Patagonia: The Land That [Far] Exceeds Expectations

Since I received my first “Patagonia” brand fleece as a little kid, I have been intrigued by the mountains on the clothing brand’s logo. However, I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to visit this remote land.

Then, two years ago I started researching locations for my wife and me to travel on our next “big adventure” and I was instantly hooked when Patagonia popped up. I spent countless hours since then researching when, where, and how to go. So much so that I began to think, “Is there going to be much more to discover than what I’ve already seen on Google image search?” Luckily, I was wrong and I could not have prepared myself for the land that many say is a true “landscape photographer’s dream.” My wife fell in love with the landscape, too, and she expressed interest in returning before we even left, which certainly says something given the often “less than ideal” weather conditions and many challenges with traveling to and around this remote land.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the region, getting to/around there isn’t the easiest of tasks. It took no less than three flights  with 15+ hours of total flying time for us to arrive in Punta Arenas from Washington-Dulles International Airport. And, even after arriving at the airport, there were still hundreds of miles to drive between the individual destinations. To make matters more difficult, the wind is so great that it tests the skill of even the best drivers, blowing the car all over the road. The wind literally caused our Toyota Corolla to blow apart, causing me to do emergency roadside maintenance on the side of the road as local drivers whizzed by at 90+ mph (normal cruising speed on the straight Argentine roads). Since the next settlement, let alone gas station, may be more than 150 miles away, pre-planning is a must when visiting the region.

The same climatic engine that drives the “less than ideal” weather also creates unimaginable natural lighting. During our trip, we observed some of the most stunning lighting while 70km/hr winds were ripping across the landscape, and keeping a tripod steady, let alone hand-holding a camera, was often challenging in these conditions.

 

While most people (including me!) come to Patagonia for the landscapes, the wildlife certainly does not disappoint. My wife commented when driving through the Eastern entrance to Torres Del Paine that it felt like we were on a South American safari. The variety and number of animals in the area was a surprise since many of the animals–including flamingos, rheas, and armadillos–are animals normally associated with warmer climates. This coupled with cold weather animals, like penguins, creates an amazing biodiversity.

My wife and I have been blessed to travel often during our marriage. Our Patagonian adventure, coupled with the amazing experience we had the week prior in central Chile, certainly made this a trip of a lifetime.

Colorful Colorado

Arriving in Colorado from Kansas or at DIA (Denver International), the “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” signs seem like an oxymoron.  However, as soon as you leave the taupe colored plains, climbing into the Rockies the colors begin to emerge.  The mountains have many different shades, especially in Summer when wildflowers abound in the cool alpine air.

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Storm clouds loom over the grasslands of Park County

My wife and I were fortunate to be visiting during one of the wettest summers in memory, so even the “taupe colored plains” were bright spring green.  Between the bright colors of the vegetation and the beautiful lighting provided by the thunderstorms every afternoon, this might’ve been one of the most photogenic summers in Colorado.