Letting the Condor take flight

There are two things that seem to stand out the most when my students recount their memories of our trip to Ecuador (based on their collection of blog posts): the intensity of the Amazon, and the open friendliness of the the Agato community in Northern Ecuador.

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Overlooking the community of Otavalo. Towering above the town is the ancient volcano, Imbabura. (A recent grass fire had turned the top of the volcano black.)

I wanted a component of our journey to Ecuador to include an experience of life in the rural Andes. Our agent at True Ecuador Travel recommended a 2-night homestay with the Agato people, near Otavalo. I had no idea what to expect. I visited Otavalo briefly on my first trip to Ecuador. It was a cloudy day. We took in the famed Otavalo market on a Saturday, and visited the rainy, socked-in volcanic crater of Cuicocha, just outside of town. Looking back on that first trip, it seems strange to me to think about how much I missed just passing through.

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Summer Hike #8 – Quilotoa Crater

The wide, dusty trail is packed with people and mule trains and slides 1000 feet down from the rim of a crater to an emerald blue lake. We were warned the trail would be challenging. But I was seduced by those glassy waters that ripple with new colors as the sky shifts and turns from blue to grey.

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The moody looking waters of Quilotoa shift from blue to green to grey, depending on what’s happening in the sky.

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Standing under the shadow

I know everyone is writing and posting about the total eclipse last week. But I still feel the need to put it into words, mostly so I can remember it in the years to come. Viewing a solar eclipse is like going on roller coaster ride in a very busy amusement park: You wait in line for hours, enjoying the scenery, the snacks, and the company of friends. Then you strap into a cart and whoosh! It’s over in 2 minutes, before you even know what really happened. Afterward, you have the choice of hopping on the slow ride to watch the sun wax back to normal, or heading to your car in hopes of beating the traffic home.

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The moon’s shadow, clearly visible over the South Pacific Ocean, on the March 9, 2016 total eclipse (NASA image).

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Summer Hike #5 – Lake Agnes Tea House

I’ve been called a tea snob. Yes, I’m one of those people who buys organic fair-trade loose-leaf tea in fancy, boutique tea shops. It’s my weakness (along with chocolate). You can imagine how excited I was when I heard about the Lake Agnes Tea House above Lake Louise. Combine hiking, fabulous views, with a break for tea and biscuits, and it sounds like a recipe for a perfect day.

We saved the Lake Louise area until a bit later in our week in Canada, and I was glad for that. This is probably the most popular place in Banff, and it’s one of the few spots in the wide-open Canadian Rockies where you might encounter a sea of people.

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Tourists milling about on the edge of Lake Louise – everyone trying to catch the splendor.

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Summer Hike #2 – The ‘A’

There is a Japanese term, shinrin-yoku, which basically means ‘forest-bathing’.  This is the idea that a forest holds healing properties, and you can take advantage of that by ‘breathing it in.’ In South Korea, they’ve adopted this idea on a national level, and are moving toward establishing ‘healing forests’ through the country, as an antidote to city living. This is running through my mind as I hike the ridge above Fort Collins, ‘breathing in’ a small grove of beetle-killed trees. Do damaged forests have the same effect?

It’s June 1st, 2017. My mom died three years ago on this day. And while I contemplated a grey tangle of branches, the POTUS was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.

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Since I moved to Colorado more than 12 years ago, the pine bark beetle has transformed the landscape of the Rockies. Warmer winters have allowed the infestation to spread through most of Colorado.

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Snowpocalypse 2017

Summer is my season. You might think that I’d be enamored with snow, being a meteorologist and having grown up along Coastal California, where seeing snow involved a 6-hour drive to Tahoe. I do enjoy snow – there’s nothing like a good blizzard on some long weekend in February when I can hunker down at home with a cup of tea and watch it snow enough to where finally put on my skis and head over to the neighborhood park. But 8-inches in late May? (Heads up: basic meteorology lesson coming!)

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Heavy snowfall, just getting underway on Thursday, May 18, 2017.

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