Tag Archives: mountains

(Extra)ordinary Winding Roads

I love winding roads.  From the Moki Dugway (see what the heck is a Moki Dugway), to crossing the Andes, descending toward Cerro Castillo and finally ascending to Machu Picchu.  I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I loved riding on the roads.

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No Ordinary Beagle

Nope, we’re not talking about Snoopy or that breed of dog.  We’re not talking about the ship Darwin made famous either.  Well, maybe a little.  The Beagle Channel is actually named after the ship Darwin sailed in.  But it had a history before Darwin’s voyage started in 1831.

The Beagle Channel was named after the HMS Beagle during the ship’s first hydrographic survey of the channel.  During that voyage the ship’s captain committed suicide and Captain Robert FitzRoy took the helm and finished the survey.

The channel itself is a challenge to navigate and the only way a large ship can pass through its waters is with a Chilean captain at the helm.  Even then accidents still happen due to rapidly changing conditions.  There are a couple of sayings in Patagonia which allude to how rapidly the weather can change.  You can experience all four seasons in one day and if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.

We ventured out twice on the channel on the same day.  In the morning the wind blew, it rained and heavy swells tossed the ship about.  Anyone who was brave enough to leave the warm cozy confines of the cabin would have surely been soaked from the waves breaking over the bow.  We weren’t completely certain we were going to go on the afternoon cruise.

However we decided to test the 15 minute saying and sure enough, we got the summer season that afternoon.  The Beagle Channel went from waves breaking over the bow of the ship to being as smooth as glass.  It was simply amazing.  As a result of our bravery (foolhardiness?) we were rewarded with two fantastic experiences in one day.

You’ve already enjoyed the penguins photos from an earlier post – now you get to see the Beagle Channel in all its glory.  Majestic snowcapped mountains flank each side of the channel.  On the trip we saw cormorants (a penguin cousin that can still fly) and sea lions.  We also cruised by Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world and a rusting wreck of a ship that ran aground.

Iceberg Lake

Having a Park Ranger friend has its advantages.  With over 700 miles of trails, choosing a hike in Glacier National Park is made easier when Peggy shares her favorite.  Of all the trails we hiked this summer, this was our favorite.

Click on me for a larger panoramic view from the trail.
Click on me for a larger panoramic view from the trail.

Approached from the eastern side of Glacier National Park; Iceberg Lake’s five mile trail starts with a section park rangers affectionately and appropriately call the stair-master.  After huffing and puffing up the stair-master the trail levels and the rest of the hike is filled with stunning panoramic views that accompany each step.

Bears are abundant and hikers are encouraged to be noisy.  Many people wear bells but isn’t that like ringing the dinner bell for those mostly hairless squishy things that are pink and tender in the middle?  In seriousness we were given an informative tip for bear encounters on the trail.  Essentially bears are lazy and use the trails because of the easy walking.  If you encounter a bear you should do two things; make a lot of noise and get off the trail.  Climbing uphill is recommended because you are getting off of the bear’s path and counting on his laziness to continue on the trail leaving you alone.  If they follow you up it’s time to break out the bear spray.

A glimpse of what's to come.
A glimpse of what’s to come.

Glacial fins, ancient sea-beds lifted up into mountains, and finally carved by glaciers ages ago tower above you.  Flowers are blooming and color fills the meadows and valleys.  Cresting over a ridge a small lake comes into view below the flower filled slope.  Yet the trail passes by up another hill and then you see it.  Ice filled turquoise waters surrounded by massive rock walls and the trail leading to the shore’s edge.

Ironically passing clouds photographers normally desire are shading the lake turning the

Spot light on the water.
Spot light on the water.

brilliant colored waters to dark blue.  As we eat lunch we watch patterns of sunlight breaking through the clouds and passing over the lake spot-lighting the brilliant colors only rock flour laden waters can produce.  A large whale shaped block of ice reflects brilliant blue as the sun’s rays pass over.  The frigid water’s siren song calls until

you are compelled to dip a toe into the water.  A teenager creates a memory he’ll never

Spot light on the icy whale.
Spot light on the icy whale.

forget as he jumps into the water.  In a flash he’s out, wrapped in a towel and shivering.

Birds serenade us as we take in the beauty.  Every direction reveals nature’s majesty and we are thankful for the 1910 decision to preserve the land for future generations.

The lake invites you to test the frigid water.
The lake invites you to test the frigid water.
Ice suspended in the water
Ice suspended in the water