Saturday, August 12, 2017

Beauty and Grandeur Once Again -- the Cajas National Park

After a recent hike in the Cajas, I was researching some potential areas for future hikes and ran across the following video. Not only is it a great demonstration of one of the positive uses for drone technology -- it amply captures some of the awesomeness of the Cajas. Of course, as with any place in nature, being in the picture gives one the most "wow."  But the Cajas never fails to delight at any scale -- from high above, as in this video, it's amazing -- but equally so, as you get closer, the wonderment only grows. Close-up, one can experience the infinite shades of emerald and turquoise lake waters, the profusion of tiny yellow, orange, blue, and purple flowers, or the rare but quite possible sight of a soaring hawk or condor.

What follows are a couple of pics from my most recent hike with a good friend. This area of the Cajas is actually outside the formal park boundary on the western side of the mountains near the village of Rio Blanco. It is also near Cerro Arquitectos, the highest peak in the Cajas at 14,656 ft. The final lake we arrived at on this day was about a 1,000 ft. lower than the highest peak. We're planning on heading towards "Architect's Hill" on a future day. Here's looking back on the second lake we climbed to:

Upper Lake - Cajas

An example of the quinoa trees and rocks we navigated on our way up:

Among Trees and Rocks

 A lakeside quinoa tree and the crystal clear, blue and emerald waters:

Tree By Lake

And approaching the highest lake we got to -- there was no way beyond this lake without some heavy-duty climbing. The pattern of the icy winds, common at this altitude in the Cajas, plus the clouds blowing in fast from the east confirmed for us that wet cloud-cover would be moving in within a couple hours so we headed back down from here.

High Lake - Cajas

Resting at the high lake

resting by the last lake

Some parts of the journey up were steep, through dense brush and trees and over rocks -- but at other times wide vistas would open up as we came over a rise to find elevated plateaus. In many places throughout the Cajas, one will find a series of lakes positioned in steps, ever higher, each one feeding the lakes below via streams meandering through these isolated plateaus:

Tree Before Ridgeline

We came down a different way than going up. Entering, we followed a cascading creek and had to find our way through trees and rocks. Even so, we made a 1k elevation gain in the first hour. Since it was our first time exploring this area, we wanted to get a broader lay of the land and the potential alternate routes for entering and exiting the area. Looking west towards Guayaquil, the view of horses grazing on the high plateau was a nice surprise.

High Plateau - Cajas

And I found a drone video that flies over the exact area where I was hiking....

Sunday, July 23, 2017

swat in airplane

What If This Happened in Your City?

Passengers board a plane and are ready to depart but are then told the flight is cancelled due to bad weather. The cabin door is opened and everyone is instructed to de-board the plane. 

But outside the sky is clear and the day is beautiful. 
Some passengers call relatives and hear reports of beautiful weather in the destination city.  Passengers begin to grumble and ask the obvious question -- why cancel the flight when the weather is perfect in both places?  The only answer they get is a repeated instruction to get off the airplane because the flight has been cancelled. Passengers begin boo-ing and making catcalls. The cabin crew demands everyone leave the aircraft immediately but no one budges. It becomes clear - all of the passengers are refusing to get off the airplane. They demand the flight proceed as originally scheduled.

If this happened in your city, what do you suspect would happen next?
I will not speculate, even though I could.
I can only tell you what happened on July 22nd in Ecuador's capital city when this exact scenario played out --- 
--- the airline gave in, closed the cabin door, and reinstated the flight as originally planned.
Here's a photo of that flight upon arrival at its "bad weather" destination in Cuenca.

jet landed in cuenca

If this were your city, what would happen next to those passengers?
I will not speculate, even though I could.
I can only tell you what happened in Cuenca --
the passengers disembarked and went about their day;
some of them took the time to go to airport administration to register a formal complaint against the airline. 
The people felt empowered to stand firm for what they believed in.
And the government, airport, and airline authorities were willing to engage the people in a manner that respected the people's voice and had the wisdom to de-escalate to a resolution.

There were no SWAT teams in sight.
No elevated threat levels.
No airport lock downs.
No sensationalized media reports that nearby neighborhoods must "shelter in place."
No shock grenades.
No pepper spray.
No zip-ties of hands and feet.
No indictments for federal felony crimes.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Cajas at 14,200 ft.
Hiking the Cajas can be relaxing or adventurous. The other day a good friend and I discovered the adventurous when we decided to blaze a new way back to the road. Instead of doubling back the way we came once reaching the target upper lakes at 13,000 ft, we decided to try a return via the ridge line to the east. Our plan was the cross the far ridge line and exit through the next valley. The only problem was, no matter how far down the ridge line we went, there didn't seem to be a reasonable way back down. We ended up traversing the whole ridge line at the 14k ft. level for several hours looking for a way back down. For added interest, there was a strong icy wind blowing out the east the entire time. Late in the afternoon, far past the time when we could have doubled back the way we came without leaving us up there in the dark, we decided the only way down was to tackle a steep slope. Luckily for us, the fog and drizzle didn't move in until we got back down to the road. We started the hike at 7:30am and was at it continuously except for 5-10 minute breaks until 6pm.

Ridgeline in Cajas

Rocky Ridge

View from Edge


Coordinates and Elevation

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Exceptions can be difficult when learning a new language, as my experience learning Spanish has demonstrated. Twisted and mostly forgotten in the passage on time, the reasons why exceptions exist are not always clear and yet we adhere to the rule of following those exceptions without protest or review.

I bought a new blanket in Cuenca, a very comfortable and warm blanket, perfect in every way --- except for one thing --- someone had written "Sheeps" all over the blanket, no doubt referring to the notion of "counting sheep" in order to fall asleep. 

I got the message even though the method of relaying it was obviously flawed. Inexplicably, the plural of sheep in English is sheep. A non-native speaker of English might easily be fooled into following the generalized rule of adding "s" to make such things plural. But in faithfully following the rule, without exception, this blanket manufacturer arguably produced a flawed blanket -- for the plural of sheep is an exception. 

And yet, ironically, in this case, the flaw imbued the blanket with a endearing kind of uniqueness, a reflection of the humanity in all of us that tries to understand all the things that remain elusive due to the exceptions rife in life.

I still bought the blanket and I still enjoy the blanket as a very warm and comfortable addition to my bed. I don't consider it flawed in any respect. It's the way I choose to view such things. The flaw would be to judge such things without factoring in the law of exceptions in life, if there is such a thing. Perhaps it isn't a law, no more than exceptions in the natural world are flaws that require a separate law to govern them. 

Instead of reducing life to rules and exceptions, maybe the truth lies in a third option - one that will forever go unnamed. Most things get names but in this case -- I make an exception.

"If Moses had gone to Harvard Law School and spent three years working on the Hill, he would have written the Ten Commandments with three exceptions and a saving clause."
Charles Morgan

"Everyone knows what a curve is, until he has studied enough mathematics to become confused through the countless number of possible exceptions."
Felix Klein

"A good teacher must know the rules; a good pupil, the exceptions."
Martin H. Fischer

"There are those whose sole claim to profundity is the discovery of exceptions to the rules."
― Paul Eldridge

"Systems are to be appreciated by their general effects, and not by particular exceptions."
― James F. Cooper

"Every fundamental law has exceptions. But you still need the law or else all you have is observations that don't make sense. And that's not science. That's just taking notes."
― Geoffrey West

"The fact that anytime you think you really know something, you're going to find out you're wrong - that is the rule. The moments where you think you have something figured out, those are the exceptions."
― Conor Oberst

"Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception."
― Carl Sagan

"Nature provides exceptions to every rule."
― Margaret Fuller

"Science does not permit exceptions."
― Claude Bernard

"The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions."
― Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

“There’s always someone or something that will make you feel so strongly that you will go against everything you are ever taught or planned.”
― Beth Rinyu

“Miracles are exceptions principles are the rules.”
― Sunday Adelaja

“Be the exception, and be happy.”
― Marty Rubin

“How Ironic, when you do business you create exceptions to create new opportunities, when you write code (do a job) you handle exception to make it clean.”
― Pushkar Saraf

"There are two great rules of life; the one general and the other particular. The first is that everyone can, in the end, get what he wants, if he only tries. That is the general rule. The particular rule is that every individual is, more or less, an exception to the rule."
― Samuel Butler

"There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception."
― James Thurber

"There are no exceptions to the rule that everybody likes to be an exception to the rule."
― Charles Osgood

"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception."
― Oscar Wilde

"Be the exception to the rule. It's the surest way to become exceptional."
― Ron Kaufman

Friday, April 21, 2017

Trees Come Down 
One From High River Water, Others Proactively

In Cuenca, Ecuador - high river water undermined the roots of an eucalyptus tree overnight, causing it to fall across a roadway bridge onto utility lines. Luckily it fell at a late hour when there was no traffic so it didn't hit any cars. A work crew had to figure out how to remove the tree from the wires and get it off the bridge. To prevent future incidents like this, the crews also proactively removed another group of trees. A crew member climbed the trees to tie a rope high up so another man could pull it in the direction they wanted it to fall. Crew members also scurried across the river on the fallen trees to get things ready. Everything that fell into the river they then had to use a truck to pull out of the river, cut it all up, and then load for removal.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Waiting for my fajitas at a roadside restaurant in the countryside a half hour out of Cuenca, 
I notice a photo on the wall with the caption -- "Solo Borracho o Dormido, se me olvida lo JODIDO."

solo borracho o dormido

Translation --- "Just drunk or asleep, I forget how fucked up."