“Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.”
National parks were set aside by countries all over the world to, amongst many other reasons, give people a chance to escape into the natural world to see how they measure up against forces beyond their control. In this sense, Cajas National Park is a glacially-carved wonderland of uninhabited landscape waiting to be explored. This last weekend I ventured into the park with Zeke, a fellow ex-pat who has put in a considerable number of hours and days making his way through the contours of these mountains. New to backpacking, Zeke has learned backpacking as "trial by fire" in the misty, grassy, and often uniform peaks and valleys of the park - losing and finding his way out of a few incredible solo adventures. For his last jaunt, he imagined a grand north to south route through the park, and together we found a brief description in my hiking and climbing guide to Ecuador that gave us the gusto we needed to plan the trek. By Friday at 2:45pm, we were departing the small pueblito of Miguir along the main highway to Guayaquil in hopes of reaching Soldados on the southern road three days later. The thing was that this trail is not on the park map, so our plan was to route-find our way north to south across the park.
“The old school of thought would have you believe that you'd be a fool to take on nature without arming yourself with every conceivable measure of safety and comfort under the sun. But that isn't what being in nature is all about. Rather, it's about feeling free, unbounded, shedding the distractions and barriers of our civilization—not bringing them with us.”
Most of our friends, and most of the country for that matter, decided to head to the beach for Carnival. Somehow the promise of crowds, cocktails, and 24/7 bass beats didn't inspire Lynsey or I, and luckily our friends John and Janet proposed an intriguing alternative: hiking Ecuador's Inca Trail for three days to Ingapirca (Ecuador's most famous Inca ruins site). Vamòs, it was decided - we would spend Carnival with good friends and open space through yet another spectacular portion of this little gem of a country.
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