My husband, sister-in-law and I were nearing the end of our Hiker’s Patagonia trip, having been in Los Glaciares National Park for several days. Mount Fitz Roy remained cloaked in clouds and shadow except for brief, tantalizing glimpses.
We teased Tomás, our guide, endlessly about it—if he was so adept at managing all other parts of our 12-day trek, couldn’t he also remove clouds from the sky? (Patience and a sense of humor must figure high on the list of necessary prerequisites for becoming a MT Sobek guide.)
It wasn’t until the last hour of the final hike, when we were nearly back to El Chaltén for showers, dinner, celebratory toasts, that the wind, like a magic wand, spirited the clouds away from the enigmatic mountain.
The view was magnificent, the skyline instantly redrawn, redefined, now that the superstar had appeared on stage. The air felt energized and somehow sacred. We all went mad taking photos.
Later, at dinner, I was warmed by the easy chatter and laughter of hikers who’d bonded over many miles, meals and conversations. Watching and listening, I thought about what had brought us all there. Why we travel and explore the world.
Fifty years ago, when my grandfather was in his late seventies, he often packed up his travel trailer, and headed out from his home in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, to points unknown. With his Rolleiflex camera in hand, he photographed campgrounds and shipyards, sunrises and mountain meadows. He propped the camera on a tripod, set the timer, then posed with his wary-looking wife until the shutter clicked. (Presto: Selfie!)
I was a teenager then, convinced that someone his age was far too ancient to leave the house, much less drive a travel rig hundreds of miles into the sunset. At the time, I didn’t understand my grandfather’s need to range out, to explore. But I understand it now. He was the son of Norwegian immigrants and worked as a shipbuilder most of his life. Patagonia was out of reach, but he went into the world as far as he could go. And by doing so, changed it, and changed himself.
Fifty years ago, the small group of people who formed what is now Mountain Travel Sobek understood it too. Open to the world and the world will open to us. Venture into the unknown, welcome the unfamiliar, and we’ll meet not only new friends but new parts of ourselves.
My grandfather traveled because he was curious about the world beyond the one he knew. His photographs told stories about people and landscapes: lifescapes. They taught me that far away is only far away until you get there. That not-knowing is one hello away from knowing.
Our recent journey took everything I thought I knew about that part of the world and brought it to life, made it real, even turned it on its side. As I shift through my own photos from our recent trip, I realize I already know where I’d like to go next. Norway, the country my great-grandparents left so long ago.
Why? Because I think it’s vast and wild and beautiful. And I’m curious.
Mari Anderson, MT Sobek Guest
MT Sobek Trip: Hiker’s Patagonia, 2019