I woke up this morning after a great sleep! I had been warned about the noise of the wind, but luckily, it died down quite a bit at night. ( of course, ear plugs helped!). Btw, Alex and Jen, the wind is much like it was at Waterton National Park when we were there!!
When I got out of the tent at 5:45, I was greeted with the most spectacular sunrise! Let’s hope this sunshine lasts through our trip!!
On the way back from gawking at the sun rise, I thought I would show you a pic of the “Woodstock” like campground that was to be our home for the following night. This park, is run by the national park and has a small hotel on the property as well. In it is also a bar, a very small mini mart and a large cafeteria style restaurant where we ate breakfast and dinners.
We set off for the second of our hikes. This time to see the Valle de Frances and the French Glacier. This Glacier is both a morrain type as well as a hanging glacier.
Our weather today started out as typical Patagonia weather… variable clouds with a little wind. But we had been warned, in patagonia you usually experience all the seasons in one day!
The crew was in pretty good shape, in spite of the travel yesterday plus the hike. Today’s hike was going to be much longer, around 20 km with the first part going up and down “Chilean Bumps” as our guide, Omar, referred to them ( I called them significant Ontario hills) until we got to the “French Camp” ranger station.
We left the base camp and headed toward the French Valle. The way was fairly clear with rocky paths, but gradual uphill climbs with some short steep parts. Once we got into the valley, we experienced the effect of the last forest fire which happened in 2011 when a hiker decided it would be a good idea to burn his toilet paper. When you put 60-100 km per hour winds together with a very slow growing scrub forest and dry brush like grass you have the perfect conditions for a rampant fire. This one happened to destroy 27,000 Hectares of forest. You can see the effects of this devastation as we walked through the ghost forests en route.
I was also very interested in the spring flowers that were in bloom. Glorious fire bush with it’s red star like composite flowers lit up the hillside in places. I was particularly intrigued with a three petaled flower that reminded my of a trillium. When I asked our guide what it was, he said it was the first of 8 different varieties of orchid to grow in this area.
Where ever we looked, there seemed to be glacier fed streams or rivers.
As we reached the ranger station, we got to cross a river on a suspension bridge that carried one person at a time.
At the ranger Station we all took a brief pause for a rest and a bathroom break before we carried on.
At this point we started doing a little more significant up hill with some scrambling over the Morrain rock. The closer we got to the look out, the steeper the scramble was. By the way, when we left the French Camp Ranger’s station it started to drizzle a little and then to rain…
We began our scramble up and over rocks, and then back onto a brief path before another scramble. I was finding that my knees were getting quite a workout! Unfortunately, the left knee that I had favored on the Inca Trail had overtaxed the right knee, and this began to be a bit of a problem, especially going downhill.
At long last, our scrambled paid off, and we made it to the viewpoint of this most interesting glacier. As we arrived, the sun came out ( but the chilly wind was still blowing!). We found ourselves a rock and sat down to eat our lunch while we enjoyed this spectacular view. The Glacier must have sensed that we were there because the hanging glacier portion let go with a few small avalanches while we were taking our 20-30 minute break.
By the time lunch was over, the wind had picked up and bit of snow started to fly. It was time to begin our descent back to camp. Little did we know that the challenges of descent had more than we had bargained for. It seemed that one by one, all but 5 out of 14 came down with food poisoning. 3 were quite ill on the descent, and the rest of us made it back to camp to face the discomfort of what follows!
Dan was one of the three who was “hit” on the descent, although he at least got though the worst of the slope before becoming ill. He rushed back to camp, and I hobbled into camp about half an hour after him. I found him lying in our tent shivering like I’ve never seen him before! Poor guy, I thought. Little did I know that it would hit me by 2:30 am! Just in time, cause the rain started up in earnest that same night around 3 am!
More on our journey tomorrow!