Chile on Wheels!

Short post today; just a few shots of the wheels of Chile:


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Santiago, etc.

I will spend a bulk of my time in Chile in the capital of Santiago. With a population of 6 million, it’s not exactly the part of Chile that excites me the most. (Patagonia, the high Andes, and the Atacama Desert are a bit more my style). Nevertheless, it’s been fun to wander around one of the biggest cities in South America to take in the sights, sounds and smells of a very different place. 

First off, the traffic is terrible, with normal rush hours lasting from about 7-9am and 5-7pm. The driving style, while apparently not as extreme as some other world cities, nevertheless makes DC or Atlanta look like a cakewalk. Driving with the slightest bit of courtesy would leave you immobile for hours, so the preferred technique is to force your way into nonexistent gaps and hope the the car/bus/truck behind you has a really good set of brakes.

On the upside, Santiago is surrounded by Chile’s fruit and wine producing regions, and we’ve gotten to see some magnificent vinyards and wineries.


Kingston Family Vinyards


Oak barrels are imported from the US and Europe for aging


Ahh, the ever important tasting…do i detect a note of subtlely citrus-infused vanilla on oak? You can really taste that alluvial soil…

Presidential Palace. Site of a US-assisted military coup in 1973.

Clay pot aging at De Martino winery – this is apparantly cutting edge tech revived from the Romans

It’s fall in Chile: Carmenere (Chile’s most famous grape) turn a beautiful red at the end of the season

This wood statue has seen better days…


The (former) congressional building

I took advantage of a free afternoon on Saturday to drive to the border of Argentina with Stephen, a friend from school. We drove up one of the most amazing ‘highways’ I’ve ever seen:







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The Birds of Chile

On my second day in South America, I was lucky enough to join a birding tour with Santiago’s finest bird guide. Thanks to some very lucky last-minute logistical magic and the fantastic response time of Fred Homer of Albatross Birding Tours, I got to spend a day searching for Chilean endemic species in the mountains above Santiago. Along with two other birders from the UK and Australia, I was picked up an hour before sunrise by Fernando Diaz – Chilean bird guide extraordinaire. Fernando is among the foremost birders in Chile, and his passion is evident in his work!
The day’s itinerary saw us work our way up the Andes from Santiago to Valle Nevado at 3000m (~10,000ft). Nearly every bird I saw was new to me (a ‘lifer’ in bird lingo). At Valle Nevado we came nearly beak-to-face with a lazy congregation of Andean Condors. With a ten foot wingspan and a life expectancy of fifty or more years, these are quite the impressive animals!


Sunrise/Moonset above Santiago


Thems some big ‘ol mountains! It’s fall here, but glaciers are still hanging on


Itty bitty road in the Yerba Loca park


Definitely not in Kansas anymore!


The hotels and snow poles are the only signs that it actually snows here


Simply otherworldly


Valle Nevado looks like a fortress from below. The switchbacks to the top are about one US lane in width…yee-haw!


Three gargoyle-esque condors lounge on the roof of this hotel.


Big birds! Fernando’s scope made for a highly effective zoom lens!


Grab you Jeep and have a Miller – America is America, right…?


You know it’s a big bird when an iPhone can get it in focus




Fernando at work


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Welcome to Chile!

I’m in Chile! As part of my cirrulum I’m in Santiago for a week-long global business seminar. During the class portion, we will be given a basic overview of the Chilean and South American economy, with a particular emphasis on Chile’s wine industry. Poor me…
I arrived two days early to do some sightseeing around Santiago. With zero Spanish under my belt, it’s been quite an adventure!

   Fruit (and juice) are never in short supply in this Mediterranean climate. 
  Street view from my B&B    I set my sights on Cerro San Cristobal to get my bearings    A steep dusty trail led to the summit and its obligatory South American religious statue    Toothpick tree  Agave are everywhere…  …as are cacti and street dogs…  Santiago has a serious smog problem – you can only see the mountains from the city after a rainstorm    The tallest building in South America Sweeping seems be a past time here; I’ve yet to hear a single leaf-blower!   Flowers and candles

  And the statue  A look back at the trail  lots of bikes taking a well-deserved ride down the river is a bit lackluster after three years of drought  – apparently flooding used to be a big problem (in addition to earthquakes, volcanos, and mudslides…)

More to come- stay tuned!

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The Wild and Wonderful Whites, Part 2: The Presidential Range

…..aaaannnd we’re back! In real time I’m writing this post on the eve of our entry to Vermont. In blog-time I have to think back almost two weeks to our traverse of the highest ridge in New England. I’m hoping that I can avoid delays of this magnitude in the future – thanks for sticking with us!

Following our winter-esque  passage of the Carter-Wildcat range we descended to the AMC’s roadside visitor center at Pinkham Notch where we gorged ourselves on real food and stocked up on snacks before our date with destiny in the Presidentials. From there we hiked to the Osgood Campsite at the foot of Mt. Madison. As luck would have it, the timing of our hike added some additional complexity to the logistics of crossing the Presidentials. In summer months, the AMC operates two huts above treeline in the Presis – Madison Spring Hut and Lakes of the Clouds Hut. A few days before our arrival, both of these huts served their last customers and closed for the season, leaving us with an especially long way to hike between legal lodging options. Being the law-abiding, low-trace campers that we are, we opted to complete the entire traverse from Osgood to the Mizpah Spring Hut in a single day. And what a single day it was…whitesmap

The first two miles took us quickly to treeline en route to the summit of Mt. Madison. From here we would remain above treeline for twelve miles – the longest such stretch along the entire trail.


We spent an extra night at Osgood to wait for a suitably pleasant weather window for the traverse. Toward the top of Madison the clouds began to clear and we caught a glimpse of the Carters.


Blue skies: quite the improvement!


Rocks and grass. Lots of rocks and grass…


“The Big Ugly” – more commonly know as Mt. Washington, but a better name in my mind: easily recognizable from a distance by the hideous structures on its summit.


Cairns, or stacks of rocks, mark the trail above treeline. Their spacing only makes sense during whiteouts when visibility is reduced to a few feet. In good weather it’s possible to see twenty or more at a time.


Edmonds Col, with Mt. Jefferson in the background. You can see the trail snaking its way through boulders and talus.


Some sections feature beautiful rock stacking which creates an impressively flat walking surface.


Looking back at the Northern Presidentials from the shoulder of The Big Ugly. From right to left: Madison, Adams, Jefferson. Great Gulf Wilderness in the foreground.


The Big Ugly: complete with a road, parking lot, cog railway (pictured), observation station, snack bar, gift shop, post office, flushing toilets, and thousands of visitors…


We bought some hot dogs from the snack bar and continued on to the Southern Presidentials.


We finished our day well after sunset, leading to one of our most spectacular sunsets yet. The night hiking that followed was unpleasant due to a headlamp that was functioning at a less than satisfactory level. However, Caley saved the day with her spectacularly functioning headlamp and magnificent navigational skills. Then we slept at the Mizpah Hut. Sweet dreams!!!!!




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The Wild & Wonderful Whites, Part 1: Carter-Wildcat Range

The first days of fall were quite an introduction to the White Mountains for us. It seemed as if the weather gods had chosen to skip Autumn entirely in favor of an early and extended winter. Mt. Washington, home to “the world’s worst weather” and the Mount Washington Observatory – an entity that knows a thing or two about unusual weather patterns – put it best in their first optimistic forecast of the season: “The winter-like conditions of the last few days will finally abate today…”


For reference, this is what unabated winter-like conditions look like:



A shorter summary would go like this: cold, dark, windy.





We stayed at our first AMC Hut at Carter Notch. An excellent night indeed! More on the AMC and their huts will be coming in a future post.




We got our first views of Mt. Washington and the Presidential Range…


Which improved massively a bit later…


Mercifully the weather did improve toward the end of this section. Unfortunately, in my haste to catalog the improved conditions I dropped my phone screen-first onto an iron-hard chunk of the Granite State’s finest. From five feet up. It shattered. Obviously.


Fortunately, my aesthetically ruined iPhone still works perfectly (at least as perfectly as an iPhone can be expected to work) for everything I’ve attempted thus far. I’ve got my Tenacious Tape at the ready in case of any further trauma…

Oh well. I needed to reconnect with nature anyway…

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Why We Hike: The Mahoosucs

The Mahoosuc Mountains are hard. They’re intimidating. I was afraid of them. But after crossing the range I have a much better answer to the question “why are you doing this?”

A guidebook description: “Five very long miles South of Speck Pond, you reach Full Goose Campsite.”


My journal entry from the same day:
Thursday 9/19 9:00-4:00 (7h)
Speck Pond – Full Goose
5.1mi… inc. 1.1 of Mahoosuc!
We made it through the hardest mile -“The Notch”- in 2 hours. Pretty great sea of humanity all day. Nobos* are becoming caricatures at this point. Mother-son combo was having a hard time of it…met a nice man who had fallen – felt bad for him. Bittersweet about leaving Maine tomorrow. Hard to believe. Plotting our return to civilization in Gorham – talk of Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut has begun in earnest. VERY hungary(sic) today despite low mileage…Hiker hunger? Very loud at the campsite – Nobos & Teenagers…

*Northbound thru-hikers

But without further ado, why we hike:














Sunsets with full moons


How’s that for an answer?

Oh yeah, we crossed our first state line!

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