La Hoya Ski Area and an Unnamed Sendero

March 18, 2008

I feel a million times better today. Yesterday was rough, but I’m back in the game now.

Today we drove up a steep dirt road towards La Hoya—a little ski area 13km outside of Esquel. From there you can take a chairlift up 2,624 feet. I wasn’t convinced we’d take the lift up, we’ve already done that a couple other times in Bariloche, but I thought I’d see if we could get any good views on the drive up.

Also, and maybe the main reason for heading this direction, is that I read there are guanacos in the area and I really want to see some of these, fuzzy llama-like animals.

The views on the drive up were outstanding. You’ll have to take my word for it since Anders was crashed out the whole time. Well, he had been awake for 2 hours already. Actually you don’t have to take anyone’s word for it since I took pictures.

Driving up the gravel road

Driving up the gravel road and gazing at the mountains
light on mountain

The sun lights the top of a mountain while thistles sway in the foreground
Another view from the road

Yet, another scenic view
getting higher

As we got higher the trees phases out and the mountains got rockier
Anders anticipates

Anders anticipates the views at the end of the road.
High peaks

High peaks ring the other side of the valley. Esquel sits in the valley.

I pulled over at a few miradores (viewpoints) to gaze at mountain ranges both close and far. And one spot I looked at the hillside above the car and there was a guanaco looking back at me. I was thrilled. It was still kind of far away and all by itself, but I was still psyched to see it. Now, to find out where the rheas live…

guanaco

A guanaco eyes us from the hillside…
guanaco 2

…then hightails it around the bend…
guanaco 3

…and it picks up the pace.

After watching the guanaco until it walked out of view, I drove the rest of the way to the ski area. It was closed, so that pretty much solved my dilemma of deciding whether or not to ride to the top.

La Hoya

La Hoya ski area
arroyo

A small arroyo near the ski area.
arroyo 2

Another look at the arroyo
Anders appreciates the arroyo

Anders appreciates the arroyo

I’d noticed a few trailheads on the way up and figured we’d check out the one at the Curva de Guanancos. It seemed like and opportune place to look for more guanacos.

A promising sign

A promising sign in our search for guanacos

We didn’t see any more mammals, although there was a woodpecker (Magellanic?), a few chucaos and some other small birds. Plus a bunch of flies—but no wasps, which was a blessing considering how many of those stinging insects there seems to be in Patagonia.

The trail started out through some two-needled pines (Henry told me—according to Mike—that the government pays farmers to plant non-native pines on the their land. I don’t know if this was the same pine or not) and paralleled a little arroyo. Craggy outcrops plunged out of the hillsides and buff grasses, thorny olive-colored plants and other shrubs blanked the landscape.

thistle at the trailhead

thistle at the trailhead
Pollinating the thistle

Pollinating the thistle
Rocky view

Rocky view from the trail
More rocky views

More rocky views from the trail
Two-needled pine

Two-needled pine

Where the trail crossed the creek we got off the trail and walked a little downstream to find a good lunch spot. Anders threw rocks in the water and I checked out all the water-loving plants hiding among the boulders.

An interesting plant

An interesting plant
Anders snacks

Anders takes a snack break

The creek tumbles down some rocks and under a log
Moss covers a rock

Moss covers a rock
Water droplets on moss

Water droplets on moss
monkey flower

monkey flower
Playing with rocks

Playing with rocks by the arroyo
Little white flower

A cute little white flower
Red-orange lichen on a rock

Red-orange lichen on a rock
plant in the rocks

A hardy plant grows from rock
Lichen and an insect nest

Lichen and an insect nest
Water spills over a rock and black lichen

Water spills over a rock and black lichen
Red flower

Red flower

After our lunch break and some time throwing rocks in the creek we headed back down the trail to the car.

Scenery on the hike out

Scenery on the hike out
On the trail through a scree slope

On the trail through a scree slope
Orange flower

Orange flower
View of Esquel

View of Esquel on the drive out.

We didn’t see any more guanacos, but it was a lovely day anyway. Back in Esquel I stopped to buy a ticket for the Old Patagonian Express—a train that runs from Esquel to El Maíten to the north. It’s pretty touristy, I think, but you can take a day trip on these vintage railroad cars. Apparently, however, it doesn’t run on Wednesdays even though Foder’s says it does. So, I have to decide it I want to stay another day to do it.

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