The first day was planned as an easy one, and we did not leave the camp until 10 am. We enjoyed a good breakfast and took time packing our lunches, picking and choosing from the variety of foods that was spread on a table for us. Not that I ever felt rushed by our guides, even on the days when we had to stick to a schedule. The porters left ahead of us, carrying the dry bags with our overnight stuff for our stay at the refugios.
It was smart of Cascada to set up a slow pace for the first day: all my senses were overwhelmed, and I wanted to take it all in slowly: the colors of the water and the mountains, the smells of flowering plants, the sounds of birds. I could not believe that so much beauty could be concentrated in one land; it almost seemed unfair to other places. In Virginia I would hike for hours through pretty much the same landscape, and be rewarded with a view of a tiny dried-out stream that was supposed to be a waterfall. Here there was something new to admire every few feet: a different shape or streak of color in a mountain, a waterfall, a flower, a bird. You walk another few feet, and see (and then hear) an avalanche of snow coming done a mountain. I was torn between desire to keep moving in order to see more, and wanting to take pictures of everything (though I was never big on picture taking; I had not even owned a camera before the trip). Generous bright growth of the fire bush set the general festive tone, but there were plenty of other, more subtle, flowering plants. We stopped for lunch at a place where a stream was flowing into the lake. There I admired a great variety of arrangements put together by nature: water, stones, and wild flowers.
The weather was great, too. It was sunny all day. I was so grateful for all of this that I started picking up garbage from the trail, and carried it in Ziploc bags. I was hoping that this would make the gods of Patagonia happy, and they would continue to grant us good weather. I even was picking up toilet paper. My teammates probably thought I was crazy when I explained the idea to them, but the guides seemed to be approving of it.
We reached Refugio Los Cuernos with its attractive cabins about 4pm. It was set in a great spot, with a waterfall of its own. I could see the waterfall and the lake from the porch of my cabin.