From Esquel, we took a trip to the Alerces National Park. Alerce trees are often cited as being similar to the giant sequoias in California (huge and old), but they are technically members of the cypress family. Like redwoods, they are valued for their red-colored wood that is resistant to decomposition and are favored for use in decks and any other construction requiring durability. Due to the desirable quality of the wood, they have been heavily logged and now the limited remaining stands of alerce trees are protected in Chile and Argentina, where they slowly grow in limited temperate rainforest regions. We went into the park to camp and do a few hikes to see these protected trees.
The park has many nice lakes, and fly fishing is a popular activity here. We camped at a small lake (Lago Verde) and relaxed by the lake and did some hiking. The Alerces are really well protected, and they really don’t allow people to hike into most areas of the park. One of the only ways to see them is to take a boat tour starting in Puerto Chucao. You have to walk across the Arrayanes River and you take a nice trail along the river to get to the boat launch at Puerto Chucao. You take the boat across Lake Menéndez, with views of steep mountains and glaciers to get to the small trail to see the trees. Coming from California, and having camped in the redwoods so often, the Alerces aren’t as impressive as redwood forests. The trees grow very slow, and are much smaller than redwoods. There are also few of them scattered around within the beech forests, so it’s not nearly the same experience as the coastal redwood forest where the parks are full of mostly redwoods and ferns.
Since the hiking is really limited, we went to camp by the lake loaded with food and drink. Our first night, we had some excellent spinach cooked in garlic and olive oil salad, spaghetti and malbec wine.
We did some hiking around the lakes, and came across a nice apple tree loaded with nice big apples. In the park, we also saw ferns and arrayanes trees. Arrayanes are interesting trees similar to madrones, in that they shed their bark and change color as their bark peels off.
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