Ecuador Running VacationPosted by Ashley Vander Meeden, Contributor | 03.15.2021
PHOTO CREDIT: JONAS PAURELL
Like everyone, I've been missing travel this last year. I've ran seemingly all over the place, but there is something magical about exploring a new country from a trail. I can't wait to get a trip on the schedule, but in the meantime, I'll reminisce about past adventures and keep running out my front door.
Ecuador 2018 Trail Run Adventures Trip
At just before 10 am in the morning (I am not a morning person) I laced up my Merrell shoes for a quick mile run on day number 310 of my run streak. My husband Zach and I would be traveling all day and there would be no time for a run later in the day. We dropped off the girls, Sierra, age 6, and Isabel, age 3, with my parents in Fort Collins, Colorado. This also involved unloading so much stuff … the bags of clothes, book bags, soccer gear, bikes, and everything else we thought they’d need for watching the girls while we were out of the country. We tried to contain our emotions as we lingered over long hugs with the girls and thought about two weeks without them.
For a seemingly individualistic sport, I’m constantly surprised by the way running brings people together and allows space for conversations (though sometims between sucking air). This two week trip to Ecuador with Trail Run Adventures would prove to be no different, connecting the 14 of us (plus our stellar and steady bus driver Edison) over endless views, good conversations, and of course miles of trail running. The Crew: Zach, Anna Frost, Ron Braselton (Braz), Alex, Andrew, Joel, Kim, Audrey, Nicole, Ruben, Ásdís, Veronica Rojas Paurell, and Jonas Paurell. The trip was led by Anna and Braz and their guiding company, Trail Run Adventures. In Ecuador, they partnered with Veronica and Jonas from Vagabond Trails.
Over our 12 day trip we covered Ecuador from the Andes to the Amazon and back again. Fueled by lots and lots of soup, good company, and our own two feet (well, most of the whole time). Here are three of my favorite runs.
Favorite Point to Point Run:
Day 4 – The beginning of our 8.5 mile run funnels us through a discouraging flow of trash. The contrast of the debris and the mountainous views was startling. In the early morning, we flew through a field of chocho beans. The waist high plants are a species of lupin and bloomed deep purple. One after another we raced downhill. Wet from the early morning our shoes and pants soaked up the moisture and the seeds rattled rhythmically in their pods. After reaching the valley below, we began to march upward along the edge of the mountainside. The views continued of the highlands and the spectrum of greens for as far as our eyes could see. Slow and steady, breathing heavy we earned the ridge of El Quilotoa Lagoon. We were rewarded with a breathtaking run around the rim looking down to the water filled crater below. The single-track path is framed by glowing golden grasses that lightly slapped at our feet. I couldn’t help but stop over and over again to snap photos as the changing perspective altered with the reflection of ridge and clouds in the vast lagoon. The landscape was dotted by orange highlights of native Chuquiragua flowers. The flower is known as the “national flower of mountain climbers” and “the flower of true love.” It has been used as traditional medicines and the Ecuadorian hillstar hummingbird relies on it heavily for food. We rendezvoused with our bus at the crater and headed to El Cotopaxi National Park.
Favorite Out and Back Run:
Day 6 – All our days at altitude had been building us up for the climb up El Rumiñahui, an extinct volcano at over 15,000′!! We got an early start to the day and took the bus a short drive to the Laguna Limpiopungo. On the drive over, the clouds cleared in front of Cotopaxi volcano (19,347′) and we stopped to snap photos of the second highest summit in Ecuador. We hiked through the páramo ecosystem, as the sea of golden grasses brushed against our legs. The sun beat down on us and Cotopaxi loomed behind us. Since 1738, Cotopaxi has erupted more than 50 times and the landscape is peppered with boulders from past eruptions. The gentle upward slope began to get steeper and steeper. As we neared the center summit, we scrambled over rocks big and small. We all huddled on the tiny summit, our first 15er, surrounded by clouds and 360 degree epic views. We descended the top rocky portion, and then bombed down a stretch of sand. Like kids, we ran bounding downhill with giant strides that landed in soft, deep sand. After dumping out shoefuls of sand, we let loose and ran all the way back to the lake where we started. The run was fast and gorgeous through sweeping grasses, the sun was shining and the view was majestic. After showers and lunch, we jumped on the bus to head The Northern Andes and Casa Mojanda.
Favorite Loop Run:
Day 7 – After a hefty up and down route the day before, day 7 entailed a loop trail around Laguna Cuicocha, which translates as “guinea pig lake.” This roughly 8-mile run was all about the views! This was my favorite run of the trip. We ran counterclockwise and the huge crater lagoon was always on our left with two islands plopped in the middle. The trail around the rim of this lake was dotted with flowers and we ran rolling hills along the loop. Towering above in the distance were the massive volcanoes of Imbabura and Cayambe. After our run, we enjoyed lunch and tested our adventurous palates with a local Ecuadorian specialty, guinea pig! (Think gamey chicken.) We cooled down from the run as we wandered through Cotacachi, an area famous for leatherwork. We picked up small leather purses for our daughters.
Daily Run Core Gear:
Merrell Women’s Trail Glove 4
Merrell Women’s Fallon 4.0 Jacket
Merrell Women’s Paradox Short Sleeve Tech Tee
Merrell Women’s Entrada Comp Capri
Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles
Nathan Elevation Hydration Vest
Canon 7D Mark II DSLR with Canon 24mm lens
Apple iPhone X
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