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Puerto Montt, Bariloche, and El Boson

all seasons in one day

Its been a fabulous two weeks since I was last able to update. The protests in Aysen are still continuing and gave us some trouble gettting out of Aysen. We luckily found a fabulous hostel in Coyhaique owned by a German family where we met some really interesting people, relaxed, ate amazing German bread, and figured out how to get out of the region. Most of the folks in the hostel were also trying to get out of the city, so we were all strategizing together. Finally we came up with a plan that amazingly worked. We had to get a plane to Puerto Montt (only a one hour flight). Simple. Yeah right. We still had to get to the airport which was 50 kms from the hostel and the road in between was blocked by protesters. We bought our tickets when the protesters were letting the ariport transfers through. Then (of course) the day that our flight was leaving (luckily not until 4pm) they decided to block any vehicles that were making money..ie. airport transfers, taxis, and private cars. We thought we were going to miss our flight, so we went to the airport ticket office and changed our flight to the next day. We figured we would have to hike the distance and pray for a hitch along the way. An Austrian couple we met, Hanz and Sandra, were on the same flight as us and Sandra found us a private car. At the time we thought the private car could get through so we were relieved. The airline luckily said that if we made it that day and there was still space we´d be able to get on the plane. So off we went in the private car. When we got to the blocade we learned that they may not let our Chilean driver through with a bunch of gringos and their luggage, ¨pirato¨they called another driver like ours. So, we hopped out of the car, grabbed our bags, walkd through the blocade and hoped we´d see our driver on the other side. Amazingly, he got through, we were n the plane and at a boarding house in Puerto Montt by 6pm. So fantastic.

The place we found, Casa Perla, was full, but they had a couple camp spots in the backyard, which we gladly took. Here was the view from our site and Delaney eating our favorite: empanadas and the cheep (but popular) Chilean beer, Escudo.
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We were not able to get a bus to Bariloche, our next destination for another day, which we were at first bummed about, but then ended up having a great day in Puerto Montt and the nearby tourist town, Puerto Varas. The weather was beautiful and we took a cheep bus out to explore Puerto Varas. There were beautiful views across the lake out the the Volcon Osorono.
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The town was origionally founded by Germans in the late 1880s, so there is a lot of German influence in the architecture and food.
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We met some wonderful travellers at Casa Perla that included quite an international crew: 3 women from the UK, one from the states, a guy from Germany, three people from france, a guy from the Czech Republic, a woman from Japan, and another guy from New Zeland. We had a great time drinking wine and socializing. Meeting people from all over the world has been one of the best things about this trip. Not only learning about the local culture, but learning about other travllers and their lives back in their home countries.

The day of our bus to Bariloche we had to wake up pretty early, but were lucky to catch a view of an amazing sunrise over the harbor.
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The most exciting thing about getting to Bariloche was being about to meet up, for the FIRST TIME IN 10 YEARS, with my great friend Laure Godfrin. We origionally met during an exchange program in high school. She (and her brother Etienne one year) came to San Diego twice and I went to Grenoble and stayed with her wonderful family three times. It was one of the best experiences that I had during high school. Over the years Laure and I kept up periodically by email and facebook. When I posted my second blog she saw it on facebook and let me know that she was going to be visiting her family in Bariloche at the end of February with her boyfriend and his parents. Delaney and I figured out how to make our travel plans work so we could be there at the same time (which added a bit of stress to get out of Coyhaique on time!) But it all worked out and we were able to spend four days hanging out with Laure and Henrik (her boyfriend) and Laure´s Argentian family.
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It was so fabulous to catch up on the last ten years in person and just be together laughing and sharing our hearts like we did back when we were 14! All of the reasons why Laure and I connected back then were still part of both our personalities: laughing a lot, talking a lot, jokes, sharing family stories, and just wanting to have fun. I am so grateful that we were able to have this time with her and Henrik. It was meaningul to learn so much about her family and even learn the family song that has some crazy German lyrics...ungekocht Hühnerkacke..Uncooked Chicken Shit!

Over the few days we spent we went out to some amazing dinners and traveled around the area in her uncle Raul´s sweet van for two days.
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We saw some pretty cool lakes and the effect of the recent volcanic explosion nearby: floating pumic rocks in the lake...
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...the rare native Rayan tree...
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...the shortest river in the world: 300 m that flows between two lakes...
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...Nahual Huapi, the lake on which Bariloche sits...
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...Laure´s cousin, Mauricio´s bar, Los Vikingos...
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...and in El Boson: the artisan fair, Lago Peulo nearby, and the annual Fiesta de Lupulo (Hops festival). There are many farms in El Boson that grow hops, many artisanal cerveserias (micro breweries), and each year a festival with live music to celebrate the crop. We were hoping for some hoppy beer as weel, but none to match the hoppiness of the breweries in Oregon. But, we did enjoy many good rubias and rojas (blond and red beers). We even came across a cervesa artisanal on our way to our refugio and at the refugio itself.
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We said good bye to Laure and her family and headed down to stay in El Boson for a few days. The town is about 18,000 people if you include the surronding area, and sits in a beautiful valley in between two mountain ranges. We got recommendations from a lot of people to come here and it didn´t disappoint our expectations. There were a lot of refugios in the nearby mountains to hike to, lots of ecologically concisous people (ie hippies), and lots of artisan beer. Just our style! We headed out to the refugio Hielo Azul, where unfortunately I came down with a cold. I napped in the tent for a whole day and Delaney went on a day hike up to the glacier above the refugio. It was a great place actually to be sick. The refugio was well equipped and warm. There was hot water constantly warming on the wood stove, which I made many cups of mint tea from, a chess board, lots of space to chill, and a friendly staff. So even though I wasn´t feeling 100% we were having a great time.
The decomposing bridge on our way to the refugio:
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The refugio:
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The glacier:
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After the trek we headed back to Bariloche and back to the amazing Camping Yeti, where we stayed when visiting Laure. It is the first place we have found in our price range (i.e. cheap) where we were able to get our own bed, own bathroom, mini kitchen, towels, soap, and tv. Yes, tv. Wow. We love the Yeti. Yesterday we spent an entire day just resting and relaxing, watching bad 80s movies and crime dramas, and preparing for the next leg of our journey. Its amazing how tiring traveling can be and how little things like towels and soap can become luxuries. We were hoping to trek across the Cruce de los Lagos, another boarding crossing including hiking and boat. But we realized that it would be too expensive since we are past the high tourist season, and too complicated logistically. So we are headed to Pucon tomorrow where we will get to do some more trekking and soaking in hot springs before we head back up to Santiago in time for Amaya 4th birthday (April 1st).

Posted by Delaney..Jennie 08:18 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Adventures in Aysen

Chile's 11th Region

all seasons in one day

Its been a little over two weeks since I was last able to update the blog, so there is lots to say and many pictures to share! Luckily we are staying at a hostel with free and very fast internet in the big city of Coyhaique.

We left Cochrane for our adventure to Valle Chacobuco. We got a tip on how to walk there from town, which ended up being a three day hike. We started in the Reserva National Tomango and headed north, off trail for a bit, and then down to Lagunas Altas, which is the proposed future Patagonia National Park operated by Conservacion Patagonia.
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We were so happy to arrive at this viewpoint and see the lakes after our off trail adventure through a beautiful lenga forest. We climbed up onto the nearest high point and got spectacular views of Lagunas Altas and Valle Chacobuco below.
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While we were sitting there a gorgeous condor flew very close to us. Luckily I had the camera ready!
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We decended into the valley after spending a night at the lakes and saw so many guanaco.
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When we arrived in the valley we were pleasantly surprised to find free camping with hot showers! We met a group of American college students who were doing an inventory of the grasslands in the valley. They were doing one of the first scientific studies of the area and documenting the plants that they found. But of course, it is difficult to identify plants with out guide books and keys. But their study sounds exciting and hopefully will help the park measure the transition that the ecology makes after ending the intense grazing that was recently occuring there. The students were so excited and it was fun to feed off their energy!

We also had some time to make our first backcountry bread there in the campground. SOO yummy and filling and so much fun to make.
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We left Valle Chacobuco the next day and headed out to the Caraterra Austral again. We caught sight of a beautiful rainbow over the confluence of the Rio Baker and Rio Chacobuco. The Rio Baker is one of the rivers that has a dam proposed. Like all of the lakes and rivers, the blue of the river is an incredible color.
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From there we made our way to Puerto Guadal, a tiny gaucho (Patagonian cowboy) town about 8 km off of the Caraterra Austral. Mauricio at the eco camp in Villa O'Higgins suggested that we check out another eco camp and hostel there called Un Destino No Turistico (a non touristy destination). It was such a wonderful place and definitley not touristy. Our hosts there, Marcelo and Rosia were warm and welcoming and living a permaculture life there on the hill above Lago General Carrerra. We were able to do a tour of their place and learned a lot of interesting ideas, like how to construct a solar shower and how to bake bread with a solar oven. The best tip we learned there was how to make a 'Hay Box.' It is a really simple idea that helps to save gas when cooking. Basically when you are cooking something that takes a long time to cook, like potatoes or rice, you bring your pot to a boil on the stove and then wrap in a towel and place it in the Hay Box for about one or two hours depending on what you are cooking. The Hay Box can be as simple as a cardboard box with blankets in it or if you are camping in a sleeping bag. We tried both and it has been really great. We are going to make one for our kitchen as soon as we get settled in Portland. We were also lucky that the second night we stayed there we were able to have the entire hostel to ourselves. It was really peaceful and relaxing after our hiking and traveling. Here are some photos of the hostel and the view from the common area.
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The other fun thing we got to do in Puerto Guadal was go to the local summer festival/rodeo/horse race. We were the only gringos there and felt like we really got a flavor for the Patagonian way of life. Asado (barbacue), carrera de caballos (horse races), and town gathering.
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Puerto Guadal from above
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Our next stop was just across the lake (well it is the second biggest lake in South America, so it was a few hours driving away) in Puerto Rio Tranquilo to see the famous Capillas de Marmol (Chapels of Marble). It was a fun boat ride with big waves and high wind out to see the caves that have been erroded away by the lake. This first picture is of a rock feature that looks like dog's profile...see it?
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From Puerto Rio Tranquilo we quickly made our way out of town to Villa Cerro Castillo. There wasnt much to do there except see the capillas and hike. And we were still not ready to hike yet since we were getting ready to do a four day trek around the huge mountain Cerro Castillo in a couple days. Villa Cerro Castillo is a tiny town on the Carraterra that has not blown up with tourism yet. Here is a typical scene: horse, chickens, dog, truck.
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Before our trek we explored around town and saw a local archeaological site where there were rock paintings from the Tehuelche Indians from about 3000 years ago. They are hand prints both positive and negative images that were made with a paint made of blood, fat, and rock minerals.
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We also saw the old school house that was used by students in the entire region. They would travel for days to get to the school and stay for about two weeks every year. Pretty amazing to think about only having two weeks of school per year.
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Then we headed out for our trek around Cerro Castillo. It was a hard hike with lots of tallus to climb, but it was incredibly beautiful and worthwhile. Here is a view down to Villa Cerro Castillo and out all the way to the Lago General Carrera.
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Us on top of the tallus hill finally with views all around.
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Alpine flower still in bloom
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The glaciers of Cerro Castillo and the lake just below the peak
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Del at the top of the Paso de Penon and the view into the valley beyond
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D chillin in our amazing little tent as we sheltered ourselves from the daily rainstorm
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The sendero (trail) is the main section of a new trail that an organization is trying to construct in Chile called the Sendero de Chile, which will hopefully one day streatch along the entire country north to south. It was a priviledge to be able to hike it. Although we werent as lucky with the weather as we hiked and didnt catch a glimpse of the top of the mountain until we were walking back to town. But we got a good one anyway!
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Yesterday we made it to the capital of Aysen, Coyhaique. We are momentarily stuck as large protests have shut down transportation and fuel supply to the entire region. The people of the land are standing up to the corporate greed and letting their voices be heard. More power to them. Even if it has made our travel plans a little trickier we are in support of their cause, one of which is the sin repressas (no dams) movement. Here is one of many bilboards we have seen in the region.
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Posted by Delaney..Jennie 08:29 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

The end of the Carraterra Austral...

and the beginning of it for us!

all seasons in one day

Well we finally have some time in front of a screen for me to update and tell some stories in words and pictures. The last couple weeks have been really exciting and everyday seems to get better and better. We are now on the Carratera Austral, the highway that runs north south through southern Chile.

El Chalten and the Fitz Roy area is an incredible place. The trails leave right behind town and it isnt too long before you could reach amazing views of the famous mountain range. In fact, you could even see Mount Fitz Roy from town. The only trouble is that the weather is quite unpredictable in the area and goes from snow, to rain, to sun, to clouds, to rain, to sun etc. it seems over the course of hours. Some days there are no views of the peaks at all. We met a older American couple in one of our campgrounds who had been to El Chalten three times before and had still never seen Cerro Torre (one of the most famous peaks). We didnt get to see it either when we were across the lake from it, but we did get to experience some crazy winds (I put a pic of D leaning into them in the last blog).

El Chalten:
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The other really fun thing about being in El Chalten was being able to hang out with our friend Jon Jon who is working with Ned on the Alpine of the Americas Project. Check out their website...its an amazing project! They are taking pictures of glaciers in the Sierras, and now the Andes, from places where old photos were taken from in the past. That way they can compare the difference bettween the melting that has occured. We had two great dinners with Jon Jon before we left on our trek.

Here is one of their photos:
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One thing that we have had a lot of fun doing along the trail is eating Calafate berries. They are tart and sweet at the same time and they turn your tongue purple! Thanks to Steve-Z for giving us the heads up.

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From El Chalten began the exciting adventure of getting back into Chile through the Dos Lagos Frontiera. We started with a short bus ride to Lago Desierto.
Looking South:
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Looking North:
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We walked along the edge of the lake for about five hours, going up and down and up and down over little drainages. The hiking was rough, since most people do not hike that section, but it was one of the best hikes we have had. The scenery was beautiful, good hiking weather (not too hot or cold), and we didnt see another person the whole way. Definitley a change from the other trails we have hiked. Also we were incredibly lucky to spot a Huemul, the national animal of Chile. It is a deer that is a little smaller than a mule deer with smaller animals. It is on the Chilean seal. Unfortunatly, due to habitat destruction, they are very endangered and are now being actively protected in certain areas. Delaney gets the credit for the sighting. We were about 100 feet away and got to watch it for about five minutes before it grazed up the hill. Magical! Many people we have told have said that we are very lucky to have seen one. Try to see if you can see it in this picture (hint its right in the center!)

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Our campspot on the other side of the lake was gorgeous and we woke up in the morning to an amazing view of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre. So we were able to see the mysterious mountain after all. So beautiful.

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The next leg of the journey included a 6 hour hike to Candelaria Manzenilla, a tiny port on Lago OHiggins, during which we hiked across the boarder. A very cool experience!

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From there we were planning to take a boat at 5pm, a few hours after we arrived, but due to high winds on the lake the boat was cancelled for the day. It was definitely one of the best "layovers" I have had. There was a gorgeous camping area next to a small estancia, where a family offers modest accomodations, food, and the camp sites. We got a perfect private spot over looking the lake. The family were incredibly nice and had a beautiful garden. We ate fresh baked bread (pancito) and homemade raspberry marmelade for a snack and came back for a wonderful dinner that was cooked on the wood stove. We met another traveller, Pep, from Barcellona, who was climbing in El Chalten and most recently wandering through the mountains on a solo adventure. We had a great conversation with him over the meal.

Our camp spot:
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There are only a few families that live along the shores of this immense lake (the deepest in the Americas). It was interesting to learn about the systems that they use to take care of each other and live a sustainable life being so far from civilization. In the morning, we were in the house paying for our stay and heard the radio call from the town Villa OHiggins. Each morning someone in the town calls on the radio to make sure that each family is doing ok and to see if they need emergency transportation. A very cool system. It was here that we first started to see a theme begining to run through our travels: sustainable living on the land. Each place we have been since then has added to that theme and we are learning lots of new things that we may be able to apply to our life back in Oregon. Very exciting.

The next day we were able to catch the boat in the morning, which meant that we had the option of going to visit te OHiggins glacier that feeds from the Southern Patagonia Ice Field into the lake. Although it was a bit expensive we decided to go for it. Thanks to all of you who contibuted to our Honeymoon fund at the wedding! It was very similar to the Perito Moreno glacier we saw before, but it had its own magesty. To me, it looked like a giant tongue laying out between the mountains. Also we got to enjoy a complimentary whiskey with glacier ice on the boat...fantastico!

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On the boat we met some interesting travelers who gave us a tip on where to stay once we got to Villa OHiggins. There was German couple on their honemoon, who are spending one year traveling on a tandum bike, and a Swedish woman who was biking from Vancouver to as far south as she can go. She has spent two and a half years getting to this point and is almost there! So inspiring. They gave us the tip to stay at the Eco Camp in Villa OHiggins, which was by far the coolest place that we have stayed so far. We were able to spend three nights enjoying it.

The Eco Camp was recently built by a fabulous Chilean man, Mauricio, who has a passion for Chile and living lightly on the land. He built the camp all from fallen trees on the land and has tried his best to keep it the way it was when he arrived. There were really neat composting toilets, a wood stove that supplied hot water to the showers, and simple camping. He was doing some very cool sustainable things to reduce waste, like stuffing all unrecycleable plastic into large plastic bottles, which he is planning to use as bricks.

There were some other travlers there too, who were fun to talk to and two nights in a row (and a lucnh) we shared wonderful meals around the large table. Yesterday it rained all day, so we hung out around the wood stove, read books about sustainable buildings, rested our legs (which are starting to complain louder than usual), talked, and ate amazing food. There were three fishermen/woman who were there visiting from another town in Patagonia to fish the rivers. They made an amazing Chicken soup for lunch, then went out fishing when the weather cleared in the early evening, and after only two hours brought back perch, trout, and salmon for all to share for dinner. Plus, when we told them it was their honeymoon, they insisted on celebrating with Vino Blanco en Melon--basically a mellon hollowed out with white wine soaking in it. We passed it around the table until after 1am. So much fun! It was really great to spend some time with Patagonian folks and other travelers and get a feel for the culture.

We talked some about the dams that are proposed to be put on a handfull of rivers down here. Its a really sad proposal to think about ruining some of the last pristine rivers in the world, as well as changing the way of life for the people making a life along the river banks.

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Now we are in the small town of Cochrane (which luckily has a bank...we were running out of cash!). We are staying one night here and then heading up to the proposed National Park, Patagonia National Park, which is run by Doug Tompkins, the former owner of North Face and controvercial land owner in Chile. There we are going to explore Valle Chacobuco for a few days, which many people have recommended to us. Then we are hoping to head north to another Eco Camp, 8 kms off the Carratera Austral. Very exciting!

Posted by Delaney..Jennie 13:56 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Los Glacieres National Park

Perito Moreno and Fitz Roy

No time to really tell stories with words in this blog, so the pictures will have to do. Suffice it to say we are having a fabulous time, seeing some incredible glaciers, and hiking in beautiful mountains. Enjoy the pictures!
Perito Moreno Glacier
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Fitz Roy
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Our sweet campsite near Fitz Roy
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Crazy Patagonian winds
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Posted by Delaney..Jennie 14:28 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Torres Del Paine

Trekking in the Yosemite of South America

Before we left Santiago, I took this of Garrett and Delaney. Definitely brothers!
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Our first stop in Patagonia was Punta Arenas, where we walked along the Straight o Magellon. Pretty cool to imagine all of the famous people that passed through this way on their way west. We thought of John Muir and Delaney´s decendet, Sam Brannan, on their way to San Francisco.DSC_7687.jpg

From there we took a bus up to Puerto Natales, the jumping off point for travelers to Torres Del Paine, where we made it the next day. Here was the first view we had from the entrance gate.
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Since there was a fire recently in the park we weren´t able to do the famous W or Circuit hike, but we were able to do parts of both. We headed first to Campo Seron, which you see here. It was really crowded and loud at the camp, but we found solitude and wilderness during the hikes to and away.
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The next day we did our longest day hike ever--20 miles out and back to Lago Dickson. This is where the next camp/refugio is, but since we would have to hike back anyway we decided to day hike instead of stay out there. From there and along the hike we had amazing views of the Glacier Dickson, beautiful and weird plants, and the Rio Paine.
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We spent our third and fourth nights in the park at Campamento Chileno. It has a beautiful refugio, but we camped next to it in a grove of trees. It was a quieter camp and had a view of the tops of the torres.
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We day hiked up to the Torres, the most famous view in the park the next day. This was like climbing up to the top of Yosemite falls. Absolutely beautiful, but steep trail. We had two hours of chill time at the lake where I was able to paint in my journal and Dealaney chilled. We were lucky to have perfect weather!
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Right before we left we got a glimpse of the famous guanaco, an animal related to the llama. Pretty cool!DSC_7787.jpg

Posted by Delaney..Jennie 06:06 Archived in Chile Comments (4)

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