This weekend, my site mates and I met up for a famous hike in the Imbabura Region.  This is Lago Cuicocha, a crater lake at the base of Volcan Cotacachi. The lake sits at 10,650 feet and we hiked the 8+ mile rim of this caldera.  
The day started out beautifully warm and sunny, and we were ready with lots of sunscreen!  
This entire lake is protected in the Cotachachi- Cayapas Ecological Reserve,
and you can take a hike around it, or take a tour of this lake by boat. 
Cotachachi Peak, peaking through the clouds
This lake is sacred to the local Indiginenous people and this spot is used as an
offering site during the Sun Festival or Summer Solstice.
We climbed higher and higher, from the visitor center at water level, to the rim.
Our view of all the farms in the fertile Otavalo Valley below. 
At the rim, we could see in all directions, and discern the islands of lava domes in the center of the lake.  A little Googling, and I found out that the lake is highly alkaline and supports very little life.
Kendall and Alex Ogle are from Texas and we are all teachers in Ibarra. 
From the rim, the beautiful Paramo stretched out around us. A little more Googling taught me that the páramo is the high tropical mountainous ecosystem above the continuous forest line, yet below the permanent snowline.  It exists in the northern Andes of South America and southern Central America.  The grasses, flowers and ferns were very similar to the Pacific Northwest, yet there were cactus and huge tropical plants as well. 
As thunder is sounding in the distance…
“That storm’s really rolling in fast.  I think we’re going to get wet!”

Wet and Cold. Check.  Today I learned that at 10,000 feet, the weather and temperature can change drastically and rapidly.  I had brought some of my 10 Essentials, but next time I will add a better rain coat, hat and gloves to my must have packing list. About 2 miles before we even finished, we came upon a nice man who was out touring for the day.  His car was on a side road nearby.  He took one look at us and offered us a ride off the mountain and back to shelter.  We immediately agreed that we could finish the hike another day.
Back in town, we found an awesome place for Gluten Free Pizza and a glass of wine to warm up.  All in all, not such a bad first outing into the wilds of Imbabura!