Over the past two weeks we’ve hiked from jungles practically dripping in green to the erosion-cut landscape of the desert. I’ll cover our first green week from lush Huerquehue National Park to Flor del Valle, Chile (sadly our last time in Chile) and Sarah will write in our next blog post about our second dusty week in from volcanic Caviahue, Argentina to Chos Malal, Argentina.

Hiking through Huerquehue (pronounced “where-kay-way”) National Park, we found the hiking trails that Los Alerces National Park didn’t provide. We were happy to be protected by the cool shade of the tall forest dotted with the exotic-looking araucaria tree. We patiently waited for a fairy to fly by while the park’s well-maintained trails led us to white cascades falling down luges of black rock, tranquil lagoons flanked by moss-covered granite cliffs, a peaceful river valley, and ultimately to the relaxing Termas Rio Blanco (hot springs). However, the only thing that ended up flying was the mysterious tailed creature (monito del monte?) that fell onto our tent in the middle of the night – Sarah, in her sleepy semi-conscious state, wound up and THWACK! sent the little guy flying into the night’s abyss before snuggling back into her sleeping bag unperturbed.

From the north end of Huerquehue National Park, we hitched to the tiny town of Reigolil, Chile- although not too small to not have public wifi! Shelley and Sarah were able to briefly check e-mail via their kindles (mine broke) and find out Whitney Houston had died, which led to our repeat renditions of “I Will Always Love You” and “Queen of the Night” the rest of the leg.
Since the new year, we’ve been mostly hiking through the well-trailed and also well-traveled “Lakes District” of Chile and Argentina marked with several beautiful National Parks. As we left Reigolil, we found ourselves back on the road less traveled and couldn’t help but feel more at home. Our route unfolded in front of us, each day a new adventure formed by chatting with locals and by sketching trails, dirt roads and landmarks onto our basic, undetailed map. The tiny towns and posts we came across on the rest of this leg do not show up on maps (not even google maps!).

Walking out of town and along the Chile/ Argentina border, we came upon a Carabineros station (ranger/sheriff/border patrol of Chile) where we were invited to camp for the night despite the sign indicating otherwise out front. We joined the five hospitable Carabineros while we cooked our late dinner of Mexican-flavored rice (for the second time this trip, Sarah had to excuse herself to puke from eating rice too fast – it causes a severe esophageal spasm) and they shared several glasses of wine and pisco sour with us- alternating cheers or “salud” to Valentine’s Day and Whitney Houston. In the morning, we woke up to a breakfast of eggs, warm homemade bread, tea, and coffee – we didn’t hit the trail until 1pm and not without a hefty roll of homemade bread for the road.

After a long day of hiking, we came to a fork in what had turned from a trail and split into two roads – not knowing which road would eventually lead us in the correct direction or dead-end, we found a nearby house and asked directions. The caretaker ended up inviting us into the property- a New Zealander’s vacation home- and insisted we stay the night in actual beds with down comforters. Sarah woke up early the following morning (Shelley and I stayed in bed nursing colds) to join the caretaker in milking the cows and cheese-making. We all joined up for a late breakfast of fresh cows milk, made-last-week cheese, hot-off-the-griddle torta frita (like an unsugared donut shaped in a square), preserves, hot tea, and of course mate (a traditional tea drink).
We continued on the unimproved dirt road occupied by several large mountain properties of wealthy foreigners. As we lowered into the “town” of Caren, we were unexpectedly delayed by one hour- picking ripe BLACKBERRIES.
With happy bellies and stained fingers, we lowered into the picturesque Flor del Valle (Flower of the Valley). The valley we merely stumbled upon begins with an approximately 200ft free-falling waterfall dropping into the river that calmly meanders through this fertile valley boasting healthy herds of sheep and cows, more blackberries, and fruit-bearing orchards. That day the sun pierced through the sky’s multiple shades of blues and grays to set aglow the tall grasses swaying in the breeze. We played tag with a gigantic hawk coasting from fence post to fence post as we walked along the valley’s single pewter gray road (volcanic soil). We walked silently deep in thought and happiness for the gifts this day and this journey had bestowed upon us.

  • Sarah, who is getting more confident with her Spanish, told the Carabineros aka border patrol that the only Spanish phrase she knew before this trip was “Donde esta la pinche mota?” which is Mexican slang for “Where is the f—ing weed?” Of course, Sarah meant this in jest but you could have heard a pin drop in the silence following her announcement. If it comes down to it, Shelley and I will make a run for it and claim we don’t know Sarah!!!
  • Saw a tarantula relative on the trail. We prefer to ignore the fact that spiders of that size coexist with us while we sleep in our open-floored tarp tent.
  • All three of us have been fighting colds on and off for the past two weeks. Not fun far from home and away from a cozy bed and hot cup of tea. Out of Nyquil and we were unable to resupply in the small town of Caviahue.
  • Shelley has had a rough streak of losing/breaking stuff- left a pair of socks in Pucon, her puffy at the New Zealander’s vacation home, broke her Kindle, and snapped her second pair of Smith sunglasses.
  • Sarah left one pair of underwear in a shack (this means she only has one pair left).
  • I have gaping holes in the armpits of my t-shirt and inch-wide cracks that run the entire width of my shoe. Ready for the Mendoza gear resupply!
  • Shelley pointed out, “You know when you wash your car and it rains? It’s kinda like taking a shower and then getting caught in a dust storm.” We find this occurs frequently when we’re able to take advantage of a rare shower along the trail (we created a rule that every time a shower is available we have to take one) – should we simply not shower?


  • We were made Gossamer Gear’s customer of the week! Thank you for your interest in our adventure! 
  • Our last night in Pucon we didn’t have a place to stay (our hostel was full)… in search for beds in the over-booked spring break destination (late at night after we decided to ignore the problem), I was directed to a hole-in-the-wall empanada vendor who called his friend. The friend came and picked me up to show me his accommodations- the local high school! Yes, we stayed in the high school dorms- with a formal breakfast included served by students! After checking out and subsequently approving our stay on the premises, he drove me to fetch Sarah and Shelley from the old hostel where I called them out to the street from the truck’s loudspeaker in English.
  • The Carabineros insisted Sarah eat the leftovers from their dinner because she was still hungry, probably because she puked her first dinner up. Later that night, as usual, Sarah talked about food a lot. The following morning in broad sunlight when bodily curves could be seen, the chief told her, “You are not fat like I thought you would be talking about food so much.”
  • Shelley and I both have difficult names to pronounce in Spanish. We have taken on the pseudonyms “Maria” and “Julia” (pronounced “Hulia”), respectively.
  • Nearly five months into our trip, we have been given roofs over our heads and sent off with gifts more times than we can count. When we return to the USA, we hope to bring Southern hospitality into our homes and communities.