Parque Nacional Huerquehue may not be big in size (30,000 acres), but it is home to some of the Chile's oldest and respected trees. Araucaria trees (Monkey Puzzle) are evergreens and at their tallest can grow up to 250 feet. They have thick branches and cones. The seeds from the female cones are suppose to be delicious, though I've never tried them. I've heard people in Chile say they have made jam from the seeds. It must be wonderful! The araucaria trees have a restricted distribution, mostly growing at higher elevations in the temperate forests of Chile. These columnar trees are also living fossils, dating back to early in the Mesozoic age. Some of the trees I saw today, likely have lived over 1,000 years!
The araucaria tree also has great social and cultural significance to this region. The seeds are an important part of the Pehuenche indigenous people's diet. The characteristic forests are unique and beautiful and are emblems of the national parks and provinces in Chile and Argentina. These forests were quite a site to see!
I caught a morning bus from Pucon to the National Park headquarters, which was a small building with enough room to allow visitors in to charge an entrance fee. I was given a map and then I stepped outside. I had to really orient myself to the area before setting forth, but the trails were well marked and many people from the bus began hiking the same trail along with me. The trail started off through campsites and some agricultural land, but then quickly turned to dense forest of coigue trees. The trail climbed steeply through the forest and I had to take many breaks! I'm calling this my first hike of the season! The destination was a basin with many lakes, three of which the trail took a loop around. After reaching the first lake, I got my first view of the araucaria trees!
I noticed many treasures along the way including waterfowl, lizards, wildflowers, bamboo, trees, and much more! I meandered along the trail getting more glimpses of this wondrous landscape at every turn. I met some hiking companions on different portions of the trail, including two young woman from France and a man from Hong Kong. For lunch, I spent an hour relaxing along the shores of Lago Toro, a beautiful blue mountain lake. Meanwhile, birds I've never heard before were chirping and making a racket. I had a really good time!
Below are some photos of the treasures I found along my way!
Above: Araucaria trees were thriving at every turn in Parque Nacional Huerquehue.
Above: A close up of an Araucaria branch.
Above: A view from the shores of Lago Toro. This was one of my favorite perspectives.
Above: Vibrant and healthy chilco (fuschia) plants were growing everywhere!
Above: I found these beauties in only one spot. I love them.
Above: This small lizard reminded me of the geckos I've seen in Hawaii as a kid.
Above: The top of an arucaria. The shape reminds me of a bulb or a mushroom top. They each grown at different levels to create a very unique canopy.
Above: A glimpse at the temperate forest I spent much of the day walking through.