Patagonia Recommendations

Seeing penguins in the wild was a total highlight.

It’s easy to say we had a great time in Patagonia mostly due to tremendous luck with both weather and accommodations. While I don’t like to promote too much, it’s important to give credit and leave some breadcrumbs for other travelers.

In Punta Arenas

  • We started and ended our trip staying with Evelyn at Hostel BuenaVista Patagonia– and would definitely stay there again. Just outside downtown, her place is modern and quiet, and she was a great host.
  • We ate at Mesita Grande 3 different times. Great thin crust pizza, reasonable prices, and a fun vibe. Not to be missed.
  • We booked a tour to see Magellenic penguins in the wild at the Monumento Natural Los Penguinos. Lots of places to book and the tour is well managed for the safety of the wildlife.
  • Sometimes you find a dud: Fusiones has a weird vibe, oversized portions of unremarkable food, and was surprisingly expensive. The service was attentive, but probably because the place was dead quiet.

In Puerto Natales

  • We stayed at Hostel Lili Patagonicus. I doubt it’s different from any of the other dozen hostels that all offer the same things. Tiny room, low price, good amenities for prepping to do the O Circuit (baggage hold, full kitchen, gear rental, etc). Not a standout, but if you just need a place that works…
  • The Doite Himalaya 2 tent that seems to be the most popular rental tent in town did not perform. Very small for two tall Americans, not nearly enough ventilation, and only 1 door- clearly designed as an alpinists bivy tent, not a comfy backpacking tent. Search around for one of the places that rents MSR tents, we were wishing hard for our Hubba Hubba.
  • The original Mesita Grande is in Puerto Natales, and just as good as the one in PA.
  • We stumbled on a gem at La Forastera. The sign is small, but food, service, and selection were totally awesome. I wish we had time to eat here again.

In Torres del Paine

See separate forthcoming post.

In el Calafate

  • We stayed at the Calafate Hostel & Hosteria. It was okay, rooms were simple and we didn’t ask much of the service, but it served the purpose.
  • Pura Vida was probably the best single meal of the trip. Arrive early and prepare to wait, but it was totally worth it. Truly awesome.
  • La Zorra brewing definitely holds up as the regions best beer. Wish we had gone more than once.
  • Olivia Coffee has amazing breakfast sandwiches and proper espresso drinks. We were very grateful it was 2 blocks from the hostel because it was a way better option for breakfast.

In El Chalten

  • It was our honeymoon, so we splurged and stayed at Hosteria Senderos. Amazing views of the mountains from our room, a great restaurant, and a wonderful concierge made our stay truly lux. They were a little surprised at how much we hiked every day…
  • Great meals at Maffia (reservation recommended), Ruca Mahuida, La Vineria, and La Cerveceria. I’d recommend and return to any of these places, and it’s worth knowing none of these are low cost options.
  • La Chocolateria is home for some of the local climbing culture and history. Great hot chocolate and sweet treats, but seating is limited and there is no internet.

In Ushuaia

  • We stayed at our only AirBnB of the trip, a guy named Toni with a spacious, modern condo overlooking the Beagle channel. Very responsive, friendly, and genuinely happy to have us.
  • The only food that really stood out here was Ølmo, a brewery just past the main drag that we literally stumbled into. Doesn’t look like much from the outside and wasn’t in either of our guidebooks. The food and beer options were awesome and it was surprisingly devoid of tourists. They didn’t seem to speak much english, which was great.
  • We had a truly memorable “last big day” of riding horses with Centro Hipico Fin del Mundo. Laura handles the bookings and was great about a last minute request and arranged all the transportation from door to door. Our guide Niel, was Irish, and a total joy. He was responsive to our level of experience and gave us a full tour of the area, including loping along the beaches. A total trip highlight.

The weather may be bad and it’s definitely been “discovered” by tourists, but we’ll remember this one for the rest of our lives. The area clearly survives on tourism and requires those dollars to preserve it. All of these places more than delivered- thanks.

Torres del Paine

Internet is a bit limited down here, which is great because we just spent 8 days completing the O circuit in the iconic Torres del Paine National Park and not staring at our phones. More narrative later, but mostly we are thankful for amazingly good weather and very accommodating park staff. Photos and video:

Our best views of the Torres, right from the start on day 1

Our view from camp at Lago Dickson

Heading higher in the range looking down to Dickson Glacier

Morning on Paso John Gardner

Grey Glacier and “deeper” Chilean Patagonia

Our “rustic backcountry” campsites unfailingly has beverages and proper stemware. Bring your own stove.

The wind grew stronger each successive day. Watch how it lifts the water straight off Lago Nordskogg.

There was a bit off a flood on our way out. The local rangers are *very* confident in their pickup trucks.

We are super lucky to have seen almost all the good stuff before things closed down

Back in Puerto Natales, with spectacular sunsets at 930pm

Penguins

The very first thing we did in Patagonia had been on my bucket list for a long long time. Penguins in the wild.

Isla de Magadelena hosts the birthing grounds for a huge flock of Magallenic penguins, they burrow their nests into the hills to raise their chicks.

Cold, barren, windy- it’s relatively free from predators and allows the chicks to get strong enough to make a 2000mile migration up the Atlantic coast. Only downside, they are clearly quite accustomed to humans, but pretty dang cool regardless.

Winter Break

Tomorrow, we are getting on a big jet plane to Patagonia. Stayed tuned for photos and details. Me being me though, if I’m taking 5 weeks off in the winter, it’s best to start this party with a little *powder*:

‘Sweet with Hunger’

“But as he descended the hill, a sadness came upon him, and he thought in his heart: How shall I go in peace and without sorrow? Nay, not without a wound in the spirit shall I leave this city. Long were the days of pain I have spent within its walls, and long were the nights of aloneness; and who can depart from his pain and his aloneness without regret? Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked among these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. Nor is it a thought I leave behind me, but a heart made sweet with hunger and with thirst.”

“The Prophet”, Kahlil Gibran
Ready for Montana, but not quite ready to leave.

Sunday night we said goodbye to about 25 friends that have made Seattle feel so welcoming to us. Optimism Brewing was light and open, and large enough to avoid the national sporting event we accidentally scheduled over. In 2015, moving to Seattle felt like a sea-change in my life, in my career. Suddenly, I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. My professional and social circles have reached a comfortable singularity. Driving around feels familiar. I came to the city to take and to learn, but instead found more ways to give than I expected.

I’m luckier still that McKinstry is willing to give me a long enough leash to keep my job. To work without the comfortable physical proximity of my team, and rely on my discipline to ensure my contributions retain their value. I refuse to disappoint.

Will miss this view, but not the commute.

It would have been easier if the friends we have made weren’t so wonderful, if the work weren’t so fulfilling, but we didn’t come here because it was easy. The time has moved too fast to fully appreciate the moments and people that have made it special. My sporadic additions to this journal indicate the unrelenting hurry that urban living has foisted upon us.

The city never felt like the place to invest, which feels painful to say in light on the friendships we’ve built. For a while I searched desperately for a sign I should stay, but it felt obviously disingenuous. Reading some Simon Sinek, he points out that it takes a lot more energy to live in a place that you don’t belong, even if you can manage to make it happen there.

Going back to Missoula wasn’t a forgone conclusion, but leaving Seattle was. The moment is more bitter than I expected, but I’m hungry for whatever sweetness is left in it.

Last look at the local legend on our way to Patagonia.

2019: Intention

My lovely step-dad once showed me a little of his spine. “If you want to change your life, just change it. If you know you need to change, don’t wait for some date or time. Just do it.” One day, I’ll get there. Grateful to have just had a really nice Christmas with him in Chicago. Somehow it’s still useful to have a blank slate to reset my intentions. 01/01 is a day worth paying attention to. Change is hard- it takes persistence and encouragement. Regular re-commitment to the goal. Regular practice, and a willingness to fail- often repeatedly.

Resolutions:

-Communicate conflict without aggression. Same passion, same rigor, same intention. Less tension, less aggression.
-Write more than I did in 2018. 12 blog posts minimum.
-Learn to knit.

Some other gentle reminders:

-More Headspace. Less Instagram.
-More climbing, less “training.”
-Less judgement, more observation.
-Less hesitation, more taking things all the way through.
-More working at my very limit. Not just “hard enough”

2018 you were amazing. Welcome 2019, I’m ready for more.


Welcome to the Workplace

Stop thinking you are going to be a “leader” when you walk in the door.

I’ve enjoyed serving as a mentor for the Washington State Opportunity Scholars program over the past few years. I drafted this post a while back, but sitting on some recent interviews and recruiting events prompted me to finish some reflections on what I’ve learned from the really awesome team of young employees I work with.

The typical narrative for emerging professionals is “be a leader!” Every university magazine touts the institution’s ability to train leaders. LinkedIn articles and business magazines buzz with advice about “entrepreneurship” and “innovation.

It makes me want to gag.

The most impressive and effective young professionals I work with encompass a description I learned on a NOLS course: “active followership”. They have found a leader whom they trust, and figured out how to support them really well. Their job hasn’t been leadership.  My department head is the leader- leading is their job, and the best way to support them is being a person that will reliably get stuff done. Sometimes it means leading other employees, but most of the time, it means getting stuff done.  This is active followership.  Here is what I see them doing (and what I enjoy learning to do better):

  • Ask great questions, and don’t be shy about it.
  • Clarify the commitments and expectations being asked of you. Be certain of what you are trying to do, before you go try to do it.
  • Be as knowledgable and focused about the outcome of your assignment as your boss is.
  • Figure out how to run tasks to ground- so that you leave nothing un-done.
  • Make your work as concise, thorough, and on message as it can possibly be.
  • Solicit the opinions of other people in your office (and outside your project team) to provide feedback and input (something your boss might not have time to do).
  • They pay attention to their peers, and actively look to learn from them. They also share what they know without hesitation.
  • They have engineering “moxie”- a willingness, and interest in doing a great job.

This is not traditional leadership. As an entry level employee- or anyone working as an individual contributor, the job is only mildly about delegation, or brainstorming, or innovating. It’s about making things happen.  As I slowly move into a position of delegating more, these lessons remain just as important to set others up for success.

 

Postscript:

A note on “moxie”- it’s the thing that really sets people apart, and deserves more explanation.
>Find something you are passionate about and think that you want to become an expert in. Realize that your time in entry level positions is the bread and butter of your experience- the foundation of your expertise. Get as gritty about it as you can- learn every part. For me in HVAC, that was drafting and installing, not just ideation and calculation. The earliest investments pay the biggest dividends- but they only pay if you stick with it for a long time. If you are trying out different things, do them as fully and deeply as you can- if they aren’t for you, the process will still benefit you when you finally find the thing you are supposed to do. I started my career in this field, but it took me the first 8 years to really feel passionate and invested in it. Had I been more intentional in thinking about the field as a craft and trade, and then more intentional about investing deeply, I would have done much better,  much more quickly.