Cool, Cool River: Geology and Cultural Exchange on the Rio Baker
This past weekend, students embarked on their first extended expedition in Chilean Patagonia. While two-thirds of our group backpacks through the newly formed Parque Patagonia (check out our blog post about the park here,) the remainder of our students will be descending the Rio Baker. Born out of the icy blue waters of Lago General Carrera and the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, the Baker collects glacial fed waters from Rios Neff and Colonia before flowing mightily downstream through ancient landscapes and into the Pacific Ocean. The river is a geological marvel, offering stark and stunning landscapes around each bend.
Although perhaps more notable is the Rio Baker’s human landscape. Through our partnership with the Escualos Kayaking Club (read an article about the club in The Catalyst,) we meet and stay with the Gauchos and homesteaders of the Baker Valley. Some of whom have lived and worked beside the river for generations. These river-accessed ranches provide our students a brief but impactful glimpse into a lifestyle far different than their own. Our student Leaders of the Day use their Spanish skills to request permission to camp and learn from their Escualo friends “las reglas de mate”: traditions and customs governing the consumption of the iconic South American tea. Baker expeditions offer our school a glimpse into another way of life at end of the world. The fact that we get to paddle through this landscape is just icing on the cake.