Tuesday, I took the opportunity to go on a hike I’d been
longing to enjoy with my daughter. It had been over a decade since I ventured
up the seldom trekked eight mile, 2,500 ft. vertical gain route to 13,000 foot
high lake Taita Chugo. The route starts innocently enough with a scenic drive
down a stone-paved backcountry road which ends at lake Llaviuco. Walk through the
natural vegetation tunnel, past the lake and you’re officially on the trail. The
first couple of miles are a stroll up a gently sloping narrow river valley,
framed by two rugged mountains. At 11,000 feet, the crisp early morning air and
overnight dew soon prove the running shoes and jeans a poor choice of attire.
By the time we reach the cliff-framed waterfall that marks the transition to the
intermediate stage, we’re drenched from the waist down. Fortunately, the activity
keeps us warm, so we venture into the cloud forest, up a thin black mud path that
might pass for a game trail. If fairies and elves exist, they surely dwell
amongst the thick moss, ferns, bromeliads and orchids growing on every tree and
stump of that secluded wood. Sure it’s slippery and our pants are thick with
mud by the time we reach the tree line, but the light beaming through the trees
and the stream providing a steady backbeat to accompany the occasionally visible singing
birds inspire us to move on to the advanced stage. Unlike Colorado fourteeners,
at the equator, there is still vegetation at this elevation. Straw, agave-like
plants and tiny mountain flowers cover any dirt that does not boast exposed boulders. As
fate (and a wrong turn) would have it, the next stretch was close to a vertical
climb, grasping on to cracks and any available foliage for leverage. Here breath
was becoming a scarce commodity. We struggle over a mountain and rejoin the
trail, nested deep in a 3 foot wide canyon, climb over the last hill and,
release! The massive kidney-shaped lake poses for us, its sole visitors –it’s past
noon and there is not a soul for miles. We gaze for a few minutes and backtrack
our steps, making our way to the slightly less craggy “official” trail (no downhill
rock climbing for us that day!). Now the trek back! Down. 60° slopes. 30° slopes.
Sight downhill. Car. Then Cuenca, Guayaquil, Panama, San Francisco, Denver. It’s
good to be back! Joyous and glorious as my visit home was, I missed the office.
I missed the hallway conversations. I missed you! And of course, I missed the
donuts. While this morning’s donuts don’t have syringes in them (refer photo 13 of an odd Ecuadorian donut shoppe), they should still taste great. Enjoy them while you look at a few pictures from my hike!
|1. Stone-paved road leading to trailhead|
|2. Trailhead at lake Llaviuco|
|3. Gentle stroll upriver |
|4. Cloud forest|
|5. Moss-covered branch (o, yeah, and my
| 6. Even
the "stairs" have ferns!|
8. Looking back to the valley from which we came up.
9. Our first glimpse of the goal. 13K ft. high lake Taita
|10. The trek|
11. A final look before going back!
|12. The muddied hiker survived!|
|13. Get your donut fix - straight to the vein!|