In August I had the opportunity to take an excursion with my church family and real family to climb Cotopaxi. Although it appears so close from my town, we had to drive over an hour to get to the base of the mountain. We then trekked up to El Refugio, which is about halfway to the top, and even got to see a glacier where the snow-capped part starts! With each step, I was equal parts shocked by the intense wind and cold, and amazed by the natural beauty that God has created.
In September, the pastor and I took our youth and kids on a hike to a nearby mountain, Santa Cruz. Now this mountain is not snow-capped like Cotopaxi, but it's covered in trees and wild plants. My friend Rebeca from Quito also came with us. We started off energetic and excited, easily climbing the first ascent. Soon after, however, we found ourselves catching our breath and pointing desperately at the kids who were already a good 20 meters above us, running and waving wildly. Along the path we ducked into thickly wooded areas, avoided deep caverns, and pushed through scraggly bushes. Using a term from a wilderness May term I did at Hope College, we were literally "bush-hacking". Finally, after 4 hours of exhaustion and adventure, we arrived (only to find that the kids had been there for hours already!). But my, oh my, was the view worth it! We could see for miles in every direction, each angle of the panorama exhibiting a gorgeous volcano or mountain range.
Finally in October, I went with a friend to Quilotoa, a crater lake and previous volcano about two hours from my town. After some slight complications with our ride, we arrived at the top of the crater. Our first view of the lake took my breath away - I didn't expect the water to be such a fresh sparkling turquoise. This time instead of climbing up, we carefully made our way down to the bottom of the crater to observe the water. It turns out going down can be more tedious and time-consuming that going up! Once again, struck by the gorgeous view, I was in awe of the majesty of God.
In addition to the quality physical exercise and spectacular views, I learned a lot on these hikes.
1. Working in a team. Climbing a mountain is hard work. It can't be done alone. Having friends to guide and support you is utterly vital. Lending a helping hand when others need it, having patience to wait on the slower ones, and being willing to accept advice.
2. Stopping to have fun along the way. Take a look around, take some pictures, play some music. Five minutes of your time is worth it to enjoy the scenery or company.
3. Not giving up. Sometimes the best path looks like the hardest, but you have to keep on going. Endurance will pay off in the end.
4. Knowing when to take a break. On the four-hour hike to Santa Cruz, I think we stopped every five minutes. But the air was thin and the ground steep. We needed it.
Who knows when will be the next chapter of my mountain climbing adventures in Ecuador. I know I can't wait, to explore a new part of God's beautiful creation!