50 years.  It’s hard to imagine.  It’s hard to say.  
But April 17th has come around 50 times in my existence 
and here I am.  Perhaps exactly where I need to be.  

I knew the day was going to be special, when, as I was finishing up my morning yoga practice, I heard a mariachi version of Happy Birthday blaring from the living room.
When I entered the house a little later, a beautiful breakfast of eggs and sausage, bread, fruit, and a bouquet of strawberry roses were waiting for me.  My Ecuadorian family sang to me and helped me start my special day.

Then, later that evening, Margarita and Pablo prepared a lovely dinner, and dessert for me.  
I loved my presents and all their efforts to make my day special. 
Pablo made me a special card, too. 

My birthday day was centered around work and family, but the next day I did something for me.  This is Volcán Imbabura.  It is a 15,190 foot inactive volcano that is the 17th highest volcano in Ecuador.  That might not sound too impressive, but at that elevation, it is higher than any mountain in the Lower 48 States.  Volcán Imbabura plays a very prominent cultural and climatic role in this valley and many believe it is the father and sacred protector of the region.  The mountain and the Province of Imbabura has also, as of this week, been designated as a UNESCO World GeoPark for its geological importance in the world.  And, since I stare at it every day, this mountain has become very important to me.

For just over a year now, I’ve been living on its flanks and have dreamed of seeing the world from the crater at the top.  Unfortunately, a broken rib and two sprained ankles last Fall definitely slowed my training efforts for tackling this hike.  But as April approached, I decided that on the first day of my next 50 years, I should symbolically climb this mountain to represent all I’ve overcome and all I still get to do.  So, I kicked up my training regimen to include early morning walk/ runs and finally felt ready to go.

From the trailhead, there are many “false summits”.  I really didn’t know which one 
I would get to, I just knew I had to head up through the paramo grasses, and into the clouds.  
It’s the rainy season here in Ecuador now, but I was lucky to have a beautiful day!
Just follow the trail up, up, up ….
…and marvel at the views of the valley below.

The plants became more amazing the higher I climbed into the Andean Paramo. 

As I was getting close, the roiling clouds added to the drama of the altitude, 
but prevented me from seeing down the other side. 
I did it!  With relative ease, I made it to one of Imbabura’s summits at around 14,000 feet.  
Although I did not attempt to climb the knife edge spine of crumbly rock forming
it’s highest thumb, I felt very satisfied with my efforts.  I sat at the top,
ate some chocolate chip cookies and silently toasted my life. 
The journey through and up has been, and still is, amazing.
New perspectives keep me inspired to learn, grow and be the best I can be.  
In my 50 years, I’ve learned that I am strong.  But more recently, I’ve learned that I’m
really strong.  In fact, I know now that I can do anything, and that’s probably
the greatest gift I can give myself.

I wonder what I will do in my next 50 years?