High Altitude Hiking in Cajas National Park

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Surrounded by Polylepsis trees

This beautiful national park is located in the Andes mountains, 12 miles from Cuenca starting at about 10,000’ altitude and going up to 14,000’+.  The lower elevations are lush, green, and cultivated.  The higher elevations are more barren, covered mostly with bushy grasses and hundreds of alpine lakes.  The exception is a tree called the “paper tree” or “polylepsis”, which reminded us of Madrone trees in California due to the peeling reddish bark.   Everyone who hikes in the park is required to hire a guide because the weather can change very fast and you can lose visibility completely.   Our guide was a wonderful person named Milton, who was eloquent in English and  provided excellent explanations to all of our questions and more!  After hiking for more than 5 hours, with barely another soul in sight, we stopped at a beautiful hacienda where we enjoyed a lunch of fresh trout and the Ecuadorian soup called “Locro de Papa”.  It’s a delicious potato soup served with avocado, cheese and a slice of egg.

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