After coming back from Tierra del Fuego National Park, Guillaume and I decided to rest a day in Ushuaia and then head back out for 2 more days of trekking. We saw a route in maps.me (a wonderful offline map application) that linked Laguna Esmerelda to the Sierra Valdivieso Circuit.
On leaving Ushuaia we decided to hitchhike to the trailhead and had really good luck getting to the edge of town from the center. When we got to the end of town we registered with the police for safety and then started trying to hitchhike again to the trailhead which was still another 10km or so further out of town. Unfortunately, it took us a while to catch a ride but eventually we did.
The hike up to Laguna Esmerelda was very well marked and beautiful. It only took us a couple of hours and the path was fairly easy. It is a very popular day hike and we saw several people on the trail. Upon arriving to the laguna, we stopped to have lunch and enjoy the view. We then continued onto what turned into quite the adventure.
As we left the laguna, we quickly discovered that there wasn’t really a marked trail so we ended up having to climb up the hill through thick brush and we were walking on this sponge like plant that was very wet so our feet got soaked. We continued using maps.me to stay along this either very old or non-existent trail. After several hours, we finally saw a trail marker near Refugio Bonete in the middle of the Sierra Valdivieso Circuit.
From there, we headed to the left to hike through the valley next to us versus continuing north to do the complete circuit (this takes several weeks.) While there was a trail it was VERY wet and muddy but we continued on. The trail was very challenging to find at times because there were also a lot of downed trees due to the invasion of beavers in Ushuaia. While I have heard about the problems invasive species can cause I have never seen the effects in person. It was devastating to see how one animal could completely change the water patterns and plant life of this entire area. From a personal standpoint though, it was kind of neat though because we were able to see a beaver in one of the lakes and observe it for a while.
After several hours of navigating through the downed trees and wet ground, we finally made it to the “camp” that was on the map only to discover that it was sitting in several inches of water. At this point it was 10pm so we decided to go back into the forest we had just left and pitch the tent there where it was dry.
The next morning we woke up to rain….which is definitely not my favorite thing when camping. (I.E. packing up a wet tent is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves) However, we got motivated and left camp around 10:30am. We found a rough trail right along the nearby lake and walked for about 30 minutes. Then the fun started because we had to cross the river. Due to all the rain, the river was much higher than normal and the river crossing shown in the map didn’t exist. After walking through thick brush for about an hour trying to find a crossing we decided that our only option was to wade through in where we hopped it wasn’t too deep.
By this point, our shoes and clothes were already soaked through and so we didn’t even bother taking off our shoes to cross the river. Luckily, the river was right at the point of being too high to cross but we were able to without a problem. While the river did reach my waist, it stopped right below my pack which was great.
After crossing the river, the trail got much easier because this portion was well marked and didn’t have a lot of downed trees. We were able to get back to the road after 2-3 hours at which point we hitchhiked back to Ushuaia. While this hike was definitely annoying at times due to the downed trees and difficult river crossing, I enjoyed how we were the only ones on the path and that it was an adventure. I definitely won’t forget this experience!