Many of you know Emma and I spent her spring break and my 50th birthday in Patagonia. We hiked the ‘W’ trail of Torres del Paine, considered by many the greatest hike on the planet.
We met up in DC and both packed ultra-light, just day packs each with a phone, charger, 1 change of clothes and a minimalist toiletry kit. I did bring food for Emma, peanut butter and tortillas, dehydrated backpacking-style Mac and cheese pouches, cashews and candy bars.
Getting to the other side of the Earth takes time. We took a subway, bus, flight, flight, bus, bus, and a catamaran to get to the start of our hike. It took about 48 hours.
The first two days were among the best I’ve ever hiked. The 2.5 hour hike goes along a mountain lake, high multi colored brown, gray, red peaks with a little snow remaining (it was fall here) in the other side.
Emma was so glad to be in nature after spending life in her concrete and glass Fordham bunker for the winter. She would put on headphones and dance while she was walking. The winds were high but it was a mostly clear day.
I found out every detail of what she is studying and going on with her friends. She is loving being a theater kid and has a great set of 5 friends who are rooming together again next year. Like Trish was, Emma is the social glue of her groups. She is fair, unjudging and reasonable.
Our second night was in a rented tent/sleeping bag set up (Refugio was full) and we ate dinner and lay down to sleep. Emma mumbled something about feeling poorly. She’s not one to gratuitously complain.
I was right to worry. She had the flu, ran a fever and vomited in and around the tent all night. I cleaned up in the morning and got her into the lodge and a bed where she slept the whole day and next night.
The staff were very sweet to us. By the next day she was good enough to get out of bed but not hike. So we slowly made our way using buses to the other side of the park to the lodge we would have been hiking to that day if we hadn’t skipped a night.
She felt better slowly, regaining her every and becoming more talkative. We took a 2 hour hike across some beautiful rivers to see how she felt. The goal was to do the final day together, the hike up to the towers ‘mirador los torres’.
But it wasn’t to happen. She got up at 4am with me (it’s a sunrise hike and we had to be back by noon) and felt weak and nauseous. She was a little teary, not for the first time. It was a big disappointment to come so far and get sick. But she wanted me to go.
Which, I did. It was glorious. 12 miles, 3,000 feet elevation, with the uphill done in dark with a headlamp. I was alone the entire way up and thought I was lost once. But I did it in record time and was treated to a godly display. The peaks slowly grow in orange intensity. I did the whole thing in 6 hours including a 30 min visit at the top. Pretty good for a guy about to turn 50.
Emma is a great travel companion. She’s calm, agreeable, funny and helpful. It’s fun to see moments where she reminds me of Trish. I feel very fortunate we could do this together.