Mile for Mile: A Film About Trail Running and Conservation in Patagonia

Quality. Running brings quality to my life. It gives me a chance to be wild every day. To be free. It shows me who I am at my core. It’s a pure way to see the landscape. Just one foot in front of the other. My Name is Jeff Browning/Krissy Moehl/Luke Nelson, and I’m a runner/trail runner/ultrarunner. When I heard about the project in Conservacion Patagonica I wanted to come see the work they’re doing to help this land thrive and return to its natural state. The idea would be to come down and use running to tell a story about Conservacion Patagonica. To run 100 miles through through the future Patagonia National Park. Through the Jeinimeni National Reserve on the north and connect via Chacabuco to the Tamango Reserve in the south, connecting the cities of Chile Chico to Cochrane. We’re connecting two ecosystems, two habitats for wildlife and that gives you a northern habitat of glaciated mountains to the grasslands of the valley, and traveling through all that on foot is a great way to celebrate that connection. The importance of this project is to bring awareness of what truly is happening here. We get to celebrate a success. So many times in environmental activism we don’t win the fight. And here, they are winning. I would like to avoid fuzzy teeth later. I still have to get my stuff in my coat. Taping up my nipples. No chafing. Chafing nipples suck. It’s bad. Bloody. The hike with Kris made me feel fortunate. Frankly, just to be able to listen to her talk about the land, about the work that they’re doing. I could feel her deep love for wild places. When somebody asks me why here instead of someplace else, I say first of all, just look around you. That’s a hint. This was the opportunity of a lifetime to work on one of the largest grassland restoration projects in the world. I have a long history of coming down here to Patagonia. I first came in 1961. I thought, wow, this is an incredible place. I wonder if anybody ever thought about the possibilities of conservation here. Patagonia National Park is a project we conceived almost 12 years ago now, to buy Estancia Valle Chacabuco, to see that the grasslands and forest begin to restore themselves and unite that with two national reserves that are contiguous to the valley. We want for people to get out and fall in love because you will not protect something unless you love it. Unless you go out into these hills, and the wind is in your face and things hurt, it’s raining, it stings your face, that’s when you fall in love. 27.5 miles, 27.6 to a little over a marathon and it’s been mostly all up hill, slowly uphill. It’s windy with a strong head wind. I’m starting to feel it a little. We’ve probably got another 15+ miles of uphill and it might be breezy, I think there’s a chance of wind. Weather forecast for today: wind. On top of wind, with a side of wind, with more wind. Wind coming up your rear, wind coming in your face, wind coming in your armpits and in your hands. Valle Chacabuco was a livestock ranch for the last 100 years. The former owners did not make the expected profit, so they sold Estancia Chacabuco. In 2004 Conservacion Patagonica acquired the land. The project was the creation of the park but to make this become a reality, several things must be accomplished. In terms of restoration, the #1 thing to do in these kinds of landscapes is to get rid of the domestic animals, in this case sheep and cows. It’s like the old expression, it doesn’t take a doctor to know if someone is sick. You didn’t have to be a ranch land manager and a field ecologist to see this landscape here in Valle Chacabuco was sick. It was a mess. It’s night and day from what it was. In parallel with that, we should remove fences, which for over a century were barriers for some wildlife. 450 kilometers of fencing have been removed so far by volunteers. The landscape without the fences is totally different. Conservacion Patagonica was interested in this land because of its high biodiversity of Patagonian species like huemuls, foxes, guanaco, and pumas. One of the main reasons for this park is to keep the huemuls from going extinct. It’s very fragile, there are only about 1,500 deer left in the world. Trying to keep this nucleus intact and expanding is one of the focal points for conservation here. We started the park with 4 females and 1 male. Now we have about 30 huemuls. It would do it a disservice to put into words what we saw. We stopped immediately and stayed there for a while. Valle Hermoso. Beautiful. Amazing! The Luke Quote of the Day is, “My stoke meter blew a gasket.” It was awesome. So worth it. Yesterday we had the opportunity to attend a sheep shearing. They do that once a year and the sheep that are on the land were chosen to stay. A small group to produce wool and provide an economical advantage for the park. Yesterday’s experience with the gauchos and helping shear sheep, do some of that manual labor took me back personally to growing up on a farm, hard work every day. Long hours. The camaraderie of working with a bunch of guys, joking and working with livestock. Also it made me reflect too, on how their way of life here is evolving over time. I believe we must keep ranching here because culturally it is very important for the locals. We want to show that wildlife can successfully exist alongside ranches. Once were moving it’s not bad. It’s just that when we take a little break, it’s hard to get moving for 20 or 30 steps. You get a little creaky. Things tighten up a little faster today than they did yesterday. Just in time to climb Tamanguito. We’ve got about a 4,000 foot climb up over Tamanguito – the high point for the day. And then somewhere between 10 and 20 miles of fun to get to Cochrane. I think closer to 20. I’m psyched! It’s going to be awesome. When we have this park finished, when our part is finished, and the government is willing to accept the donation of the property that Conservacion Patagonica has, and all the infrastructure, we are giving it all away to the state. Personally, I can hear my biological clock ticking very loudly in my ears. We have a lot of projects to do, and to finish before were finished. We’d like to say goodbye to the world having helped to create a national park. They are the gold standard of conservation. They represent a good form of social equity. They belong to everyone. Tamanguito! We’re somewhere near 100 miles. We’re kind of tired, a little slap-happy, but getting close. Feeling better. We can see Cochrane and some epic mountains around us. It continues to blow my mind. We tried to hustle a little bit expending that last little bit of energy, letting go of everything that we stored up to that point, and there’s a high that comes from that, from pushing that hard, pushing those resources out of your body and the adrenaline that pumps. And then we drop into the final stretch and back into Cochrane and finish in the town square which has a huemul statue right in the middle of the park which I thought was fitting. We ran 100 miles in 2 days but we’ve been down here for 2 weeks and there are lots of experiences that led up to getting to do that 106 miles and have that 106 miles make a lot of sense. The more our planet expands and the more population booms, the more we need to protect places like this. That is a must. I hope that this makes people consider what they can do to keep their backyard safe. What is it that makes them feel connected to something bigger than themselves. Whether you’re a trail runner, or whether you’re a weekend warrior and dad, you need to use whatever resources are available to you to try to make a difference. Whoever you are, wherever your interest lies, whatever you’ve fallen in love with, you get out of bed every morning and you do something. You act. You step into the fray. You fight for a human society that is in balance with the natural world. This is going to be a great day. They’re going to raise the Chilean flag with pride and joy. I’ve been around a lot of national parks in a lot of countries and this is going to be one of the great ones. When complete, Patagonia National Park will be over 640,000 acres, roughly the size of Rhode Island. The next step is to build over 50 miles of new trails to connect the part to the local community and visitors. If you’d like to help, donate to Conservacion Patagonica and Patagonia will match your donation, mile for mile. Visit

57 thoughts on “Mile for Mile: A Film About Trail Running and Conservation in Patagonia

  1. Awesome video about the future Patagonia National Park 🙂

    Donate to Conservacion Patagonica, and Patagonia will match your donation: (link is from the end of the video)

    Direct link to the donation site:

  2. Doug Tompkins………how the heck are you? Just watching this film About Trail Running and Conservation in Patagonia and up pops Doug. Good to see your face. I worked for you at Esprit for almost 20 years. Sales rep. in the northwest. Tim Claveria. 

  3. what an amazing coupe… giving themselves to this project. Conversation is something we should all be involved in… small steps help the bigger picture

  4. What a weird concept, conservation. White western worlds think that building a larger national park system is what the world really needs. White savior complex. What about focusing on why it needs to be conserved in the first place? The Indigenous form of conservation is leaving things alone and living in harmony with it. Not setting up parks to exclude classes of people from it. There's always this idea that westerners need to come in and make better use of the land than the indigenous people there, because we don't know how to use it. Alas, look at all the commenters and the majority of trail runners. You'll notice a trend. They're white westerners fascinated with returning back to the simpler more "primal" traditions of the people who were killed off of the lands they now want to preserve. As Native people we know things move in circles, and it was only a matter of time before white westerners realized the truth in simplistic living, but it's annoying as hell when it's presented as a new idea and made to seem like indigenous communities need white intervention to make things better. 

  5. First step in saving the landscape. STOPPING ANIMAL AGRICULTURE (Their words not mine). Veganism is for the planet.

  6. A Film About Patagonia’s Supply Chain: Legitimizing Environmental Capitalism and American Exceptionalism in Patagonia!

    These actors are the new post-modern “conquistadores” wearing expensive clothes made with exploited labor! Trying to escape from their antagonistic "modern" world following a simple motto: "in search/conquer angelical adventure playgrounds in uncivilized place…another neo-colonial/imperialistic intrusion in other people’s affairs. This is the reality of Patagonia in the 21 century, it is a big business of green consumerism and corporate environmentalism. In other words, a big theme park, scientifically planned, inspired by northern/western models of nature, and controlled by wealthy tourist and transnationals “conservation” protocols.

  7. I ve got back into trail running a few weeks ago, its great, I love it. My personal health plan changes each week, I thought I knew what I wanted then it changes. Starting with heavy weights in training to gain mass, I've changed my thoughts over a few weeks to weight training, not too heavy bulking in mind to HIIT and trail running. its great balance. Living in northwest England, the landscape, hillside is wonderful, love it.

  8. So egotic/bourgeois/american as a whole !

    -"we want to keep ranching because it is so important for the locals" => decide for them… just couse you bought it all outof them
    -"we run for 2 says but stayed here for 2weeks" => 2 weeks on the other side of the world sound long to you ?
    -"the more the planet expands, the more the population booms the more we need to protect places like this"
    => world or local population surely don't boom they just grow and it is no issue for food or energy as those people are (saddly) poor. But for sure any additional prick like us, full of over wasting habits, is an problem ! Just as a reminder, the planet does not expand and that is the very reason why we must reduce by 4 our consumptions.

    -The fake overconsensual greenish speech in the end is quite a must, so much in line with the american conservationism based on the likes of rich tourists to decide what should be protected or left to unleashed companies. This reminds me of the romantized birth of american national parks, quickly forgetting the native americans and small landowner exluded from those places without a chance to live along wildlife simply because it must be pristine for the postal card. Then comes the "scenic" highwaw and the dynamite groomed trails to cater for tourist masses…
    "Waste hard, trek hard"
    I hoped americans had evolved from that but now I doubt …. I read a NP is the only way to prevent Mining, that

    Done with criticism, I guess they are alternatives !
    If I got it right, the only environmental problem down there is overgrazing that erodes teh land and compete with local mamals. This could be simply solved through land management by the local authorities as it is done in most places and given the poor economics of the grazing it looks like it was on its way to faint by itself.
    On the other hand this "Gold standard of conservation" paves the way for masses of tourists. Their 50miles of trail to "connect the comunity" will soon be flooded with transcontinental tourists dropping from planes for "long" vacation of 15days ….
    Is that what you mean by "connect to nature" ?

    My (naïve ?) mind is that the fence could be quite easily removed by the rancheros/locals onhorses and simply cutting open the wires would have been an easy and nice start. In comparison I would be curious to know massive is the CO2 impact of all those northern hemisphere plane trip for "activist" advertizers and marketing guys. Come on, bring out the figures and please don't bring another naïve carbon offseting scheme !

    Of course NP is nice because it is "future proof" vs Minig plan for instance. But there is no point protecting a minor area if the rest can be mined right ? so this is still on the government responsibility to rule this out. So many NP kind of "allowed" for destructions right next door…

    A broader context :
    This whole thing ecapsulates so much the "consciousness washing " of rich conservationnists.
    True ecology obviously starts by takin planes as rarely as possible and running locally instead of "tripping arround the world".
    Bying Patagonia is probably better than many other brand but if these kind of commercials are what makes Patagonia so close to unaffordable … it is depressing ! Are patagonia gear more expansive because of their "standards" or just because of their premium shop and all the marketing things ? As every dollar given to the marketing and premium distribution quickly converts into CO2 and many waste. I am seriously wondering if we wouldn't act better by choosing affordable&durable gear while giving remaining money to NGOs, tree planting and likes !

    Ecology HAS to seek affordability so as to be massive and have an significant impact. This is obvious but in that perspective the "exclusive" distribution/princing/marketing of Patagonia is really depressing. Where is the good in helping an over wasting elite to green wash when shoping on high street ? While it lets the other feel bad because they cannot afford this "Green blessing"…

    That's it Patagonia, I am done. Many european brand are truely eco friendly and great : Vaude, Haglöfs,Picture, Mammut, Helly Hansen…

  9. And what a way to say goodbye to the world Douglas.
    Hopefully human kind will be eternally grateful.
    I know my family and I are.

  10. Awesome! Whatever you motivation to get outdoors and conserve wildlife is something you should pursue tenaciously!

  11. I think I’ve watched this video like a 100 times and I have finally decided to go there this summer and run the hell out of it! Proud to say I’m Chilean and I love the beauty of my country #inspiredbynature

  12. Actually recent research in stopping "desertification" and reclaiming desert lands show that proper rotational grazing of the land by livestock is required to keep the land fertile and productive. The old thinking that livestock was destroying the natural habitat has been proven wrong. See the current works in the grasslands of Africa.

  13. Great to see areas like this around the world being conserved. Its such a tiny fraction of what is being destroyed every day.

  14. Hypocritical one minute world banks screw countries, other minute whites invade land to make it a "preserve" and enslave local people. Ever seen how whites always engage locals for low wage contributions like extras on a movie set. Genuine horsecrap.

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