed at a great hostel. I was chilly as we took a walk around town, and we were amused that our weather app showed that we were in the “Antarctic Zone” as it is the southern-most city before Antarctica. We wandered down by the water; The Straight of Magellan, for a while and headed back to our hostel and to bed early as we had a bus to catch at daybreak.

Thankfully we had three days to spend in Puerta Natales before heading onto the O. I was incredibly sick and we still did not have our reservations for camp. After going back and forth between the offices of Vertice and Fantastico, waiting in line and jostling dates we thought we had them all together, but after further review I had missed a camp, shifting a date, and had to start all over with new dates. I was down for the count at this point, in bed, shivering with the worst flu ever. My poor NON-Spanish speaking husband had to go back to these offices with new dates. By the grace of the Holy God, he was able to “pictionary” his way through. They made some calls for him and BOOM, he came back with our itinerary…..to leave in the morning!

Seron Camp is a basic camp. It’s a grassy field with two picnic-style tables that have a tarp for wind cover. You have to cook in these designated tarp areas only at every site. I barely remember being at Seron, to be honest. I slept and went into the hut to cook dehydrated soup with our MSR stove one time. I loved hearing and seeing all of the friendly faces and different nationalities and languages of the people we would be spending the next 8-9 days alongside. Once you start the O-circuit, and because they limit the number of people on the trail, these become your leap-frogging trail friends. 

The following day, we broke camp early and headed out to Dickenson Camp. The views were unbelievable, and we kept finding ourselves stopping every chance we got to take it all in! It’s a steep climb and steep downhill coming into Dickenson. Today was 19 kilometers; It’s one of the most beautiful camps on the O. Once you arrive and check-in, you can find a spot for your tent anywhere you want. We shrugged out of our packs and wandered around. We saw a fox scampering along the treeline. We set our tent so that in the morning, as we unzipped to make coffee, we would have a perfect view of the soaring mountains and glaciers. Dickenson has a great set up for cooking. A little cabin-like shelter, with electricity — also, hot showers and bathrooms and even a small area where they sell snacks. We bought Pringles and chocolate here. 

After pitching our tent, we showered and laid in the hot sun, waiting to see who and when the others would roll into camp. It was at this camp that we met “the two traveling nurses” who were from the States, working at different locations in the States until they save enough for their next great adventure. They travel on their earnings for a few months, return to the US, work for a few months only to repeat the process over and over. We loved swapping stories about the places we’ve all been in common and the enjoyment of different cultures, cuisines and our unquenchable wanderlust. 

We also met “One Pole and the Goodr Girls”, a group consisting of a guy and two women traveling together. One Pole lost one of his trekking poles along the first leg of the trip and came into camp with one…deeming him “One Pole” The women he was with both wore my favorite brand of athletic glasses; Goodr and have friends who work for the company, thus-The Goodr Girls.

There was also an Argentinean father and two sons, two Chilean buddies traveling together, and a pair of Aussies (a father and son) who we cooked and had dinner with at Dickenson. We’ve never laughed so hard in our lives as we did with these two and their quirky personalities. Still, some of the moments we laugh about the most from this trip come from these two. 

Con’t-

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​Rest Up Sweet Child

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Mid-year check-in because obviously, I don’t know how to keep up on blog posts. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I don’t want to write or have content, it’s more the act of sitting still and jotting things down. I’m still working on my Patagonia posts. (I say with a spirited eye-roll) Promise, they are coming. I promise!

It’s interesting how a turn of events can lead you right where you should be or NEED to be. My One Word for the year was RESTORATION. It’s not a word I would’ve chosen for myself. My One Word is something given to me every year when the new year rolls around. A gift. I’ve had a great year of restoration so far. So I thought.

Maybe going a million miles an hour isn’t quite “restorative” in the eyes of our Creator.

We’ve had another incredible year (half-year at this point, I suppose) of travel. Patagonia is at the forefront of course. Being able to backpack in one of the most beautiful, unrefined, mountainous parts of the world was unimaginable! As unyielding as it was, it still sparks fireworks in our minds and puts smiles on our faces when we get to share our adventure with others.

For us, that was what started this year of restoration. Being in the mountains has that impact on us like no other place. High altitude, hard work, relying solely on your own capabilities and surviving on what you’re carrying on your back for days and weeks is very soul-invigorating! It’s something that no one can understand until they’ve lived out the situation.
After we returned, we decided to train for some races. Half marathons are so fun! Although not my favorite distance, it’s a great challenge that doesn’t take up your whole life training. They easily fit into any schedule. The hubster decided he was going to start running (for real this time) and we set out training together for the Kentucky Derby Half. Needless to say, we ended up doing back-to-back-to-back halves in KY, NC, and SC, and he became a Half Fanatic! Secretly I’m working on him to become a Marathon Maniac…but… (laughs villainously) he is not seeing the light quite yet.

Fast forward to today. Restoration. Some FORCED REST is happening.
Last week after two weeks in California followed by a quickie 5-day trip to NYC I fell and hit my head. In actuality, I passed out and hit my head and didn’t remember it happening. I am so stubborn. Or passionate. Or determined. I assumed everything was fine when I woke up and had a big ‘ol unicorn horn on my noggin. After some discussion, we decided to go to the Dr who sent us to the ER. Surprisingly I think this was my first trip, which seems crazy for a family of adventure junkies! Oh…besided M’s stitches from a split head and A’s broken leg. Oops!
They sent me through the whole rigmarole. Checking for dehydration, blood tests, and a CT to be sure I was still as smart-alecky as ever.

Mission accomplished!

They gave me a great “headache cocktail” through an IV and had me rest, then sent me on my way with strict directions for (you guessed it) REST! Concussions require a “sling for your brain,” the Dr said.

Huh?

This has NOT been easy. The Dr gave me orders FIRST off, no screen time for three days: no phone, iPad, computer, Kindle, or TV. I missed the Kindle. Then I missed my friends, because moving away from the PNW, I still love my daily chats with my lovelies, which means being on the phone. The TV…eh… never a big deal in our house, It’s rarely used.
So basically I was told to lay down and do nothing.

Mission NOT accomplished! (I am sure you can see my furrowed brow and rebellious face a mile away)

HOW? I couldn’t. And I didn’t. I mean… I had an achey brain, and couldn’t see well and dizzy spells, and zero appetite,  but I just cannot lay in bed or on the couch and do… NOTHING. I couldn’t even read a regular book.

Forced restoration. IMG_7255

Resting….. I tried and was terrible at it. I worked at being the best-rester I could be (yes I know that’s not a word), but it’s HARD y’all. I am in the middle of a June run streak with 4000 other streakers right now and HOW could I stop that? I couldn’t, so I focused on what I could do. I thought about those streakers that are newbies. The ones who have not only never done a streak, but some have never run or walked a mile a day for any amount of time. Ever! I considered how they felt, with sore feet, joints, legs, bodies. Tired after the mile, but determined to make it through this month and I channeled their perseverance, their dedication to this streak and took off walking. It was hard for me. Did I want to run? Absolutely! Running is like breathing to me, and it’s something I need daily! But I couldn’t. I mean, honestly, I couldn’t run if I wanted to. I did what I could, which is precisely what I’ve said to other streakers. Not everyone is running a 6-minute mile. Do what you can do.

I decided instead of sitting around in misery, I needed to have a mind shift. I am always a silver-lining girl. I am always looking for the good in every situation. How could I turn this around? What lesson was I to learn? I decided that I would be thankful that I could walk, that I could still play with my pup, could food prep, could listen to good music, could spend some time sitting in the sunshine AND since I’m walking at night, it’s allowed me to see spectacular sunsets.

I needed to be grateful for the act of resting.

In the past when I have had circumstances beyond my control that has forced rest upon me, I’ve come back stronger. Our bodies are such incredible machines and so intricate! I’m hoping for this outcome because, in the craziness of brain fog and a concussion, I signed myself up for an Ultra Marathon. A 50k. I must’ve really bumped my head! Ha!

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In reality, it’s been something I’ve been considering for a while and decided, now is the time. I went back and forth about triathlon this year and can’t find the right fit for an Ironman or HIM, so I have put that on the back burner until next season to focus on running. Lots of running!

Ok, ultramarathoners, I need your words of wisdom and sage advice going into the next few months of training. What tips and tidbits do you have for this newbie? I AM super excited to hit 31-miles of trails this coming November!

Today, it’s day 10 and I’m still… resting and allowing my body to RESTORE itself. I’ve realized over the last couple of days, this is going to be a process. There is no rushing in concussion recovery. My unicorn horn is going down and is a lovely shade of yellow. Not a shade that looks great with my skin tone, unfortunately, and I have a gorgeous set of black raccoon eyes now, but I am continuing to follow Dr’s orders and allow myself some downtime.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”

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Restore Me

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What a year it has been! I spent the last year with BE ruminating in my mind. That was my word for 2018. I am so not into New Year’s resolutions. Never have been. But what I DO, is pray. Pray for a WORD, a word to focus on and to set me on fire. To fix my heart on intentions, meaning, and hope. Don’t get me wrong, though, I am not bashing on resolutions, and I think they work for many. I think sometimes we get so off course during a year that giving yourself a resolution is incredible! It creates a fierceness in you: a determined heart and a purpose. I am, however, about goals. The type that allows growth but is not over-reaching and unattainable, so that you set yourself up for failure. Pliable goals that move and flow over the year. Some quick and some that are going to require some hard work. Maybe repairing a relationship, running a 5k, picking up an old project you were frustrated with or picking up a discarded passion that you allowed to fall away for whatever reason.

Last year was the year of “BE,” and I have been put to the test. Two thousand eighteen was an unbelievable year! In 2017 we had decided to sell off, donate, bless others with our excess and pack up and move out of the country. We dedicated to a full year. The year brought so much growth, challenge, joy, change, and transformation to both G and I. It was pretty magical, and we learned a lot. We learned that things are indeed never in our control. Something that sometimes both of us struggle with, obviously, because we continue to be challenged on this. We were blessed in a multitude of ways that we never imagined. We learned to BE more present and trust more. We learned that being comfortable and BE-ing comfortable means entirely two different things. We learned to BE more gracious and more thankful. We learned that to BE content doesn’t mean materially or always easy. We learned to BE more patient and to navigate problems without allowing annoyance to slip it’s ugly fingers in.

Going into this year as I nestled down my heart to await my word, I was excited! I was also exhausted and frustrated. We knew the time G and I had spent apart due to his career was not working well. Although living abroad, he had a lot of travel to the States. More than we anticipated. We knew that my complete retreat from racing and triathlon was not working. Coming off of several years of constant competition and endorphins to “hammocking” was not feeding my soul and my inner fire.
I prayed for a few months for my word, and just like always, in the early, dark hours of the morning while lying in bed, it was there on my heart.

Restoration.

res·to·ra·tion
/ˌrestəˈrāSH(ə)n/Submit
noun
1.
the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.
synonyms: repair, repairing, fixing, mending, refurbishment, reconditioning, rehabilitation, rebuilding, reconstruction, overhaul, redevelopment, renovation; informal rehab
“the restoration of derelict housing.”

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This is always the part of the story that gets me excited because I never know where these words will lead. I always look forward to the transformation that they bring each year. I love that it gives me something to focus on and center myself on. Pray about and REALLY listen.

Restoration/Restore can mean a million different things. We do know we both love living abroad. We both agree that we are still dedicated to that. We are both wild-gypsy souls with an unquenchable amount of wild and wanderlust. We know that beyond the shadow of a doubt had we not decided to move, we would’ve regretted it later on. We are still happy we leaped when a lot of people would instead remain comfortable in their box. We know that no matter what, we will usually always take the road less traveled. We will never take things for granted and never say no to an opportunity. We won’t “live the same year 75 times and call it a life.” Travel, seeing other countries, visiting places in your own country, meeting people, exploring, eating foods that are questionable (HAHA) smelling, tasting and feeling the pulse of new areas, we think, intensifies the richness of your life. You realize how small you are on this vast globe. You learn a lot about adaptation and resilience. You learn there are a million paths to happiness, and none of them look the same.

img_3408So we start over. A new year. A new word. A further purpose. A fresh new love. New expectations and possibilities. New promises to lean in to. New vistas. With a renewed sense of wonder and curiosity and a fully open heart for RESTORATION, whatever that is going to look like. Ready to flip the flow (thanks Pastor Steven) Laying everything down for an inspired and passionate start line with a fresh eagerness and inquisitiveness for two thousand nineteen.