Monday, December 13, 2010

19 Miles in Southern Argentina

Last February I visited the Glacier National Park in Southern Argentina and hiked 19 miles. I don’t think I intended to hike 19 miles, but summer’s daylight southern hemisphere lasts a long time and there didn’t seem to be a reason to return to the hotel.

The scenery was mouth dropping gorgeous and the weather perfect. Lakes a surreal blue, a matching sky, big fluffy clouds, a gently breeze, a soft sun, which made the thunder difficult to explain until we realized we weren’t hearing thunder, but the splintering and crashing of glaciers.

Whenever I’d start to feel buff and proud of my ability to hike with Larry and Nathan, I’d be passed by some 60ish sisters with serious looking backpacks. Once I was overrun by a herd of tiny Asian women who looked about as strong and substantial as hummingbirds. But, when I came to mile 10 and the sign that read DANGER, STEEP INCLINE NEXT 1.5 MILES, all middle-aged ladies disappeared.

And after a few yards, I thought I’d disappear, too. A thirty-degree incline up loose shoal. One foot up, slide 6 inches down. No trees, bushes or hand holds. After serious arguing involving words such as chauvinists, sexists, and death, I convinced Larry and Nathan to leave me behind. They went to find the lake and glacier and I sat on a rock.

For about 3 minutes.

A teenage looking hiker passed by and I asked him how long until the glacier. 20 minutes, but he assured me it was worth the climb. So, I came up with a plan. I took 60 steps and then picked up a pebble (they were plentiful.) When I had five pebbles (300 steps) I allowed myself to sit down and replaced the pebbles with a rock. When I had two rocks a pair of hikers passed and I asked them how long to the glacier. 10 minutes, they said. By the time I had another rock (300 steps, 5 minutes) I crested the hill and could see the lake and glacier below. I could also see Larry and Nathan at the water’s edge. I found a place to sit down and watch them. I didn’t need to join them; I just liked seeing them together.

There’s the old maxim, by the yard it’s hard, but by the inch it’s a cinch. But, it wasn’t a cinch, ever. It was hard. If I hadn’t taken it at my pace and allowed myself to occasionally sit down, I wouldn’t have made it. But, I did make it. One pebble, one rock at a time. Was the view worth the climb? I’ve seen prettier postcards, but watching Larry and Nathan together at the lake’s edge, that was worth seeing.

When Larry and Nathan caught up with me, Nathan said, “I knew you could do it, Mom.” Which was nice to hear, because I didn’t know I could. We were still 9 miles from the trailhead, but it was all downhill from there.

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