Thursday, November 24, 2011

Conguillio National Park - A Day On The Trail

The sun is shining and there is snow in them thar mountains, and that my friends is an active volcano. Time to hike!!

7 Hours and 20km on the Coloradito Trail

My day started well enough. The trail was easy to find with no challenges. It was marked with yellow paint on various rocks and trees and it was heading into a valley surrounded by snow capped Volcanoes.

Along the way the path forked and naturally I went the wrong way. As I walked for about 20 minutes enjoying the view and being master of the forest, the trail stopped dead. In front of me was a wall of bamboo that rose up the mountain, impenetrable. However I would not be denied. I am on the trail and it must be here. I hammered, slipped and swore for an hour trying to get my way through. I looked around, walked back and forth before deciding that I will go back and start again. Failure is such a fragile emotion. I was actually working out excuses in my head that I would tell the staff at the resort. As I walked logic started to creep its funny way into my head. I must have missed something because that was a definite dead end. Sure enough at the trail fork there it was, the bright yellow marker down the path I though did not go anywhere, the right path. So off I went.

Felling empowered I now knew to slow down and look for the markers that would take me the right direction. However, it happened again but this time I was told what to look for, and I ignored it. “When you reach the farm be sure you keep going, the path is on the property and the farmer will not care” is what I was told before I left. What did I do? I reached the farm and went the other way IGNORING the big yellow marker on the fence post. I walked for about 10 minutes and my subconscious said “jack ass, remember the yellow marker on the fence post”. I turned around, jumped the fence onto the farm property and started walking. Then I saw the farmer and froze. Looked around and started walking back. “Amigo” I hear. Its ok, the path to the volcano is that way. The farmer was helping me regardless of my actions and fears I was going to be in trouble for being on his property. And I was told beforehand this was the way.
The trail was amazing as it dipped into a valley then back up the other side. The mountains still had winter snow and took my breath away, but the snow also took the trail away. The first time I just stopped. The snow ran about 200 yards across and there was no trail in sight. I took my time, pictured across the way to the trees in front of me and logically put the trail at a certain point. Off I went across the snow. The terrain was steep and the snow more than a bit dangerous but I took my time and made it to the other side. Ten feet to my right was a big yellow marker.

The path dipped into a forest and I was soothed by a small river. This was the same river that ran past my hostel which now gave me something to follow home if I got lost. Out of the small forest and again I was confronted by snow. Lots of hard packed spring snow. The trail was only 30 metres in front of me over the snow but there was no marker. It was obvious so off I went with confidence. As I walked the trail started to rise as that was my destination, the Volcano Lookout.

The trail was long and hard but I was not tired. I was inspired as my goal was within sight. I tripped a few times and stopped often to catch my breath. I would not be deterred at finding my goal. Then it happened. The trail levelled out and there I was standing in between the mountains, overlooking the valley with a clear view of the volcano. I stayed there for an hour, had my lunch and enjoyed the environment. It was exactly where I wanted to be at that moment.

Now the return which I estimate would take 3 hours. I again ran into a problem on the way down with the snow. This time I could not find the trail the markers nor had any memory of the area. I needed to improvise as getting stuck unprepared in the Chilean backcountry over night was not an option. As I was at the edge of the valley that I had just been looking over I saw that across the ridge around the forest was the trail running up the mountain where I had traverse my first snow a few hours earlier. It was about 1000 yards ahead and figured to use that as my sightline and bushwack down the valley, around the forest and climb up to the trail on the other side. Hello bamboo thickets but I heard the river and knew it was ok. I was never in any danger of getting lost but there was the possibility that if I hurt myself I was off the trail and it would be more difficult to find me if that were to happen. After about 300 metres I crossed the river (and got muddy and soaked in the process. When I got up on the other side and cleared my head I found myself standing dead centre of the trail that I thought I had lost. Smiling at my good luck and then reflected on what I had done. I made a decision, believed in it, and had confidence in that decision and it worked out better than imagined. I was back online.

The rest of the hike was tranquil as I was now putting the entire day into perspective. I was having this out of body philosophical moment and feeling pretty good about myself. I was walking but not paying attention. Looking around I then walked head first into a tree with a smack, thud Shit! Shit! Shit! Swearing in pain and my stupidiity I fell to my knees only to land in a big pile of horse shit. Mother Nature sure has a way to keep you in check and humble. I cleaned myself up in the river of life and quietly enjoy the walk back.

My Philosophical Overview of the Day on the Trail (that landed me in a pile of horse shit)
The Path
Every path in the world starts easy. We are strong and we are filled with confidence that we are going the right way.
The Path Changes And We Go The Wrong WaySometimes we are on the wrong path and don’t know it even when we reach a point where the trail ends and there is now where else to go. We bang our heads, curse and swear and hurt ourselves over and over not believing we are wrong. We constantly do the same thing over and over and getting the same negative result, which by definition is insanity. Don't be afraid to admit your wrong and be prepared to change.
Finding The Right Path It is vital that you realize you need a new plan, turn around and start over. You do not always have to start from the beginning because the change in direction you need is there, you just have to find it.
Losing The Path/Dangers On The Path - Dont Panic
Sometimes you need to stop, think and evaluate where it is you want to go. Take your time over the dangerous parts, don’t panic and have confidence in your decision and abilities. You will find the path again
Sometimes You Have To Leave The Path To Find The Path
The most important thing to do when you are scared, confused and don’t know the way dont panic. Look around, see where you are and where you want to go. Be confident in that choice and be flexible to make changes along the way because you will find yourself back on the right track.
Listen to People
People are helpful and want to help. However we all have a habit of staring and nodding our heads without listening or giving them a big old grin fuck. Listen to what people have to say, it can be invaluable.

Focus On Your Goal
No matter how difficult the challanges stay focused on your objective. Keep reminding yourself what you are looking and what you want. When you arrive it will be sweet, and the sweet is not as sweet without the bitter.
Don’t get cocky and complacent. Always be learning, listening and paying attention. You can lose everything you gained by ignorance and end up falling in a pile of shit. But remember, there is always a river of life to clean yourself in.

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