Monday, March 14, 2016

In Patagonia

Small Things:
Bountiful bumble bees busily harvesting on sunflowers.

 Delicate golden grasses bending in the wind

Plethora of rose hips blushing in ripeness

The Colors of Water:
Can the written word capture the true color of water?
General Carrerra Lake (Chelenko) on a cloudy day – steel, pewter, slate
Catalina Bay in bright sunshine – bright teal, cerulean, azure
Lago Negro – indigo, ultramarine
Baker River – turquoise, aquamarine

The rhythmic sounds of indigenous place names:
Pichi Mahuida – little mountain
Chelenko – lake of storms
Coyhaique – lagoon-camp
Chacabuco – slopes of chacay trees

The Trail of Torture:
The sign indicates 9.3 kilometers to Lago Leones. One way. The guide tells us it’s relatively flat most of the way. What he didn’t say that the flat was over a rocky glacial moraine. Loose rock. Boulders, pebbles. Angular, round, flat. He didn’t mention that we’d be balancing on branches and wobbly wooden slat bridges to cross rivulets of glacial melt water. Or that the flat rises into steep slopes bedeviled with protruding tree roots and narrow rocky ledges. I cling to a rope to clamber along a slanted wide rock face. A precarious wooden ladder facilitates a tricky vertical descent. Most appreciated are the hands of Sebastian the young guide designated to keep to the end of our line of hikers. I’m the end. I feel like an aging mountain goat, left by the herd to die. What are the others trying to prove anyway? The head guide checks with Sebastian often by radio: How am I doing? Keep in mind the return trek.
            “How much further?” I ask Sebastian. I don’t want to give up, but worry I’ll slow the others down.
            “About 3 more kilometers.”
            That’s it. Sebastian and I have our lunch under some trees and begin the return, a return that seems interminable. I’ve developed a blister on my foot and my progress slows to a crawl, one-foot- in-front-of- the- other, skirting rocks, fording streamlets.
Is it worth it? What can I take from this experience?
The majesty of the towering ridges on the sides of the valley.
The glowing glaciers looming from the edge of the southern ice cap.
The milky green of the roaring river.
Determination to get into better shape.
Acceptance of my limitations.

Knowing when it’s time to call it quits and being alright with my decision.