Answering Patagonia: A Wild Call to an Untamed Land
Posted Apr 03 2013 4:17pm
Before Alaska and before moving into the RV, there was Noble Canyon . It was while running down this much-loved, familiar trail with my good friend Christine Bilange that my eyes were first opened to Central and South American possibilities.
Christine urged me to not disregard my Central American roots so easily, to reconcile and re-connect with my father and my family in El Salvador, and to seriously consider the possibility of returning south for a cheaper and more natural life.
When my legs are tired, my mind is open, and I had 60ish miles on my legs that week. I went on to run a 100-mile training week at Noble Canyon, summiting every day for five days, and spending several of those miles thinking about what Christine had said. Before that day, I had envisioned myself living in the US for the rest of my life. Why not? We had everything here.
I had even scoffed at Shacky’s suggestion months ago that we look into Central/South American living. “Why would I want to go back there?” I demanded. “My parents worked so hard to get us out…”
But I knew that South American living was cheap, I knew that the land was still rugged and raw, and I felt a strong southern pull on my heart.
“We’re moving South!” I exclaimed to Shacky when I met up with him at the bottom of the canyon. He raised his eyebrows.
Instead, we drove north.
And we continue north— toward Alaska . But the South/Central American seed is still there. Shacky has begun following blogs of American expats who are living full-time in South and Central America. He has come up with places to visit, and spots to camp.
I have begun reading in Spanish and following a blog about El Salvador. We have discussed running across El Salvador (only 160 miles!), and I even had the brilliant idea of running from the northernmost point in Alaska to the southernmost point in South America. This would take us three to four years, but Shacky still needs some convincing (maybe include the PCT?).
This month, my dad is in El Salvador looking into charities and logistics to support a run across that country (this would be the first time it has ever been done). He’s doing the legwork as far as security and supplies, and I’m back in touch with him after almost two years of silence.
Many weeks after Noble Canyon and Christine, I found myself sitting in a Volkswagen dealership in Arizona when a Skype call from Nick Barraza came in. He wanted to talk about the Patagonian International Marathon (ultra distance available), the conservation efforts in Chile, and the Patagonian Ambassador Program . His timing was impeccable.
Listening to him describe Patagonia, I knew we had to go there. Nick took me on as a Patagonian Ambassador and I got this lovely profile page , alongside some awesome names like Krissy Moehl and Dylan Bowman. I am truly honored.
But what excites me the most is Nick’s descriptions of the conservation efforts in Chile, and the mountains there. I have a vision of us spending several months in Chile, working first-hand for this cause, and running those mountains.
I asked Nick for an interview to try to express the lure of Patagonia. Perhaps you will also feel drawn to this wild land.
Interview with Nick Barraza
What is it that calls you to Patagonia?
As with any natural area of beauty and wonder, Patagonia speaks to the adventurer in me. The biodiversity, pristine lakes, breathtaking glaciers, and majestic rock formations make this region extremely special. In short, my inner-coyote howls for Patagonia.
How did you get involved with this race?
Now that is a long story! After completing the inaugural marathon in 2012 I had accumulated a handful of ideas along the run. Wanting to aid Nomadas International Group SA (NIGSA) in their quest to promote and aid conservation in the Patagonian region, I initiated contact with the company and offered my support and work in any form possible.
What do you hope that runners will gain from this experience?
I hope runners are inspired to come down to Torres del Paine, Patagonia and partake in this collective and international effort to spread education and inspiration around the conservational efforts taking place throughout region.
Runners will not only be able to see one of the earth’s most precious landscapes, but also dip their feet into Chilean and Patagonian culture. This event connects local Chilean runners with runners from all around the world and brings people together to celebrate the culture and preservation of Patagonia.
How have you been involved with conservation?
Studying and researching as an Environmental Scientist has always led me, in one way or another, to a conservation project.
However, it was not just my degree and path of study that led me to participate in various aspects of local and global conservation. In fact, most of my involvement with conservation has been through volunteering within local communities.
What is your favorite memory in Patagonia?
Ah, now this is wonderful question, and a very special one too! As a result of running the race in Torres (and a long story to follow), I met my amazing girlfriend and partner in crime in the heart of Patagonia.
Little did I know that three months after the race we would both end up leaving our respective jobs to set out on a three-month backpacking excursion through Chile, Argentina, and Peru.
Our journey changed my life in ways I would have never thought possible. The magic of Patagonia is responsible for harboring our initial connection and for that I am eternally grateful.
What is your favorite Patagonia wildlife and why?
Well, I am a big fan of foxes, that’s why I have a dog that looks just like one! However, I am going to go with the region favorite on this one and say guanacos. Let’s just say they have very intriguing personalities and tend to showcase these personalities through spitting at passing trekkers. They are very amusing creatures! Google them!
Besides attending the race, how can people get involved?
For people that cannot make the event, we invite you to join us in our quest to spread education on the sustainable initiatives taking place in the Patagonian region. Connecting with the event on Facebook , Twitter (@PatagonMarathon), and helping us share and promote the race and organizations the event supports.
Also, we invite anyone and everyone to post blog entries, pieces in magazines, local newspapers, etc., to help get the word out there. If you do decide to do this, please let us know, so we can feature your piece on our site and social media networks!
We have also created the Patagonian Ambassador Program. Which seeks to partner with runners, writers, filmmakers, and any one else who is inspired and passionate about our event and conservation in Patagonia. You can view the program HERE .