We’ve come a long way from the days when the corner of General Urrutia and Arauco streets was home to Hostería Don Pepe, where a group of tired volunteers sought refuge after a very wet trail-building weekend in the Cañi.

The pre-history of ¡école! has much to do with Rick Klein’s obsession with the forest and for its oldest trees. Committed to the conservation of California’s giant redwoods, he failed in his first attempt to find their southern cousin in the early 1970s but landed in the araucaria (“monkey puzzle”) pine country of the upper Bío Bío as a park ranger.

Back in the US, he never could get over his desire to find the reputedly ancient alerce. So, in the 1980s, he setup three expeditions to find the oldest tree in the world. Although that record stayed in California with the Bristlecone pine, Rick had visited some of the world’s most majestic and little known ecosystems while forming friendships with many of the key actors in Chile’s incipient environmental movement.

In those days, information about routes and trails was scarce and sketchy. Expeditioneers dreamed of hot meals and a comfortable bed, thereby confronting the conundrum of outdoor life in Chile: the closer to the forest, the worse the lodging.