A Jeinemeni Birthday
By Sarah Young (University of New Hampshire ’15)
Another week in the Round River world has passed and there’s quite a bit to say. This round of adventures began with an overnight stay at the confluence of the Baker and Chacabuco Rivers. After a day of preparation at base camp we made the evening hike down into the river valley. The hike was short, but did not go without a pit stop to check out a very attractive bouldering rock on the way down. Once we did make it into the valley the sun was setting and the view was stunning. It was exciting to finally stand face-to-face with these two powerful forces of nature. For weeks we had been observing the river confluence from above.
That evening wound down with a group session of rock skipping, and a small fire. Chloe, Cam and I decided to sleep under the stars on a small peninsula that jetted out from the rocky shoreline.
The next day, Andrew, Nicole, Laurel, Bolton and I got up before the sun to hike out and do a bird survey. Although waking up that early is difficult, I took advantage of the dark morning to get in a 6:30 am skinny dip without fear of being noticed! After another eventful bird survey we went back to West Winds Campground to wait while the other group finished their lizard survey. When we stopped a kind stranger recognized us as Round River and asked if anyone had lost a Nalgene water bottle (an American staple) and it turned out to be the one I had left on the side of the road earlier that morning–how lucky!
Once again united with my Nalgene we went off to meet the other group so we could set out to that night’s campsite. This campsite would be at Lago Chico so we could do two more bird surveys the next morning. The hike in was quick and offered idyllic Patagonian views of glorious rolling hills and snowcapped mountains. As we neared the end of our hike to Lago Chico we found ourselves scouting atop a cliff for places to camp. Laurel spotted one of the most ideal camping spots I’ve ever seen to date. When I crested the hill what sat before me was a 30m by 10m plot of plush, green grass that seemed to beckon to me. Quickly we raced down the hill to check out our future campsite. The urge to make a grass angel amongst the tiny yellow wild flowers got the best of me and I quickly found myself lolling about in pure, backpacker’s bliss.
The next morning we all got up with the sun to do a bird survey. What we found was an intense paucity of waterfowl. After bird surveys we packed up and hiked out. The plan was to spend that night camping at Stone House (one of our previous field camps) before hitting the ol’ dusty trail, the next morning.
The trail into the Jeinemeni reserve was for the most party very dusty, so dusty that I frequently felt my mouth line with dirt, without actually opening my mouth. The majority of the time was spent hiking through arid Patagonian steppe, and across plateaus. The highlight of this leg was certainly the 113 ft. suspension bridge that we got to cross. Being afraid of heights, I was nervous and excited about walking across a giant crevice with a raging river gushing beneath my feet. However before I could really think about it I found myself and my seven fellow students bouncing clumsily across this suspicious looking suspension bridge. Because this is where we stopped for lunch we were able to drop our packs and explore the bridge a bit more thoroughly and confidently.
After about 10 solid miles of hiking we ended our day along a river bar, and with bellies full of beans, veggies and rice we drifted off to sleep with sounds of the rushing river in our heads.
Day 2 of backpacking came quickly the next morning with destination Lago Verde on our minds. Lago Verde was another 10-mile hike through the Jeinemeni reserve and would be our camp for the next two nights. To get there we hiked through rivers, up hills, and into magical beech forests all with a dusty trail in between–at one point we even saw two Magellanic woodpeckers. This is one of the biggest species of woodpeckers in the world!
At the end of the day we finally reached our destination at Lago Verde, which would be more appropriately named Lago Azul because it was one of the bluest lakes I’ve ever seen. Excited to have reached our destination just about everyone had a celebratory jump into the beautiful blue water before the sun set and the frigid Patagonian breeze set in. After a long day of hiking everyone was quick to bed but not before appreciating the amazing night sky Patagonia frequently boasts.
The next day was my favorite day of this trip (and not just because it was my 21st birthday)! In the morning I woke up to one of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. Lago Verde is situated in a dramatic river valley set in front of massive glacier capped peaks. Just as I was waking up, these peaks were illuminated by the sun. For a long time I couldn’t bring myself to tear my eyes away from such a beautiful scene but eventually my urge to get lost in Narnia got the better of me.
That morning everyone relaxed by the lakeshore, and just enjoyed how amazing it feels to be alive, and how lucky we were to wake up in such an amazing place. Despite our lazy morning, Laurel, Nicole, Chloe and I set off to explore more of the trail into the reserve.
The trail led up the hillside of the surrounding cliffs offering some astounding views of Lago Verde from above. The trail wound up to the top of a saddle and then plummeted down into the river valley leading into Lago Jeinemeni. We walked through the valley until finding a pool deep enough to swim in. After some water frolicking and mermaiding about, we decided to head back to camp.
That night after dinner Laurel surprised me with a backpacking, vegan treat. In it were pieces of cardboard from a chocolate bar for candles and everyone sang feliz cumpleanos and Chloe presented me with the card everyone had signed. Although the candles wouldn’t light, and I had to blow out a flame from the lighter, it did not even occur to me to make a wish, maybe because I was so surprised, but maybe because I couldn’t have wished for anything more!
(Photo: Sarah, Chloe, and Cameron on the suspension bridge, by Tyler Freitas)