Patagonia Ocho a Diez

Leaving Dickson, we set off for Campamento Perros. This day was one of the most beautiful! One of those days where you can’t stop taking pictures and can’t help but be grateful to be alive, to be breathing and seeing this scenery. I was starting to feel better but nowhere near 100 percent yet. We took our time and took in all the beauty of Patagonia. The mountains spread as far as we could see. This part of the hike was forested, dense, and thick with some pretty decent accents — the first coming right out of Dickson Camp. There are fantastic views of the backside of the Towers and extraordinary views of the Valle de Los Perros during this section.

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Rockin’ my Elevation hat…as always!

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We stopped to eat alongside a river. One of the things any backpacker has to consider is water. It’s crucial and, in my opinion, one of the most important things to consider.It’s a vital life saving force. In most of my hiking experience….(ok other than when I was a hose-drinking wild kid and didn’t know better) I’ve filtered water. I have a great filtering system that condenses down into a small pouch. I’ve heard the horror stories of people not filtering and falling so sick that they’ve had to stop their hike. Heading into this trip, ALL of my research showed NO FILTERS were needed along this hike. I was skeptical. The last thing you want is to be sick… from bad water. The flu I can conquer, but hiking with a stomach illness, sleeping in a tent, with little to no showers did not sound great to me. I packed the filter, but ultimately after talking to people and guides in Chile before leaving, left it along with our “travel clothes” in the hostel in Puerto Natales. That’s trust in humanity!

“Patagonia water is the best water you could ever possibly drink,” we heard over and over. “It’s straight from glaciers and the purest, finest, cleanest water ever!”

TRUTH!! 

I’ll tell you, though, the first time I had to take the lid off of my bottle and dunk it into a water source and drink, I was on my knees praying that everything I had read and had been told was the gospel. And it was! That’s faith!

G and I still talk about the water there and wish so terribly we could find a way of getting it here. It’s hands down the best water on our planet!

We got into camp a little early, set up our space, and backtracked along the trail to Los Perros Lake and glacier. We marveled at the icebergs floating in the turquoise water of the lake. We took a ton of photos and sat taking in God’s creation. We breathed in the Holy wind.

G and I, even though we spend a lot of time together, never lack in conversation. He and I can sit into the wee hours of a morning, from the night before, talking. We can go to dinner together, sitting across a table from one another, like no one else is in the restaurant and have a 3 hour dinner just chatting away. BUT we also crave our alone time. Our independence. It has always been an important and essential part of our relationship, and we always consider and honor one another’s space.

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Bridge For One

 

On this day…after the funny pictures and skipping rocks into the water, trying to reach out and touch some icebergs we both found ourselves wandering to the opposite sides of the lake. Taking our time, individually to pray, meditate and just be alone. We have been coexisting in a 2-pound backpacking tent with a space of 88 x 42 inches for the past 7 days….we needed to air out our minds, our hearts….our pits. HA! We needed to get quiet, to listen, to take in what was being given to us. What nuggets were we going to glean from this adventure?

As we were getting up to leave, we heard the strangest sound… we stopped, looking around, and right across the water, a HUGE section of the glacier was cracking off. It plunged right into the water! We stood there mouths gaped.

The next morning was an early alarm. We knew we were hiking over John Gardner Pass. The weather on the pass can change in an instant, and we knew our best bet was to get an early start because weather conditions in Torres del Paine are generally better in the mornings.

  • We put on our headlamps and started our ascent in the dark. The first section is forested. It is wet, dripping, and had parts with creek-like crossings, and oversized puddles. It is swampy and has mud holes that will swallow you up. The rocks are slippery, and we had a couple of slips, nothing too terrible, but I was happy for my Jackie Chan-like skills when one of my trekking poles slipped off of a boulder and left me falling headfirst towards the deep, dark, black mud. Somehow I was able to hop-scotch my way whilst falling headlong, recklessly. I somehow recovered (un)gracefully after bouncing over several logs, roots, and boulders. We stood and laughed for the longest time, remarking how we wished we would’ve “caught that on video” and thinking about what it would’ve looked like had I fallen. I am glad I didn’t find out!

We took our time over this section and eventually came to the boulder field that is the toughest part of the pass. It’s full of small and large boulders that require maneuvering around. Quite a few places were gushing water from melting snow, and we felt like we were climbing through waterfalls. Essentially… we were. We were happy that this day was sunny and hot and that the glacier water was ice cold! There was a steady stream of hikers heading up at the same time, and we would watch as other hikers, looking like ants, would disappear over the saddle to their first view of Glacier Grey.

The final pitch was steep and seemed like we were never going to get over the top… then… there we were!

The view!

Isn’t it incredible how after so much effort in a huge climb, there is a reward. Kind of like like, huh?

 

I often get overcome with emotion when I hike in the mountains. The enormity of it all just takes my breath from my lungs. I feel so small and it really humbles me to be surrounded by such giants. I stood in complete silence and awe.

We were gifted on this day with perfect hiking weather. This pass is riddled with wind, snow, and rain, but today was full sun, blue skies, and NO wind. We talked with several guides who said that type of weather happens about three times a year on that pass. THREE TIMES A YEAR! and here we are atop the pass with the most perfect view of Glacier Grey, in the most perfect weather, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. I could’ve just died right there it was so magnificent. Thank you, God.

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Grey Glacier is a glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. It flows southward from the Patagonian Andes Mountains into Grey Lake. The glacier is 6 kilometers (3.72 miles) wide and over 30 meters (98 feet) high. It occupies a total area of 270 km2 (100 sq mi) and a length of 28 km (17 mi) It’s the second-largest contiguous extrapolar icefield. There are truly no words to describe this glacier!

After taking photos and spending time taking in this marvel, we made the massive decent down, relishing the views of the glacier and having fun on the suspension bridges. If you’re afraid of heights… stop here, because these bridges are incredibly long and the valleys that they connect are DEEP! The highest and longest bridge is 80m high (262 feet), and 50m (164 feet) long.

Luckily it wasn’t windy, and I wondered as I crossed how these bridges would be in heavy wind. Thank you, Jesus!! I read over some blogs before our trip that said to be sure and HOLD ON in high winds. Ummm… We stopped at Paso Camp today. We rested, drank, filled our bellies, and chatted with fellow hikers about coming over the pass. We were exhausted, sun, and heat beaten and were happy to be off of our feet this day. One thing to note, there is zero ozone in Patagonia, so if you’re planning a trip, pack FIRST; sunscreen, SECOND; glasses! The sun is no joke!

Paso to Grey Camp was up for our next day. Grey was initially not on our itinerary… but ya know… those pesky eleventh-hour reservations… We were quite happy to get to Grey. We had decided we would sleep inside (a lot of people opt for the tent area) and had a shared room with another couple. Funny enough, it was a couple we had met a few days ago on a windy ascent but hadn’t seen since. It was like a family reunion when we opened the door of our bunk house. This is the first time in our history of travel that we’ve “bunked” like this. We were a little hesitant about this sleeping arrangement with total strangers! Turns out after hiking all. the. days. adding in a nice HOT shower and a legitimate meal in the restaurant… no one cared. We were so tired, after some small talk about our future adventures, we each collapsed onto our beds and slept straight through until the morning.

Grey Camp was in a gorgeous area against a sheer rock face. We sat out on the deck in Adirondack chairs, watching the sunrise the next morning.

From Grey, you can hike to the Glacier Mirador. After the Mirador, we headed off to our next camp, Paine Grande. This is the part of the trail where you meet up with the W hikers. This also begins two-way traffic on the trail, as there are a lot of day hikers and hikers heading in and out for an overnight or two. The trail gets busier after this section. G and I always call them “the shiny people” because frequently we have been out backpacking for DAYS and sometimes WEEKS and to day-hikers, I’m sure we look and ..ahem… smell like hobos. They pass us in their clean khakis and white t-shirts, smelling heavily of that morning’s shower. They have applied deodorant, fresh-hair in perky ponytails… and I think… I used to look pretty like that!

Paine Grande is a bustling place with O-hikers, W-hikers, and day-trippers. It sits stunningly on a lake with towering mountains to its side. We had already booked a room (alone) for this night’s stay. We checked in, showered, bought meal tickets FOR REAL FOOD in the morning, and set out to explore.

First stop; the fantastic bar on the top level. With its panoramic view, great music, and ice-cold beer, how could we pass that up? It was here that we talked over the trip that we knew would soon be ending. We talked about our ups and downs and the emotions that hit you when you’re on long treks like this. The peaks and valleys, and how real life seems to always follow trail life. We both hit low points. I was upset I had not felt 100 percent dealing with the flu, and I had times I got extremely frustrated with the congestion and nose blowing. Greg’s came after descending from John Gardner Pass, where I am convinced he was suffering some slight sunstroke and dehydration.

Looking back, I am still so glad I took the risk to start this hike.

Always take the risk! I could’ve let the sickness win, the fear of being miserable, the dismay of starting and maybe not finishing the hike, but like every hard thing in life, I pressed on and was so happy for that. I (we) never take our travel for granted. We both know there are people unable to travel as we do. There are couples who, one likes to travel, and one doesn’t, so they both don’t! For some, it’s a financial burden, some constrained by their career, some just simply don’t like to travel and some… are just paralyzed in fear to take that first step into something unknown. I can’t be that person and am thankful to have married a man who feels the same! There is no chance of tomorrow, and there is no chance that we will allow this precious life to pass by us.

We sat in this bar for a couple of hours and talked about the stories we will have for our future generations. Our grandkids… when looking at the globe someday, can hear stories of us climbing mountains and hiking all the miles, getting flooded in monsoons, eating God-knows-what from street vendors all over Asia. Standing in the Sea of Galilee in Isreal, getting stuck in the middle of the jungle, alone, on a motorcycle in Panama, having lightning strike so close that we felt our hair stand on end on a backpacking trip. Walking across a border crossing into Nicaragua, paragliding and sky diving, climbing down into war tunnels in Vietnam, surfing with giant sea turtles and stingrays all around us, nearly falling to my death in the Colorado Rockies… the list goes on…..

I know all grandparents have beautiful stories to tell their grandkids… and we can’t wait to share ours if someday God blesses us with littles.

We did a little sink laundry before heading over to the mess tent to cook some dinner. Greg was utterly crippled with eating dehydrated meals, so he opted to shop in the small store and buy… none other than Cup-a-Soup. Because that dehydrated food in styrofoam was far superior to the Packit Gourmet meals that we were currently existing on. Can you hear my sarcasm? I say this laughing because BOY does that food get old, and Cup-a-Noodles is like five-star cuisine when you’ve gotten tired of what you’ve packed.

As the sun set on another incredible night, we saw a Mama fox and her kits running around and playing in the meadow just outside. We moved out to take some video. They YIPPED and wrestled with one another until it was too dark to see.

Cont…..

Didn’t catch the first part of our Patagonia adventure? Start by clicking RIGHT HERE.

 

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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. 

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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.

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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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