Although a little out of sequence, 
here are some photos from my latest big hikes. 

Volcán Cotopaxi is an active snow-capped volcano just south of Quito and it is the second highest mountain in Ecuador at 19,347 feet.  Because its last eruption ended in January of 2016, climbing and hiking Cotopaxi has been off-limits to Peace Corps volunteers.  But, as of September 2018, Peace Corps administration lifted their restrictions and opened Cotopaxi again.  My group of fellow volunteers just happened to be in Quito during this announcement and nine of us immediately scheduled a weekend trip to hike to the Refugio and stay in a nearby hostal.

The Refugio is at 15,953 feet (see the red roofed building in the distance far below the lowest glacier).  Getting there is basically an exercise in forcibly stepping into the wind,
sliding backwards in the gravel, and breathing deeply. 
We Made It!
At 15,953 feet: David (NY), Kendall (TX), Josh (VA), Alex (TX), Hannah (NH), Chris (NY),
Me, Megan (IL), and Ashley (IL)
Eating our lunch in the Refugio- think Alpine Hut.  This is where serious climbers sleep 
before they start their middle-of-the-night ascent to the top.
After our descent down to the parking lot, we had a long walk back to the hostal through the rock fields and tundra-like paramo.  Throughout the walk, I was in awe of the scenery and tried to capture the ever-changing light and faces of of this mountain.  The clouds and the wind-swept plains made for dramatic views.  This is why Cotopaxi is so beloved. 
At our hostal, we took over the attic room for 9 and had a beautiful view of the mountain…
until the clouds enveloped it for the night.
Such a great weekend!

Then, I sprained my ankle, twice, and didn’t do much big mountain hiking for the next few months. 
Finally, in February, I met up with some of Peace Corps’ newest volunteers and we hiked up Pasochoa, an extinct volcano between Quito and Cotopaxi at 13,800 feet.  
This is Becky (NJ), Me, Bridgette (MN), Pablo (Ecuador) and Tom (CA).

For this hike, you climb up through miles of beautiful forest before reaching the paramo and its bounty of flowers and grasses.

Stunning views of the pueblos in the valley below.
Fun Fact:  Bridgette and I have a special friend in common.  We both took Spanish lessons from the same teacher, Lucy, in Guatemala and still maintain a long-distance friendship with her.  Lucy contacted me about a year ago and asked me if I could mentor Bridgette though the process of applying to Peace Corps Ecuador.  I’m so glad she did!  Bridgette made it to Ecuador and is a beautiful new friend along my journey.  We were so excited to finally meet each other in person this weekend and be able to share our first hike together.
The world really is very small. 
We didn’t have the equipment to scale the last part of the peak,
but we were very proud of our accomplishment up Pasochoa!
Now that my ankle has healed, I’m ready for my next adventure!