Camping with History: The Restoration of Casa Piedra and Establishment of the Stone House Campground

In the transformation from estancia to park, Conservacion Patagonica is restoring and preserving the most significant historic structures of the Chacabuco Valley.  One of the most distinctive structures is Casa Piedra, or the Stone House, located halfway up the Chacabuco Valley near the confluence of the Chacabuco and Aviles Rivers.  Once a puesto for gauchos working in this section of the valley, the house will be reborn as a park guard station and center of the park’s second major campground.  Several of our team members, or their family members, lived in this structure during its past life.  In a few months, visitors from around the world will have the chance to stay at this special spot.

The Stone House Campground will not just serve as a place to spend the night—it’s a gateway, a welcome, a marker. Visitors arrive crossing the Berkley Footbridge, the first and only pedestrian bridge crossing the Chacabuco River and providing access to the northern area of the park.

Hikers who arrive here have a number of options: make their way up the Avilés Valley and cross the recently constructed Pasarela Pilchera to the Jeinimeni Reserve (23km total); continue on through Valle Hermoso; traverse Lago Verde and Lago Jeinimeni; pass old puestos along the way. From the park ranger station in Jeinimeni, the town of Chile Chico is easily accessible.

Viewed from afar, the Stone House has a look that’s both rustic and inviting. The stones create a natural patchwork and the structure as a whole is at one with the surrounding landscape rather than standing apart from it. These stones come from a stone quarry right here in Valle Chacabuco, and the building itself served as one of the inspirations for the facilities at the main park headquarters.

So, what does restoring and remodeling this house require? Our main projects are cleaning the stone walls, painting the windows and doors and repairing the roof. The stone house will eventually be used as a park ranger lodging/facility. On the inside two bathrooms will be installed along with three offices and a bedroom. On top of that we’ll be adding furniture, installing lights and repainting the walls.

Plans and construction are also under way for various quinchos, or covered cooking shelters. These recycled oak and laurel shelters will have distinctive tiled roofs, some made from recycled larch wood and some from painted zinc. Of course, restoration and construction are not the only projects for the area; we’re also working diligently on improving the surrounding trails. In August of 2013, we hope to have the Stone House serve as a fully functional park ranger station and camping area.

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