As luck would have it, the story of our 10th day on the trail was another perfectly clear blue sky with lush sunshine touching everything and giving it the fantastic hues that only sunshine can give. Oh, what a life it was to awaken to the wild of Patagonia every morning.
Los Cuernos campsite and refugio sits on a slope that curves down toward the edge of the lake, Lago Nordenskjold. As such, our tent site was on a wooden platform, which was commonplace for any of the campsites that sat on uneven ground. The sun rose up over hills and hit our tent early, as we were situated in an area that was mainly brush and small trees, so very little tree cover to block sunlight. And it was quite perfect in that regard, as we got to truly drink in the majesty of the Los Cuernos rock formations and granite spires to which we were in such close proximity.
Awe-inspiring. And with the moon just above it, too!
Someone sitting next to us the night before at dinner had mentioned they occasionally had fresh bread leftover and available for purchase in the morning. As an afterthought, we went to the refugio’s front desk to ask and found that the morning luck was still with us: They had a warm, freshly baked full loaf of bread available, and even a couple eggs if we wanted to pay a little extra! We bought 6 eggs and a loaf and treated ourselves to an incredibly simple and storybook-level-good breakfast of scrambled eggs and bread.
I don’t think either of us have ever enjoyed hot scrambled eggs and fresh, warm bread as much as we did on this day. Whoever said it first wasn’t lying when they said it’s all about perspective. Perspective helps you find the joy in the simplest of things….even if you’ve done the same thing a hundred times before in your life, that ONE time can be totally different 🙂
Happy minds and happy bellies, we struck out to the East and began our trek to Campsite Central (Cen-TRAL). There was a fun little hill just next to the Los Cuernos campsite, and it gave fantastic views for the start of our hike.
Not for the first time (nor the last), I thought to myself how we could’ve sat and stayed on that boulder a good while longer, simply looking, listening, and breathing in and out.
Fluffy clouds sat cushioned amongst jagged rock formations above us as we went, and made for beautiful, wispy, and sunny contrast against the dark stone.
We crossed many small streams and medium-sized waterfalls this day, and the amount of detail you could observe in the water was intense and exciting. With the sunlight piercing every part and shadow of the water, you can see through it and it is just as crystal clear as your imagination wills it to be, like something out of a dream.
I would stop and want to fill my water bottle with more fresh water, even though it was still half full from the stream we’d crossed a mile back! The mere fact that you can just fill your water bottle with any of these stream’s water invigorated me to just keep doing it whenever I got the chance. I mean, how often in your life to you get to drink this caliber of pristine, naturally-occurring agua? Without a doubt, I planned to SAVOR that shit like these were our last days in Patagonia……. (And yes, the irony of that statement just slays me).
Had a calm lunch on our own at a clifftop spot about halfway through our day. We could still see Los Cuernos in the distance, getting smaller and smaller. This day took us alongside the southern edge of a different peak, Monte Almirante Nieto, or in English “admiral grandchild.” Not quite sure why it’s named that, but I’m sure there’s a story behind it.
Those of you that read our previous days’ posts from our hike in Torres del Paine may recall this: On our 8th day of this O circuit, we went through a valley that had frequent daily avalanches from hanging glaciers that were warmed in the daylight. You would hear an intensely loud crack like thunder, and then the avalanche of snow would plummet down followed by a new waterfall that sprang from where the snow had been shifted. It is just the most incredible thing to witness. I bring it up again now because what was just so, SO cool is that we could STILL hear the avalanches that entire day – and we were hiking continuously away from it! Every time we’d hear the sound of a seeming crash of thunder in the distance behind us, it brought a smile to our faces. It was almost like….we had a shared secret, and anyone hiking in the opposite direction towards that valley didn’t yet know that secret 🙂
Even when we arrived at our campground for that night, Torres Central, we could still hear the avalanche thunder, albeit more muffled. The distance at that point was about 14 or 15 miles. What a wild and crazy thing she is, that Nature.
Also, lots of fun bridges to swing from!
FYI, not recommended to do with a full backpack on. My arms almost died.
Near the end of this day’s trek, we passed by a tranquil little lagoon. It was almost like glass – not a ripple on the water. Until I poked it with my hiking pole.
We ran into two older ladies with a guide that had walked up to the lagoon from the Hotel, only a short mile or so. We had pleasant conversation – one of the ladies was American. When she found out that we had been out in the wilderness for the past 10 days and didn’t have any access to phone service, wifi, or news, she elevated to a new level of alarm and took it upon herself to start telling us of the state of emergency the world was in and how we needed to get back to the States ASAP because COVID-19 was taking over the planet.
(Soooooo….forgive me while I borrow an apropos line of Angelica’s from Hamilton for this moment and what was going through my head as this lady spoke to us….cue the music) “And I re-a-lize three fundamental truths at the EXACT SAME TIME.”
Number One: We probably would’ve been better off not hearing any of this and finishing our last two days in this park without the damn news of how the outside world was going to hell in a handbag. I mean…c’mon, lady.
Number Two: It was obvious that she did not understand the crash of negativity she was bringing to our vibe, and was probably thinking she was “saving” us and doing us a favor….I don’t hold it against her. I wasn’t angry. More just saddened by this sudden reality check and the simultaneous realization that we were likely going to have to face some somber stories and hard decision making in near future.
Number Three: Up to this literal second, every night we had camped in Torres del Paine people had NOT ONCE brought up the topic of the outside word and what was going on with coronavirus. I hadn’t even realized it until these very seconds that this lady made me realize it. Was the fact that it was never a conversation topic intentional? Accidental? Uncanny to say the least. Made me feel hopeful, too. Hopeful in that after a day of sharing the trail with fellow hikers, having encounters with wild animals, experiencing the peace and joy of being in the wilderness….that a group of strangers from various countries and backgrounds can come together and focus on THIS day, THESE memories, and not need to read things on their phones, post immediately about what they are doing, or hear about what is happening anywhere else other than Right. Here.
I think those are the kind of places where the root of happiness lives, metaphorically speaking. 10 straight days of an unspoken agreement to live in the “here and now” and forget the rest. What a change of pace it was, and a whole new perspective from what I’d become accustomed to in our country’s typical focal points and stressors that we (much of the time) bring upon our own shoulders – myself included!
Again….perspective is a blessing. I don’t know how I would’ve gotten through these past 5 months without it. Hell, I don’t know how some people go through LIFE without it! I feel bad for them, though, because they are missing out on a depth and richness that is otherwise unreachable.
We finished the last ~mile to Torres Central. After heading over to the refugio’s hotspot, we paid the money to get an hour of wifi, let our parents know that we were healthy and significantly better than okay. Checked to see if Chile had locked down its borders (it hadn’t)…and then we let go of what we couldn’t control.
Put the phones away, walked back to our tent and enjoyed the now familiar bodily fatigue of a good, long day of exercise. Laughed at the hilarious squawking of the Austral parakeets that filled the campsite, drank a craft beer and watched the sun set over Monte Almirante Nieto.
**Disclaimer: There are far too many photos of me in this post and far too few of David. It’s really just because there are far less in quantity. I will now, from here on out, be making a point to stop and take more photos of my love while on the trail!