Cajas National Park

Trip Start Jan 23, 2008
Trip End May 23, 2008

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For our grand finale in Ecuador, Bill and I set out on a 3-day traverse across Cajas National Park, famous for its 242 alpine lakes and incredible biodiversity. This trek runs roughly east to west, traversing a variety of habitats across the continental divide from dry paramo grassland to lush tropical woodland, with a variety of microhabitats in the nooks and crannies along the way. Because of these microhabitats, Cajas has one the highest rates of enedmism in the world....meaning species found only there. They are especially famous for their 24 different hummingbird species.

We didn´t see any hummingbirds, but we DID discover 34 different species of mud. We really HAVE got to try traveling during the dry season. That or sign a book deal for Bill and Steph´s Adventure Guide to Off-Season Travel.) I bet I shed 15 pounds when I finally shed my pants and boots.

Brief editorial interlude: A little trail maintenance could go a LONG way here. Not because I had mud up to my groin, but because of the damage it is doing to the park. Where the trail was very muddy, hikers had branched out and created multiple side trails. On steep side slopes, this would eventually undercut the slope, and the thin soil layer would simply slide off the bare rock underneath. This then leaves wet exposed rock, which is too slippery for either plants or humans to get a foothold. It would be a HUGE undertaking, but otherwise I fear we will love it to pieces. Literally. Perhaps Ecuador could start up a Conservation Corps type of program. With +30% unemployment, seems like a win-win opportunity for the people AND the park. Just need a grant and a partnership with a proven program, such as in the US or South Africa. Anyone want to take this on?

OK, back to our story:

We had two incredible campsites, the first on a narrow isthmus between two alpine lakes. We drifted off to sleep to a chorus of frogs over the light percussion of rain on the tent. Our second night we made camp in a wide valley haunted by Incan ruins and the eery hoot of a lone owl. A mix of mist, drizzle, and sunbreaks highlighted the variety of the rugged terrain.
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