Tracking an epic journey
August 9, 2006
It’s been nearly three months since two bold and determined Leadville hikers, Gregg Treinish and Deia Schlosberg, set out to conquer South America by foot.The travelers’ goal was simply stated in theory, but utterly daunting in practice: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador, walk to Tierra del Fuego, then up the eastern coast of South America, across the Amazon River basin and back to Quito. All in one year.The intrepid hikers were featured in a Summit Daily profile on June 12. At that point, they were making their final preparations for the journey of a lifetime.The couple’s intended path of travel would take them directly through the Andes mountain range, an area they believe does not have an established hiking trail. During an interview this summer, Treinish said he and Schlosberg were going to “push human limits for sure,” when he referred to their plan to summit 20,000-foot peaks and explore canyons 10,000 feet below their rim.Both Treinish and Schlosberg have done extensive journaling and taken many photos throughout their travels. They have also written periodic blogs on two websites, http://www.steripen.com and http://www.roadjunky.com.
The following are two recent blog excerpts:Last notes from Ecuador, by Deia Schlosberg, Sept. 8We began the chapter with a thru-hike of Cajas National Park, perhaps the most beautiful place on the planet in many ways. Unfortunately, the park is on the small side and we were through it in only two days. But we weren’t lacking incredible landscape for long. After a few kilometers over high, rolling plains we descended into a river valley that may just as well have been Eden – for its own beauty, but also for the life changing experience that happened in its vicinity. After emerging from the other side of the river valley and making our way up a higher, shallower valley, we set up camp near the top and went about our normal nightly routine: Filling the water bottles, making dinner by the lingering light of sunset, journaling. Just after the last daylight faded and the first couple of stars joined the waxing crescent moon, I heard a high-pitched wind-like noise over the ridge to my right, moving quickly in an arc across the sky. I stopped immediately; this was not a sound I recognized.I looked at Gregg, he had stopped and looked at me. A few seconds later, the noise returned, this time an arc over the valley we were camped in, and hearing it again, I could make out that it was clearly some type of high-pitched engine. I saw nothing. In a few more seconds, an arc over the ridge opposite us. Whatever this was, was covering a whole quadrant of the sky in about a second. At this point Gregg and I were both standing silently with our mouths open, perhaps a few words exchanged to confirm our own experience. It continued, clockwise around us. Having the compass on hand we checked the angles of the take-off and landing points of whatever this was, and each time was 90 degrees from the last. The only times the sound deviated from this pattern was when it stopped and resumed its path mid-air a few times and when it crossed directly overhead – 180 degrees away from where it started – and it was at these few points where it was closest to us, close enough that we ducked at the same time. At points, the sounds were so close to each other in time and originating from opposite points in the sky that it seemed there must be more than one object creating the sounds. For 25 minutes this kept up, and throughout it, we saw nothing and felt nothing. Only the clear sound, very close to us. Both of us had tears in our eyes. Both of us were speechless. We eventually tried to talk through different possibilities, wrote about it, tried in vain to sleep.
If anyone has any ideas or suggestions or thoughts, please share them. I am changed by this incident, but I don’t yet know what to do with it. I can only describe the next day as seeming unresolved. A sense of, “We may very well have been visited by other-worldly beings last night. I guess we’ll hike today.” It just seemed odd. But we continued over mountain ridges, down valleys, into Nevada-type mountainous desert, back into steep crop-land, adding to our miles, broadening further our experience of Ecuador.Into Peru, Gregg Treinish, Sept. 23Lately, we have been looking at our hike in a different way. Instead of focusing on the fact that we have nearly 4,500 miles to go, maybe more, maybe a bit less, instead of worrying every step of the way that we are rapidly approaching the wet season and aren’t quite sure what exactly that will bring to the table, instead of working so hard for a town or a border or a specific peak, we are simply going hiking. … After leaving Catachocha (a town west of Loja) we made it no more than seven maybe eight kilometers before we were forced to turn back. “Why?” you ask; that would be because of the worm that bore into my heel and laid eggs. After giving birth at the hospital to over a hundred eggs, we began south a second time. Ecuador would not let us go easy. As we descended from the top of a ridge down a steep trail, it was all too soon that the traditional disappearing act took place. We soon found ourselves with no trail and with increasingly thick vegetation to fight through. Why the hell didn’t I buy that machete in town? Bushwhacking down for a long time we finally made our way to the jungle-like river basin nearly 4000 feet and at least 3 climatic zones below the ridge where we had started. We enjoyed picking and eating oranges, lemons, and guanabana off of the trees and treated ourselves to a caña (raw sugar cane) dessert. … After continuing on our way, we finally made our way to the road and took our last steps in Ecuador. The feeling of completing a country, walking to a border was something that the two of us really needed. It was great to finally feel as if we had actually completed something, that we had conquered a major goal and could know that we have thru-hiked Ecuador. Hell yeah!
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