January 18, 2012

The calm after the storm: Day 4 Hike in Torres del Paine National Park

~Nicole Melancon (an original post series on thirdeyemom). This piece is number six in a series on thirdeyemom’s trip to Pantagonia.


“I soon realized that no journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” – Lillian Smith

We rose leisurely, after being trapped for hours in the snow crusted refugio high nestled beneath los cuernos in Torres del Paine National Park. My body felt at peace for once after being so cold, tired and distraught over our miserable, long day of trekking in the Patagonian elements.

I pulled back my covers, climbed out of bed and did the thing I do first each and every morning of the day, no matter where I am: I pulled open the blinds to peer outside. I took in a huge sigh of relief, smiling and thrilled, to see the sun once again. The storm had passed and it was clear once again in Torres del Paine.

We had a leisurely breakfast and left the refugio around ten o’clock for a short four-hour hike along the aquamarine Lago Nordenskjold bringing us back to the luxurious Cascada Eco Camp. Although it was not perfect, it was a gorgeous day in comparison to what we had experienced the day before. It was cool, partly cloudy and dry.

As we hiked away from the refugio, we could see the imposing Los Cuernos (“the horns”) in the background. Cristian told us that the refugio at Los Cuernos was his favorite one in the entire park and we could finally understand why. On a cloudless day, the jagged peaks of Los Cuernos soared majestically in the sky, reaching upwards behind the refugio. The view was quite stunning and serene.

The peaks of Los Cuernos sticking above our refugio.

We took our time and hiked at a light pace, marveling at the spectacular scenery that was finally uncovered. I inhaled the fresh, clean air and let my body relax, taking each step at a leisurely pace.

Passing Lago Nordenskjold, it is still quite cold.

While enjoying our picnic lunch in an open valley, we saw two condors soaring gracefully above us, in search of food. Suddenly I realized that this was what we had come to Patagonia for: An escape from everyday life and a taste of absolute freedom. Being outside surrounded by nature and far away from phones, computers and TV’s, was one of the most liberating feelings I’ve ever experienced. At that moment, I wished we could stay here forever.

Wind blowing fiercely off the mountains….yet the sky was getting bluer and the sun was warming up.

Look at it blow!

Our lunch spot…a little slice of heaven.

We arrived back at the Eco Camp by early afternoon and the weather had done what it is known for in Patagonia—-a complete turnaround. The birds were singly loudly, the sun was shining brightly and there was not a single cloud in the sky. It felt like summer in Patagonia.

View of the Torres (towers) behind the clouds and our destination for tomorrow’s hike.

We took it easy fo the rest of the day, enjoying the change in weather and wishing we had shorts. By late afternoon, our cocktails were awaiting which was followed by a delicious dinner. At this point, we felt truly spoiled. The meal was a far cry from the food at the refugio.

Paul and I enjoyed another gourmet meal at the Eco Camp.

Once again, we had the entire Eco Camp to ourselves and we could only imagine how different our entire experience with Cristian would have been if there were more people on the trip. A group of two is nothing like a group of twenty. The intimacy is gone as well as the serene, peaceful moments which are washed away in continual chatter and noise. How fortunate we were! It felt like fate.

We drank wine as the sun set behind the torres, excited about tomorrow’s hike to the mysterious, granite towers which name this park. We prayed for good weather but remembered Cristian’s famous words: “Never the know” in Patagonia.

Stay tuned….next post will highlight the magical hike to the towers.

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