Heading Back to Patagonia
David Coggins said in his book, The Optimist,
Patagonia is not what anybody's made, it's what's lasted despite all we've made. This is the natural world at its most direct and I feel lucky to be in a place that's indifferent to me.
And the moment I set foot off the airplane in San Martin de los Andes, on my first trip to Patagonia, I started to understand what he meant. The air tastes fresher, the sky is more vibrant, and the clouds, even the clouds created awe.
I originally came to Patagonia originally to fish and hike, but now as I plan my third return to Patagonia I understand why I really go, to refresh my soul. Patagonia is a place that makes Montana look crowded. It is, in my imagination, what the American West was like 150 years ago. A place as David Coggins put it, that is "indifferent to" humanity.
Patagonia isn't a place. Its not defined on most maps. Its an environment, really a vast spectrum of environments. Its a vastness. Its also a collection of flora and fauna. And an eclectic mix of humanity from gauchos to explorers, there's people trying to carve out an existence, and others just passing through. Patagonia is all of that. And more.
Its beauty, both natural and manmade. Here's the main lodge at the Patagonia River Ranch, the first place I stayed on my original visit to Patagonia.
Patagonia is vast. Finding it on a map is like locating America's West. If St. Louis is the gateway to America's West, St. Martin de los Andes is that start of Northern Patagonia. In my first trip to Patagonia, after a week's stay at the Patagonia River Ranch, we left St. Martin and headed south, way south, to El Calafate.
My goal in traveling to El Calafate was to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and the Fitzroys. The Perito Mereno Glacier is in Los Glaciares National Park and a World Heritage Site
The scale of Patagonia boggles my mind. This is huge glacier, the largest one I've ever seen with the South Patagonian Ice Field and the Andes in the background.
Much of Patagonia is desert existing in the rain shadow of the Andes.
Along the roadside, we encountered a few Gauchito Gil shrines like this one. Gauchito Gil was a Robin Hood like character and now the unofficial saint of the traveler. Many of these shrines dot the Patagonia roadsides. Along with, oh, yes, the ever present, Patagonian wind!
A few hour drive from Los Glaciares National Park is El Chalten, mountaineering and rock climbing mecca, its home of the Fitzroys, the iconic mountains that were the inspiration for logo of company Patagonia.
A morning on the outskirts of El Chalten at Chalten Camp a glamping camp.
Patagonia is rife with history both recent and ancient.
On the shores of Lago San Martin. Over 1000km of shoreline surround this lake with only 11 houses on it.
Horseback riding into the countryside, one can encounter scenes like this one.
I'm far more of a hiker than a horseback rider, but in Patagonia, horseback riding is quite common.
In very early 2024, I'll head back to Patagonia to continue my exploration of this land and my soul.