Sustainability through Food

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Sustainability through Food

“If you have an idea, even if it’s not what you ever imagined yourself doing, go for it. It’s better to try something and fail, than to look back and never have tried at all.” - Marcy Miller, Owner of Organic Sandwich Company

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If you follow us on Instagram, you probably have noticed that we enjoy meeting people and tapping into their secrets about how to live as awesome human beings. We're constantly learning from the amazing people we get to work with; from the most deep down, true, honest tips for a long and healthy marriage to the most efficient ways to compost. We love getting to know people; it's our passion.

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Of all the projects we've worked on since being in Colorado, there was one that really stood out for us. We were drawn to Marcy because of her obvious dedication to running a sustainability conscious and locally driven company. This is her story.

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Marcy Miller grew up in the midwest. She learned from a young age how to cook with ingredients grown in her own backyard. This was something that she ever forgot, and she went on to use this knowledge later in life to create something bigger. After deciding that her original career path was not where her heart was, Marcy went on a mission to bring a new concept to her community.

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Marcy, with her sister, fought their way into the Boulder Farmers Market with a new idea. They took advantage of all the goodness that was brought to one place, and use it all to create their own specialty item. They went around to local vendors’ stands, bought their products, and used those goods to make and sell sandwiches. And, Organic Sandwich Company was born.

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What started as a Farmer’s Market takeover has now evolved into a thriving business on Boulder’s most visited street. Marcy’s original passion behind buying and using local, organic ingredients still holds as a strong pillar of her business, and that's one of the things we love most about Marcy and her Sandwich Company; she never lost vision of her strong and intentional business practices. You can hear it in her voice when she speaks about the environment and how important it is to her that she makes a positive impact to support her community; this is more than just a job to her.

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“We care a lot about serving local products. It’s important to me that we support our local friends and help our local entrepreneurs out, and keep our money in our local economy.”

We feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such inspiring individuals who are making a positive impact. Old Saw Success Stories in a nutshell!

PC: Thomas Deschenes / Andrew Bydlon

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Surflandia

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Surflandia

A couple weeks before the end of our trip, there came a point where the reality of going home became strong and present in everything that we did. Things started to unfold and we could count down the days and could imagine what we would do each of those days until eventually getting on the plane to come home.  After our time in the Atacama Desert we headed back to a place we had stopped for a few days earlier in the trip. A couple of family members flew down to spend a week with us in Chile and met us at this spot.

It’s a place we both connected to and couldn’t think of a better place to end our time, Pichilemu.

Pichilemu is known for it’s surfing, hands-down. The town is usually crawling with people, vacationing from Santiago and in town for big wave surf competitions. Our experience was quite different, the town felt like a ghost town with half of the businesses open and the other half gated off and locked for the slow season. Thousands of people usually crowd the sidewalks and overtake Pichilemu, which was hard for us to imagine walking down empty sidewalks. It’s one of the best-known surf spots in the world and it was really obvious why. The waves never stopped. Laying in bed at night we could hear and feel the intensity of the waves growing and eventually crashing on the shore.

The second we got into town (the first time) we could see surfers peppered along the shore, various distances out, bobbing up and down on their boards waiting for the waves to break perfectly. That was the reason we came here, to get in the water and see if we could catch a couple waves ourselves. Instead of staying right in the town of Pichilemu, though, we headed a couple of minutes south of Pichilemu to a different beach called Punta de Lobos, another very popular surfing beach and the beach most people actually see in pictures if you were to Google “Pichilemu.”

We were able to stay in an awesome cabana by the water and we spent a couple of days surfing, walking the beach, hiking around the giant rock structures in the water of Punta de Lobos, and chasing sunsets that always seemed to creep up on us.

We even felt our first earthquakes here, which was a new experience for both of us and had us on tsunami watch the remainder of the night (the small earthquakes we felt are very common here.)

The weather was consistent with that of their “fall” season, quite a bit of cloud cover during the day but usually a couple of hours of sunshine during the evening. It wasn’t perfect, but it was probably the reason we were able to relax as much as we did while we were there. Wake up slow, light the wood stove, enjoy our coffee while watching the waves and surfers ride past our window... It was all of this and more that brought us back here for a second time, and we didn’t care how many buses we’d have to take to get us there.

The second time in Pichilemu was a little different than the first. We stayed in a smaller cabana, just big enough for the two of us which was perfect and cozy with places for our toothbrushes and socks and all of the other small things that made us feel at home. When we arrived at the cabanas, the owner (whom we’ve gotten to know and have a lot of respect for) told us, “It’s going to rain.” Which it did. For five days straight.

It wasn’t exactly a part of our plan to have it raining the entire time we were there but we didn’t care. The rain made for guilt-free hours upon hours of journal writing, movies, reading, building fires and reflecting on the last few months. Reflecting and mentally preparing ourselves for some reverse culture shock.

We went back to Duluth with a positive outlook on the future. Between our photos and everything we’ve written down we hope to carry this subtle yet life altering feeling with us for as long as possible.

We hope to remember all the little things that added up and had such an immense impact on us; the way the ocean smelled in Pichilemu, the sensation of floating effortlessly in the salt pools in Atacama, the way the locals said “hola!” with an accent we never could quite master, and the faith that no matter how lost or confusing things may seem, no matter what comes our way, things will come together and work out. 

Exactly how they’re supposed to.

 

 

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The Land of Atacama

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The Land of Atacama

The Atacama Desert. 41,000 square miles of the driest non-polar desert in the world. With an average of less than one inch of rain per year, some areas have no rain fall on record. Scientists have compared some of the most aired stretches of soil to that of Mars. I think it’s safe to say we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into.

Another 40 hours on buses took us north to San Pedro de Atacama, where we spent a few days soaking in the intense desert heat and being surprised by the beauty we had highly underestimated. The bus ride itself was intimidating, driving us into a never-ending plane of sand and moon rocks.

A place long deserted with highways of cracked, broken sand where water once flowed and abandoned villages diffused across the terrain.

To be honest, we weren’t really sure what all we were going to do when we got there. We had seen many photos of breathtaking views of stargazing and had that strong on our list but beyond that, we were pretty much just taking it by day. And we ended up doing much more than we anticipated. From stargazing, sunsets, floating in salt pools, navigating through geyser fields at dawn and trekking around highly concentrated mineral lagunas, we had our hands full with activities.

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On our first day out exploring the lagunas (which were so highly concentrated with minerals the water is not digestible for humans), as we were hiking around we both started to feel a little… loopy. Light headed and short of breath, we realized all at once that we hadn’t taken the altitude into account. After spending so much time in Patagonia we figured altitude wouldn’t be an issue for us. We found ourselves needing way too many rest breaks and getting short of breath going up and down three bus steps.

After we were officially out of Patagonia we had contemplated whether or not we should send some gear home. Our down jackets, some random cookware, clothes that had seen better days.. Our second morning in the desert we headed out to start our day, the earliest and coldest morning to date. We had every layer of clothing on that we had with us including our down jackets and still froze our asses off. The only thing that kept us going was the intermittent, short-lived heat waves we felt from the geysers. Yes, at 4:30 in the morning we found ourselves navigating a geyser field. As first light was getting closer, the steam from the geysers rose up like chimney smoke, scattered throughout the hills like land mines. Animals wandered in and out of the steam like they were lost, confused from all of the random shooting, boiling water. Definitely a scene that made us feel like we were in another world.

Our options for getting around the desert were few, and for most of the activities we had to book an organized tour to do so. Most days started really early in the morning and went later into the evening, full days packed with exploring. The first day was great but by the time we were on our last day of tours, we swore we would never book a tour again. Luckily we figured out that we could do our own tour within the tours. We could usually break away from the group for a while and do some of our own exploring. In Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) we were able to go off on our own and explore some salt caves and snap some photos.

We have had freedom for the past few months to explore at our own pace, and having the organization and time constraints of a tour wasn’t exactly our cup of tea. Between that and the amount of selfies taken constantly around us, we were ready to be on our own again. When it was time to watch the sunset in Valle de la Luna, there were hundreds of people crowded around, sipping Pisco Sours and taking endless photos of each other jumping, frozen in time mid-air. But, one thing the desert is definitely not lacking is the amount of open space. All we had to do was walk about three hundred meters away from the crowd and we felt like we were watching our very own desert sunset.

The only thing we had expectations for going into the desert, as we said, was the stargazing. We took a bus out of town, away from the city lights, to an observatory where an astronomer explained things about the many galaxies and the stars, the moon, pointed out constellations, and so on. It was so interesting to hear about the stars that were closest and how long it would take to travel to the closest one to Earth (80,000 years in our fastest space craft!) We also had the opportunity to look through many telescopes that were pointed into space at different things like Jupiter, different galaxies and star clusters. At this particular observatory, we were able to look through the largest telescope in the Southern Hemisphere! It was an amazing experience and was worth the trip to the Atacama Desert for that alone.

As much as we appreciated our time in the desert, it was time to head back south for the last week of our trip in a place completely different than the desert and close to our hearts. Pichilemu.

 

 

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WWOOF Chile

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WWOOF Chile

After weeks of traveling around from place to place, we were starting to feel like we needed a change for a couple of weeks.  Constantly traveling for a long length of time can be exhausting and after a couple of months on the road we were ready to stay put and get to know a place a little better. It might sound weird but having that much time away from work made us start to feel like we needed to get our hands dirty and work on something.

We needed a project and something to contribute our time for a good cause and something bigger than us. We explored a few different options and eventually decided WWOOFing was our best option.

WWOOF stands for World Wide Organization on Organic Farms. When you sign up for WWOOFing you are provided a list of organic farms in the country you choose and contact information. There is also a small description from the farmer about their farm, number of volunteers they take at one time, what your responsibilities will be, etc. From there you are responsible for contacting the farms you are interested in and all other coordinating. In return for your work the farmer provides a place to stay and food at no cost to the volunteer. 

Our experience was a little different than we expected. What we thought would be a farm turned out to be a small homestead just outside of Pucon, Chile. There was one large garden, three greenhouses of different sizes, fruit trees and potted plants scattered throughout the property.

Our daily responsibilities were quite basic, keep the plants alive and harvest whatever is ready to be eaten. What we thought would be hard work at a farm turned into a couple of weeks that were a lot simpler and much more relaxing than we had anticipated. One of our favorite things about this farm is that we were able to stay in our own cabin in the woods. We had our own kitchen, bedroom, shower, and wood stove. It was such a good feeling to have our own space. It was definitely a place we recharged and got ready for our last few weeks of our trip.  

Our humble abode for three-weeks

Our humble abode for three-weeks

We also very much enjoyed the large raspberry patch and picked berries every day; which our bodies appreciated after many, many plates of pasta and red sauce (and if we were feeling fancy a few green olives thrown in.) One thing we didn't expect was for our host to leave for a week in the middle of our stay. During that time we were pretty much just house sitting, taking care of the dogs and a few other miscellaneous tasks.

Sam. Deaf and going blind, this guy stole our hearts during our stay.

Sam. Deaf and going blind, this guy stole our hearts during our stay.

We weren't complaining, we had amazing views of 3 volcanoes from the back deck and an outdoor tub to use. Not too shabby for our first "WWOOFing" experience. 

We also took advantage of the time to focus on getting some work done, organizing photos and getting some things down on paper. Definitely not a bad view from our outdoor office! 

When all was said and done, we didn't exactly do the back breaking, grueling work that we had been prepared for, but we did do some hard work and put in some long days with more than enough rests days in between. We also got to try out some provided farming clothes were obviously flattering. We're definitely going to chalk it all up to some good memories! 

Now we head North, way North!

 

 

 

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Trekking Patagonia: Part 2

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Trekking Patagonia: Part 2

After getting a taste of the Grey Glacier in Torres del Paine National Park we decided that we needed to get even more up close and personal with one of the more accessible parts of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field; the Perito Moreno Glacier. The Grey Glacier made our hearts skip a beat, as it was our first look at the second largest ice field on the planet. But there was something about being able to stand directly in front of the Perito Moreno glacier, see the ice cracking and splashing into the water below that made us yearn to get even closer. 

People wait for hours hoping to catch a glimpse of a giant section of ice plunge into the water, or even better yet, to see the “ice bridge” collapse, which happens about every four years (and happened only one week after we saw it!)

We decided to go out with a guide for our first glacier trekking experience. We strapped on our crampons and headed up one of the slippery, icy ridges on a side of the glacier that had hit land. There were pools of deep blue water that had formed from melted glacial ice and rivers we could feel underneath our feet making tunnels and mazes. Our guide encouraged us to take a drink from one of the pools, as it would be the purest water we could ever drink. So we did, each of us sticking our whole faces straight into the water. It was the only water we’ve ever tasted that could give Lake Superior a run for its money. We felt like we were in a different world.

In every direction there were towers of ice in all shades of blue for as far as we could see. Every now and then we’d have to take a leap over a dark, deep crack in the ice, which would snap us back into reality. When we came to the end of our trek we came up to a single wooden table close to the edge of the glacier. On the table were a few glass tumblers and a bottle of whisky. Our guide pulled out his ice axe, chipped some ice from the glacier straight into our glasses and poured us a round. It was the icing on the cake after our unforgettable day trip on Perito Moreno.

From Perito Moreno we headed north on a 24 hour bus to explore a different neck of the woods, a city called Bariloche. The town wraps around the southern shore of Nahuel Huapi Lake, lined with stony beaches and rock-ribbed bluffs.

After a couple of days getting a feel for the city and enjoying the lake we headed out to hike to a place called, "The Frey," which is a popular climbing destination and just one of many beautiful hikes in Nahuel Huapi National Park. We took a city bus to the trailhead, only about 30 minutes from the heart of Bariloche. The trail was bone-dry and the sun was hot, a change that felt so necessary after the continuous wind and cold we’d been experiencing for the couple of months previous. We couldn’t have been happier to be hiking in our shorts and have the option to take a water break without having the sweat freeze to our backs. The trail never felt so good. Spirits were high as we trudged along the first section. It held it's elevation for the first half and then took a drastic turn straight uphill, reminding us that if we wanted to reach our campsite we would have to work for it. This was one of the most challenging stretches of trail we'd come across up until this point, but damn, was it worth it.

A small lake had formed at the top from snowmelt, and surrounding it were the most broken, craggy looking rock faces that looked like enough wind from the wrong direction would send them tumbling over. It was like someone went around making gigantic rock cairns and topped them all off with a piece that didn't quite balance right. So, naturally, we had to climb them.

One of the best days we've had on our trip was the day we spent scrambling all around these enormous, highly stacked boulders. Hours and hours of climbing as far as we could get without a rope, we were in our happy place. From the top we were level with the towers that seemed so overpowering from the bottom. We had panoramic views of the hills and valleys, and Refugio Frey which seemed to blend in with the rest of the house size boulders. It's bright red shutters were our landmark from up above. 

Refugio Frey is a small, rustic style cabin with a full kitchen, dining area and sleeping quarters in the loft. It usually offers full meals and a small selection of wine and beer for a fair price. Those who hike up to Refugio Frey with packs full of climbing gear and no room for a tent can pay to sleep on a bunk in the loft. Refugios are common in National Parks in Argentina and Chile. They're a great alternative if you don't have room to pack all of your camping gear but still want to experience places you can only get to by foot. While we opted for the camping option, we'd be lying if we said we didn’t assist with the kicking of the keg of artisanal beer they had on tap.

Hiking around this different side of Patagonia was a good change of pace for us. We couldn't wait to see what else the "Lake District" had in store for us. 

There have been a few times on our trip when we've felt moments of going back in time. Even for just a few seconds we can feel it profoundly. It makes us take a second look at our surroundings as we simultaneously do a mental past-vs-present comparison. It's a privilege we don't take lightly, finding ourselves in areas where time seems to stand still and local practices continue to hold their importance. A place called Cochamo in Chile was one of those places.

Cochamo was the hardest place for us to get to this far. We hitchhiked from a city called Puerto Varas to Cochamo and from there walked to the trailhead just outside of the main part of town. Hitchhiking is very common for travelers and locals in Chile. They're often very generous and will take you farther than they had originally planned to go out of the kindness of their hearts. Some people we've met along the way had hitched their whole trip, making it their main form of transportation. Usually whoever would pick us up would have us hop in the back of their truck with our packs. 

It took us roughly 3 hours to hike from the trailhead to our campsite called La Junta, in the heart of Cochamo Valley. After hiking through continuous mud under the thick rainforest canopy we finally reached an open green pasture where cows were grazing around the scattered tents. We felt like we’d arrived in Yosemite National Park 100 years ago. There were maybe 50 other people camping in the entire valley while we were there and we rarely passed other people on the trail. There were rugged Patagonian Gauchos on horses, immense granite outcroppings hanging over our campsite and trees that were thousands of years old.  

One of the things we wanted to do when we got to Cochamo Valley was a hike called Arco Iris, which is notorious for it’s steep path. Some stretches were so steep they had established old climbing ropes to use to help shimmy your way up the rock.

This was by far our favorite hike in Cochamo Valley. From the top we had the most incredible view of the Valley and surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Definitely worth the demanding 10 hours on the trail.

Cochamo Valley wrapped up our time in Patagonia. All together it was a rollercoaster of weather, challenging hikes, and rewarding, incredible scenery. We had originally planned a much shorter time in Patagonia, but once we got there we knew it would be hard to leave. We took our time and enjoyed every step along the way. We did Patagonia big, and we won’t soon forget how it felt to be in the presence of these amazing places.  

 

 

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Trekking Patagonia

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Trekking Patagonia

Sun, snow, wind, fog, rain, dry heat, dusty trail, desolate expanses of earth and sugar sparkling peaks; you can find it all while trekking through Patagonia. 

Our first day on the Dientes Circuit, 75+ mph winds were not uncommon while hiking during the day.

Our first day on the Dientes Circuit, 75+ mph winds were not uncommon while hiking during the day.

Packing for a few months at the end of the world was a challenge in itself. What do you pack when you're going to a region notorious for its fast changing and extreme climate? The answer is, some of everything. That's probably the most exciting part of hiking through Patagonia. You can start a day in your tent, teeth clenched running in place in your sleeping bag to keep warm to shorts, sunscreen and dust grit in your eyeballs ten minutes later. 

You should totally go. 

If you're looking for a true test of your mental and physical strength, head first to Puerto Williams to hike the Dientes Circuit on Isle Navarino, the worlds southernmost hike. Even though the island is almost impossible to get to and hard to leave, it's completely worth it and you'll find yourself wishing you spent more time here instead of the popular Ushuaia, the island’s neighbors just across the boarder in Argentina. The town has a quaint, relaxed feel and time will start to feel irrelevant as soon as you step off the boat.

Puerto Williams, Chile

Puerto Williams, Chile

Often overlooked by crowds making their way to Torres del Paine, this is Chile's most remote trek, known for it's stunning views of the "Teeth of Navarino," and difficult navigating system. The circuit is outlined to take five days, four nights but we were forced to hike it in 3 days because of flash floods and a state of emergency on the island due to extreme rain. The circuit markers were few and far between. The advice we'd heard from others who had gotten lost out there was starting to make sense. We would breath a heavy sigh of relief every time we heard each other shout, "Rock pile!" Which meant one of us spotted the next rock pile (cairn) left by other hikers, letting us know we were on the right track.

"Rock Pile!" 

"Rock Pile!" 

We had to be careful about when we would trust these clues though, we never knew if the previous hikers were just as lost as we were. Sometimes we’d stand in one spot and see rock piles in every direction, so we’d have to trust our gut and try to ignore the confusion. Even farther apart than the rock piles were the legit trail makers called "landmarks" that are coordinated with trail map. We were pretty confident and even getting cocky by our last day on the circuit because we had yet to get lost. But on our last day we found ourselves bushwhacking in mud up to our knees, in the dark. Nowhere near any red lines or landmarks.

Karma.

We heard about this trek by chance from another hiker at a hostel we stayed at on our way south. We took a leap of faith traveling all those extra miles to experience it for ourselves. Even though we endured the most uncomfortable conditions trekking by far on this circuit we would absolutely recommend make room for the Dientes Circuit on your list. 

Paso Virginia, The Dientes Circuit

Paso Virginia, The Dientes Circuit

If the Dientes sounds like it would put a little too much hair on your chest, you may want to start out farther north in a town called El Chalten in Argentina. Here you'll find the breathtakingly beautiful Fitz Roy mountain range accompanied by Cerro Torre all wrapped into a trek you can do in just three days.

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

When we first arrived in El Chalten we weren't even sure where the Fit Roy was; whether we'd have to catch another bus into Los Glaciares National Park to the trailhead or if we would be able to reach it from town. We’d been told by a number of people that they'd been in El Chalten for days and had never been able to see the Fitz Roy because of the cloud cover, so we started to get a little nervous. Later that evening we stepped outside to run a couple of errands and there it was, in all its glory. We could see the Fitz Roy perfectly from town and actually found out that we could reach the trailhead by foot, just a short walk from the town center. Since the trail was so easily accessible and camping was free in the national park we didn't waste any time. The next day we hit the trail, slightly disappointed that the clouds had come back and were covering the tops of the mountains.

The cloudy Fitz Roy.

The cloudy Fitz Roy.

We hiked to the base of the Fitz Roy traverse on a moderately difficult trail that afternoon and set up camp. The next morning was one we will never forget. We woke up around 5am to completely clear skies, a full moon and so many stars it didn't seem real. Admiring the peaks being illuminated by the moonlight we noticed two faint flickering lights in the distance. We quickly realized the lights we had spotted were headlamps and people were hiking even higher and closer to the base of the Fitz Roy on a trail we didn't even know existed.

The view of the Fitz Roy from our tent.

The view of the Fitz Roy from our tent.

We made an easy decision to grab the camera gear, breakfast and a sleeping bag to stay warm, and head to the top for sunrise.

After about an hour on a very difficult trail we made it to the top, just in time. It was a sunrise like we'd never seen, orange and pink streaks across the sky and painting every single peak red.

The picturesque Fitz Roy at sunrise with Laguna De Los Tres and glacier below

The picturesque Fitz Roy at sunrise with Laguna De Los Tres and glacier below

The hiking that day was just as incredible. The skies stayed clear for us, showing off Cerro Torre, the whole Fitz Roy traverse and showering us with sunshine.

Cerro Torre

Cerro Torre

Maybe it was the fact that we hit such an amazing weather window or because it's just that incredibly beautiful, El Chalten and hiking in Los Glaciares exceeded our expectations and remains as a solid first on our list for hiking in Patagonia. 

Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy

If you're not quite sure if you have it in you to grin and bear the Dientes, but are looking to be one with nature a little longer than the 3 day trek of El Chalten, then maybe the very popular Torres del Paine is a little better suited for you. 

Paine Grande Camp, one of the park's entry/exit points. 

Paine Grande Camp, one of the park's entry/exit points. 

Torres del Paine National Park was a conflicting, bitter-sweet experience for us. To start on a positive note, we were surrounded by stunning beauty around every corner of the trail.

From the towering, horn shaped peaks of the Cuernos, to the Torre (3 granite peaks that give the park it’s name,) and the magnitude and presence of Glacier Grey, it is not surprising that people travel from all over the world to see the park this time of year.  

Overlooking the Grey Glacier.

Overlooking the Grey Glacier.

We, among many others put this gem near the top of our list to hit while the weather was good in Patagonia. 

The Cuernos.

The Cuernos.

It was hard to put into scale just how massive the Andes were when we were hiking below them. Just as we thought we'd seen the highest peak, another layer of even bigger cliffs would appear as the haze was burned off by the sun. Condors (the national bird of Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia) would hover above us looking like ants even though they have a wingspan that can reach 10.5 feet. 

3 Condors hovering below the clouded Cuernos in Torres Del Paine.

3 Condors hovering below the clouded Cuernos in Torres Del Paine.

The downside to all of this allurement is that Torres del Paine (TDP) attracts a number of people that the park is not prepared to handle. The high season of TDP is December-March, summer time and the short time of the year when it's less likely to snow (side note, it still probably will.) Hundreds of people had taken over the campsites. While we were there, there was no permit system or limit to the amount of people they allow in the park per day. The campsites never turn anyone down, they just keep piling tents in, packing them as close together as possible to maximize profit.

Paine Grande Camp

Paine Grande Camp

Wildfires in the park a few years back lead to a ban of any type of fire in the park including the use of cooking stoves outside of the park's assigned cooking areas, which meant shoulder-to-shoulder people trying to cook in a room the size of your living room. They had also banned camping anywhere but their few designated campsites. Anyone who breaks the camping/cooking rules face consequences of up to $2 million chilean pesos in fines and a lifetime ban from Chile. Conditions were unsanitary and overcrowded. This many people in such close proximity, a lack of infrastructure, and nature’s inability to keep up with the crowds was a recipe for disaster. Shortly after leaving the park one of the campsites was closed after around 35 people were hospitalized from an "unknown" cause, likely contaminated water.

We hope the national park management will be more mindful in the future about the well being and conservation of this delicate landscape. 

Hiking in southern Patagonia was exactly what we expected in some ways, and in others a complete shock to the body and mind. We got our arses handed to us on a few sections of trail, kept trudging forward when the weather got tough, and proved to ourselves that we are capable of more than we know. We were taken back in time, forced so step outside our comfort zones and reminded of how important it is to protect the wild places we have left.  

Resupplying the refugios the old-fashioned way.

Resupplying the refugios the old-fashioned way.

Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 of our Patagonia exploration.

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Longing for Lake Superior

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Longing for Lake Superior

It might sound crazy, but we've got the homesick bug. We miss that brutal Minnesota winter. It's weird, being away for a while and the things you remember when you think about home. Like swearing out loud when you have to run out in your boots and pajamas to start your car fifteen minutes early for work, or those times you realize that scraping your car windows is the biggest workout you've had in weeks. Even so, we think most people who live in the North Country agree, even though we complain about cold we all secretly love the weather extremes and all that comes with it. We even love talking about the weather, I bet everyone talked about it at least once today. 

There's a common theme forming as we travel around.. "Where are you from? Canada?" Well, it's a fair guess but when we say we're from the states and more specifically Minnesota, the response is usually the same.. "Damn, it's cold there isn't it?" Oh yes, it is. And when we check the temperature in Duluth and do the conversion to celsius to put it into perspective, there's usually a moment of silence followed by an interrogation of why we'd be stupid enough to live there. But really, we feel proud that we have enough grit to stick it out through multiple days in a row when the temperature doesn't break zero. We couldn't imagine it any other way. 

We've had another realization while abroad. We talk about where we're from way too much. When we're sitting with a group having a conversation, usually one of us will blurt out (before even realizing what's happening) a sentence that starts with, "Oh that reminds me of where we're from," or, "Back where we live..." And we can see the boredom start to set in and feel the kicks under the table from each other signaling to change topics quick before we lose them. People start to get the, "Well if you like where you're from so much why don't you just go there?" look on their face. But we can't help it, we love talking about Duluth and everything that makes it such an amazing place to live. Almost everything we see here reminds us of Duluth in some way. Which confirms it, Duluth really does have it all. 

Most people who visit Duluth make their way north during the summertime or early fall to see the leaves change. And rightfully so. Who wouldn't want to take a drive up the north shore on a crisp September morning and count the ships coming while drooling over the autumn leaves?  Or take a barefoot walk along the beach at Park Point looking for sea glass? People who live in Duluth know, the long winters endured pay off to be able to rock climb, mountain bike, trail run (to name a few) in one of America's best outdoor cities. Even when it's warm we seek out the cold. Lake Superior never allows us let our guard down and is the perfect remedy for those few days during the summer where we can't seem to take enough layers off. 

Those who live in Duluth also know there is a list of activities just as long waiting to be tackled during those sometimes never-ending winter months. Even though some days it feels like pulling teeth to get outside and spend an afternoon skating or getting out on your cross country skis for a loop or two, we can admit, the winter blues start to fade away when you can reward yourself for being so brave with a healthy glass of a local brew. That's what makes a true Duluthian.

So to all of our friends and neighbors who have settled into that inevitable "funk" that's common for this time of year, remember... despite the days when we swear we're staying in bed until the temperature is above our age, and when we need to send personal apology letters to at least three people for the things we said when it was below zero, there is a reason we call Duluth our home. There are many beautiful reasons we choose the northern life for ourselves. 

Because there aren't many places where you can do almost any outdoor sport with a view that never gets old. A place where you can watch the seasons change and rotate your outdoor gear in the garage accordingly. A place where almost everyone who lives there knows what a good thing they have going, and are committed to keeping it that way.

As much as we value our opportunity to travel and have new experiences, it makes our hearts full to know we have such an incredible place to come home to. 

Duluth, we love you. See you soon.

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Gateway to Patagonia

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Gateway to Patagonia

Patagonia is a place we've been reading about, seeing photos of, and researching for years. It's the prevailing reason we came to South America. We wanted to see for ourselves what makes this region embodying Chile and Argentina so exceptional. 

Our next stop after Buenos Aires was Puerto Madryn, Argentina, a small coastal city known for whale watching and penguins, our first official stop in Patagonia. It took us about 18 hours by bus to get to here, a trip that seemed like an eternity. Traveling by bus certainly took longer than taking a plane but it put into perspective for us the massive distance we were covering.

Watching the countryside go by through the windows was never ending, it reminded us of driving through the Dakotas back home at dusk. Hazy horizon, abandoned shacks roadside, farm trucks pulling 5 trailers, more abandoned shacks, crosses along the roadside, barbed wire fences, windmills making revolutions in slow motion. We had heard many times how desolate this part of Argentina is and it wasn't exaggerated. 

We made it to Puerto Madryn early in the morning and set out to find our next Airbnb. Our host was amazing again, welcoming us and helping us plan out our time in the area. One place she highly recommended to us was a place called Punta Tombo, where half a million penguins travel to at this time to find their same nest and same mate they return to every year.

She even offered to drive us there, and we instantly took her up on the offer. When we arrived at Punta Tombo we started seeing penguins before we even got out of the car. They were everywhere, hiding out in their nests and walking in front of us, close enough to touch. We hiked out to a point where we could see them swimming out of the water, poking their heads out for air a few meters from shore and lying down on the warm rocks as soon as they reached them.

They would rest only moments before quickly making their way upright and heading instinctively in the direction of their nest, clearly on a mission. It was entertaining to watch them tediously flinging dirt while fixing their nest or see the chicks sleep walking in the warm sun. The ultimate bird watching. Seeing exotic animals along the way is always a highlight for us. 

The next day in Puerto Madryn we put our PADI certification to good use. Punta Loma is a nature reserve about 15 minutes by boat from Puerto Madryn. There is a stable colony of about 600 sea lions, with a few elephant seals in the mix. Punta Loma is the only place in the world where sea lions have been documented to approach humans and play with them.We were skeptical at first, concerned with the well-being of the sea lions, wondering if it was in the best interest of the seals to be interacting with them. After some research we felt better about our decision to encounter them up close.

Our diving guides (Aquatours Buceo) were among few with permission to dive with the sea lions. They must follow strict guidelines regulating the number of divers in the water, how many boats in the area, etc. Those with permission to dive the area are closely monitored from shore, ensuring these guidelines are followed. There is absolutely no feeding of the animals. The nature reserve also closely watches the colony to ensure our presence has no negative impact on the sea lions. 

After reorienting ourselves with our diving equipment we dove in off the boat and swam about 30 meters out. From there we made our descent, following a lead rope to the ocean floor as it had rained the night before decreasing the clarity of the water. Our guide signaled for us to come to our knees on the bottom, and there we waited. Less than 5 minutes later three appeared, quickly coming into focus through the stirred up water. They were instantly curious, coming close enough to touch. They would bite our flippers, nibble at our fingers and kiss the top of our heads. They would circle around us for a few minutes, disappear and then reappear out of nowhere. The experience of being underwater with them and truly feeling a part of nature for a while was indescribable and a privilege we'll never forget. 

Puerto Madryn is also known for incredible whale watching. Unfortunately we just missed the peak season to whales in the area. During high season people travel from all over the world to photograph the orcas here, not because they're easy to see but because of their remarkable hunting technique. The orcas can be seen beaching themselves to kill sea lions on shore, waiting for the right level of tide to make their kill and the right time of year when there are sea lion pups around. Southern Right whales are also seen daily from shore in Puerto Madryn, if you happen to be traveling through at the right time of year. 

Puerto Madryn was a place we thought was just a stopping point on our way south, but it had much more to offer than we ever expected. The beautiful and expansive coastline was just the beginning of Patagonia and we couldn't contain our excitement for what we knew was just around the next corner. 

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The Heart of Argentina

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The Heart of Argentina

We left MN in the dead of winter with packs filled to the brim and high hopes for the few months ahead. We chose Buenos Aires as our first stop because it of its rich culture and many beautiful and diverse landmarks. BA would also be our best option as our first stepping stone to one of our biggest goals of this trip; to make it to Patagonia.

Flying over the Pacific. (iPhone photo)

Flying over the Pacific. (iPhone photo)

The humidity and heaviness of the air in our lungs was instantaneous as soon as the plane touched ground. We had read that we were entering into the peak summer fever of Argentina, and with our blood thick from the cold we knew it would take a few days to adjust. As soon as we got off the plane we took a quick moment to take it in and celebrate... we'd finally made it. 

Our taxi ride from the airport was mostly silent. Overwhelming exhaustion, the language barrier, and the countryside of Argentina had our minds fully occupied. Slummy neighborhoods and a roadside peppered with houses falling apart at the seams.

Blocks and blocks of poverty stricken suburbs made us feel timid and guilty in a way that we've been so fortunate to have these opportunities at our fingertips. 

We booked our first week's stay through a website called Airbnb, which is a medium for people to rent rooms in their house to travelers. We stayed in Palermo which is an upscale, more modern district of Buenos Aires.  When we arrived we were in awe of the architecture and beauty of his place.

Many different types of flora and colorful paint breathed life into this historic home built in the 1800's. Stepping from room to room we could feel the warmth of sunlight hit our skin from the open ceilings. One of the perks of staying with a host renting out multiple rooms is the opportunity to meet other people traveling and swap stories about tentative itineraries and how many weeks or months on the road. 

Our Airbnb "hostel" was located perfectly, middle of the road among all the different places we wanted to see and photograph in BA. Puente de la Mujer, a footbridge in the Puerto Madero commercial district and La Boca, a neighborhood known for its brightly painted houses, were high in the lineup; along with many notorious landmarks we wanted to encounter some of the culturally significant pieces of BA as well. 

Plaza de Mayo

Plaza de Mayo

16.6 million people in this ever growing city, it was refreshing to see how much of the culture continues to hold on. Argentina is known for its prominent tango scene. Milongas (venue where local people go to tango) are found throughout the city. We were excited to see the real deal, authentic tango BA is known for. When we arrived at the milonga we followed a narrow staircase that lead us to a dimly lit, magnificent room where tango classes were being held. It was clear to us then that this was an old cathedral transformed into a venue, a beautiful space with odd decorations covering the walls as if they'd been put there by accident. 

La Catedral del Tango

La Catedral del Tango

We found a spot along the back wall so we could photograph and observe without being rude. The tangos don't start until around midnight and last until 3:00A.M., typical for this nocturnal city. The regulars trickled in, the music turned over from recorded to live. The dancers, one couple at a time made their way to the dance floor. The tango is an intimate dance, and it was easy to pick out the couples who'd been dancing together for years. Their feet were so perfectly sequenced together and to the music, as if they could read each other's minds. We watched for hours. It was a privilege to see for ourselves one of the cornerstones this culture was built on. 

This couple seemed to make time stop as soon as they took the floor.

This couple seemed to make time stop as soon as they took the floor.

La Recoleta cemetery was another place we found ourselves lost in the history of. Many statues and mausoleums packed into a small area, built for the cities most wealthy families and individuals. Beyond the initial uneasy feeling of stepping into a cemetery came feelings of reverence and appreciation of the beautifully crafted stone work and statues lining every inch inside the gates. Some were so ancient they were falling apart, glass broken, and tombs open so you could see the caskets and burial linens. 

One of the most famous individuals in La Recoleta cemetery in recent history is a woman by the name of Eva Perón, or "Evita." She was the second wife of Argentine President Juan Perón and served as the First Lady of Argentina until she died from cancer at the young age of 33. Millions of people traveled to BA after her death to mourn and pay their respects to this woman they loved so much.

The president had Evita's body perfectly preserved, it went on display for many years after her death publicly and in the presidents home. For many political reasons and because her body was such a powerful symbol of the amazing humanitarian work she did for the people of Argentina, Evita's body was stolen, moved from country to country and even hidden. Eventually many years later she was returned to Buenos Aires and buried in La Recoleta cemetery under three slabs of concrete to eliminate the risk of her body being stolen again.

Evita's grave is still continuously covered with flowers. One of the most iconic women in the history of Argentina, we highly recommend reading further into her interesting and powerful story. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Buenos Aires has a lot of popular modern architecture that is notable in the heart of the city. In the Puerto Madero commercial district of BA, we were surrounded by expensive cars, people in business suites talking on their cell phone in one hand and holding shopping bags in the other. The most wealthy district in BA, we were reminded all too well of our own consumerist society. However in the midst of the distress we were surrounded by some of the most admirable structures we'd seen this far. Puente de la Mujer, or, "the Woman's Bridge," is a well known, well photographed footbridge in the center of Puerto Madero.

The bridge is supposedly called the Women's Bridge because all of the streets in Puerto Madero are named after famous Argentine women. It's also said to be an interpretation of a couple doing the tango.

While feasting our eyes on skyline behind the bridges sexy lines and debating the best angles for photos, we noticed the natural light fading and the lights of the city take over. It was hard to take our attention away from the bridge and the reflection of the lights on the river below. We had much ground to cover to make the best of this night and the blue hour in BA. 

Plaza de Mayo is the main square in central Buenos Aires. The obelisk in the center of this booming city center was built for the first anniversary of BA's independence from Spain.

It reminded us of a less exaggerated, less busy  (BA locals on holiday) Times Square in NYC. Tourists line the streets and political activists gather to march on different nights of the week for different purposes. Enormous billboards flashing Coca-Cola commercials towered over us as we circled the block. The energy of this place is uninterrupted, day and night buzzing with people. We waved down a taxi to take us back to our placid hostel after a long day on foot in the bustling city. 

The next day was rainy, damp and overall cooler than the last few. LaBoca was on the agenda, a part of town known for Caminito, the colorful artist's street by the river and shipping district. The houses here were built from scraps, sheet metal and planks recycled from the ship building yards. Caminito was originally painted by an artist who painted the abandoned streets to transform it into a stage for performances.

It's unfortunate how much poverty lies in this part of BA, a very run down neighborhood with invisible lines dividing the tourist center of Caminito from the rest of the streets.  Today LaBoca is the definition of a tourist trap. Vendors line the streets and are careful not to cross into other's territories.

After our bona fide tango experience, it was clear the dancers asking for money on the cobblestone corners were actors, amateurs at best.

The rain seemed fitting to the emotional state of the people here. Even through we were surrounded by tourism, the simple beauty and underlying history of LaBoca was still appreciated and we understood why people make this a must-see stop during their time in BA. 

It would be impossible to describe everything we saw and did in Buenos Aires. We were pleasantly surprised with how much the city had to offer and how welcoming and approachable the people were. Nothing but good stories and good memories were taken with us from BA. We hope to have the opportunity to return some day. 

Now we head south, a bittersweet feeling. Our next stop, Puerto Madryn, is our gateway to Patagonia and a new chapter of our time abroad.

As we left our host pointed out that his cactus had bloomed, something that only happens once a year. We took it as a sign of good faith moving forward on our trip.

As we left our host pointed out that his cactus had bloomed, something that only happens once a year. We took it as a sign of good faith moving forward on our trip.

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South America 2016

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South America 2016

Sitting at the airport waiting for our flight out of this frozen state.. a moment of reflection is important. 

2015 was a busy year. Starting Old Saw Media on top of our full time jobs wasn't easy. It took sacrifice and put a strain on many personal relationships, including our own at times. The time it took to get a business off the ground occupied almost all of our free time. Very often we had to turn down invitations to grab beers with friends or miss a family event. Learning to find the balance between starting a business and keeping up with our personal lives was a necessary and humbling process, and every day we’re still learning. Through it all we created a business that has opened more doors for us than we could have hoped in the first year. The love and support of our family and friends kept us from getting discouraged along the way. We couldn’t have pulled this off without their patience and understanding of what we’re trying to do. We too can now take a step back and look at the past year and better understand what it all means.

A lot has gone into our decision making process to take our trip. A very grey area made up of business and personal reasons brought us to this idea we had to leave our jobs, move out of our apartment, and experience something completely new; something to shock our systems.

Almost all of our gear for the trip. We both are carrying a 70 liter backpack. (Photo taken with iPhone 6)

Almost all of our gear for the trip. We both are carrying a 70 liter backpack. (Photo taken with iPhone 6)

So many of us have been programmed to measure our success by the “things” we have. We fall under the illusion that having more things will somehow make us happier people. But at what point does the scale tip, and more things make us less happy? None of us know when our time is up, but we continuously sacrifice our time for more material things. How many times do we have to hear people say, “Life just flew by,” before we more closely examine what that means or why our time seems to just disappear? Our theory is that it’s the routine of it all. That’s what makes time slip through our fingers. As adults, our tolerance for taking risks takes a rapid decline and “playing it safe” starts to become expected of us. When was the last time you took time out of your day to do something you love? When was the last time you took up a new hobby or did something that scared you? These are the things that wake us up and reestablish awareness of what surrounds us.

We’re all guilty falling into routines and giving into pressures. We all get to make decisions of how we break free from our own revolving door. For us, it was this trip. Meeting new people and seeing a new place every day, doing something fundamentally different from our every day life is how we are going to change our own lives moving forward. We hope that traveling through South America and being a part of other people’s stories will help us write ours.

At the airport, leaving Minneapolis. January 3rd, 2016.

At the airport, leaving Minneapolis. January 3rd, 2016.

We deeply believe that something positive will be added to every corner of our lives from stepping away from familiarity for a while. And the negative things that are bound to happen along the way… those have value too. 

2016 is a new year and a new beginning. No matter what stage of life you're in, always remember that you’re in control and we all get to decide what our days look like. It doesn’t have to be drastic, small changes add up too. May we all have the courage to continue to reflect on our lives and make positive changes to promote happiness.

What’s going to make you happier in 2016?

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