Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Take a Hike!

At the far south end of the Andes Mountain chain lies what is perhaps the most amazing place for hiking on earth. Torres de Paine National Park is a small group of mountains rising up out of the Patagonian Plains after the mountains have long since dwindled down to nothing. They are cut and carved by glacial ice and therefore have a more alpine look—giant cliff faces and strange shapes.  
The three “Towers” are peaks that look more like pillars than mountains. They rise five or six times higher than they are wide. The signature picture one usually sees of the range features the even more impressive “Horns of Paine.” Their shape and coloration make them the most beautiful peaks one could ever hope to see.
 
The national park surrounding the range is closed to all vehicles and is only accessible and traversable by foot or horseback. A hike to the towers is a day-trek, or one can choose to take a full 9-day walk around the whole park. Many lakes, rivers and glaciers are throughout the range and the great ice fields that feed the glaciers are visible (and reachable) from the trails in the park.
 
Patagonia’s flora and fauna are on full display. Guanacos, Rheas, Condors, and Pumas are visible, the latter usually only by secondary means—usually in the way of fresh footprints along the trails near the water in the mornings. Not a comforting find when one hikes alone for any stretch.
 
Few are the people who are ever privileged to travel to the southern tip of South America, but if you ever get the chance, make every effort to see Torres De Paine National Park.

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