Hued Hueds in Tamango, Patagonia with Caroline Loescher ’25

6 December 2023

The signs of spring can be found across camp. The Calafate flowers are preparing to open and the nirré leaves are swelling in their buds over my rain dusted tent. The morning of our first backpacking trip arrived with evidence of the spring encroaching on Patagonia. I rolled up my tent in its soggy rain fly and ate a final breakfast in the quincho with the crew. Allow me to introduce us; the name of our group is Hued Hued, named after a local bird that we are looking forward to seeing. My name is Caroline, and I go to Carleton College along with Elena. Also hailing from the Midwest are Hannah and Kian, while Izzy, Jackson, and Brenden can usually be found on the east coast, and Gus and Daniel are our southwestern Hued Hueds. 

hand holding small leaf
One of the Nothofagus sp.

Despite the confidence we previously had in our preparations for the trip, we departed for the Tamango region a few hours after we intended to. Fortunately, morale was boosted at the trailhead by some delicious local bread that we picked up on the way across town. It was meant for lunch, but a little parking lot feast was exactly what we needed. 

The first three kilometers of the trail cut into a steep rocky hillside that wound up to a ridge overlooking Lake Cochrane. The 500 meters of elevation gain in this section allowed us to test our limits and our gear as Jose gave us a tour of the local flora. My personal favorite shrub was Chaura which was covered in pink berries that we all sampled for extra fuel along the way. The reviews were mixed, but I thought the berries were delicious. The berries were so abundant that I wondered if they were not appetizing to local herbivores or if their pointy leaves prevented herbivores from enjoying them as a roadside snack. The chaura covered much of the ground, while overhead nirré was preparing for its leaves to burst out of its buds. Nirré is one of three Nothofagus species that we saw, the others being lenga, which is a taller deciduous tree, and coigüe which is an evergreen. I am curious how trees in the same genus can have such different yearly cycles.

students eat meal at campsite
Enjoying our charcuterie!

For lunch, we enjoyed a charcuterie spread of avocado, cucumber, cheese, peanut butter, and the locals’ buns we all love. The trail that followed was a ridgeline over Lake Cochrane and was made up of steep ups and downs. With each turn and dip of the trail, the ecosystem around us appeared to change. The tops of ridges were dry and sunny, while only 100 meters below we hiked beneath dense canopies and crossed creeks. This change in the micro ecosystem gave the hike a magical feeling.

 The sun was setting by the time we arrived at our campsite which was nestled in coiqüe trees along a rocky beach. We ate a stir fry by the light of our camping stoves before crawling into sleeping bags while the wind howled in the trees above our heads. The wind died down by the morning, and we prepared for class while eating oatmeal on the beach, sunlight sweeping down the sides of distant mountains. Each day of the trip, the winds started calm in the morning and picked up throughout the day, and always blew off the lake towards our campsite.

lake with mountain behind
A view of the lake

One afternoon, a few of us went on an exploratory hike, and when crossing a stream, we met a park ranger who was fishing with a snare pole in a clear and crisp creek. He showed us how he poked the snare under logs and clumps of grass to chase fish into the sunlight so he could scoop them up. Even though it was early in the spring for fishing, the ranger had success. Jose had bought us a truly massive rainbow trout for dinner, and we watched as the ranger cleaned the fish with a single slice of his blade. This connection with local people who are at home in this landscape was a highlight of the trip. The fish made a delightful addition to our burritos as the evening wind picked up again. 

On the last day of our trip, we enjoyed a final class on the beach before beginning our journey along the lakeside through coigüe forests and over streams. While passing a stand of trees, we spotted huemul deer that did not seem frightened by our binoculars. We hypothesized that it may be protecting a nearby fawn due to the time of year. The doe was exquisitely camouflaged. I was only able to see it when staring right at it, even though it was less than 10 meters away from where I stood on the trail. It is amazing how well such a large creature can blend in seamlessly with the environment around it.

students hike up mountain
Hiking out

When we reached the parking lot, the Hued Hued crew was exhausted and proud of our adventure. While coming together as a group ourselves, we were able to be a part of spring’s annual transformation of the Tamango landscape.

Visit this blog on the Round River website!

Posted In