Patagonia Less Traveled: The Pleasures and Pains of Getting off the Beaten Path
By: Erin Agee
. . .and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
In our culture of FOMO and hashtags many of us find it increasingly compelling to seek out the roads less traveled. I certainly sought this experience when I was planning my first trip to Chile’s Patagonia. I had wanted to visit Patagonia since I was 17. Its wild, remote, and rugged landscape was exactly the kind of far away place that I longed to challenge myself in. It represented the unknown in the best kind of way. So when I got the chance to spend a couple weeks there in March of 2019, I knew I didn’t want to pass my days in the footsteps of countless other eager tourists. I was determined to experience the “real” Patagonia.
As my partner and I began researching options, we soon realized that going “off the beaten path” in Southern Chile might require a little more creativity and due diligence than we’d initially expected. Many of the gorgeous places that make the region so popular for outdoor enthusiasts require visitors to hike in a particular direction on a particular trail, or pay to stay in pre-selected and often crowded cabin-like accommodations, or hire a guide. Reserving the exact dates and locations months in advance didn’t align with my 17-year-old’s vision of a Patagonian adventure in the jagged and wind-ravaged landscape I’d spent years fantasizing about. With a little more research, we found a different option. It was not much more than a footnote in one of our guidebooks and we loved that. We would do the circuit hike in a mountain range called Los Dientes, or “The Teeth,” located on the 955 square mile Navarino Island, home to the world’s most southern commune.
Two weeks before our projected arrival date in Navarino Island’s largest town, Puerto Williams, (population 2,874), we read about a group of backpackers who got caught in a snowstorm and had to abandon the same trail we had chosen. It was autumn in Patagonia and the drifts that descended on the group were too deep for them to safely continue their journey. My teenage sense of adventure was delighted as we continued preparing for our trip. “Now that’s the Patagonia I’ve been longing for!”