It was a warm day at Sunfish Lake. Today they canceled the Marathon because of the heat. Weird. It’s not that hot…
But yesterday was a beauty day. Click on photo for larger view.
It was a warm day at Sunfish Lake. Today they canceled the Marathon because of the heat. Weird. It’s not that hot…
But yesterday was a beauty day. Click on photo for larger view.
My photos look a little out of focus today. Kind of psychedelic. Or is it just me? The sky is an odd color. A rainy, dark day. But color starting as the trees adjust to winter.
I actually got a story published this week. No money but think of the fame! The notoriety!
Today is also gloomy and rainy. But that’s okay. We need rain. Rain is good. Winter is coming.
I read today that scientists think mammals will die out in 250 million years. All the land masses will collide, the sun will get brighter, and carbon dioxide will rise. We will suffocate and melt. I wonder if we will really last that long. Will we morph into something else? Will another species thrive on the new atmosphere? Will we build bio-domes like our science fiction writers predict? It is hard to imagine what 250 million years looks like. The dinosaurs roamed the earth for 165 million years and then all blew up about 65 million years ago. Mammals showed up about 225 million years ago. So we are almost half way through our time here. On the other hand the earth itself is 4.5 billion years old. We are but blips in time. It’s like democracy in Russia. A nanosecond. Apparently Earth has another 4 billion years to go. Don’t think I’ll be around to see it.
I’m reading Isabel Allende’s memoirs and in it she mentions the filming of The House of Spirits. I never knew it was made into a movie so I watched it last night. It was star studded, Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas, Winona Ryder, and a million other people. Of Love and Shadows is another one of her books that was made into a movie. I haven’t read that one but looks interesting.
I read that people who are optimistic and have positive thoughts on aging tend to live longer. I’m feeling positive I am aging.
A friend just found out he is going to Burundi for work. The poorest nation in the world. The most unhappy nation in the world. I first heard about Burundi during the Hutu-Tutsi genocide of the 1990’s. So I have been trying to find positive things about it. It is in the African Great Lakes region bordering on Lake Tanganyika. This is what I found.
They make pretty sisal baskets.
They have pretty birds.
Drums are important.
Lake Tanganyika is big. It has hippos.
See, positive, positive, positive.
I’m gonna lay down that atom bomb
Down by the riverside down by the riverside
Down by the riverside
I’m gonna lay down that atom bomb
Down by the riverside study war no more
I ain’t gonna study war no more
Ain’t gonna study war no more
— Pete Seeger
Hug me, squeeze me, love me, tease me
‘Til I can’t, ’til I can’t, ’til I can’t take no more of it
Take me to the water, drop me in the river
Push me in the water, drop me in the river
Washing me down, washing me down
— Al Green via Talking Heads
Eloise Butler was born on a farm in Maine in 1851. In 1874, she moved to Minneapolis to teach botany and took her students on field trips “botanizing”. In 1907, she persuaded the Minneapolis Park Board to set aside three acres for a wild botanical garden. After 36 years of teaching she retired and became the curator of the garden. In 1924, she spent $700 of her own money to expand the garden to a five acre fenced off area. The garden was re-named the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in her honor in 1927. She died at 81 tending the garden.
We flew back to Buenos Aires on New Year’s Eve. We arrived late afternoon and since we had no dinner arrangements, we ran down to the neighborhood bakery and picked up some empanadas. We already had a bottle of champagne. We stayed up very late watching the fireworks.
Having traveled most of my life and being a Third Culture Kid, I know it usually takes a couple of days in a new place to get adjusted and figure things out. Since we had already spent some time in Buenos Aires, when we returned, we felt at “home”. We were comfortable. We owned it. It felt good.
On New Year’s Day most things were closed so we spent the day walking around town. Saw the Congress building, the Obelisk, a statue of Don Quixote and a large image of Evita on the side of a building. The next day we went to the Museum of Decorative arts which was in an old palace that an aristocrat had donated to the Argentine government. The highlight was an El Greco painting.
That afternoon we went to a wine tasting where we tried six different Argentine wines. We learned about the different wine regions and found out that the Malbec grape came from France. Our host said France only produces about 13,000 bottles of Malbec where Argentina produces about 76,000 bottles. We tasted sparkling, white and a couple of reds. The Malbec was the best.
We had a nice lunch at Cafe Tortoni which originally opened its doors in the mid 1800’s and was fashioned after a famous Bohemian drinking establishment in Paris. It was frequented by many intellectuals over the years including Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Arlt among others. It is still going strong today and houses the Academia National del Tango on its second floor.
The rest of our stay was mainly about shopping and eating. We walked to an area that had leather shop after leather shop. They had some nice things but we had read about a particular store that was recommended. It happened to be in the Galeria Pacifico which is a very upscale shopping mall with murals on the ceilings and large skylights. The leather store did not disappoint. Beautiful stuff at very reasonable prices.
We also ran across a store that was all original art and artifacts produced by local artists. They had drawings, jewelry, leather goods, among other things. We spent a lot of time in there and came away with some interesting things. I bought a small drawing and some jewelry, my son bought a belt.
Before we left the US, we made reservations at Tegui, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. We were going to a nine course tasting menu with wine pairings. I received several emails asking me to confirm my reservation. They all said to arrive on time. So we arrived on time. The door was locked. We weren’t sure what to do but after a few minutes, we rang the bell. They opened it and welcomed us in. Every guest had to ring the bell, the door stayed locked. We were asked to put our cellphones away and not take pictures.
Our dinner started with champagne and a couple of appetizers that were not on the menu. First course: Ricotta cheese with crispy flowers and a light sauce. This was accompanied by a small loaf of bread made with Mate (the local Argentine tea everybody drinks). It was warm and delicious. Course two: Grilled oyster with shaved green apple and sea roots. Three: Sardine cured in sugar with watermelon and radish accompanied by a watermelon “shot” (one of the best things I have ever eaten). Four: Nandu (rhea- relative of the ostrich). Five: Tortellini served al dente with fig stuffing in an almond cream sauce (to die for). Six: Skate fish wings in two parts – part one we were told should be taken in one bite. It was accompanied by a quinoa cracker. Part two came with a sauce and lemon. Seven: Duck served rare with pineapple slice and a bbq sauce (incredibly good). Eight: Begonia with Yaki (honey). Nine: Peach with corn and ice cream. The evening ended with coffee and small petit fours. We had a homemade vermouth with the appetizers which was followed by six different wines. All a very positive experience.
One of our last days in Buenos Aires, we found an awesome art museum. It was a spacious modern building at Port Maduro. Amalia LaCroze de Fortabat was a businesswoman, philanthropist and art collector who was the richest woman in Argentina at the time of her death in 2012. She left her collection to this museum named after her. There was a special exhibit of Mexican, Argentine, and Colombian art. There were also some European paintings including a beautiful Chagall. At Port Maduro we also came across the Woman’s Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava.
Our last day in town was the only time it rained. That night we found an Armenian restaurant in our neighborhood. I went to open the door and found it locked. They opened it for me and let me in but locked it behind me. It was great food and a nice atmosphere but it was not full and we did not have a reservation so I didn’t really understand why the door was locked. Must be a thing.
We were very sad to leave and hope to make it back to South America soon.
……As it turns out I will be back in January. Looking forward to it.
As we flew into Ushuaia airport I could tell the pilot was having to do some maneuvering swooping down in-between the mountains and dealing with the heavy winds. A province of Argentina, Tierra del Fuego is an island that sits at the southernmost tip of South America. Ushuaia, its capital, is on the Beagle Channel about half-way between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, 620 miles from Antarctica. The meeting of the two oceans along with the mountainous terrain creates a strange weather pattern. It was usually very windy and could rain, be sunny, be stormy, windy raining, all within the same hour. It never rained for long and usually not very heavily. We could be out walking in the rain and never feel wet.
Once we hit the ground, I started to cry. It had taken me more than 30 years to get there but I was finally there. It was an amazing feeling. And the beauty of it did not disappoint, it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. The light and color was like nothing I had seen before. The area was dominated by snow covered mountains all around. Before arriving I had been worried that the excursions I had reserved would be cancelled because the weather forecast called for rain every day. I soon realized, rain meant nothing in Ushuaia. Life went on no matter what the weather was. One of our tour guides said the only people carrying umbrellas in Ushuaia were tourists. Because of the winds, umbrellas were useless.
We visited the prison museum our first day in Ushuaia. It was a good introduction to the island as it included anecdotes about the prisoners, some of the escapees, the history of the area, and even had a small art museum.
In 1902, the Argentine government formed a penal colony on Tierra del Fuego just outside of the small village of Ushuaia. At the time there were only about 40 houses on the island. The worst repeat offenders were sent to serve out their time, sometimes for life, building a prison and infrastructure to go with it. At one point they had more than 600 convicts living there. The cells were meant to be for one person but they would often have to double up.
The only heat was a wood stove in the middle of the building. It was cold. The prisoners built a small railroad going into the forest to help them haul wood back to their buildings once they had chopped down trees. Now it is a popular ride for the tourists. The prison closed in 1947 for humanitarian reasons and a Naval base was installed in 1950.
By then the area had grown and since there were no land animals to speak of, the government decided it would be a good idea to import some beavers from Canada. They could farm them for their pelt and create an industry. The problem was the climate in Tierra del Fuego was very different from Canada. It was not cold enough and the beavers did not grow the extra fur needed to make them profitable. The Argentines gave up and let the beavers go. They multiplied and created major problems to the point where today there are about 100,000 beavers with no predators. The beavers have cut down trees and built dams all over the place. Some of the forest in the area has been completely stripped. The government now has a plan to cull the animals over the next 10 years by bringing in specialized hunters.
Ushuaia is now a small city of about 70,000 people. The Navy base is still there, along with a small electronics industry, but tourism is the largest money maker. All the ships going to Antarctica leave from Ushuaia. People go to camp, hike, fish, ski, and enjoy nature. We ran into a bird watcher with the biggest camera lens I had ever seen.
I had arranged for several day trips while we were there. The first one was in a 4-wheel drive jeep. We piled in along with two other women, our 76-year-old driver, and an English speaking guide who had been there a month. The driver laughed when he heard that, he had lived in the area for nine years. They were both from Brazil. The guide was earning a little money before starting a trip from Ushuaia to Alaska on the Pan American Highway. His girlfriend was a chef and they were going to blog about their trip and the food they encountered on the way. I wonder if they ever left Ushuaia.
Our jeep took us over the Garibaldi pass to the north of Ushuaia. We stopped just over the pass to take a look at Lago Escondido. It was named Hidden Lake because sometimes the clouds come down and cover it completely and you wouldn’t even know it was there. We made our way down the other side of the mountain and took a dirt road off the main highway just past Rio Milna. Along the way we came across a police car that stopped and they had a chat with our driver. A car up ahead had gone off the road head first into a ravine and was stuck there. The driver was not hurt, unbelievably, but as we passed, there were several rescue workers looking puzzled as to how to extract the car.
Not far from there we tuned off the dirt road onto an old logging trail that was more of a path than a road. We were going deep into the forest. We saw beaver dams and damage, but also undamaged pristine areas. The air was crisp and clean and the nature was raw and beautiful.
Because of the terrain it took us about an hour to reach Lake Fagnano which I am guessing was less than 5 miles away. The lake is one of the largest in the world. It is about 60 miles long and nobody knows how deep it is. It is a glacial lake and sits in a basin on the Magallanes-Fagnano Fault. We stopped for coffee and pastries on the shore of the lake. Along the lake, there was no road. We drove along the shore of the lake and often in the lake and then back up looping to the dirt road we started from.
Back onto Route 3, aka the Pan American Highway, we retraced our steps over the Garibaldi Pass and turned off toward the Valley of the Wolves. This was mainly a winter recreation area where they offered dog sledding, ATV and UTV rides. In summer people hiked down to the Emerald Lagoon. We were there for lunch. Inside a round hut, that looked kind of like a yurt with grass growing on its roof, was a cozy room with tables surrounding a wood fire heater. At the back was another small room where meat and vegetables were being grilled on a wood fire. It smelled amazing. We had wine, bread and a delicious parilla (grill) Argentine meal.
The driver dropped us in town at the end of the trip and we wandered around the main street looking at the shops. We bought stamps at the post office and were pretty surprised when we found out it cost 4 dollars to send a postcard to the USA. I hope people will actually get them some day. A friend of mine works for Hard Rock Café so we always have to stop in when we see one. Ushuaia had one. Since we live in Minnesota we were happy to see one of Prince’s outfits on display in the Hard Rock at the end of the world. After drinking a lot of wine in Buenos Aires we shifted gear a bit in Ushuaia and tried some of the beers. They were actually pretty good and we found Patagonia, Cape Horn, Otro Mundo and Quilmes to all be drinkable. Patagonia was one of our favorites and readily available.
Next: The Penguins
Our third day in Ushuaia, we got up early and joined a group of forty on a boat and headed out into the Beagle Channel. The channel is 130 miles long and about three miles at its widest point. It is one of the three passages from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The other two are the Straits of Magellan to the north of Tierra del Fuego and Drake Passage to the south between South America and Antarctica. Antarctica is about 620 miles south of Ushuaia.
We passed three islands on our way to Harberton Ranch. The first island was teeming with Cormorant birds. They were black and white and looked kind of like penguins from a distance but these birds could fly. Seal Island was really just a big rock covered with sea lions. It was fun to watch the babies trying to climb up the rocks and sliding down them. The parents provided lots of encouragement. The last island was Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. It was 36 feet high and powered with solar panels.
Thomas Bridges was an orphan found on a bridge in England and adopted by an Anglican missionary. At 13, he moved to the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands where he learned to speak the language of the native Yamana people. He founded an Anglican Mission in Ushuaia in 1870 and in 1886, he became an Argentine citizen. The government gave him a piece of land 40 miles east of Ushuaia in recognition of his work with the Yamana and his help with shipwrecked sailors. He named the ranch after his wife’s birthplace in England. Harburton was originally a 50,000 acre sheep and cattle ranch. It housed the first store in the area, providing imported goods and supplies.
Today Harbuton is open to the public from October to March. It still has some cattle but is mainly a tourist stop. It is still owned by the family and was declared an Argentine National Historic Monument in 1999. The Acatushun Museum is on the grounds. It is a working museum and research laboratory started by Natalie Goodall, the wife of the estate’s manager. Biology and veterinarian students collect specimens and do research on marine animals as well as give guided tours through the small museum.
After docking and having a quick lunch, we were split into two groups of twenty each. We were in the first group so we boarded a smaller boat to travel to Isla Yecapasela (Isla Martillo). It looked like a nasty storm was coming in and the wind was fierce. I was a little apprehensive as we set off on our 15 minute boat trip among the white caps. Originally the Bridges family had sheep and some cattle on this island but in the 1960s they were removed and penguins settled there. Now there are about 10,000 Magellanic penguins on the island and about 40 Gentoo penguins. The Gentoo are the taller penguins that are found in Antarctica. The Magellanic ones live mostly on the southern coasts of Chile and Argentina. The birds arrive in October to breed and once the chicks molt their feathers in late March, they move north. When we were there in late December, the chicks were about a month old.
We docked on the beach and saw penguins going off into the water to feed and coming out of the water to rest from their swim. In keeping with the weather of the area, the sun came out but the wind was still going strong. This was probably a good thing as the bird smells could have been pretty strong.
As we moved further into the island, there was a trail marked off by ropes. We were told to be quiet and stay on the trail. We were not to interact with the penguins if at all possible. Along the trail a couple of penguins decided to sit down in the middle of the path so we were forced to stay in one spot and wait for them to move on. They were in no hurry. Most of the babies were in their nests, shallow holes dug into the ground. Some were screaming for food, others were just milling about. Scientists are studying these penguins and part of the study is to measure the effect of humans on penguins. We were limited to a small part of the island and only with the Magellanic penguins. We could watch the Gentoo penguins from afar.
The general access was also limited and only one tour company, Piratour, had the concession to take people on the island. Reservations should be made far in advance. The experience was magical. The chicks were so cute and fluffy and there were so many of them. It was something I will not soon forget. Back at the ranch we boarded busses for the trip back to town. On the way we stopped to see the Flag Trees. These are trees that are constantly battered by the wind and grow in a peculiar way. The view from there was amazing.
It was a long day and we were tired. We had reservations at a French restaurant, Chez Manu, which was further up the mountain from our hotel. The view from there was incredible as well. Actually the view from anywhere was good. After living on the Chesapeake Bay for many years, I grew very fond of the blue crab. In Ushuaia the Centolla or Southern King Crab was very popular and fresh out of the bay. It was often prepared in small casseroles made with cream, garlic and cheeses. I had the King Crab Au Gratin at Chez Manu. It was very good but I still liked the blue crab best.
The following day we took a trip into the National Park, a beautiful place full of glacial lakes, woods, camp grounds, hiking trails, and peat moss. We took a short hike along a stream and had a nice conversation with our guide. He was about 25 years old and had lived in Ushuaia most of his life. His parents moved from Cordoba, Argentina when he was about four years old in order to find jobs in the electronics factory. He told us the Argentine government provides a stipend to people who agree to live ‘at the end of the world’. Apparently it is difficult to get people to live there permanently. We had hoped to go to the Yamana Museum to see the dioramas and learn about the indigenous people of the area. Unfortunately it was closed. Our guide was happy to tell us about them.
They wore no clothes at all. All their food and resources with the exception of wood for their boats, came from the water. They stayed warm by building fires along the shore and inside their boats. Hence the name, Tierra del Fuego, Land of Fire. Because it rained so much and they spent so much time in the water, they could never keep clothes dry. Instead they rubbed fish oil on their bodies and built fires to keep themselves warm and dry. The Yamana are virtually extinct today. The diseases and the cultural changes the white men brought rubbed them out in a relatively short period of time.
We stopped a few times on our trip through the park. One stop was the exact spot where the Pan American Highway ended, 11,000 miles from Alaska. Huge photo opportunity. We also stopped to take a closer look at the abundant peat moss in the area. There was a big beautiful visitor’s center right on a lake in the middle of the mountains. They had a cafeteria with empanadas among other things so we tried the crab, the lamb, and the beef empanadas. We pretty consistently liked the lamb ones the best. We had beef and lamb ones for our New Year’s Eve dinner in our hotel room back in Buenos Aires.
Stay tuned for the final episode.
The Superior Hiking Trail runs 300 miles along the ridge line above Lake Superior from the southern edge of the lake to the Canadian border. The trail is managed by the Superior Hiking Trail Association (SHTA), located in Two Harbors, Minnesota. It can be accessed along the way from about 50 trailheads. Besides the Superior Hiking Trail there are several State Parks and the Superior National Forest where hiking trails abound.
The Superior National Forest is known for the million-acre remote Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness bordering on Canada.
We hiked along a small portion of the SHT, drove along the Gunflint Trail in the Superior National Forest, and explored the George Crosby Manitou State Park. The Crosby Manitou is a backpack only park with primitive campsites. Other parks in the area include Cascade River State Park, Temperance River State Park, Tettegouche State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park, the Finland State Forest, and Judge C.R. Magney State Park.
The first day we took a hike along a part of the SHT and at one point came to a spot where a wooden bridge crossed a gulch. I sat down on the steps to rest for a bit and all of a sudden this blur of fur came running at my feet, bumped into them, ran the opposite direction, scrambled behind me and up the post of the bridge. By this time I was up on my feet, freaking out after having let out a bit of a scream. I looked up and saw it was a ground squirrel. He then proceeded to scold me by shrieking at me in a high pitched voice. I must have been blocking access to his stash. My companion was laughing his head off. Ahh… life in nature….