A year ago, we (my husband Dave Dempsey, his brother Tom, and myself) were in Patagonia with little thought of the global pandemic, let alone the rest of what made 2020 an awful year for me personally. It was a wonderful time.
Our first outing, while we waited to get a different rental car (the first one we were given wasn't cleared to enter Chile, and frankly we doubted it would have survived the trip), was an overnight hike to the Refugio Otto Meiling in Nahuel Huapi National Park, just outside of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
The heart of the park, and our main reason for visiting, is the Volcán Tronador.
|Seen from the parking lot, the mountain reminds one of the volcanoes of Washington State--large and covered with glaciers.|
The trailhead was accessed by a long gravel road, most of it under one-way controls--traffic uphill in the morning, down in the afternoon. We had to scramble to get through in time, and made a late start to the hike after the long drive.
The first few miles of the 8-mile, 3000' hike were through lowland forest, where we saw and heard many birds, none of them familiar to us.
|Photo by Dave Dempsey|
A detour, which we followed on the way down the next day, takes the hiker to the base of some very tall falls dropping down from the Glaciar Castaño Overa.
|Note the end of the glacier at the top of the cliff. |
Photo by Dave Dempsey.
Eventually the trail broke out of the trees and we began to see what we'd come for: mountains and glaciers.
|The author on the trail. Photo by Dave Dempsey.|
We were assured that the Refugio Otto Meiling slept 60, and that there was always space made for more if needed, so we were able to make the hike without camping gear, only sleeping bags. What's more, they served meals, so we only needed our lunch! As we slogged up the last mile or two we were grateful for our smaller and lighter packs.
|The author approaching the hut area, perched on a ridge at the base of the glacier. Photo by Dave Dempsey|
When we reached the hut, two things struck us. First, that it was very small for a hut that slept 60, and second, that there were lots of people and packs outside. We were to learn why.
|At left above, Dave stakes out the spot for our gear.|
The helpful people running the hut took our payment for food and lodging and showed us to the sleeping area in the attic. There were, indeed, 60 mattresses on the floor, wall-to-wall (yes, we counted). We were directed to three in the middle of the room. To get to and from our "beds" we simply had to step very carefully over and around the other sleepers. Not an ideal set-up for old people who have to get up in the night!
|Tom Dempsey stands by our 3 sleeping spots.|
Since by this time we were starved, none of the issues with the sleeping area mattered nearly as much as the fact that they served dinner...
|Crepes with jam for dessert. |
Photo by Dave Dempsey
... and beer! Not usually big beer drinkers, we nonetheless all enjoyed an adult beverage while waiting for our dinner.
|Photo by Dave Dempsey.|
The night wasn't great, but the setting was. We had no regrets.
|Refugio Otto Meiling|