Ushuaia at Bottom of the World

On our way to and from an Antarctic adventure on the National Geographic Explorer vessel, my husband and I had a little time to spend in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. It was an unexpected part of our expedition, but we found it was a city worth visiting in its own right and wished we had budgeted more time to enjoy it. 

Our first taste of the city was from a tour bus between the airport and a waiting catamaran that would be our introduction to the Beagle Channel. As we drove through town and then into Tierra del Fuego National Park, our guide shared with us some of the details that make this part of the world so unusual. Often a rainy climate where winds can blow up to 75 miles per hour, this is the only place in Argentina where the mountains, sea and forest all come together. This makes excellent terrain when rain turns to snow for visitors to ski, dog sled and enjoy music events that celebrate the longest night of the year in snowy June. The Andes make a sharp turn here at the southern tip of the continent and begin to run from west to east and then underwater down to Antarctica. 

Tree roots grow along the surface of this young land where only a few inches of soil rest on a surface that was covered by a glacier just 20,000 years ago. Beech trees adorned with wild mistletoe make up most of the forest. Sadly, the climate here is inhospitable to trees; it can take up to 300 years for one to fully decompose, and it takes up to 100 years for a new one to grow. A wild plan to increase residency in Ushuaia by introducing 48 beavers for hunters in 1946 went terribly wrong and now up to 100,000 beavers gnaw on those remaining trees without predation. 

Residency in Ushuaia has long been an important goal for Argentina as a way to exercise sovereignty so close to Chile. In fact, the entire territory of Tierra del Fuego is separated from the rest of Argentina by the Strait of Magellan and is only accessible by land on roads that traverse through Chile. Thus, it has been a priority of Argentina’s to entice residents to the territory and establish the country’s position there. The park through which we drove was established in 1960 for that very reason.  

Before that, other efforts had been made toward the same goal. There had been a native population, the Yamana, who had made Tierra del Fuego their home for thousands of years, but missionaries who had discovered them in the 1850s brought diseases that eradicated their population by 1881. Then, the first Argentinian flag flew in 1884. The small settlement the missionaries began didn’t really take hold until Argentina established a penal colony in Ushuaia in 1902 to further promote settlement. The thought was that jailers would bring their families along, and that would motivate schools, stores and businesses to support and grow the small city. 

The prison officially closed in 1947, but now a museum there depicts what life was like for the prisoners who were among the worst in Argentina. Small cells and strict rules were the way of life for up to 600 inmates who inhabited the 386 cells. In the first 20 years of the prison, inmates worked to build up Ushuaia. Not only did they build their own penitentiary, they built the city’s roads, bridges and a 25km train track through town and up to what is now the National Park. Their work groups provided services such as printing, firefighting, electricity and telephones to the rest of the city. It was almost impossible to escape this prison, and very few tried. Their stories are included in exhibits tucked into restored cells there. 

In other wings of the prison, art and culture of the area are highlighted. One exhibit expands on the historical information about the first Yamana people. We had become aware of these fishing people at an interpretive center in Tierra del Fuego National Park, but this museum uses more life-sized dioramas to explain different aspects of their story.  

The prison also devotes space to the special bicontinental relationship Argentina has with South America and Antarctica – one of only a handful bicontinental countries in the world. Penguin species from Antarctica are displayed in icy dioramas and explorers from the Heroic Age of Exploration are honored near plaques detailing their expeditions and models of ships that were important to the history of the area. 

Argentina’s efforts at settlement in Ushuaia have been successful. The population of this university town has grown from 4,600 in the 1960s to over 60,000 now. Downtown, shops sell outdoor gear to explorers headed into Patagonia for hiking or south to the White Continent. A Hard Rock Café serves loyal globe-trotting fans, and gift shops peddle marble penguins and mugs from the End of the World. Argentina still tempts settlers by exempting Tierra del Fuego from any federal taxes, but for us the natural beauty, warm welcome and proximity to so much outdoor fun is enough to lure us back. 


Albatros Hotel:

Visit the Museums:

Explore the Park:

Find out More:

Lesley Frederikson is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at 2023 CREATORS.COM

Rainy Day in Boulder

Staring at the four walls of my hotel wasn’t an option on a recent rainy day in Boulder, Colorado. I had to get out. Fortunately, I had a rain jacket and a sense of adventure. That, coupled with internet access and a good map, had me heading out to explore some alternate things to do. 

I was only one block away from the famous Pearl Street Mall, an outdoor pedestrian mall with shops, restaurants, cafes and galleries, so I splashed that direction first. Windows full of interesting pastas, funky bowls, funny napkins, cookbooks and candies lured me into Peppercorn. This two-story shop is a foodie’s dream come true with jars of hard-to-find items like clotted cream and vegetables marinated in spices and oils. Toward the back is an area of gourmet kitchen tools and linens to decorate any host’s table. Candles nestle here and there among other products, and a wander upstairs reveals household décor for any taste. 

Back outside, I snuggled my bag of treats under my raincoat and kept going. Plenty of shops on the mall sell rain and hiking gear, and I passed several places where I could have tasted one of the many microbrews that call Boulder home. It was a small place called Smithklein Gallery where a life-sized bronze dog waved me into the store. Oil paintings, glass sculptures and a wind-blown dog happily panting out of a real Volkswagen car door are just some of the pieces on display. 

Not far from there was another gallery called Lolo Rugs and Gifts, but this one had handmade Turkish rugs and brightly colored lamps arranged in various explosions of light and color. Some stood alone, others were gathered into multihued bouquets that hung from sizeable chandeliers. Soaps and jewelry are also sold here, but the magical lamps and rugs stood out as cacophonies of color that stopped me in my tracks.  

The rainy mall exhausted, I hopped into my car to go exploring. Years ago, I used to play “get lost” with my brother when we lived in Los Angeles and would do just that – driving into the Hollywood Hills to get lost and find our way out again; we saw amazing things well off the beaten path. This seemed like a good idea for an inclement day in Boulder, too. 

Fortunately, I was in luck. Canyon Boulevard turned into Boulder Canyon Drive and took me up into the Front Range of mountains that make up the westernmost side of Boulder. Steep, rocky inclines flanked me with strong Ponderosa Pines growing straight up their stone slopes and Boulder Creek rushed down alongside the road. Every curve in this windy road was a feast for the eyes. And then, like a gem, Barker Meadow Reservoir opened up in front of me with the little town of Nederland on its far end. 

I later learned that Barker Meadow provides water to the city of Boulder and is a great place to catch trout and salmon from shore, but no boats or swimming are allowed on this shining reservoir that was built in 1910. Those activities would not comply with Boulder’s water regulations. 

Curving around the reservoir I found myself in Nederland itself and decided to stop in for a turmeric tea with honey at the Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt shop. True to its name, the café is literally three train cars put together: a 1905 pullman car, an 1872 circus car that had once been a railway post office car, and a caboose built in 1910. It was off season, so the barista told me I was out of luck for enjoying their signature mini-donuts. But the tea was great, and I was able to drink it in a vintage railroad coach that still had brass window lifts, stained glass windows and patterned red material on the ceiling. I had to wonder how many feet had walked on that hard wood floor. 

Just around the corner on First Street I grabbed a sandwich and some chips at Mountain Peoples Coop after wandering around in a gem and fossil shop and the Rustic Moose where I found Colorado souvenirs for everyone on my list. 

Farther down First Street I found several signs and references to Frozen Dead Guy Days. Evidently, this town made its fame not as the mining town it once was, but because of the frozen man that was discovered in a woman’s back yard in the mid-1990s. She and her son had been carrying her cryogenically frozen father around with them from Norway to California and eventually to Nederland where he was discovered and became somewhat of a celebrity. Now Bredo Morstoe is kept on dry ice delivered bi-monthly by locals and is celebrated in mid-March every year by the entire town of Nederland with their annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival. 

Historic train cars find new life as a coffee shop in Nederland, Colo. OR—Cryogenically frozen Bredo Morstoe inspires Frozen Dead Guy Days, an annual festival in Nederland, Colo. OR – Nederland, Colo., is a small, welcoming village that has an unusual annual Frozen Dead Guys Day festival. Photo courtesy of Lesley Sauls Frederikson.

Heading back down the mountain pass through the towering pines and rocks, I spotted a sign for Boulder Falls and pulled over with several other cars to explore one of the shortest hiking paths I have ever seen – safe for a drizzly day. Carefully carved rock steps lead up and down into a crag between two stone cliffs where a gushing stream explodes over a cliff and signs warn of imminent death for waders and those who would dare to venture off of the trail. I stood in awe of nature’s sheer strength and permanence. These stones, this creek and even some of the towering trees around me had been there long before I was born and would exist long after my demise. 

Boulder Falls gushes out of a crag in the Front Range of mountains just outside Boulder, Colo. Photo courtesy of G Adventures.

As I drove back to my hotel, the rain gave way to dappled sunshine that peeked down through the parting clouds overhead. Bikers and walkers were taking to the streets again, but my rainy adventure had unearthed things I would never otherwise have seen – through art, humor and the sheer force of nature. 


            Play on Pearl Street:

            Navigate Nederland:

            Chill with Grandpa Bredo:

            Feel the Falls:

            Lesley Sauls Frederikson is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


Holiday Shopping Smiles



Be Nice

Everyone hopes to be on Santa’s “nice” list, but the mad rush of holiday shopping often brings out the naughty in people. Freeman Hall, author of the recently released “Retail Hell,” manages to put a funny spin on the torture sales associates sometimes experience, but in real life it’s not so funny.

Hall says shoppers should remember that during the holidays sales associates work crazy hours in stores that stay open late. Commutes are longer than usual because many stores require employees to park off-site, and they miss out on family events, parties and their own shopping time. They are tired, their feet hurt and they have been yelled at by 10 people before you ever arrive in their department. Take a breath, keep in mind that they are someone’s dad, sister or child, too, and be kind.

“The people who were nice always got the best from me,” says Hall.  “I didn’t care about the mean and nasty people – even though I was on commission.”

Here are some of Hall’s tips for maintaining sanity and keeping everyone smiling during the busiest shopping season of the year.


  • A smile and manners go a long way. Nothing ruins a sales associate’s day faster than a Scrooge on steroids. Greet him or her with a jolly smile, not a crabby scowl.
  • Misperception breeds contempt. When you greet a busy clerk who looks right through you, don’t be angry. She is likely working with a customer, answering a phone call, fixing a cash register and delivering a sweater to a dressing room – all at the same time. Don’t get angry, just try again later.
  • Make it fun. Humor is contagious and defuses tense situations.
  • Trust and respect your salesperson.  Don’t turn away great customer service by running away from someone you perceive as a pushy clerk.  They know what’s hot, new and might be tucked away in a stock-room drawer.  Don’t feel obligated to go with their suggestions, but their knowledge might save you valuable time.
  • Shop early in the day. That’s when sales associates are ready to give you their best service. If it’s closing time on a late night, they’re more interested in getting home than in helping you find just the right thing.
  • Let the sales associate know you care. If another customer is being obnoxious, make a funny face behind her back. Then tell his manager what a good job he did in fielding the hostility. His appreciation will inspire extra service for you.
  • Check your holiday diva at the door. Don’t have a tantrum about something over which the sales associate has no control. If the store has run out of boxes or a hot item, that’s the CEO’s issue. Buy your gift boxes at a discount store and shop for the item elsewhere.
  • Exercise patience. If the line is long, there’s a reason. Employees call in sick, people have complicated transactions, cash registers break. Go have a coffee, do another errand and come back later. If you must stay in line, pull a good book from your handbag and relax until it’s your turn.
  • Sales associates are not your servants. Overworked employees do not have time to pick up after you, so pitch in and help. If you can’t hang a dress on a hanger properly, neatly fold it and hand it to someone who can. Don’t leave it in a wad on the floor or shoved in a shoe rack.
  • If you must shop with children, bring books, hidden pictures or Game Boys. Play “Going on a Picnic” and list with them all of the things you’ll bring from A to Z. Everyone in the store will appreciate your effort, and you’ll wind up getting the best service in return.
  • Service matters. Shop at stores that take pride in their customer service and reward their employees for treating you well.
  • Spoil your helpers. Surprise an exhausted sales associate who has helped you regularly over the year with a latte or a chocolate bar. Your effort will make someone’s day, and you’ll probably get tips on hot sale items in the new year.

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