By: Allison Grenney
After a 52-hour journey to Patagonia National Park, I joined 8 other stellar women on a 60-mile adventure to traverse the park. Thanks to the Tompkins Conservation Foundation, 10 million acres were designated as Chilean National Park land last January (2018), and Patagonia National Park was the flagship project. Our trip leader, Nadine, had spent the past several years working on the park’s designation, and it was her who brought these strangers together and united us in our shared desire to see this newly formed park prior to the rest of world catching wind of its beauty.
For 6 days, we replaced an 8-hour workday with hiking across grasslands, up mountains, through glacial rivers, and in lichen covered forests. Our leader, who played a role in the park’s designation, estimated that only 40 people in the world have seen one of the lakes we camped along. The land is wild and pure, and we were able to drink directly from the rivers and eat Calafate berries from the bush.
Our packs were heavy and our feet sore, but the landscape was a feast for our eyes and the conversation was rich with reflection and meaning. It was a privilege to share this experience with such an empowered and determined group of women from eclectic backgrounds. From Zurich Switzerland to Oakland California to Santiago Chile, we were from far and wide. Collectively we had been to 86 countries, one woman recently led trips to Antarctica. Our phase as strangers was short-lived, and our bond formed quickly as the miles passed by.
The simplicity of only having what you can carry and being entirely disconnected from the outside world was refreshing. This space allowed me to slow down and be in awe of nature’s wonders: the lichen covered rock, the condors flying high in the sky, the bumblebees. Taking a daily polar plunge into the glacial rivers and lakes was exhilarating. We would giggle and shriek as the cold water washed over us. In the evenings, we would have contour drawing lessons, discuss conservation and environmental topics, and reflect on lessons learned from the wild.
My friend, the wild, always provides me with space and perspective to reflect and recharge. This trip was no different. I was reminded of the power of resilience, curiosity, grit, playfulness and interpersonal skills. In the wide-open glacial valleys, I found myself overcome with gratitude for the life I have created back home. I feel a deep sense of belonging to my community. I am passionate and energized by my work at PAIRIN. Each day, I work alongside my team, and I feel enriched and valued. My family and friends provide me with ongoing strength and joy. My life is worthwhile because of the people in it.