About an hour outside the bustling and busy metropolitan city of Santiago sits an incredibly pristine piece of untouched Mother Nature. Cajon del Maipo is a canyon encompassing gorgeous mountains, numerous rivers, volcanoes, a glacier, and some breath-taking landscape. There are a couple very small villages located in and around the area, with most people making their living selling bread, empanadas, tea, coffee, and other consumables for the people that come to explore the region.
We left early in the morning with lunch and water packed (sandwiches, oranges, and some granola bars). We were blessed with a day that couldn’t get any better – sun and clear blue skies. It was an hour, hour and 20ish to the beginning of where this region starts. We were going to a place much deeper… so that’s about when we hit the gravel road. For another half hour, at least, we drove that windy road that sometimes felt a bit more like a path. More than a couple times someone said “I think we missed it?!” “maybe we were supposed to turn??” and “are we there yet?!”
Anyways, we arrived and this is what we saw. I got out of the car, legs cramped from sitting so long, and took some deep breaths of fresh mountain air. My lungs immediately said “thanks for the break!!!” – quite a change from the pollution sitting heavy in Santiago (thankfully, summer is coming and that will tremendously clear up the air!).
I was wearing a tank top, a long sleeve, a tshirt, and a light hacket. We started the hike and, just 20 minutes in, heart beating a bit harder, legs all warmed up, I shed the top layer. I’d done some pretty intense workouts this week and I had a couple fleeting thoughts of “uh-oh!” Luckily, once I was warmed up, my legs proved the workouts were working and I did just fine!
We hiked up, down, and around, following the path set hundreds of years before by the native people who lived, farmed, and discovered the land. Our only breaks were to capture a bit of the beauty with a picture.
Just as our legs were getting tired and our stomachs hungry, we finally hit our checkpoint – the little laguna of melted snow from the mountains. It was a gorgeous spot to take lunch. We found some big rocks, sat down, and put the jackets back on. We were up higher and the winds were stronger… and quite chilly. Everyone was excited for the snow. Being a Wisconsinite, snow doesn’t get me super excited. But, this snow, in October, was very welcome! I don’t think I’ll ever say that again :) haha
After lunch we were rejuvenated with energy and continued on. This part had much more grass, as the ground was constantly being fed from the melting snow and beating sun. At first we tried to hop from rock to rock in an effort to keep our shoes dry. After 5 minutes we realized it was an impossible endeavor. We gave up and just sunk right into the saturated land. We finally hit the heavy snow, which was a relief. Here, we stopped a lot. It was incredible. The view. The sun. The sky. The mountains. The path we left behind us. The tall snow covered mountain in front of us.
Pictures. Snow balls. Snow angels. Laughs. Silence. Smiles. It was like a high – pure happiness. There are so many places in this world to see mother nature at her finest. Anytime you’re out in untouched wilderness it always feel like you’re discovering it for the first time. It’s so peaceful, serene, and beautiful. The air was so fresh, the wind was so strong, and the mountains were so big. I could see the little laguna where we at lunch in the distance. It was awesome!
Heading down the snow covered mountain consisted of falling, sinking almost waist deep in certain areas, and some sliding around. The guys were a bit ahead of us girls, as were laughing like little kids. It was so fun. Once we got past the wet area, we stopped to relax a bit, dry our socks, and eat some dark chocolate. Yum! Then, we continued on, took lunch #2, and then eventually made it back to our starting point – tired and happy.
Camping, fishing, hiking, biking, rafting… you name it, you can do it in Cajon del Maipo. Hiking the El Volcan area in El Morado was one small, amazing part and I can’t wait to go back and continue taking in all the different experiences Cajon del Maipo has to offer! It’s places like this, so readily at my disposal, that make me so grateful that our family raised us to appreciate and love the great outdoors. When I was up on the top, looking around, taking in the beauty, all I wanted was for you guys to be there with me. Grandpa, it all started with you, your passion, and your stories, and our family trips to the cabin up north, drives out west, and camping!! And, I’m so grateful that Connie/Scotty, Holly/Steve, Mom/Dad kept that alive and our family close.