November 15: Hiking the French Valley, Torres del Paine National Park

The first hikers in Chile came by boat. Nomadic clans from Siberia crossed Beringia - the landmass that connected Asia to Alaska - 15 to 18 thousand years ago. They likely travelled south along the west coast of North and South America using small boats and living on seafood, waterfowl, and caribou. These Paleo-Americans reached southern Chile 14,600 years ago and steadily moved inland, some inhabiting the Milodon Cave (Cueva del Milodon) in Patagonia 12,000 years ago. 

Today, almost 15,000 years following the arrival of the first Paleo Americans, the same rhythm seems to be at work. A boat takes you to another point on the land and exploration continues by walking, hiking, or trekking. Both means of travel provide a deep sense of connection to the natural wonder of southern Chile. The modern world, however, still shows it presence: Torres del Paine National Park is so large, reaching the trailheads usually requires a hydrocarbon burning boat or road vehicle.

Following dinner in the EcoCamp dinning dome, our expert guides reviewed the two hiking options for the coming day. All nine members of our group selected the French Valley hike. My son and I packed a Paleo lunch in Tupperware-style containers, and small backpacks containing a camera, outerwear, snacks, and one bottle of water - our guides advised us the natural spring water was drinkable. Obviously, talk to your guide and make your own decision. 

View of Los Cuernos (The Horns) from the boat. 

Tele view of Los Cuernos.

Hiking in the French Valley.

French Valley.

Near the lunch stop (sit on a rock), French Valley.

Views of glacial lakes.

Tele view of the lakes. I brought a tripod but left it in the bag. If your primary focus is photography, you may want to strike out on your own, or with a small group that will stay put while you stabilize your camera and wait for that special shot. For us, travelling in a group of 7 to 10 that included one or two guides and travellers from Holland, Germany, and Australia, made the trip even richer; not quiet a modern clan, but nevertheless giving a sense of what those first Paleo Americans clans experienced.

Dr. John