Refugio JJ Neumeyer is in the mountains above Bariloche. On one of the rare sunny days since we’ve been here, I took a drive up Ruta 40 to check out the fall colors. Apparently April is the time to go so I’m a little late, but I wasn’t disappointed.
Just outside of the southern city limits, I spotted the sign directing me down a dirt road towards the refugio. The road is open and wide for first 10 kilometers or so. I passed a few campos with hand painted signs saying “no trespassing”, as I got closer to the ranch, the tone of the signs changed: “NO stopping, NO TRESPASSING –What part of no, do you not understand?”. I decided not to stop for pictures and kept driving towards the refugio.
I crossed the open plains until I came to a more welcoming sign and entered the Challhuaco Valley inside Nahuel Huapi National Park:
The road narrowed and crossed over several rivers and streams. My tolerance for sketchy bridges has been increasing on this trip, but I did pause before crossing a few on this route. The bridges that were significantly longer than my car made me nervous. I passed a park ranger, he assured me that the roads were fine. I told him I wasn’t worried about the roads as much as the bridges. He laughed at me and waved me on. This one wasn’t so bad:
I preferred the bridges I could see before I crossed. They normally have two planks on either side, it seemed wise to choose the stronger looking plank without cracks in it. I’d aim my tires at the stronger, thicker looking plank and trust that my Corolla is not nearly as heavy as the ranger’s 4×4…. but this one, I didn’t like at all. Because of the incline, you can’t see the condition of the planks until you are already halfway over it. But look how pretty the trees are!!
After that last bridge, the road got even more narrow and switchbacked its way through a forrest up into the mountains. Once at the refugio, there is a wide opening with plenty of parking. I’d guess in the summer it’s packed, but in the middle of autumn (May on this side of the equator), I had the place to myself. There are hiking trails all over the place, and a little cafe at the rufugio. The trails range from about 1.5 – 6 hours.
I chose the shorter hike up to laguna verde, since it was already late in the afternoon. I made some sketches, but apparently didn’t take photos (it is a beautiful lagoon though).
At the top of the peak, the trees were bare. One leaf stubbornly clung to the tree: