Lago to Lago – Connecting the two great lakes in Patagonia Park
By Rick Ridgeway, Patagonia VP of Public Engagement
The official grand opening of the new Patagonia National Park in southern Chile is scheduled for late November but the park, even now, is attracting thousands of visitors including three of our trail running ambassadors who, in January, ran parts of the 100-plus miles of trails already constructed. Patagonia-the-company funded part of that construction but the new park, projected to be nearly 650,000 acres, has entire watersheds currently outside of the existing trail system.
Editor’s note: As we continue to expand on The New Localism, it’s important to revisit previous campaigns and breathe new life into them. Today, Rick Ridgeway reconnects with Mile for Mile which is more than halfway to its funding goal. Remember, Patagonia, Inc. will match your Mile for Mile donations through 2015.
In March, I joined two friends, Jib Ellison and Weston Boyles, to scout a potential route that could provide a more-or-less direct link between the two great lakes that bookend the park: Lago General Carrera on the north and Lago Cochrane on the south. These two lakes are so stupendous that when people first see them they appear mythical, like scenes from a Maxwell Parrish painting.
Above: Finding a route above the Aviles Norte on day two. The team had Google Earth maps and an iPhone app that recorded positions that Patagonia National Park will use if they create a permanent trail along the route. Photo: Weston Boyles
We started on March 1st at Lago General Carrera and were pleasantly surprised to find a cattle trail that gauchos have used to get their animals to summer pasture. But our easy start ended at a fast-moving river that you could probably cross on horseback but on foot was going to be potentially dangerous: the only ford was right above a narrow gorge with no eddies.
We made camp and made our strategy. The next morning, I stripped and made a ferry-angle swim to other side. My friends tossed me a small line tied to a rock that I secured to a tree. We zipped the packs across and then Jib and Weston made their own swims across the glacial-fed water. We had another crossing later that day but this time we made it with packs on and arms interlocked.
That evening, we camped at a col between drainages and by the end of the third day we joined one of the existing trails in the new park on a segment that our trail running ambassadors had traversed the month before. We were back at the park headquarters by the end of our fourth day where we reviewed our route and photographs with Kris Tompkins, Patagonia’s former CEO who now directs Conservacion Patagonica, the foundation creating the new park.
She agreed it would make a terrific addition to the park’s trail system. The only thing needed is two, new swinging bridges over the river crossings, a short extension of existing trail to reach Lago Cochrane, and acquisition of the land where we started the hike, property that is currently out of the park’s boundaries. But Kris and her husband Doug have built this park using private donations and philanthropy so acquiring more property, and building one or two more bridges … it reminded me of a sign that Doug used to have above his desk when he owned the woman’s apparel company Esprit. It said, “Commit and then figure it out.”
(via Rick Ridgeway at the Patagonia blog)