Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feb 2012 - "Ice Age"

Occasionally life unfolds a bit like a fairytale. Other times more like a nightmare. This unforgettable day was something of a fairytale, wrapped in a nightmare, with a great big bow of luck on top.

Patagonia: It was Day 8 of our April 2011 photo tour.

We were on the trail and, in every way, ready to be off the trail. We were to conclude our trek at Glacier Grey where the boat captain would arrive to ferry us across the lake, to our van driver, then on to our swanky hotel along the Carribean-blue waters of Lago Pehoe.

Though the trail was laced with joys and epic experiences of all kinds, the group was desperately ready for that hotel, a slow dinner, and maybe a fine glass of local Chilean wine.

Few moments in that final mile involved thoughts of the beautiful glacier in front of us. In fact, the only words from my ever-optimistic mouth were “you can do it” and “we’re almost to the boat.” The boat ride out of the park couldn’t possibly arrive at a more perfect time in our journey. The group was ready for it.

“Are you Paul Hassell,” said a tall Chilean man upon our arrival at the small outpost along Lago Grey.

“Yes,” I replied hesitantly.

Please note that having your name summoned upon arrival to a distant wilderness destination in a foreign country is, well… not comforting.

The man motioned me away from my group. The news he shared with me in private was met by denial. All nightmares should be met by denial. A fierce, fiery denial.

“The boat is not coming.”

Apparently the gusts of wind that day were in excess of 140Km/hr. Understandably that keeps captains off the water for safety. I was unaware that not being picked up was even a possibility. Well, now I knew.

Breaking the news to my group was going to be interesting.

I took a moment to myself along the lake while the group broke into their packed lunches. This is where the fairytale stuff happened.

I kneeled to the ground, desperate for denial to pass, wisdom to well up within me, and a good sound decision to be made. God knew. He really knew. And in the moment, I kid you not, a rainbow was drawn from top to bottom across the sky and touched down to the lake where I knelt. It was bizarre. And incredibly comforting. So, in that unspoken way God spoke to me the words, “I’ve got it.”

I grabbed a grabbable-sized chunk of iceberg from the water's edge, marched back to the lodge, set it on the counter, and broke the news to everyone. It was a bit like when my old university would tell a senior student the week of graduation (which they were famous for) that they actually needed one more class to graduate. It was a hard few moments. We'd be staying here for the night.

The quality of light that unfolded later that evening at the base of the lake was something I’d never even dreamed we’d get to see. We were supposed to be at a different lake, without a glacier, on the other side of the park by now.

Because our plans had radically changed, we had the entire afternoon to sit and watch the light break in and out of stormy clouds out over this massive expanse of glacier.

This was the beautiful bow of good luck on top. Hands down, the light display we saw that afternoon was a photographic highlight of the entire trip.

Pillows of cloud hovered low over giant mountain summits. A mile-long glacier breaks off into fragments where freshly sculpted black rock cut steeply down to the lake. Back-lit blue icebergs, within our reach, floated taller than a two-story house. Light pierced through it all and gave it luminance.

Light pierced through it all.

(this continues the series "Stories Behind the Image" appearing each month on this blog in correspondence with the monthly image in your 2012 PHP wall calendar).