Cerro La Campana - Chile, Mar 2nd

Cerro La Campana (The Bell Mountain) is a prominent peak in the coastal range in Chile close to Valparaiso. This is the main attraction of LA Campana National Park which also has numerous trails around the base and several camping areas. I learned about this mountain a couple of years ago and had planned on checking it out being close to Santiago but never had the opportunity. Now, on vacation, we finally were able to do it. Since we were staying with my aunt in Concon, we took a cab early on the morning for the hour drive to Sector Granizo, one of the park entrances were the trail to the summit starts. Once there, we got our permits, geared up, and started our climb. From the beginning, we could see, far up, our destination. We walked first thru part of the camping area following a creek bed that was completely dry. Soon after that, we started climbing thru coastal forests. Even though we’re used to coastal forests here, this one looked different. Being dryer and warmer, the predominant vegetation is Peumo and lower shrubs. Still, it provided plenty of shade we were sure to miss further up. For most of this first section, the views were very limited. We only saw little hints of our destination and Olmue behind us.
Much of the same with little vegetation changes continued while we passed a couple of rest stops and until we reached Sector La Mina (The Mine). At this point, the trail crosses the Granizo Service Road used only by authorized vehicles. We stopped here for a quick bite while enjoying the first real open view of the hike. From this point, the views extend west towards the coast and the ocean which you can see on clear day. We weren't that lucky as a grey haze was hovering over the coast. The other interesting things in La Mina, was the actual mine shaft. There were no signs or information about it just a big shaft that, from the looks of it, it seems it’s been used for nothing more than a bathroom. We didn’t go in investigating as we knew we still had a ways to go to reach our goal. The other interesting or even weird thing, was the cow. Yes, a cow drinking water from a water spigot and then resting in the shade of a small tree. Weird. After that, we started and took the first wrong turn. Instead of following the trail, we followed the service road and learned quickly that we were on the wrong path. We backtracked to the mine were we found the cow now resting in the mine’s entrance, passed it and continued on. As we gained elevation, the vegetation started to thin out and get lower. Little by little the views were getting better. Not only the rock formation were pretty spectacular but expansive views towards the coast were phenomenal. Ahead of us we could see the big rock wall that, at some point we would need to go around. Just at the base of the wall, we got to Darwin’s Memorial. He explored this area and summited La Campana for the first time in 1834. This memorial commemorates that expedition. Then the trail got rocky. We started following the side of the wall as we continued to gain elevation under the shade of the huge rock wall. Looking back or up almost made you dizzy. We noticed that there must be a lot of rock climbing activity in this area as some of the rocks are marked with routed going straight up. After passing a big rock field, the shade was over and we were under the blazing sun. Little by little we continued up thru rock fields and a winding trail as it climbed the base of the rocks to the East end and opening new views of the Andes. Finally the trail made a big turn north and then west again to aim straight to the summit going thru giant boulders. Far up ahead our destination popped into view identified with the Chilean flag. Close to the summit we has our second wildlife encounter.
This time with a little fox. At first we though “cool, wildlife” but then we realized this poor thing was very used to human activity and probably has been fed by visitors. Instead of running away from us or being scared, he started following us from a distance with the recognizable look of “where’s the food”. I have to say that, it was nice to see a fox n such proximity but sad that he’s been fed and not scared of humans any more. We wondered if he would be able to survive without human intervention. At the summit we sat and had lunch while we admired the 360 degree views. To one side we had the Andes, to the other the Coastal Range and to the other the coast. You’ll notice though something very disappointing and I must mention it. If look closely, all the rocks have graffiti painted on them. For reasons I do not understand, In Chile it’s very common to deface or damage natural surroundings with Graffiti. Looking at the writing on the rocks, you can see they have been there for several years so it’s not something that gets washed out with the rain. It certainly explains a lot about the Fox as well. The outdoor culture doesn't seem to exist there.


After relaxing our legs for a while, we started our descend following the same path down. It was a long way down to get back to the trailhead, but out hike didn’t end there. Since we had taken a cab to the park, we didn’t have transportation out of the park. After using the restroom and changing, we continued down on the road to a bus stop were we took a bus down to Limache were we would meet my uncle and aunt – not before having a tasty Chilean empanada



Interactive map

To see the full map, click here




Concón Dunes, Mar 1st

This is one of those little adventures that is not necessarily a hike but still worth mentioning like one of the walks in Aruba. While visiting family in Chile, Val and I spent a couple of days in Concón visiting my aunt and uncle. Almost next to the building where they live, is the Santuario Natural Campo Dunar de Punta Concón (Punta Concón Dune Filed Natural Sanctuary), a natural dune field covering about 110 Acres of which about half is currently protected. There’s been a lot of debate trying to close the protected area to prevent the public from practicing sports that can damage the dunes. Some of that damage can be seen as you drive alongside the dunes on Camino Concón - Reñaca where they tend to practice sand surfing. From the north side though, there’s an area you can walk in and do a bit of exploration. After a very delicious lunch we decided to burn some calories with along with my cousin and his kids by taking a walk on the dunes. We started from the parking area at the end of Avenida Costa de Montemar heading south and uphill. It was quite a workout from the get go as each step up meant half a step backward sinking in the sand. It took no time for our shoes and socks to get full of sand making it even harder. As a compensation though, the views were just magnificent. With a clear, warm blue sky day, the ocean and dunes looked beautiful.


A lite breeze was blowing some of the surface sand so it was easy to imagine how the dunes move thru the day. We followed a line towards a ridge that opened a view of a slope down to the coast. Way down in the distance we could see another place we wanted to visit, the only issue was that it was across the road, way down the dune. We didn’t know if we could get there and cross the road. We gambled it thinking that if we didn’t find a way around, we would have needed to climb back up the hill. Going down was a blast. It was very similar as going down on a snowfield. With each step we took, we slid a bit downhill making it feel almost like skiing. On the side of the hill seagulls were sun bathing and soaring in the breeze. Then we found a fence. For a bit we couldn’t find a way around until we descended a bit more and found a foot path that abruptly jumped down to the road. Once on the road, we crossed and explored the Mirador de Roca Oceánica, a rock view poi9nt on the ocean. It was a great contrast to the dunes we had just come from. After a while, it was time to head back, one option was to hike up on the road and come around behind the building which would have been a longer loop but on the way there, we found a wooden staircase left on the side of a building when it was under construction. We had to use a side fence to reach the stairs and then climb back to the dunes. Once on the sand, we switch back and forth a couple of times to regain the elevation we had lost and get back to the starting point.



Interactive map

To see the full map, click here

Stub Stewart State Park, Feb 22nd

With our trip to Chile fast approaching and a ton of stuff to do before that, Val and I had little chance to plan ahead for a hike. Still we needed to get out and do something before the trip since we were planning on doing a couple of long hikes while traveling. Out of the blue we came up with the idea of heading out to Stub Steward State Park in Vernonia. This park, located north of highway 26 going towards the coast, is relatively new. I do recollect going there several years ago and doing one of the main paved trail to a point where we had to make our on way to a lunch spot. So to me, it was almost like going for the very first time. We looked at several information sites until we found one that combined several trails to make a loop long enough to call it a descent hike. The hike started from one of the parking lots that is located inside the park and overlooks the valley. I could say that his view is probably the best in the entire hike. We combined several trails for a smaller loop in the northern side of the park that eventually joined the Banks-Vernonia trail.This paved trail which I mentioned before is not part of the park per se. It’s a trail that connects the towns of Banks and Vernonia – hence the name. A small section of the trail goes thru the Stub Stewart Park. We stayed on this trail for a while until we veered off and continued south for a lollipop hike that was supposed to offer some unique views that we never got. We did get a good workout though so nothing to complaint about



Interactive map

To see the full map, click here

Drift Creek Falls, Jan 31st

The last weekend of January was Val’s company holiday party at the coast. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to do some hiking, she did a bit of research and found this little hike that was conveniently on the way to Lincoln City. So we packed the car with our nice clothes for the party and weekend and took off in our hiking clothes. Getting to the trailhead is somewhat easy as you have to make a turn and drive away from the Salmon River Hwy and continue, for quite a bit, on a very windy road. We thought, as we were driving there that this would be kind of a secluded hike yet we knew there was a hanging bridge. It was a bit puzzling. Then we landed on the trailhead. It was actually really easy to find as the parking area was full. It seems this hike is far better known than what we anticipated. Most people were coming from the coast though. Right from the start we knew it would be an easy stroll on a very well maintained and signed trail. At first it meanders thru rich dense forests descending towards an unseen canyon. You pass several wood bridges and suddenly you come to a turn with a big square post. Thru the trees you make the first tower of the hanging bridge just before realizing that is quite big. The bridge itself is very sturdy and crosses the canyon with the creek running below it. The most impressive thing though is the waterfall you see at an angle behind you to the right. After the bridge, you can take a short trail that descends and turns around ending right in front of the base of the water fall. It’s another nice view with the bridge high above it. In the description we did note that there’s a second trail, the ridge trail. Going up, we took that detour that follows a higher route and then re-joins the main trail. This portion of the trail is as beautiful as the main trail but certainly receives less visitors. Being a short hike and all, it was very rewarding and highly recommended if you happen to be I the area



Interactive map

To see the full map, click here

Tolinda Ridge, Jan 11th

Winter weather this year in Portland is looking a lot like spring. Lots of rain and relatively mild temperatures. That is making us miss snowshoeing and also being able to do nice hikes. Still, Val and I had to get out and stretch our legs on a trail for a while. Smell the wet ground and see some green. Generally we don’t go to Forest Park because, well, it’s a park but we forget that you can still get pretty far and away from road noises to feel like you are in the forest. Val did some searching and found a very interesting loop connecting several trail in the northeast side of Forest Park. We started our hike from a small and very muddy parking area of Germantown road heading uphill o the Waterline trail. The trail is very easy to follow as it climbs thru dense forests and gets away from civilization and noise. Very soon you feel you’re far from everything. Being a wet day, it took almost no time for us to reach the clouds. At some point we reached the Wildwood trail that traverses the entire park. We didn’t see a lot of people in the area which was nice. At the roughly midpoint, we crossed the Northwest Springville Road and then had to start almost guessing were to turn. This section has a lot of spur trails that can get anyone confused. Our original plan was to take the Hardesty trail and connect then with the ridge trail but we missed the turn. Luckily for us, the wildwood trail crosses the Ridge Trail again further down. We did shorten the loop by missing that turn but the hiked down on the ridge trail back to the lower section. Towards the end, the views open towards the St Johns Bridge that offers some really nice scenery as you return to civilization.
The only bad part is that he trail ends on the side of a bridge without much space. To return to the car, the only option is to walk on the side of the road to the Germantown junction and then follow the road up back to the parking lot.



Interactive map

To see the full map, click here