Familiar Faces

A whirlwind of taxis, multiple airports, a six hour bus ride and a few days without sleep, made the four days that I actually spent on the beach in the Dominican for my brother's wedding seem like a distant dream. I was back in Bariloche with the girls! A week apart seems like a lifetime when you spend 24/7 together...

Reunited in Bariloche! JUMP!
It was hard to plan four months ahead what to pack for resupply via Dominican. Opening the suitcase was like the Christmas we never really had! - including bright new kicks, clean shirts and delicious Builder Bars (20g of protein!!). Alas, we had a few things to deal with before getting back on the trail. Sarah was healing her sprained ankle with self-prescribed chocolates (which led to a slight allergic reaction from cross-contamination) and I was battling a stomach bug that was not conducive to hiking- we later heard a lot of people were getting sick in Bariloche from the "ash in the water", but I am still not convinced that was the root of it. Luckily, our timing around Bariloche worked out perfectly for back-to-back rendez-vous en route north with several familiar faces.

We were extremely excited to meet up with Peter Morrison, Executive Director of Pacific Biodiversity Institute- the organization with which we have been doing research. Peter has provided us with a plethora of maps and information since day one. Although we have been emailing constantly over the last few months, it was the first time we had met face-to-face and we had a lot to talk about!

Peter has been working on mapping South America Wildlands for decades and  has been an integral part of our planning process

We are fortunate to have been working on a project that so easily integrates
into our daily routine and aligns with our mission. 
Intermingled with a delicious dinner (thank you Peter!) and meetings with Peter (sharing stories, backing-up photos and our daily data collection, planning future "less traveled" routes and studying his amazing maps) we managed to get out on a couple overnight trips to the refugios around Bariloche. We started on Friday night at 6pm (right on time!), again cutting the posted travel time from 4-6 hours down to 3 hours (and this is hiking with Sarah's sprained ankle!). 

The well marked trails and magnificent sawtooth ridge gave off a strong Colorado aura. The hut systems around El Bolson and Bariloche run all year round as well; as Trinity and I were reminiscing about backcountry trips in the Rockies, we noted how strange it would be to skin in surrounded by the bamboo on this trail. We were expecting to see many climbers on the trail with all their gear but what we saw was a guitar... then drums... then wind chimes and ukelele... weekend jam sesh at The Frey! Between the mullets, rat-tails, mid-drift shirts and MC Hammer pants, I can't stop thinking how much Argentina reminds me of the 80's- my new shoes fit right in!

Standing in awe for a moment and giving the dramatic scenery the respect it deserves
Refugio Frey, outside of Bariloche
Another amazing campsite under the stars.

Waking up with a smile on our faces!

The Good Life for sure...
Tent city and clearly a climbers paradise up at Refugio Frey
After another meeting with Peter we had a few hours to kill before dinner. Trinity opted for a $30 1.5 hour massage, Sarah and I decided to try the local breweries (Blest Beers were on par with any Colorado micro brew in my opinion). We stayed in town another night in order to cross paths with Trinity's friends Jesse, Jason and Vaughn. They had just arrived in South America to get some practice climbs in around Frey before heading down to climb the infamous Mt. Fitz Roy near El Chalten- quite a climbing feat! We are sending them good weather vibes, you can follow their journey HERE.

Taking in a breath of "fresh" air - still hazy from the ash.
We were happy to be taste-testing and not hiking when the thunderstorm rolled through
It was fun to see the guys embarking on their own amazing adventure!
We intended to go to Laguna Negra on our second overnight, however we missed the midday bus, started right on time again at 6pm and camped at Refugio Lopez instead. The steep incline was rough on Sarah's ankle and (unrelated) she ended up with a similar horrible stomach bug. Apparently Trinity's German stomach is indestructible- she has yet to get sick on the trip. On top of it all, the zipper on our tent broke in the middle of the night therefore we decided to forego the trip to Laguna Negra (next time!).

Looking out over Llao Llao- the view hiking up to Refugio Lopez took your breath away.

Refugio Lopez
Refugio Lopez
The area most affected by the volcanic ash is between Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes. From the stories of "ankle deep ash" we decided to not destroy our lungs and spirit by hiking along the dusty road. From the bus we could only get a small glimpse of the impact- imagine a grey tint in every direction you look, guard rails buried under ash and piles similar to the "snow removal" ones in Breckenridge, although the ash will not melt away like the snow does. Even hiking down around Bariloche Sarah's asthma flared up and Trinity got red eyes from irritation. I even woke up in the night to a snowstorm of ash- Trinity tells me I was hallucinating.
The tourism industry in Bariloche, San Martin de los Andes and Junin de los Andes has suffered greatly this year
San Martin de los Andes is another adorable mountain town. Trinity's former boss Lee White at George K. Baum & Co. was down on a fly-fishing trip and again, the timing worked out perfect. Lee was able to resupply us with some gear, including Sil-Net (we have already gone through two tubes in repair since we have seen him), and is transporting unneeded things back for us (full journals). In the beginning, they sent us on the trail with our home (tent) and now provided us with a lovely meal. Many thanks to the Whites!

Trinity with Suzanne and Lee White
Back many moons ago when we were in Buenos Aires, we went on a bike tour to see the city. We mentioned our trip to our guide and after checking out our blog, he might have been the first person to call us "locas". We have been in touch with David since the beginning and we finally reunited in Junin de los Andes, David's base for guiding trips around Volcán Lanín. He graciously welcomed into his "home" in the campground and offered up great advice for our next leg. David put us in touch with his guide friends back in El Chalten and has been a great pen-pal so we were thrilled to be able to meet up again! In David's words, we are "the good kind of un-normal."

Sitting in our "hood" at the campground (Notice Sarah's new hippie dress- she is embracing "dirty hippie" full-on)
Somewhere lost in translation, or in explanation of what we really needed, the tent was not fixed back to 100% but it still stands. The zipper gaps a bit and does not line up perfect (the man told us the nylon slips in the machine). David says, "it is not a major problem, you just sleep with rain jackets on." We are heading back on the trail tomorrow after one last meeting with Peter. They are forecasting rain as we head through Parque Nacional Lanín on our next big 11 day stretch- which will hopefully keep the dust down and we will be able to test our "new" tent.

As we take off on the trail, our thoughts are with my family back home grieving my uncle, Doug MacIver's death. I was very fortunate to see him at the wedding. While they are all together up in Canada, we will take a moment in the mountains to remember such a wonderful man. I am lucky to be with two phenomenal friends.

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