Espolon is completely surrounded by a high chain of mountains. The only way to explore this
beautiful area is to go there by kayak and
then trek through the valleys. Although trekking the perimeter of
the lake is impossible due to the sheer terrain.
It appears that the number of snow run-off
waterfalls is unlimited around Lago Espolon
even though the lake is only 16 km long. The
following is our account of our time spent
on Lago/Rio Espolon. We’d definitely do it again – and
spend more time doing it!
Start 10:30 am. Tim and Amy saw us off on a beautiful sunny day. The lake was calm and smooth as silk. Perfect conditions for novice kayakers. We stopped along the lake to see some waterfalls (see the map for location). We could see two twin falls as we approached the shore. We hiked up the falls to a second 12 foot fall with a beautiful clear pool beneath it. The pool was about 8 feet deep. Across the lake from the waterfalls we could see two barns. At 3:00 am we hit the small island at the north end of Lago Espolon. It’s not much of an island anymore. It was still early so we jumped back into the kayak to paddle around the north end of the lake. Lots of trails to hike on. We hiked about 2 km up one and then turned around. It looked like a great day trek up one of the valleys to a glacier. A definite spot for future exploration. Took us 3 hours 5 minutes to cross Lago Espolon (minus our side trips). That night the stars were brilliant as they were every night in the incredible Chilean sky. We had a small campfire and it created a nice ambiance.
Start 10:15 am. We felt great. No sore muscles. Must have been Tim’s expert advice. We attempted to kayak up river and were not very successful. We probably paddled a total of 4 km up the river. We “hid” the kayak, tied it to a tree and left a note on it. We loaded up Scott’s pack with the tent, stove and other gear and I took the daypack, Camelback and food bag. We hiked through the little village of Espolon, a quite little town. There isn’t much there except a school, church and a couple other buildings. All surrounded by fenced off pasture land. After leaving Espolon, we headed back to the river. We blazed our own trail, and tried to stay close to the river. There were a few farms where folks were raising cattle, sheep and some produce. Most farms we saw had a greenhouse and chickens. This area would be a great place for a cabin. It’s very peaceful and remote with little mainstream, “outside” interaction. We saw a couple 7-9 foot water holes along the river with huge trout swimming in them. The water was clear all the way to the bottom! Next time we’ll bring our fishing poles. We set up camp along one of these water holes. We had just eaten dinner and were enjoying some wine when a farmer came by speaking entirely in Spanish. I used my rookie Espanol to ask if we could camp there. I couldn’t get a yes or no answer only long meaningless (to me) phrases. I could only decipher some of what he said. It was clear that he didn’t want us to camp there so I offered him some wine while we packed up our gear. He accepted and watched us pack up. We followed him to his house. He took us into an addition he was building onto the back of his house and told us we could put our tent there. He motioned to the sky and mentioned it looked like rain and we’d stay dry under the roof. He also indicated that he was building the addition himself. All of the 2 x 4’s were sawed with a chainsaw. Quite impressive. After our tent was up, he invited us in for coffee and homemade bread. Delicious! He started up his generator for electricity. We brought postcards of home to try to show and explain to Chileans where we were from. We shared these with our new friend. He seemed most interested considering they included pictures of farms and fields. I asked him if he was married and had children. We learned that he had a wife and two daughters. Imagine their surprise when they found two gringos sitting at their kitchen table when they returned home at 11:00 pm. They didn’t speak English either. We sat up “talking” with the family until about 11:45 pm. The generator went off and we all went to bed.
8:00 am Woke up with sheep and chickens walking around the tent. The farmer had left much earlier for work. His wife and daughter were feeding the chickens and sheep. We gave our thanks for their hospitality and packed up. Looked like it would storm at any minute – dark, ugly clouds, gusting winds and spitting rain off and on. We decided against hiking further up the river just in case the weather got really ugly. We knew getting back across the lake would be difficult if we ran into bad weather. We opted to hike the road which is really an ox path and passed back through the village of Espolon, a herd of sheep and a couple small farms. A cowboy passed us on the road. He had the greatest chaps – big, white, and woolly. We got back to the kayak, repacked and headed out. Once back on the lake, we were greeted with one and half foot white caps, wind and spitting rain. Each swell had the front of the kayak under water most of the time. Made for tough paddling. No cause for alarm though, just difficult to make headway. We ended up setting up camp early in the afternoon on Puntilla de Salazar. It was windy on the point but much less windy than on the lake. We hung our wet clothes on trees and they were dry in record time due to the wind.
8:30 am We woke up to beautiful morning. The weather gods were with us! Humming birds dive bombed the tent that morning. They were apparently attracted to the colors of the kayak which was a few feet away. We opened up the fly and watched a humming bird hover less than two feet from our faces. Way cool! We lounged around in the morning, ate all of our food, watched a bird build a nest in a hollowed out tree branch, took some photos and then packed up. We were back on the lake around 11:30 am. It wasn’t quite as calm as it had been on Day 1 but we had no complaints. We cruised back to the put in with smiles on our faces! It was an outstanding trip!
Important Side Note: Be sure to include empanadas on your grocery list. They’ll last for days and they taste great!