Patagonia: Lago Gray Glacier Hike

Last time I posted about the afternoon hike on New Year’s Day to see The Horns.  Earlier that day, we spent the morning walking to see the Lago Gray Glacier.

After crossing a bridge, I welcomed the cool, misty feeling of the forest, and the intensity of the green.  It felt rejuvenating after a long day and a long night.

The Verdant Forest

The Verdant Forest

The day before, one of the bus wheels had blown out on our way to the Chilean border. Pieces of shredded tire were everywhere.  A small square of metal had fallen from somewhere inside the bus and punctured one of the rear tires. Luckily they were a pair. In addition to blowing out the tire, something else was damaged.  I don’t remember all the details, but it was fixed with the plastic tubing of a Bic pen!

But at this moment, it no longer mattered as we descended from the forest onto a wide expanse of stones with gusts of winds bringing us a taste of the glacier, cold and frosty.

The long, rocky traverse to climb up to see the glacier.

The long, rocky traverse to reach the climb up to the glacier viewpoint.

Along the way small touches of color and wild flowers peeped out reminding me that it was summer.

Small, sunny patches of wild flowers grew everywhere, reminding me that is was summer.

Small, sunny patches of wild flowers to warm me up along the way.

We hiked up a small incline to get a view of the glacier far off in the distance.  Ice cubes of bluish, glacial ice bobbed in the water, like a strange Patagonian cocktail.  This past winter has been long and cold; I feel too chilly to show a picture of the glacier.  Brrrr.

And then we went back the same way we came.  The descent with the sunny patches of flowers, the expanse of smoothed stones, a verdant forest and the bridge…maximum 6 people!

El Puente: Maximo 6 personas!

Just to give an overview of the trip, below is a map of the route we took after landing in El Calafate via Buenos Aires.  Red = land travel, Blue = the cruise

Map of the route we took through Patagonia.  Lines in red denote land travel, while those in blue are for the cruise.

Map of the route we took through Patagonia. Lines in red denote land travel, while those in blue are for the cruise.

Los Glacieres National Park = The Ride and Perito Moreno Glacier and

Torres del Paine N.P. = The Guanaco Playland, The Horns and Lago Gray Glacier Hike

After that we drove through Puerto Natales and stopped off at a ranch where we ate a freshly barbequed lamb.  A day later we arrived in Puenta Arenas on the Magellan Straight to board the cruise.  Stay tuned for Tierra del Fuego Island and los pinguinos!

I Forgot It for a Reason

I often don’t give my brain enough credit for the processing it does each day.  When I fail to remember something important I’m quick to be self-critical, chastising my brain for forgetting.  But this doesn’t take into account the thousands of things my brain “deletes” so that I can go through my daily routine unhampered by mundane details that frankly would just clog up the gray matter.

I noticed that a lot of people use social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to capture a moment in time of something funny, cool, extraordinary, etc. with a post and/or a photo.  Surely these small snippets in time are something that you will want to remember forever and ever.  But to me, it’s externally storing weird, silly things that I forgot for a reason. I trust my brain to go through the accumulation of a day’s memories and do some deleting so that it doesn’t get cluttered up.

A lot of stuff I have posted on social media, which admittedly is not much, is nice to have and look at, but if it wasn’t there my life would not be greatly impacted.  Maybe I should feel relieved to have some memories captured in external storage where I can benefit from having them, without taxing my precious brain to remember all these tiny, insignificant things.

In the last year I’ve read about memory apps that will aggregate timelines, posts and images from different sources, social media included, to provide the user with a “memory”.  The apps make connections by linking dates, places and people together, but this is not necessarily how a human brain would remember something.  Human brains link and connect things in all kinds of strange, meandering ways.   Maybe the trigger is a smell, a person, a type of food, or an event.  The path taken to the memory is quite different than the one prescribed by a memory app suggesting how and what I should be remembering when.

Are we losing something by keeping too much or by “forcing” the reconstruction of memories?  I’m assuming many people appreciate the benefits that come with using social media to keep track of events and people and places visited.  If my brain forgets something, I trust the reason behind it and appreciate my brain’s amazing capabilities to do this work for me.

Unsubscribe: A Way to Delete

Every time I attend a conference I dread the email aftermath because I know that the list of registrants gets passed along to all the vendors. This means for weeks, and sometimes months, I am besieged with a relentless torrent of emails advertising this or promoting that. Gmail attempts to alleviate the problem by pre-sorting emails into categories: Primary (for the real stuff), Promotions (ads and promotionals), Social (social media updates), Updates, etc.

This is useful for separating the quality from the quantity, but it doesn’t really solve the problem.   Some years ago I discovered the magic of the “unsubscribe” option listed in tiny, microscopic print at the very bottom edge of the email.  Ever since then I immediately unsubscribe to any lists that junk up my inbox.

Initially I had some reservations because I didn’t want to miss out on updates, even though most of it ended up being flagged to read later and would just sit there for months. Eventually I defined criteria about what I would and wouldn’t keep to read and started cleaning up my inbox by limiting what could come into it in the first place.  I made executive decisions, deleted like crazy and let go of my expectations to read every interesting email I received.  I also started prioritizing which updates were important and which ones I could delete, or unsubscribe to, without any guilt about it.

Unsubscribing has become part of my normal routine.  Last night a friend was telling me about her experience with unsubscribing.*  She explained that she thought of the unsubscribe option when her emails piled up because she fell behind on deleting the updates and newsletters.  Her new solution was to just stop receiving them.  Sometimes we see email apps on our friends’ phones with thousands of unread emails. We were speculating that maybe the pile up happens because people get subscribed to lists and just ignore, or delete, the emails instead of unsubscribing.

If you find your inbox getting crowded with emails you would rather not receive, or you feel guilty because you’re not reading them, unsubscribe!  It’s mandatory for email subscription services to offer this option.  It’s even available for The Deletist, but I hope you’ll keep that one!

On another note, other update options exist via social media channels that don’t involve email, but that’s a topic for another day.


*Inspiration for today’s blog!

Patagonia: Torres del Paine – The Horns

Our last hike at Torres del Paine took place in the afternoon on New Year’s Day.  Although the magical Horns’ twin peaks had been pointed out to us, they were always enshrouded in mist.

The afternoon walk commenced with a quick stop at the visitor’s center placed at the edge of a river and surrounded by fields of multicolored lupins.

Fields of mulitcolored lupins were everywhere.

Fields of mulitcolored lupins were everywhere, including some colors I had never seen before.

After the visitor center, the bus took us to a lookout point of the Horns to eat our lunch in front of the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately the Horns remained invisible due to all the mist, but shortly after, we started our hike to get a closer view of the Horns at this waterfall. The sound of the water rushing over the edge felt cleansing and refreshing.

The hike commenced with this stunning waterfall.

The hike commenced with this stunning waterfall.

The air was cool and moist. As usual, the strong Patagonian winds whipped around changing the weather from warm and sunny to sideways rain in a matter of minutes. The landscape revealed the charred remains of a fire, creating natural sculptures in every direction. The stark whiteness of the tree branches stood out against the greens, reds and oranges of the living plants surrounding them.

Remnants of a fire created natural sculptures in every direction.  Each burnt stumped was so unique it was almost like walking through an art gallery.

Remnants of a fire created natural sculptures in every direction. Each burnt stump was so unique it was almost like walking through an art gallery.

After reaching the second lookout point for the Horns, we rested waiting patiently for them to reveal themselves to us. Despite the winds, the sun was shining for a while and it felt nice on my skin. On the return, we finally got a view of the peaks for a brief window of time before the mist rolled in again.

A rare glimpse of the Horns' peaks.  We were lucky to see them as we were hiking back.

A rare glimpse of the Horns’ peaks. We were lucky to see them as we were hiking back.

Passwords: General Recommendations

Several months ago I decided to start keeping track of all my accounts that required a login and password.  Since I first posted on this topic in September, I have created a list with 60+ different accounts, all requiring a login and password.  I’m in the process of consolidating and/or purging accounts wherever possible, starting with email.  In case you’re wondering how, or why, I have so many accounts, below is a small sample of the different types.

Social Media

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

Financial Accounts

  • US Bank
  • Canadian Bank (personal and professional)
  • Savings/Retirement accounts 
  • Credit Cards


  • Frequent Flyer mile programs
  • Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Hydro/Electric

Professional Accounts

  • Administrator sites for blog and website
  • Email subscription service
  • Web hosting service
  • Memberships with professional organizations

Email accounts

  • Personal (3 separate accounts)
  • Professional (4 separate accounts)

As part of my anal-retentive management of these accounts, I feel pressure to come up with unique passwords for each one that are both easy for me to remember and difficult to hack.  Over the years I have developed different techniques to create passwords which have been fairly successful, even when I have to remember a password that I haven’t used in over a year.

My preferred method is to create a pattern that I can apply to create each password. Then I only need to remember one pattern that I can use 60+ times.  Every 12-18 months, I come up with a new pattern and change all my passwords.  Once the new pattern is established, I update my passwords as I use them so the change happens gradually.

I have had more difficulty in devising a system for creating and remember logins.  This is mostly because logins tend to have more creation requirements than passwords.  Some logins are my email address, while others are a portion of my email address, or something completely different.

To learn more about general recommendations for passwords, go here Tips for Creating Unique, Memorable, and Secure Passwords.


During fall 2008, I was unable to use my right hand for almost 6 weeks due to an injury. Most of the trouble stemmed from my thumb.  For almost a month I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. I had nerve pain.

My friend Ian, who was in treatment for cancer, invited me to stay with him at his parents’ house. That way we could help each other. “Come on over,” he said. “My parents are out of town and my sister is visiting. We have tons of space.”  I gratefully accepted his generous offer.

Ian was doing ok with all the treatments, but still faced challenges. During the day I worked as a reference librarian for Vancouver Public Library. In between patrons, I used to search the system for DVDs of movies and TV series for us to watch in the evenings. Strangers with Candy was a big hit.  It always made Ian laugh the most and the loudest.

One night we decided to make a steak dinner. Ian spent all afternoon slow roasting the potatoes. Once I arrived, we cooked up the steaks and sat down. I was so excited to eat this amazing meal, except that I couldn’t hold anything in my right hand.

I had a hard moment at this point. All of a sudden I was confronted with another thing I couldn’t do because of my hand. I wanted to eat my steak and my crispy slow-roasted potatoes, but I couldn’t figure out how to cut anything.

Ian noticed immediately. “Here,” he said, reaching for my plate. “Want me to cut that for you?”

His gesture touched me deeply, and mostly because he did it in a gentle, kind way. I felt relieved and grateful. Normally I would have felt frustrated at my inability to do such a small thing, even if it was temporary.

He slid my plate over, cut everything up, cracked a joke and passed it back with a smile. Ian used to always say, “I don’t understand why doctors don’t smile more. It doesn’t cost them anything and it makes me feel like a person. Such a simple thing.”

In honor of Ian Tapper, one of my greatest friends.