Paddling · Self-Actualization · Wellness

Chile Part 3: Glaciers and Parques and Plunges Oh My!!

So we’re in Chile (at least we were this winter). We’d already had a “trip of a lifetime” having hiked the incredible Cerro Castillo, paddled a 4-day river trip on the Rio Baker and kayaked to, in and around the Marble Caves. There was still so much more to go! The trip on the Rio Baker left us in Coletta Tortel, an incredible little town nestled on the side of the fjords and we’d said our good-byes to the “Baker” crew. Our intention was to make our way to Patagonia Nacional Parque with some stops along the way, however we last-minute secured a trip to the San Lorenzo Glacier and extended our time in Tortel to accommodate. Because our Spanish isn’t perfecto we “more or less understood” that the trip would be a very full day, beginning at 8am and returning between 8-9pm (based on a two hour ride through the fjords on a skiff followed by approximately two hours of hiking to the glacier. We would then do the reverse, but stop on an island to eat asado dinner). This tour, in its entirety, was an experience that still leaves me somewhat perplexed but grateful for the cultural experience.

We did leave early in the morning, tossing our gear down to the raft and jumping from the dock to the boat where we greeted a “captain” who motored us out to the skiff to join the rest of the crew. It was a beautiful ride to the beach where we unloaded and began a very soggy hike toward the San Lorenzo glacier. Sidenote, this was one of the only days we got rained on and the hike was still very picturesque and enjoyable. We eventually arrived to the glacier, but it left us wanting some sort of paddle-craft because we could only view it from shore. I was, however, still blown away by the sight. Our small group eventually gathered for what was advertised as “lunch” which turned out to be a crap-ton of candy bars, one bag of potato chips and a triple shot of whiskey (on “ice” gathered from the icebergs–this is a hot marketing piece, I noticed, with several of the outfitters in the region). As someone who doesn’t drink much these days (or eat much candy or chips because I’m annoyingly healthier as I age) it was a laughable moment because I also prescribe to the “when in Rome” mindset when traveling. It was a buzzy walk back and I’m not sure if it was the whiskey or the enormous amounts of candy I’d eaten… probably a little bit of both! Arriving back at the skiff it was incredibly foggy and we were grateful for the skill of our captain who clearly knew the area well. He guided us, essentially blind, to the island where we joined a gaucho (farmer) who hosted our asado. The little enclosure we gathered had a woodstove where we all undressed almost to undies, to hang and practically roast our soggy socks, shoes and layers. What got weird is that it took a really long time to prep the food. And then a really long time to eat the food. And then? We were there for hours after, and at one point I saw the captain and the gaucho engaged in a lively negotiation over an old chainsaw which might or might not have needed fixed and/or was for sale? I have spent a LOT of time in the hospitality and tour industry and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Not complaining…it was interesting and those gauchos live SO remotely that they might go weeks without seeing anyone except those who lives with them. But I’m sure we’d have been back in Tortel by 6pm had we been more, say, efficient. Additionally, the boat ride back was a little exciting. What had been calm water turned into pretty sizeable waves so we went reeeeeally slowly. Relieved to finally be back, we jumped from the deck of the skiff back onto our dock–flinging our gear up and climbing the ladder. Ahhhh. Another adventure under our belts.

A random dynamic on this trip I haven’t mentioned, was that we were doing (almost daily, twice a day) cold-water plunges. I mean COLD water plunges, as in glacial lakes and run-off-into-rivers-cold. It’s an “acquired taste” for sure but I’m quite addicted. I have a process that’s kind of bullet-proof and I definitely don’t just plunge in all at once. By the time I left however, I could stay in up to my neck for 20-30 seconds at a time. It leaves your body feeling tingly and alive. I highly recommend!!

Next stop was Cochrane, where we met Roberto, a Chilean teacher-turned-kayak instructor who had created a kayak-school simply from his passion for getting kids and adults on the water, and very few other resources. Our Rio Baker guide had put us in contact with Roberto, as someone we should meet. Roberto also didn’t speak a word of English. Sam got to know Roberto by paddling with him up the Cochrane river while I took the opportunity to go for a solo walkabout into the park. We reconvened and went to a fun but language-challenged dinner. I’m sure we learned a lot of incorrect things about him and he about us (due to not understanding entirely the Spanish either was speaking). Next day we woke early to hike a 3-hour loop in Patagonia Parque Nacional before heading out toward the next leg of the trip, “Jeinemeni”. A long drive, but worthwhile….

Paddling · Wellness

A Trip to Chile- Part One

When we first decided on Chile as our meet-up destination, I had only a vague knowledge about the country. With a gun to my head I would have remembered old maps from elementary school…where it was geographically, and that it was “long and skinny”. Patagonia was there, but I knew more about the outdoor apparel company than I actually knew about the region. Nothing could have prepared me, however, for the incredible beauty this area has to offer, and the fact that there are a ton of trails to hike and rivers to paddle made it even better. Side note, if you’re planning a trip, I highly recommend you talk to someone who has been there, in addition to reading the blogs and travel guides.

We spent our time in Central Patagonia which is remote, and somewhat challenging to get to, but well worth the effort. The “highway” that connects the towns throughout this area, as I-5 would on the west coast of the US, is gravel, winding and frequently rutted–a road appropriate for 4-wheel drive vehicles. In a strange way, this adds to the allure, as it definitely deters a lot of people from visiting and slows you down (for better and worse). The drive truly is the journey as much as the destination in Patagonia. Around every corner is a mind-blowing view with jagged mountain peaks, mostly snow or glacier-covered. Lakes and rivers are everywhere, with the craziest colors you can imagine…blues, greens, opaques from glacial silt. Just WOW.

Our adventure started with one of the more “stout” hikes in the area–Cerro Castillo (from Villa Cerro Castillo). It’s straight up and then straight down, about three hours each way, which we did as a day-hike, although Sam fervently believes it should only be done as a multi-day camping experience. For our purposes, and just getting acclimated, I was fine with the day-hike because full overnight packs our first day out, would have been really challenging. By the end of the trip…basically three weeks of daily “cross-fit”…sure, no prob! All that said, we got to the glacier where we enjoyed a lunch, water and incredible views before heading back down, entirely aware of “well-used” knees, back, etc.

Next destination (after some backtracking to Coyhaique to stock up on supplies for three weeks of remote camping) was Puerto Sanchez. I had set my sights on the Marble Caves having seen photos of gorgeous rock formations you can boat to. All the websites/blogs told me we would need to launch from Rio Tranquillo or Puerto Murta to visit these caves, but we received a tip from a local, to go via Puerto Sanchez, approaching from the other side of the island. Great tip! We hired two guides to escort us, and a tandem kayak. The paddle to the caves was quick–about 10 minutes (truthfully, we tried to just rent the kayak and paddle ourselves). But “Nacho” and Ignacio were awesome and shared a bunch of insider info about the caves, lake General Carrera and other local knowledge. Beautiful sights are nice, but understanding them–how they were formed, the geology, and the relevance locally, makes it so much better! A few fun facts about the “Marble” caves…they’re not marble but limestone. They were under water just 30 years ago but the glaciers all around Patagonia are receding very quickly due to climate change (ok, that isn’t a super “fun” fact). You can actually hike in some of them…we did…and we found a few pieces of petrified wood. The rock itself isn’t colorful, but reflects the color of the water and sky creating some breathtaking views.

We spent the night camping, for the first of many, under the southern hemisphere sky–the Milky Way SO vivid. Waking with our first tailgate breakfast, complete with instant coffee and dehydrated milk, (a pleasure for this coffee addict) we slowly made our way toward Cochrane…and “Part Two” later to come…

Paddling · Self-Actualization · Wellness

Change of Season

Around Oregon, the shift from summer this year, was almost immediate–like a flick of the switch, with basically no fall, straight into winter. The sunny days in a tank top, pulling weeds and raking leaves at the homestead went quickly into Willamette Valley weather…rain and wind. Let’s be clear…I’m not complaining (Yet. I am not a fan of WV winters of endless rain). Right now, however, with a fire crackling making it toasty warm, having just finished a lunch of hot soup, I feel so cozy there should be a Hallmark Movie logo stamped on my…mmmmm…forehead. Bring on the rain!

Am I going to spend every day lounging around the house? Naaah. That’s not my style. I’ve been known to run wearing ski goggles and full rain gear when we’re getting torrential downpour, on iced-over, heavily tracked, uneven snow pack. Not badass, just motivated...and maybe a little crazy. Sitting still for too long is not my strong suit.

This year has been a metaphorical “change of seasons” for me too. Pre-Covid, I’d typically be traveling somewhere for several weeks in the fall, enjoying a break after a busy summer– going paddling, biking, hiking, whether in Bend or on the road. Later, after the holidays I’d head somewhere south where it’s warmer, either leading a retreat or having fun for myself (“research” for the next potential location!). However, as I evolve my living and working situations, I’ve found a lot of pleasure in flexing my “domestic muscles” and expanding my little wellness-facilitating biz. Seems the perfect time to do it eh? Because everywhere I look it appears people are shaking things up in their lives. The pandemic had some horrible consequences for many. It dislodged the status quo for people with all kinds of outcomes. Break-ups, pregnancies, people leaving long-time jobs, starting different careers, or taking a new outlook on their health. Whatever the case, it’s definitely a time of transitions.

Change is really hard for many… I’d say most even. What seems to hold true from my point of view, is that you are in control of the change if you are proactive in it. When change “happens” to you, it’s quite the opposite. Like rapids on a river, if you are faster than the current, you are in control of your craft, but if the current is faster than you, it’s in control. One significant example is the aging population. Some choose to take control of their health and living situation, maximizing the chances of enjoying a relatively active and independent lifestyle. It can involve some tough decisions and/or discipline, but with a “can do” mindset, the outcome is seemingly positive. Others fight (or ignore) the realities of aging, and it doesn’t always go well, for themselves or their loved ones. I’ve worked with seniors over half my life and witnessed friends and family-members’ various approaches to this inevitable part of life. I can only hope I am reasonable in my decision-making when it comes time, but I have some great role models to learn from!!

My sister’s “Outlaws”…a term we lovingly say based on her 20-year relationship, have been incredibly logical about their golden years. The plan had been set, down payment made, and finally executed to move into an amazing retirement village several months ago. They researched and compared many options, and the community they ultimately chose is RAD! From libraries to craft centers, incredible restaurants and overall approach, this retirement village is very forward-thinking. I believe their motto is something like “let us help you take care of yourself”. I prescribe to that concept.

Another example…and I know he will read this…is a gentleman I’ve been fitness coaching for about 10 months and paddleboard-instructing for years. He is regimented about his personal wellness (exercise, diet and health care). Like many aging bodies, he’s had knee surgery and has hip issues. Won’t we all? Best to mitigate some of the pain and inevitable decline we’ll each experience, yes? I give him props for being so determined. One might even say tenacious, and I say, “Way to go”!

This all gives me food for thought. How can I set myself up for personal success and fulfilment over time? I can’t give you my full answer today, but what I can say is that I’m going to stay active, do those things that feed my soul and make course-corrections as necessary. Thanks for listening…hope to see you out there on the frisky ripples…of life.