Two Days in the North Cascades | Weekend Camping and Hiking Trip

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Before we packed our rental car full of cut-rate camping gear, we read that people referred to the North Cascades National Park as the “Alps of North America”. Oh, I had a laugh. First of all, I was skeptical, because any place/thing that has to use another to explain itself always seems to be grasping.

Then we went. And it does have those turquoise lakes that so enchanted me as a study-abroad-Euro-trip-kid. And it has those valleys filled with waterfalls. And it has those snow-capped peaks. It has amazing alpine meadows. I see the similarities. Still, I hesitate to call it the “Alps of North America” because we needn’t refer to everything in the “new world” according to their closest “old world” comparison. Let the North Cascades be their own thing. They merit that.

I squealed with glee a couple times during our first 7ish mile hike. (We hiked Heather-Maple Pass, which is actually located just outside the park).

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades heather maple pass

north cascades national park trip

north cascades

north cascades

north cascades

I had an ambitious two-day hiking itinerary planned for us. We were to hike 12 miles on back to back days. An ankle roll got in the way, but we still logged about 12 on day one and another mile or so on day two. The fact that we didn’t get my top-pick hike in combined with the fact that our camera battery was not charged before we left means I’m itching to get back. Unfortunately, our fall is already filling up (I’ve now got two job schedules to balance, am heading to SoDak for some weddings, hope to make it to Wisconsin sometime, Jordan’s got his own work and school scheduling conflicts, and I am trying to weasel in a trip to Victoria when my in-laws visit). Soon there will be snow there, and frankly, our travel and weekend trip budget could probably use a bit of a recovery period after we get back from South Dakota. Alas, next late spring/summer might be our next chance to visit.

Still, we made use of our time, reading glacier-fueled riverside, visiting the Cascadian Farms organic fields for an ice cream and berry stop, shopping at the Mazama Store, and eating some less-than-healthy, but delicious barbeque in Marblemount.

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cascadian farms

ice cream at cascadian farms

This park, my friends, is free to visit and relatively un-visited compared to the likes of Yellowstone and Yosemite. Hard for me to understand when it’s this beautiful.

Until we meet again, North Cascades National Park, until we meet again.

Warning: Do not read this if you drink your wine with an air of pretension | 2 Days in Cafayate

Here I sit. I’ve got my photos all placed in the post and I just can’t think of how to write the things that I want to. I’m trying to express the feeling I had when our bus first starting rolling into Cafayate. Vineyard after vineyard nestled up against the mountains. It’s hard not to be giddy about it.  (I guess we can’t say that the magic of travel has worn off for me yet, huh?). It’s a beautiful setting for a little city of 12,000 people. It’s exactly what I hoped it would be.

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Sure, the city runs on tourism. It’s the kind of place where tourists gather on the plaza, taking in the views and ordering the empanadas and local wines in bad, foreign accents.

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cafayate argentina

cafayate argentina

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cafayate argentina church at night

wine ice cream miranda's ice cream cafayate argentina

cafayate argentina

I don’t think anyone goes to Cafayate worrying about how they can tell their friends that they “escaped the beaten Gringo trail” or had a “deeper” travel experience than the other. We know that we’re going for the scenery and the wines.

I, for one, am okay with that and thankful the locals will have us. Because the scenery, empanadas,* and the wines rival those of anywhere I’ve been to date.

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casa de la empanada cafayate argentina

chato's wine bar cafayate argentina

Back to that scenery, we had a great time on our tour of Quebrada de Cafayate. Our tour group consisted our about 8 people, all of whom were really-laid back and curious. There were mini-hikes, endless photo opportunities, and lots of local historic information from the tour guide. What a natural canvas of creativity!

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina brea tree (tar)

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

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quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

quebrada de cafayate salta argentina

(As for how I defied gravity while in Cafayate, simply rotate the photo, so that I’m standing up. The rocks are actually slanted about 30 degrees or so. I laid against the rock wall, tucked my toes into place (there’s a little wedge of rock there) and leaned backward. Our tour guide knew exactly where to and how to take the photo.)

Yes, Cafayate–with all its nature and libations–is a splendid place for tourists.

I will admit to you, however, that there are still very different types of travelers in this town.

There are those of us who have limited budgets, stay in hostels, and are learning about the world of wine.

There are also those of us who stay in fancy bodegas, sip more expensive wines while reading the New York Times (in print! in Cafayate!) and lounging about in a lawn chair, tapping their feet to generic jazz.

vineyards cafayate salta argentina

vineyard cafayate salta argentina

vineyard cafayate salta argentina

vineyard cafayate salta argentina

It’s okay that they do that. I can even see how it could be a good time for someone. Just not this someone, I guess. Those fancy bodegas just weren’t our scene. I loved seeing their vineyards, but I prefer to swill elsewhere.

I don’t know enough about wine to drink it with an air of pretension or sophistication. I barely get a swirl going and only when using my left hand. The thing is, I am going to keep learning about wine and its production (because it’s fun to say Gewürztraminer and a Bonarda is really good), but I know that pretension and wine don’t have to go together.

Choosing a decent wine with the help of a friendly, neighborhood vinoteca employee (who is less biased anyway) and heading back to the hostel to share it around the table is just as rewarding as worrying about the sweater-vested fella to your right judging your swirling technique. Especially when your hostel has a great view.

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My favorite wine experience in Cafayate, however, was at Chato’s Wine Bar. They serve the same wine from the surrounding bodegas (they do make amazing stuff, after all), but it feels much more relaxed.

Comfortable, casual, and honest. Now that’s what a real wine experience ought to be for me.

Chato’s offers several varieties of wine flights so you can try whites, rosés, or red to your liking. Jordan and I learned a lot, nibbled, and had fun without worrying if we were drinking “correctly.” If we wanted to know about the correct way of doing something, we asked the owner, who told us plainly, explained it in simple terms (granted, our Spanish can’t grasp too much beyond the simple).

chato's wine bar cafayate argentina

I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed myself at wineries in the past. And I’m definitely not saying I won’t enjoy them in the future. I’m just saying I hope I’m always the kind of person who enjoys a flight at Chato’s better.

chato's wine bar cafayate argentina

chato's wine bar cafayate argentina

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*I actually have had a better empanada elsewhere. But empanada wars are serious, so I’m keeping quiet.

Cafayate Recommendations

Nature Walking and Bird Watching | Photos from the Chaco Boliviano

I know, you already know so much about our trip. We camped. We looked for birds. We strolled, ducked, and snaked our way through some trails. But we carried the camera while doing so, and I have so many pics I’d like to share. Can’t help it! Below are some of our favorite nature and scenery photos from our trip, complete with some probably-needed explanations and commentary.

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Birdwatching

“Did you see them?” I asked Jordan dutifully, asking out of a sense of obligation to my former self. He had been watching some ants when a group of eight to ten wild, bright green parrots flew overhead, letting out their cries.

“You mean the parrots? I heard them, but didn’t look.” He shrugged. “We’ll see some more.”

It was true. We would see more. Probably a couple hundred more. Still, it was hard to imagine that only 30 days earlier, we stood together at “our” backdoor squealing* with delight at the sight of five parrots in a tree. I couldn’t believe we were seeing parrots in the wild. In my life, their presence had previously been limited to pet stores, movies, and the homes of great aunts. It was so exciting to see them flying from tree to tree and listen to them squawk. I had to hold back my Awk! Wit’s ends.

But that was a month ago. Since then, I’d seen countless numbers of parrots. They were at almost every stop during our trip. They fly over in groups of five, ten, twenty, once even in a group of at least forty. I’ve seen them closely. I spent time watching them exchange places in their marvelous parrot nests. And somehow, it seemed like no big deal and a very big deal at the same time.

Parrots (even talking parrots!*) are only a small part of story. The biologists that we went with on this trip identified over 200 species (there are supposedly 500 known bird species in the Chaco). Again, we saw many, but between our nascent bird watching skills and our pitiful pair of binoculars, Jordan and I only actually correctly identified 21 of the birds we saw. Ha.

We laughed about this around the campfire one night. They asked Jordan and I what we’d seen. We mentioned the parrots (two types), urracas (a beautiful, yet common bird…this is the equivalent of going bird watching with one of the top ornithologists in the US and tell him or her that you saw a blue jay), and a white-browed blackbird (the one we’d all seen together). What I appreciated about this night is that our fellow travelers told us bird watching doesn’t haven’t to be about lists and strict identification for us. It’s about the experience. We, as amateur birdwatchers, had the luxury of choosing to watch the bird that strikes our fancy, really watch what it’s doing, and have fun. They, on the other hand, might have to stalk a bird of less interesting plumage in order to distinguish it from a very similar species.

This didn’t mean that I stopped thumbing my way through the bird guides. But it did mean I beat myself up a little less about being able to find the right bird in the book. I let myself giggle when I saw those chuñas flop those gangling legs all over the place when running (without bothering to look to see if they had red or black legs). I let myself making Fruit Loop references when we spotted those toucans (this was not so much Chaco…it was during our detour in the wrong direction). I let myself watch that bright yellow bird (whatever it was) without worrying about the call of another. I let myself point like an amateur when I got excited instead of slowly pulling up my powerful binoculars like an academic. And it was more fun this way.

Seeing these birds was a really neat experience, but I was surprised at how much I liked even seeing their nests. The hanging nests seemed to be everywhere, just holding on by one branch. That drooping, hanging black mess in the photos below? Yep, another type of nest.

Note about the photos: Our bird photos do the birds absolutely no justice. We have a laughable zoom on our nice camera, and that Canon Powershot you bought five years ago would probably be better for taking bird photos. There’s also the issue of flight and motion. If I happened to be close enough to a bird and then raised my camera, it would certainly fly away from me. And flight is fast.

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Trees and Shrubs

Some of the trees and shrubs that we saw were ones that we’d become familiar with during our first Chaco excursion, but many were new. My new favorite Chaco tree is the one known as palo borracho, or drunken stick. It’s pictured in the first two photos below. “Cotton” hangs from its branches, and the trunks bulge out with their beer bellies. Sometimes the tree trunk has only one bulge, sometimes more. We drove past a double-bulge (not a real term, folks) palo borracho at one point. It so resembled the bum of a pear-shaped woman that someone had painted a bikini bottom on it. I think I choked on my gaseoso upon seeing it. Too funny.

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Cacti and Agave Family and other Fun Plants

The trees were great, but this Midwest girl still gets really excited about cacti and plants from the agave family. Beyond that, we also found some papaya growing and  a strange yellow fruit called horned melon (or cucumis metuliferus). One of the people with us had grown up going on orchid-finding hikes with her family, so she had pointed one out to us. Later, I found one on my own (in the last picture of this section). Would have loved to take it and pack it to Canada with me.

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Animals, Ants, Insects, etc.

No, we saw no jaguars or pumas. Sorry to disappoint. We did still have plenty of animal sightings, though. And something–we don’t know what–ate our tomatoes one night. As far as larger animals go, we saw a South American wolverine (grison), two foxes, two deer (small), a monkey, the backside of a capybara, and finally a cayman. Well, okay, I didn’t see the cayman. I was in the car deleting GPS points or avoiding bugs at that point. I console myself with the fact that I’ve already seen one of those in the wild before. We also saw a dead anteater. I’ve been told that we should feel thankful that it was dead. Run away if you see one that’s alive.

There were also many unique crawlers. You already know I saw a tarantula and a coral snake, but I didn’t mention the bees, termites (interesting to see their hills), or ants. I don’t mention any of these in the way you might expect. To me, they weren’t bad. The ticks, flies, and mosquitoes I could do without, but the rest were fine.

We always have tons of fun watching ants. It’s a daily routine during our time here. Ant behavior is very interesting to me (though I certainly won’t make it a career). This trip was a treat in that regard. There seemed to be so many variations of ant hills. For example, picture two below is one big ant hill. You can also see the trumpet bell-shaped ant hotels below. Along one road, Jordan and I noticed a gathering of thousands of ants. We stopped to watch and then walked ahead to find out that not everyone had seen the ants before it was too late. It’s the first time I could literally use the expression “ants in his pants.”

The bees and wasps seemed to be all over the place, but generally, if you didn’t kill any, wouldn’t bother us. Thankfully. Because the hives were perched on tree after tree. It’s hard to believe there is a bee shortage after visiting here.

I loved seeing the lizards. Usually, these guys were pretty small, but we did see a few that measured over two feet long, maybe three feet if you’re counting the tail. The lizard tracks in the sand were pretty funny–a big, long, indirect line across the sand flanked with little scaled footprints on either side. The biologist leading the group told us that these can move up to 40kph. After seeing some of them go, I believe it.

The locusts/grasshoppers were the biggest I’ve seen in my life. These were generally found near the ranching/farming areas. They measured around 5 inches and at first glance, you’d thing that was a bird flying in the sky.

And finally, butterflies and moths. They seemed to come in groups of one hundred. There are two photos of them below. That’s not snow, but butterflies. As for the moths, our tent was attacked one night. We never really understood why but there were probably one to two hundred moths surrounding it. The grand daddy measured at least four inches across and looked like the eyes of an owl. The camera was inside the tent…

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Camping and Scenery

A lot of our time was spent wandering around looking for birds and nature walking, it’s true. But there were also a lot of really great moments that resulted from doing nothing in particular. Seeing the countryside and the scenery was probably about as fun as anything else that we did. (Except for making bad jokes in Spanglish about our omnipresent block of Chaqueño cheese around the campfire!) So fun taking photos here.

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Bolivia is so photogenic.

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*Okay, I squealed in delight.  Jordan probably didn’t.

Little Lessons. And a Little More Hiking.

In the last couple weeks, we managed to hike two more times within the park. I know, it does seem like we’d be able to do it more often considering we live in the park, but remember, we’ve been gone a lot, the husband works every day (though, okay, not a full 8 hours on the weekends), and I prefer hiking in his company. What can I say?

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During these hikes, we learned a bit about the trees and birds in the area. I found a helpful site that points out some of the trees and birds we see. Beyond that, we’re reinforcing the hiking lessons we’ve already learned and adding a couple new bits of knowledge into the grey matter.

An orange tree found along your hike is a sweet sentiment, though probably a sour reality. We didn’t try the grapes.

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Mercedes Sosa was from Tucumán! We discovered this after stumbling upon a viewpoint dedicated to her memory. I’ve known of Mercedes Sosa for years and enjoyed listening. But now that we’re in her home province, she’s on our nightly playlist. Not sure who she is? You’re in for a treat. Check out this playlist on YouTube.

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Walking along dry rivers looks easy, but makes you wish you’d added more balancing poses in your yoga practice. All of our hikes in the park so far have included some dry river time. I love walking through them, but can tell that my ankles are weaker by the return trip.

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Food tastes better with a view. Hiking to a restaurant, even a tiny one with cookies and hot tea, makes it more fun. Hiking to pizza and beer takes it up a notch.

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It’s not at all uncommon to find altars/chapels along your hiking route in South America. We were a little surprised when we found one during our first day hiking in the park. We’re a little less surprised now.

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Flowers are easier to photograph than birds. I think that’s my overall lesson from living in Horco Molle/Argentina. We see so many amazing birds and I have a camera on me about 60 percent of the time. But my photos of birds simply aren’t worth posting.

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Pictures with a view don’t need a lesson or reason to be posted. Right?

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To Hell with Glamping | Our Visit to Argentina’s Chaco Region

-1 tube of Benadryl, a pack of alcoholic swabs, and a pair of teezers: 12 dollars
-3.5 days worth of groceries: 50 dollars
Gas to Santiago del Estero and back: About 30 dollars
3.5 days in the Chaco with these three guys: Priceless. And dusty. Really dusty.

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I don’t always know what I’m getting myself into. This might have been one of those cases. No one asked me if I wanted to spend four days in a dusty, dry forest with three guys and limited supplies of chocolate. No one specifically asked if I wanted to pop-a-squat among communities of bees and other creepy crawlies. No one specifically asked if I wanted to pull thorns out of and ticks off of my body for four days straight. No one specifically asked if I wanted to go 84 hours without a shower all the while applying alternating layers of sunscreen and insect repellent on top of fresh layers of dirt.

But they did ask me if I wanted to join for a four-day/three-night camping trip in Santiago del Estero. I love camping.  And I love visiting new places. So it seemed like a no-brainer at the time.

Jordan and I joined two other people for a university-approved visit to the Chaco region of Argentina. The other two gentlemen were on the look-out and listen-out for bird species, particularly in something called silvo-pastures. Jordan was out for GPS points, particularly of pastures and crops.

Now just to clarify, I like bird-watching as much as any senior woman, and I can point out your usual orioles, jays, finches, etc. But I know now that I can’t even call myself a proper amateur/hobby bird-watcher. My contributions were primarily limited to scribbling coded field notes for the husband and taking photos of the fields for verification purposes. Still, I was happy to help (as much as my limited knowledge of birds and trees native to the Chaco would let me), but let’s be honest, the work was my means to an end. The end? Learning random facts that I hope will at least make interesting dinner conversation later in life and taking photos of new and intriguing things. And in that respect, this trip did not at all disappoint.

We left from good ol’ Horco Molle on the first morning. Naturally, there was mate consumed on the way. Because we wouldn’t dream of going more than two hours without it.

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tucuman argentina sugar cane field

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aluminum mate cup in the car

By afternoon, we arrived at our destination outside of a city south of Santiago, the capital of the province. For a good portion of the afternoon, we were given a sort of orientation to the area by an employee/researcher from a government agency that manages the land we were staying on. This all went down in Spanish, so I missed, well, a solid majority of what was being said. By the time I figured out a sentence, we were walking again, and I was newly distracted by a thorny plant that had decided to take me as its prisoner.

And yes, there was another mate break during this orientation. Hehe.

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dry chaco santiago del estero

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dusty feet with sandals

Night fell. Camp was set up.  And then snacks were consumed. And even though we had no artificial light to extend the evening, we still stuck to eating on the Argentine schedule (and by that I mean later than God intended). There was an asado one night and a couple pasta nights. Viva Argentina!

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The daylight hours were about work for the others. Except for when we did as the Santigueños do and took our siestas. During these work sessions, there were apparently 93 species of birds observed. I saw some, really I did. But they moved too quickly for my camera or were simply a bit too far for the pitiful zoom we have on our Nikon. Besides bird observation, there were also tree surveys done.

As for Jordan, many points were taken. The proof is in the pudding photo.  Here’s proof that he and the others worked. And please note the amazing list of bird calls. These fools be serious.

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bird calls

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This environment makes for a tough office. In order to work, battles had to be fought. I typically lost them. During the “work” times, we wandered through dry forests, pastures, and grasses. I was attacked by thorny trees, thorny bushes, thorny I don’t-even-know-whats. Thankfully, our leather shin guards saved us much of the time.  The rest of the time, we carefully pried ourselves from the grasp of the enchanted dry Chaco forest.

And later, the husband surgically removed the thorns from my hand at the picnic table. That’s real love.

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thorns dry chaco santiago del estero

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leather shin protectors for hiking

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All this trouble was worth it. And we were taught the perfect proverb to use in this case.

El que quiere celeste que le cueste.

This translates roughly to “there’s no easy path to heaven,” or “If you want heaven, it’ll cost you.” Yes, indeed, that dry, dusty, thorny environment is harsh. But it can be beautiful and is full of little photogenic treasures.

We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but the locusts and the turtle were definitely noteworthy. Also, be sure to look more closely at that photo of “harvested corn.” Do you see it?! It was so weird to watch.

Also, the flowers and plants were all entirely new to me. For the first time in my life I considered a seed show-stoppingly beautiful. (You’ll see three photos of that beautiful–and huge–seed below). I clearly had fun taking photos, as evidenced by the number in this post.

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quebracho blanco leaves

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tree dry chaco santiago del estero

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quebracho blanco seed

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So, no, no one did specifically say this was a little bit more intense than family camping. And I do prefer running water, a supper without bugs, and comfortable bed in a temperature-controlled dwelling. But if that’s what we had to sacrifice for our little slice of heaven on Earth, so be it.

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At the end of this trip, we were granted permission to visit a nearby farm. Photos of our first Argentina farm visit coming your way on Friday!

 

Puerta del Cielo | Hiking in Parque Sierra de San Javier

We lived here about a day before we decided to go on a hike. This was partially out of a sense of obligation, nearly as much as exploration. Let’s call it a two-pronged obligation. One: I know that my time living in a park with hiking trails is limited. Two: this country runs on dulce de leche.

We had picked out this tiny little hike that we’d seen a sign for as our introductory, work-your-legs-up-to-it sort of hike. It would have been about 45 minutes; respectable as an introduction to the park hike. And then someone asked us what we were doing for the weekend. When we told him, he canceled our mini hike for us and gave us a new hike. I am now grateful for this, though I still plan to sneak that short one in some calm weekday soon.

Come Saturday morning, we were groggy, but excited to get outside. Before we started, we drove on by the sugar cane to one of the university’s agricultural experiment sites, where we tried our first bites of yacón. It was the first I’d heard of it. It’s a tuber, a sweet root. You can even buy its syrup online. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a good sweetener option for diabetics. I make no claims here, but am going to investigate further and see if the market grows. It certainly tasted good. In fact, amazing if you consider I ate raw tuber and enjoyed it.

horco molle town

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yacón root

 

yacón root

After a short while, we continued on down the rode, making our way to the trail head. At first, we took a detour, along the funicular trail. We were on the first leg of the hike with scientists who grew up in the area. If there were two guys you wanted explaining what you were seeing, these are probably the guys.

funicular hike san javier

parque sierra de san javier bridge puente

We never actually finished the funicular hike. Instead, once reaching the bridge, we backtracked until reconnected with the Puerta del Cielo trail. Here, Jordan and I left our guides, heading up the hills on our own. I say on our own, but certainly there were many other hikers on the trail with us.

Along the way, there weren’t many views, but it wasn’t much of a concern, since to us, the entire forest was new. The butterflies, the birds, and the trees, like those at the housing compound, might not be special to those from here, but are new to us. Actually, forget what I said. Clearly many people from this province come to the park to appreciate these things.

butterflies parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

butterfly parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

fiddleheads parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

flowers parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielotree parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

tree parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo trees

After a while of huffing and puffing and water breaks, we reached the clearing at the summit. Here, we bumped into another group of hikers. We’re not 100% sure, since our Castellano (Spanish) is iffy, but we heard something that may translate to the following “We don’t see gringos up here very often.” We had a giggle at that. Okay, well, maybe it was an internal giggle. My lungs were still recovering.

summit parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

summitparque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

summit parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

We hung out around the top for a bit,  trying to see how much of the city of San Miguel de Tucumán could actually be seen from the park.

wildflowers parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielowildflowers parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

summit parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

While we were exploring the top, another hiker joined us and assured us that we were heading in the appropriate directions. We had crossed paths with him earlier during the hike and exchanged the typical Holas, Qué tals, and Buen dias. At the top, there was a bit more rejoicing, as he met us with a Lo hemos conseguido!

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

After reaching this point, we walked along the highway which runs through the park. We walked by cattle and horses, forests and fancy [some less fancy, too] homes, but all had that great, rugged mountain backdrop.

summit parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

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parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

cow parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

DSC_0920 (2)parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

ruta 340

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo ruta 340

parque sierra de san javier puerta del cielo

parque sierra de san javier  bosques de la memoría

parque sierra de san javier views

parque sierra de san javier views

views parque sierra de san javier

From here, we chose to descend along a different path to see a bit more of the forest. The path looked generally the same as the one we’d climbed on, though the newness still hadn’t worn off. Most intriguing of the hike down, however, was this little altar along the way.

parque sierra de san javier altar on trail

Once reaching the dry river where we started our hikes, we simply returned along the river to the trail head.

parque sierra de san javier rio dry river

A great hike. Easy to navigate. Well worth the effort. In fact, so worth the effort that we did a very similar one this past weekend, catching some of the same sights. That said, we’re excited to get to know the rest of the park and the park’s trails during our stay.

Thanks for reading and happy trails.

Empanadas, Hiking, and Remote Sensing | Three Days in San Luis

Somewhere between Buenos Aires and Yerba Buena (suburb of San Miguel de Tucumán) lies San Luis. Actually, scratch that, it’s not exactly between them. It’s wasn’t exactly on the way. But it wasn’t that far out of the way, either.

When we first arrived (via an overnight bus ride), we both noticed how much it felt like Tucson, Arizona. Clearly the Spanish colonial influence comes into play, but also the arid mountains that surround the city feel quite similar. More than that, both cities feel small, easily navigable, but come complete with a university student population.

san luis argentina

When Jordan began arranging our stay in Argentina, a couple people mentioned to him that he really ought to visit San Luis and meet with a group at the university there. These guys are good at what they do, know their stuff, and are fun. This is what we’d heard. Now, we know it. Okay, if I’m being honest, Jordan probably knows that better than I do. I frankly couldn’t verify someone’s knowledge of land use and land cover change and how to analyze it using remote sensing technologies. But their comments at least sounded legit when I was sitting in on Jordan’s mini presentation to the group.

Jordan spent a lot more time than I did on campus, but I still managed two lunch time visits and some Internet poaching time. I had no real purpose in being there, but was happy I went. For one thing, I met a professor from Wisconsin. Go Bucky! Which made me happy. Secondly, I met a post-doc from French Guiana/France. Which also made me happy. Because even if I didn’t practice my French much, I did indeed practice it.

universidad san luis

On the two days I visited the lab, I joined the others in eating empanadas. (No, not everyone at them every day…) They assured me that in the next two months I’m going to have more than enough opportunities to photograph empanadas. But you know I like to be diligent. And now that I’ve eaten empanadas in Tucumán, I can attest that they really are different. Not just in taste, but in appearance. I will also try to be diligent in the near future and get a photo of those.

empanadasa san luis

For a good portion of our/my (non-lab) time in San Luis, I ventured off on my own a bit, wandering as the lone gringa in the plaza, reading and imbibing caffeinated beverages. And I was still taking photos. The city’s main plaza is beautiful, the main thoroughfare lined with bars and restaurants. The downtown area, just around the plaza was quite nice as well, but I didn’t explore too much beyond these areas. Our hosts told us it was a quickly-growing city, taking in a lot of people who are fleeing the urban craziness of Buenos Aires.

san luis plaza

san luis plaza

san luis plaza argentina

church iglesia san luis argentina

cafe con leche y tiramisu m cafe

san luis

Of course I didn’t spend all my off-campus time by myself.

We spent one evening with a couple researchers from the lab that Jordan was visiting, and the (like me!) significant other of one of them.’Twas an enjoyable meal with good conversation. (Note: The photos we took were, well, nothing short of hilarious. And there was an Internet-shy person in the middle of the pic. I edited to the best of my abilities.)

group (2)

On another occasion, our gracious host took us on a short hike just on the edge of the city. Again, while hiking, we couldn’t believe how much the city felt like Tucson to us. We say this, recognizing that we haven’t been to many other cities in the US Southwest or cities in Argentina with a similar climate. Still, if anyone else (I’m sure you’re there, just not sure if you’re reading my blog) has also been to both, we’d be curious to know your opinion on the matter. Back to the hike…

We hiked for only about an hour, trying to catch the sunset over the city. Our host’s dog, Samuel, joined us for the event. He rode in the back of the car with me. I tried to get a selfie with him. It failed.

IMG_2395

Luckily, the other photos from the hike turned out a bit better. Even some with Samuel in them. Our hike started here and continued along a few of the mountains.*

san luis hike argentina

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike

plant san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike sunset

san luis argentina hike

san luis argentina hike plants

san luis argentina hike sunset

Thank you much to the guys at the university for hosting us (okay, sure, mainly Jordan, but whatever…me, too). Thanks especially to our one host who hates having his photo taken and hates the Internet (you know who you are). And finally to Sylvain and Mélodie (I assume that’s how you spell your name!) for joining us for a lovely evening meal on our last night in town.

From San Luis, we hopped on yet another bus, 13 hours this time, before finally arriving in San Miguel de Tucumán. There, we were met by one of Jordan’s colleagues. In the last week, we’ve been settling in, doing our usual things–just in a different place. Can’t wait to share some photos from our “home” here.

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*Our hosts always seemed to take about the mountains around San Luis with air quotes. Sure, they are dwarfed when compared to the Andes, but if we in Montreal got to call it a mountain, certainly these are mountains, too.