July 1st marks our 11th month here in Cuenca and to celebrate I signed up for a fairly strenuous hike to Cajas National Park this past weekend. Did you notice I did not say “signed us up”? Yeah, Chet bowed out on this one, I love (with a capital L) to hike. Chet humors me on vacations and we go for short meanderings in the forests, etc. and we have a nice time. This time however, he wished me well as I donned my daypack and I think I saw a faint smirk on his face…he must have known what I was in for.
However, there had been serious hankerings on my part to go for a mini trek into the Cajas. I felt a trip there was long overdue. Last week my Pilates instructor, who is also an adventure guide along with her husband mentioned they were taking a group to the Cajas for a 10km trek. She asked would I like to come since they had room for one more? I had my hiking boots laced before she could say “cloudforest”.
My Pilates instructor (Sky) and her husband (Axel) German/Canadians, run an adventure travel company that organizes trips for people who are from everywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. This particular trip was organized for a group of 4 sociology students from Colorado College and one of their instructors who is about middle age. Their were three of us “50 somethings” in addition to our guides who are 55 and 60 respectively. However, they are incredibly fit since they’ve been doing this for 30 plus years and thus not in the same category with us “seniors”!
Cuenca sits at 8,000 feet. We drove a little over an hour outside of Cuenca to began our trip. We started our hike at 11,000 feet and eventually climbed to 13,000 feet during the 3.5 hour trek. Aside from a brief respite at a lake (we saw about 10 altogether) we NEVER stopped climbing and walking over the grasslands, through the cloudforest and over ridges. Through the rain, the wind, and a smattering of sunshine. It. Was. A.W.E.S.O.M.E! The best $20 I spent so far this month, and it included besides transportation, a snack of which the homemade carrot bread/cake was the best. We ate on the move because every time we “seniors” and Sky (who was watching over our motley trio) would catch up to the 20-somethings and Axel they would take off again! Sheesh! However, the last 1 1/2 hours I had acclimatized and the going was a lot easier. I found myself leaping over rocks and almost bounding down the path. And yes, my quads were SCREAMING for two days afterwards!
Cajas National Park is a beautiful, wild, pristine environment. We hiked the Patul trail which spans the length of the park and I didn’t see one speck of trash the whole time. So unlike some of the well loved and used trails elsewhere in the world. This trail is more backcountry than some of the others in Cajas (there are much easier ones) but from what I understand many of them are the same, beautifully clean. If you have a chance to visit and explore you won’t regret this wonderful opportunity to enjoy yet another gift from our loving Father, Jehovah.