Daniel and I love taking day trips. There are many great places that are within an hour or two of a city that are absolutely worth the effort of getting there. We have both become quite fond of hiking, an activity that we didn't have much opportunity to do at home. The beautiful scenery coupled with the peace and quiet make it a physically challenging, yet rewarding activity. It is nice that it is something we can do together; it combines my love of exercise with Daniel's budding photography hobby. We've done a fair amount of hiking day trips, but Huerquehue National Park has been one of our favorites.
The park is about an hour by bus outside of Pucon, and reminded us a lot of Olympic National Park in Washington. Everything was so lush and green, and just downright gorgeous. We took the first bus of the day, and arrived at the park around nine o'clock. The Los Lagos trail is the most popular, and for good reason. The trail winds through the forest past several waterfalls and lakes, offering some of the most amazing views we've seen. I really can't describe the views with words, other than phenominal.
There are two versions of the Los Lagos trail, the "chico" circuit or the "big" circuit. Of course we decided to tackle the bigger circuit, which was a little over 10 miles round trip, with the first part being almost completely uphill. It took nearly eight hours in total, including lots of stops for pictures, lunch, and snacks. Some of the best views were seen after the big loop branched off from the smaller one, so it was absolutely worth the extra effort.
The highlight of the trip were the lagos, or lakes. We saw numerous lakes in fantastically vivid blues and greens, each crystal clear. Each time we came to a new one, we had to just stop and say, "Wow." The one thing that stood out the most aside from the lakes was a particular species of tree called araucaria, commonly called "monkey puzzle". They have massively tall trunks, with branches that go out horizontally that are covered in leathery, spiky looking leaves. I had never seen anything quite like them, and there were literally hundreds of them. We didn't see much in the way of animal life, other than birds, but the landscapes absolutely made up for it.
Overall, Huerquehue was a great day trip. Yes, we were exhausted and filthy at the end of our hike, but it was fantastic. This was our first taste of Patagonia, and it should just keep getting better as we go head south through Chile and Argentina. I can't wait!