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Patagonia: Day 8-9

Our bus arrived to El Calafate around lunch time. Our first stop was the visitor center where we told about the park rules and given a map of the area and surrounding trails.

The trails for Los Glaciares National Park start in the town of El Calafate which makes it super easy! I didn’t have much of a plan since reservations are not required for the park. I figured I would see how the weather looked and then decide my route based off that.

Since it was nice and sunny, I decided I would head to Laguna Torre, have lunch, and then cut over to Camp Poincenot.

The hike to Laguna Torre wasn’t too bad from a difficulty standpoint, but there were a lot of people on the trail which got annoying after awhile. I made it up the lake where I had lunch. I didn’t stick around too long as the wind made it quite chilly, and I knew I still had a couple hours of hiking ahead of me if I wanted to make it to Camp Poincenot.

The hike to Camp Poincenot seemed like it went on forever, but that was mostly because I was tired from numerous days of hiking. I was glad to finally make it to camp and setup my tent. When unpacking my bag I also realized I had never thrown out my water bottle which had a cup of wine in it – score! That made dinner much better ūüôā

I went to bed fairly early, but did set an alarm. I wanted to get up early hike to Laguna de los Tres for the sunrise, but when I awoke, the wind was blowing quite hard and it was drizzling. I decided to go back to sleep and would re-evaluate in a couple of hours. The rain did eventually stop, but it was cold and there were still clouds covering the mountains. I was exhausted and decided I would rather hike back to town and try to catch an earlier bus back to El Chalten.

The cloud eventually did start to clear up on my hike out, and I caught glimpses of the mountains.

At some point on the trail, it started to lightly snow.

The snow didn’t last long, and with the sun out, it started to warm up.

Most of the trail back to town was downhill so I made pretty good time. I went to the bus station and found out about bus departures. I was able to switch my ticket to the 1 pm bus (I was previously scheduled for 6 pm). I had two hours to spare so I found a cafe with wifi, and grabbed some food. Yummm… carbs…

I got back to El Calafate around 5 pm. I grabbed my bags and walked to my hotel where I took a much needed shower. I then ventured into town. I walked around a little, but my feet were so tired! I found a nice rooftop restaurant and enjoyed some empanadas and wine.

The next morning consisted of breakfast, and then it was off to the airport where I began my long journey home.

Patagonia: Day 6-8

I returned to Puerto Natales in the afternoon. I checked into the Florence Dixie and grabbed some tiramisu from the bakery just around the corner.

I washed some clothes in the sink, used the wifi, and then headed around the corner to grab some dinner. I walked around a bit not sure where to eat, but ended up settling on Kawesqar Café. I highly recommend!

The next morning, the bus company Turismo Zaahj picked me up from the Florence Dixie to take me to Argentina. The bus was fairly nice and I was able to get in a nice nap ūüôā

Once in Argentina, we went to Perito Moreno Glacier. We walked along the walkways and checked out the overlooks, and then hopped on a boat that took up close to the glacier.

After the boat ride, we all hopped back on the bus and headed to El Calafate. I had the bus drop me off in the main part of the town so I could grab dinner. I found a pizza restaurant with free wifi.

After eating, I grabbed my bags and walked to the Cyan Calafate Hotel. The walk wasn’t too bad – less than a mile.

The next morning, I grabbed breakfast at the hotel and then walked across the street to the bus terminal. One of the companies will keep your extra bag(s) for just a few dollars. I had brought a bag with my spare food and some t-shirts (before I had left at the Florence Dixie hotel since I would be returning there). The only issue with this is you have to pick up your bags when they are open – if you return late in the evening, you may have to come back the next day. I have heard there are also places in El Calafate where you can do this, but I didn’t know much about it and the bus terminal was easy enough.

Since I was a bit early getting to the station, I was able to hop in line early and get a front row seat on the upper level – not a bad view!

Patagonia: Day 2-6

Day 2

I arrived in Torres Del Paine late in the afternoon of my second day. After completing the safety briefing, I grabbed my pack and started the short ‘hike’ to Central Sitio Suelo where I would be camping the first two nights.

After a 10 minute walk, I arrived at the campsite and checked in. Since it was late, most of the good campsites were taken, but I was able to find a small spot along the river.

The refugio was located just on the other side of the river so after setting up, I headed over there and grabbed some wine and enjoyed the wonderful weather.

Day 3

I woke up to find it overcast and rainy. I wasn’t sure how great of a view I would get, but I still wanted to get an early start on the hike to the base of Las Torres.

About an hour into the hike I had to stop and put on my rain jacket and pants. Looking back at the storm had me a little worried, but I continued on.

It continued to drizzle a bit. After an hour or so, it did start to clear up a little… less rain, but still a lot of low clouds… the sun did poke through every now and then which was promising.

I finally made it to the top. The last part of the hike seemed like it went on forever… a lot of uphill through a rock garden!

I hung out at the top for a bit, but it quite windy and chilly. The number of people up there started steadily increasing so I decided to go ahead and head back down beat the crowds. The weather was much better on the way back down!

Day 4

I woke up and packed up my stuff and began my hike to Los Cuernos. It was already sunny out which was nice.

Most of the hike was along a gorgeous turquoise lake.

I made it Los Cuernos around 1 pm – quite early! I checked into my cabin for the night and unpacked my bag. My cabin was up on a hill overlooking the lake, and not far from a fairly large waterfall.

Since it was so early and the weather was so perfect, I decided I would go ahead and hike to the Britanico overlook. It was going to make for a super long day, but I didn’t want to risk waiting until the next day and possible having horrible weather.

I didn’t take too many photos the first hour or so as I was in a rush to get to the main trailhead by 2 pm (the park rangers will not let anyone start the hike after 2 pm). I made it to the trailhead with 5 minutes to spare!

I finally made it back to Los Cuernos and was exhausted. My cabin looked even more inviting after a long day of hiking.

I decided to grab a bottle of wine from the refugio and enjoy the sunset from my front porch.

Day 5

When I woke up and saw the weather outside, I was immediately happy I had hiked to the Britanico lookout the day before. With that said, the storm clouds caused a rainbow to form over the lake! I went ahead and started my hike to Paine Grande in hopes the weather would clear up, and maybe I could make it Refugio Grey and go kayaking.

The wind was incredible – there were times I thought I was going to fall over! It was also causing water to spray up from the lake. Brrrrr

I made it away from the lake and crossed the river.

I was hoping the weather would improve once away from the lake, but boy was I wrong. It got much colder and much rainier. At one point, I had to stop and put on all of my winter gear – gloves, hat, etc. I turned back at one point and saw the storm I had hiked through. I felt bad for the hikers I passed headed that direction. Glad I had the worst behind me!

I made it over the ridge and to the next lake and could see blue skies. Yessss!

An hour or so later I could see the lake Pehoe where I would be camping.

I checked into camp and setup my tent. They had some windshields setup which I took advantage of.

I debated hiking to Grey Glacier, but I knew kayaking was out of the question due to the high winds and constantly changing weather. I decided to grab some wine and hide out in the refugio.

Day 6

I woke up super early on the last day to hike to Grey Glacier.

The hike goes through a small little valley with super high winds. At times, I had to stop and put my poles down to brace myself so I wouldn’t fall over!

The intense wind continued along the lake to the point that little white camps were forming!

I made it to lake Grey and could see chunks of the Glacier. I knew I was getting close.

I made it the first overlook for Glacier Grey. The wind was so intense I had to sit on the overlook to avoid being blown over!

Looking at the weather and knowing how intense the wind was, I knew that kayaking was out of question for the day. I decided it would be better to turn back and catch the early catamaran back so I could get back to Puerto Natales early evening and try to get a good hot meal.

Patagonia: Day 1-2

The first day or two of my trip was spent traveling down to Patagonia region. I stayed the first night in Puerto Natales, arriving in the evening just in time to catch the sunset.

The next morning I grabbed breakfast at the Florence Dixie hotel, and then wondered around town a bit until the grocery store opened around 11 (since it was Sunday, most stores were closed). The morning was very overcast, but still allowed for a nice walk along the water.

By midday the weather improved and the sun started making an appearance.

I grabbed some last minute snack items, and fuel canister, and then got on the bus to take me to Torres Del Paine.

Patagonia (The Overview)

In November, I flew down to Patagonia to embark on what would be my first big solo hiking trip. Planning the trip took a lot of time! You have to make reservations months for campsites and buses months in advance for high season (November to March). I relied on numerous blogs to put my trip together. Below is an overview of transportation companies I used, hotels, campsites, etc. 

  • Day 0
    • Fly from Atlanta to Santiago (Delta Airlines)
  • Day 1
    • Arrived Santiago early morning – it took over 2 hours to get through passport control! Give yourself plenty of time!¬†
    • Fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas (Sky Airlines)
    • Take bus from Punta Arenas airport to Puerto Natales (Bus Sur – make sure you email them and tell them you want to be picked up at Airport and not at the main bus terminal in downtown Punta Arenas)
    • Walk from Puerto Natales bus terminal to hotel (stayed at Lady Florence Dixie)
  • Day 2¬†
    • Picked up some food (snickers, cashews, etc) at grocery store across street from Florence Dixie – WARNING: not all stores are open on Sundays, and those that are, do not open until 11ish¬†
    • 2:30 pm bus to Torres Del Paine (Buses Mar√≠a Jos√©)¬†
    • Paid park entrance fees, listened to safety brief, and then hopped on another bus which takes you further into the park (the second bus does not require reservations – just walk up and pay)
    • Camped at¬†Camping Central Sitio Suelo – Fantastico Sur (campsite less than 1/4 mile from where bus drops you off)
  • Day 3¬†
    • Day hike Las Torres Base
    • Returned to Central Sitio Suelo – Fantastico Sur¬†
  • Day 4¬†
    • Hiked to¬†Los Cuernos¬†– Fantastico Sur – checked into cabin and dropped off stuff¬†
    • Day hiked to Britanico lookout (my original plan was to do this the next day, but the weather was great so I went ahead and did it – not for the faint of heart)¬†
    • Returned to Los Cuernos
  • Day 5
    • Hiked to Grande Sector – Vertice
  • Day 6¬†
    • Day hiked to 1st overlook for Grey Glacier¬†
    • Returned to¬†Grande Sector and packed up stuff
    • Took midday ferry across lake Pehoe¬†
    • Bus back to Puerto Natales (Buses Mar√≠a Jos√©)¬†
    • Walk from bus terminal to hotel (stayed at Lady Florence Dixie again)
  • Day 7¬†
    • Bus picked me up from hotel and took me to Argentina. We went to¬†Perito Moreno Glacier along the way (Bus¬†TURISMO ZAAHJ)¬†
    • Bus dropped me off in downtown¬†El Calafate¬†
    • Had dinner in town before walking to¬†Cyan Calafate Hotel
  • Day 8
    • Walked to bus terminal (across the street from Cyan Calafate Hotel) and caught bus to¬†El Chalten (booked bus through Bus¬†TURISMO ZAAHJ, but ticket for¬†Cal-Tur). I left one of my bags with one of the other bus companies.¬†
    • Hiked to Laguna Torre, and then to Camp Poincenot (camped at Poincenot)
  • Day 9
    • Hiked back to El Chalten
    • Took bus back to¬†El Calafate (booked bus through Bus¬†TURISMO ZAAHJ, but ticket for¬†Cal-Tur)¬†
    • Walked from bus terminal to¬†Lagos Del Calafate hotel. From there was able to walk into town and have dinner.¬†
  • Day 10
    • Hotel booked a shuttle to airport for me night before – I do not recall the name. You can also take a taxi
    • Flight from El Calafate to AEP BUENOS AIRES (AEROLINEAS ARGENTINAS )
    • Had to take bus to get to main airport (do not recall bus company name, but you can walk up and buy a ticket in the airport – the buses run every ~ hour or so)¬†
    • Flight from¬†Ministro Pistarini International Airport to Atlanta (Delta)
  • Day 11
    • Return to Atlanta

Glacier/Waterton, Part 3 – Crypt Lake

We didn’t have plans for Waterton other than to do some day hikes. Because of the nearby fires, there were only a few trails open so our options were very limited. The good news was that the trail to Crypt Lake was open. It was rated as one of the¬†Top¬†20 most thrilling hiking¬†trails¬†in the world by National Geographic so it seemed like a no brainer.

The Crypt Lake trailhead requires a ferry across Waterton Lake. The issue with taking a ferry is that everyone is starting the trail at the same time. We were behind ~20 people, and who knows how many more behind us. After a half mile or so, you have the option to take a side trail to some waterfalls. We were originally planning to do this on the way down from the lake, but decided it was better to do it at the start and get away from the crowds.

From the waterfalls, you hike through a forest eventually connecting back up with the main trail. There are a couple of other nice waterfalls along the river flowing through the valley below.

Once above the tree line, the trail starts to open up to nice a view.

As you get closer, the trail starts to narrow and gets very steep to the right. If you are afraid of heights, this is probably not going to be your favorite hike!

The narrow ledge that you hike along brings you to a tunnel which you must climb through.

On the other side of the tunnel, the trail begins to climb up. There is a chain anchored into the wall to assist with the climb. I can’t imagine trying to do this section without it!¬†

We finally reached the lake where we had a nice lunch and soaked in the sun.

We had some extra time on the way down so we stopped at one of the waterfalls we had hurried past on the way up.

While at the waterfall, we noticed the smoke from the fire across the lake had started to pick up. It eventually grew to cover the sun – very creepy!

We made it back to the main trailhead around 4 pm where we took the ferry back to the main dock. With the smoke becoming so intense, we decided to find a restaurant and hole up in inside. After dinner, the smell has decreased (or maybe we just used to it) so we headed back to camp.

Glacier/Waterton, Part 2 – Kayaking Swiftcurrent and Grinnell Glacier

Since our original trip had to be re-arranged, we ended up with an extra day before we needed to drive to Canada. We decided to grab some real food (aka not dehydrated), and then grab some beers and go kayaking on Swiftcurrent Lake.

After kayaking we got dinner and drinks at the Swiftcurrent Lodge. I was finally over my cold and treated myself to a yummy drink.

Since we did not have a campsite reservation for the night anymore, the park rangers allowed us to stay at the campsite with the PCT hikers (Pacific Crest Trail). We made a fire and hung out with them. Listening to their stories really makes me want to hike the AT or some long trail one day.

The next morning we joined the rest of the tourists and made the day hike to Grinnell Glacier.

After finishing the hike, we hopped in the car and headed to Waterton in Canada.

Glacier/Waterton, Part 1 – Many Glacier/Belly River

I am a little late to get this posted, but back in September my sister, her fiancee, and their friend joined me on a backpacking trip in Glacier National Park. Our original plans ended up getting scrapped due to fires and bear activity. The park service did an awesome job re-routing us so we could still complete a multi-day trip. We ended up with a 3 night trip in the¬†Belly River / Many Glacier area. None of our days required a lot of hiking which was good for me as I was fighting off a cold ūüôĀ

We started our trip at the Chief Mountain/Belly River trailhead and hiked to the foot of Elizabeth Lake. From Elizabeth Lake, we hiked to the Bear Mountain overlook and then onto the head of Glenns Lake. The next morning we made a short trip up to Mokowanis Lake before going to our final campsite of Cosley Lake.

At the trailhead

We saw a moose within the first mile of starting our hike…

The first few miles were mostly walking through sections of forests which then opened up into big fields. We saw a black bear in one field, but he was too far off to get a good photo.

We made sure to report our bear siting at the ranger station

Shortly after, we reached Belly River where we had to cross a swinging bridge.

We followed the trail for awhile along the river.

We eventually came across a waterfall. I believe it is named Dawn Mist Falls?

We eventually made it to camp at Elizabeth Lake. We hung out beside the lake for a bit hoping for a good sunset, but didn’t see much. It was still a nice view.

The next morning we started our hike to Glenns Lake. We had to backtrack slightly so we got to see the waterfall again.

Instead of crossing the swinging bridge like we had the day before, we continued along the river until we came to Cosley Lake.

We had to take our shoes off to cross the creek at the lake. Brrrrrrr. It was a little chilly. We set one the rocks for a little bit after soaking in the sun and letting our feet dry off before putting our boots back on and continuing on.

Since Glenns Lake wasn’t much further and it wasn’t even lunch yet, we decided to take a detour to Bear Mountain Overlook and have lunch there. It is a bit of a climb up there, but the view makes it worth it.

Clouds started forming as we climbed down the mountain. Glenns Lake was only a few miles away, but had clouded over by the time we arrived.

The next morning we decided to leave our stuff at Glenns Lake and hike to¬†Mokowanis Lake. The sky was still very clouded over so we weren’t sure how much we would be able to see.

We ran into a deer along the trail – he seemed to be more interested in eating and completely ignored us.

From there we headed back to camp, grabbed our stuff, and headed to Cosley lake for our final night. I didn’t take many photos as most of our trail was backtracking from the day before.

At the end of the evening, we got to sit by Cosley lake and watch the last rays of sun hit the mountains. It was the best (and only) sunset we had the entire trip.

I believe Cosley Lake is also where we were awoken during the night to the bugle of an elk. And then some nice fog across the lake in the morning!

From Cosley Lake, we headed back to our original start – Chief Mountain/Belly River trailhead. We got an early start as we needed to find a campsite for the night (see note above about fires/bear activity) and knew that meant we had to get to the permit office early.

We passed a nice waterfall before joining back in with the original trail we came in on.

And then some supplies being brought in…

Virginia Hawkins Falls, SC

I saw online that the Foothills Trail Conservancy cleared trees at the bottom of the Virginia Hawkins Falls. I was in the area and figured I would go check it out. I parked at Laurel Fork Gap and walked the 1.5 miles to the falls (map of area can be found here). The last time I visited Virginia Hawkins was when Daniel and I kayaked across Jocassee. The hike along the gravel road was a bit easier, but not quite as exciting as the paddle trip.

Joyce Kilmer – Big Fat Gap to Hangover

Avery and I met Friday a few weeks back at at the Big Fat Gap trailhead in the Joyce Kilmer Wilderness area. It was pretty dark when we started hiking, but the trail wasn’t too bad with headlamps. We hiked about a mile or two along the Big Fat Gap trail to Slickrock Creek which is almost all downhill. Avery had wanted to stop at the campsites we passed near the start of the trail, but I knew the next day would be a long day and wanted to get a bit more mileage under our belts Friday.¬†We setup camp once we reached the creek.

Saturday morning we cooked breakfast… which was interesting. I had a read a book earlier in the week about making pancakes while hiking. All you had to do was bring pancake mix, mix with water, and coat the pan with olive oil or butter. I wish I could say it was that simple… it ended up being a giant mess. Edible mess. But a mess. I don’t think we will be trying that again.

Once we managed to clean up breakfast and break down camp, we hid our bags in the bushes and hiked downstream to Wildcat Falls. We had to cross SlickRock creek once or twice to get there – it was definitely a bit slick!

We returned back to camp around 11ish, had a quick snack, and headed up the trail towards Naked Ground. The first mile or two was fairly easy. We reached the point where the trail diverted from the creek and started its ascent. We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us and decided to go ahead and have lunch and top off our water.

The trail from Slickrock Creek up to Naked Ground was hard. Not only did we have to gain over 2,000 feet in elevation, we had to climb over a hundred trees. I wish I could I say I was exaggerating, but I really think it was a hundred. You would climb over one tree and could see at least 2-3 more trees ahead of you. Hurricane Irma came through a few weeks before and I guess that caused so many trees to fall? I would not recommend the trail to anyone until some serious trail maintenance has taken place. It was brutal.

Finally we reached Naked Ground. There was a nice campsite which was very appealing, but we decided to push on to Hangover. It was around dusk when we finally reached Hangover – just in time for the sunset!

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The sunrise the next morning wasn’t so bad either!

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We packed up camp Sunday morning and headed back to the car. It was a quick couple miles of downhill – thank goodness! If we had to go up more uphill, I probably would not have made it!