Spring Break Patagonia: LoTR Edition

By David Vaimberg, Class of 2019

By David Vaimberg, Class of 2019

Boothies are constantly hard at work, whether it’s in the classroom, the office, or the Social 25 dance floor at last call. So for most, spring break is a great opportunity to kick back and relax, on a beach, a ski slope, an exotic foreign city, or with family.

For a group of roughly 25 Boothies, however, spring “break” brought with it harsh physical labor, in the form of lugging >50-lb backpacks across nearly 40 km of Patagonian wilderness, with almost 1,000 m of elevation change along the way (Ed. note: units of measurement will vary by metric so as to make the actual numbers as big as possible). All the while, we learned how to cook pizza on a Bunsen burner-like stove, built expertise in setting up a tent with frozen fingers (pro-tip: keep your knots knotted!), and developed a deep understanding of the finer points of literally all the known forms of precipitation.

Our modern-day Fellowship of the Flamingo, comprised of Aragorns (North-South Group) and Frodos (South-North Group), trekked through dense vegetation, up (and down, shudder) steep mountain passes, through fast-flowing rivers, and even deep into the mines of Moria. Each day of the trip brought with it new outdoors skills, as well as a gradual reversion to our prehistoric selves in terms of hygiene practices. Thankfully, most are back to normal, though I have seen one particular member of the trip gazing longingly at the ground around the tree in Summer Garden…

Booth North-South group at the conclusion of the trip

Booth North-South group at the conclusion of the trip

Some highlights from the trip:

Day 1 (think “Concerning Hobbits”): Spirits were high as we set out for what promised to be a short initial hike on a cold but clear day, only for us to experience all 4 seasons in the span of 45 minutes. Welcome to Patagonia.

Day 2 (think “The Bridge of Khazad Dum”): Tackling a steep incline where the dirt and loose rock shifted under our feet with the slightest misstep, followed by an incredible sense of accomplishment upon being rewarded with spectacular mountain views from the top. Then realizing we still had to find our way back down the other side of the pass… (honorable mention: the most stars we’ve ever seen in our lives)

Day 3 (think “The Ring Goes South”): Post first river crossing, initial moroseness at the knowledge that our feet wouldn’t be dry for the remainder of the trip, followed by gradual acceptance and resolve 50 crossings later. Personal growth day (and backcountry pizza and calafate pie day!).

Day 4 (think “Many Meetings”): After days of seeing no one but the same exhausted, dirty, soaking wet people, spotting a friendly face fighting through some shrubs at the bottom of a marsh just ahead. Two groups of the socially functional nerds that are Boothies, meeting up in the middle of nowhere in the southern hemisphere, was a beautiful thing.

Day 5 (think “The Breaking of the Fellowship”): Due to an unruly herd of cows slowing the early hiking pods and allowing the laggards to catch up, the entire group walking, as one, down the home stretch to camp, followed by the quickest tent set-up ever done and, for the first time, a wonderful campfire to sit around and tell stories.

All in all, it was an amazing experience that I don’t think any of us will ever forget. I’m pleased to say that many of us enjoyed an extra couple days of true “break” in Chile, whether at Santiago wineries or at an “island party” of our own (Chiloe!). But the highlight remains those crazy 5 days and 6 nights in the backcountry.

David considers himself an experienced hiker and a proponent of minimalism in the outdoors. Even if it means arriving in hiking boots that cracked wide open day 1 and sans feet-protecting gaiters. He also likes writing articles with unnecessary themes, and long walks on the beach river.