Los Alerces National Park is probably a very beautiful place. No, it is. I saw it for a day, and it was. The park is a quite large area of long sinuous lakes surrounded by mountainous ridges, with a few small glaciers in the highest peaks, which only top out at about 2,000 m or so. It is also heavily forested, with the main reason for the parks existence being the Los Alerces tree, which is sort of Patagonian equivalent to a Redwood - they grow quite tall and can be quite old - apparently in some of the remote areas of the park there are some that are 4,000 years old.
The low season bus schedule required that I stay a minimum of 3 days in the park, which sounded fine
. I did an overnight hike to a nice beach camp site along Lago Futalaufquen (try and pronounce that with a Spanish accent). The hike was another out and back that involved hiking over one of the ridges at a pass with a modest elevation of 1,050 m. Not much to note on the hike other than it was the first time in a while that I have hiked in a real forest. Extremely dense, acutally. I saw some Alerce trees, which are fairly widely spaced. In between is bamboo, which I thought was unusual. Isn't bamboo a tropical species? Doesn't it get cold here (a biologist I'm not, obviously). The stuff is inpenetreble. Along the ridge crest, there was nothing but this bamboo, ranging from 5-8 feet high. Almost like walking through a tunnel. The day was fairly warm, and I even put on shorts for a while. The denseness of the foliage didn't afford many views, so it didn't feel like I was hiking along the crest of anything accept at discrete points. Drop down the ridge and to the camp site at Playa Blanca, which was most excellent spot. Lakeside camping with a great vista of the fjord-like mountains rising from the lake. It was a nice afternoon spent on the beach, followed by a bit of rain overnight. It didn't seem like much compared with other evenings I've been through, but I awoke to snow-capped mountains. How beautiful! As I lingered with my morning coffee at the beach, I watched some low clouds pass over the ridge I had to hike back on. 'Might get a bit foggy there on the way back' I thought. Near the last 100 m or so, foggy it was
. Then a bit of sleet through the trees, then snow as I crossed the pass. 'Ok, a touch of snow is always kind of fun.' Start the gradual descent along the ridge through the bamboo... 'Is it me, or is it snowing harder?' After an hour... 'Is it me, or is this now a blizzard?... Is it me, or is this worse than sitting a drill rig in North Cascades National Park? There at least, I had an exhaust manifold to keep hands moderately warm. There at least, I didn't have bamboo...' I found out what happens to bamboo in the snow - the shoots bow over the trail at chest to face height from the weight of snow. So as one walks through, it either goes in your face or down your back... 'Its snowing hard! 4 inches on the ground already! My pack sure is getting heavy...' (these are my G-rated thoughts - mostly I was just swearing profusely). Anyway, this continued for about 2 hours, during which one of the shoulder straps on my pack popped of, and I discovered my boots are no longer waterproof, except for keeping water inside... Finally I slogged low enough for the snow to change to light rain. 'Ok, I'll splurge for one of those fancy lodges I thought I saw in the little town at the guard station (Villa Futaluafquen).' Arriving at the guard station a few hours later... 'The nearest loding is another 6 km down the road...' My will was completely broken at this point, so I trudged to the campground and enjoyed a night in a wet down sleeping bag. Thankfully it wasn't terribly cold.
The next day was solid rain all day long. I spent it reading a book in the park information center, waiting for the evening bus.
I know. Boo hoo hoo. My life is so tough. I know. I kept reminding myself all the while... I could be working right now...
I'll admit it. I'm getting soft. Just like Bill Walton always said. My enthusiasm for the Patagonian weather is waning.