Tierra del Fuego NP and the Death of my Hiking Boots

My hiking boots have reached the ripe old age of eight. During their lifetime they have climbed mountains, traversed deserts, and navigated city streets. They have trekked through rain, snow and sand. They’ve walked on nearly fifty countries across five continents. They’ve lived a good life. Towards the end, I tried to prolong this life with waterproof wax and thick hiking socks, but, with a heavy heart and wet feet, I finally realised, in Tierra del Fuego National Park, that it is time to pull the plug.

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Tierra del Fuego National Park

That morning, Adam and I had awoken excitedly to the sight of snow falling on the city of Ushuaia. And not like the thin layer of London sleet that falls for a week around Christmas, gleefully shutting down all transport while it turns to grey sludge on the road. I mean proper, thick, white snow, swirling around us and settling in a fat, white blanket on the city. Layering our clothes until we lost mobility in our arms, we walked to the bus stop, leaving imprints of our boots in the fresh powder, and dodging sheets of snow that got too heavy for the sloped roofs and fell with a thud to the paths below.

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The bus took us out of the city and deep into Tierra del Fuego National Park, dropping us in a clearing at the start of the trails. The snow, which up until then had been a picturesque view from the bus, now became a freezing blizzard that whipped our faces and sucked any remaining heat from our bodies. I begged Adam to pick a trail, any trail, so we could start walking, and get some shelter. Opting for route three, we headed down an unmarked trail that we hoped was the one we wanted. The trail was beautiful, with beautiful birds flying through beautiful trees, covered in beautiful snow, offering beautiful shelter from the not-so-beautiful wind. We followed the trail around the foot of the mountains, through scenic woodland and lakes, stopping every few feet to take photographs of the landscape and each other’s reddened faces. I tried my best to ignore the sensation creeping into my feet, as I splashed through puddles and crunched my way through snow, but by the time we reached the start of route four there was no denying it. My boots had sprung a leak.

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My socks were soaked through and my toes starting to get chilly as we carried on along the route. By the time we reached the end of route five, which took us to a beaver dam sadly lacking in beavers, my feet were ice cold and I was struggling to wiggle or even feel my toes. I trudged onwards towards the rest stop, in that odd shuffle that comes with not being able to flex your feet. The satisfying crunch of snow had been replaced by a cold squish of fabric with each step. I longed for a fireplace, fresh socks and a warm drink. Mercifully, we soon reached the rest stop- a few wooden lodges, a restaurant, and a campsite where a few brave souls had pitched tents.

The beaverless beaver dam

The beaverless beaver dam

I sat in the restaurant, boots propped up against the fireplace, fresh socks on my feet, and my hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate, feeling like I had all that I needed to be content with life. After we had thoroughly warmed and dried ourselves, we bundled up again in our newly dried jackets, hats, scarves and gloves. I slipped my still-damp boots back onto my feet and we headed out onto the Hito trail.

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Feeling suitably cosy, I gained a renewed appreciation for the beauty of the park. It truly was gorgeous, a postcard view of snow-covered woodland, a clear blue lake and mountains disappearing into thick fog. Unfortunately, this fog meant there was no point in climbing to the viewpoint to get a better look at the mountains, so we stayed by the lake side, skipping stones across the still surface and taking hundreds of photographs.

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That afternoon, we headed back to Ushuaia. My boots and socks were once again soaked through, and I exchanged them for a pair of blissfully thick fleece-lined thermal socks. Propping my faithful hiking boots by the radiator to dry, I begrudgingly accepted the fact that their time had come to its soggy end.

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