(Just a little fair-warning…this post may take the cake for the record number of pictures in one post in 71toes history.  We’re making history right here!  I apologize in advance but I want to have all these pics. in the same place for future-finding-purposes.  Also, I’m writing this fast…it’s taken forever to wrangle these pictures together and now I don’t have a lot of time for writing, so bear with me here…wish I could write more but hope the pictures help tell the story.)

We took a little side-trip during our stay at OSSO to an area of Ecuador called Baños (yes, that’s the Spanish word we use for “bathroom” or “baths” and that’s what this place is known for…these natural thermal baths we got to experience).  It was a short little trip but filled with quite the adventures I tell you….everything from zip-lining through the jungle to some serious sickness on the bus.

The adventure started when we loaded the bus at 5:00a.m. and found that the bus company had sent the wrong bus…we were short a few seats.  We had to wait for an hour and a half for a different bus, and then we got stopped in a two-hour traffic delay.  At first I was frustrated…worried all those delays would take away from the things we had scheduled to do.  But that stop on a lonely highway in the middle of gorgeous green mountains surrounded by so many local people was quite an adventure in and of itself.

Everyone got out of their cars to walk and stretch their legs so we joined right in.

Dave even did a little yoga:

 I love the little farms covering the hills all over Ecuador.

 They are so neat and tidy and green and some are so steep!

 I had to take a picture of this cool fruit that I cannot now remember the name of…

Finally got to our destination where these boys found a deserted basketball hoop and miraculously a little plastic ball they had fun with for a while until it got smashed…

Zip-lining was first on the agenda.

 …and we had some excited kids about that little fact.

 It was Brynne and Mike’s anniversary this day.  What a way to spend it.

My very favorite part of the day was that Lucy gave in and agreed to go on the tandem run with me.

We got to do that “superman” pose for it (like Claire and Drew in the picture above), and we could hold hands so she decided she’d give it a try.  I wish I could explain how it felt to hold her hand flying over all that beauty and look over to see her just beaming.  It was a moment I never want to forget.

Because she made that run, she had to do the next one to get back.  It was a strenuous hike over roots and rocks to get to the next take-off point and it was the first of many of those hikes that girl would brave but she made it (I should say “we” because it takes all the grit of both of us), and the sweet zip-lining guy went with her back:

It was pretty dark by that time and she couldn’t see anything on that last run, but she still came out so victorious.  I told her how proud I was of her that she was “in the arena” and she agreed 🙂

Night and fog had fallen by the time we were done and we were just so happy the rain had held out and that we had had the chance to see all that gorgeousness.

Followed up by dinner…

 …and a little serenading by Claire:

We woke up early the next morning to take a trip to the thermal pools in the drizzling rain:

There were three of them:  cold, hot, and extremely hot.  I’m talking practically boiling.

Oh boy, we looked like lobsters when we got out of the last one.  The idea is to get in there then freeze yourself in these natural showers and then the cold pool to give your circulation a little extra finesse.

Then we took off in this bus for our Jungle Tour.

We went to this little village where the girls painted our faces:

…and their pet monkey chose Lucy to be her best friend.

Lucy thought she had died and gone to Heaven with that thing latched onto her.

 Claire was pretty delighted that she shared with her as well.

We learned to aim blow-darts:

And I’m pretty proud to say mine made it to the target 🙂

I got to hold this snake…random I know, but I was kind of excited about that.

Made a little rainy bus stop along this river:

(It was Steve and Julie’s anniversary this day.  Crazy two anniversaries in two days, right?)

Then we went to this animal preserve.

They were apparently not trying to preserve the life of this gigantic squirming bug because they tried to get takers to eat that thing.

 And surprisingly, we had a taker:

She did it to win a bet with her dad, but still, I cannot believe she ate that giant live thing.  That takes some guts I tell you!

We checked out the animals…

But I’ll be honest, I was more mesmerized by the leaves.  There were so many gems there.  I will post my “study of Ecuadorian leaves” this weekend.
Lunch at a little place in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road:

And a little Amazon jungle canoeing:

 We had some fancy footwear they let us borrow for that 🙂

We kept that fancy footwear for our waterfall hike.

Boy it’s hard to write the emotion into a post like this that is spilling out with pictures.  There was SO much more going on than these moments caught by the camera.  This was an adventure like no other.

And adventures make my heart swell.  And sometimes also make it break.

This waterfall hike part of the adventure was tough emotionally.  It was the beginning of a thread that morphed into something so much bigger and darker for me and Dave in the days that were coming: some cold hard realization of just how much vision Lucy has lost and continues to lose and what that means for our family.  Some day I will go into details of those thoughts, when I can make sense of them all, but for now I will just say that Lucy was magnificent.  It was a tough hike…for someone who can’t see well and doesn’t have the greatest sense of balance.  I made Dave go ahead and this sweet Spanish-only-speaking tour guy stayed with me and Lucy helping to help her maneuver up and over roots and boulders and branches and mud.  That’s just what we do, and have done over and over again in so many different ways through the years.  We help her do things she thinks she can’t do alone and she comes out victorious and we all cheer and glow and bask in the strength she is gaining.

And it is good.  It’s been a really good way to live life.  This girl has come so far!  Her courage has blossomed and she’s become so much stronger.  She’s a spitfire and it’s going to get her places in life.  But that doesn’t mean it’s not tearing our hearts up sometimes.  And we’re continually trying to find the balance.

That girl has grit though I tell you.  I turned around and took this picture when we could finally hear the waterfall roaring and I knew we’d see it before too long.  So proud of this girl (and our extra helper…man alive I wish I could speak Spanish!)

 And then, there we were.  That glorious beauty spilling out of that mountain right in front of us.

 I had to snap a quick picture of Lucy’s shoes:

(There was no way she would put on the rain boots everyone else was wearing…)

Proud of those shoes and the feet that fill them.

Everyone was already swimming in that waterfall to their heart’s delight.

 …and Lucy was quick as a wink to strip down and get right in.

 She had a pretty sweet sister waiting for her to show her the ropes.

 And she was pretty delighted about it all.

Dave, Lu and I sent off the rest of the crowd to the next stop: the rope swing, and we started on our journey back to the bus since we knew it would take a while.

I sent the camera with my girls so we could see some of that adventure recorded when we met up again.

…and we all met up beaming at the end of the trail…they had loved the swing.

 Check out how far out this thing goes:

 We could see them swinging out from far below…it was quite a swing!

 The next day we had a surprise ride on this waterfall overlook cable ride:

Yep, this little red basket took us right over the top of a waterfall…

 …with nothing but what sure seemed like a teeny cable holding us up.

We loved it.

 Lucy?  Not quite sure…

 This was their final verdict:


Then we went to “Devil’s Cauldron” (a different waterfall) which is one of the most powerful waterfalls I’ve seen.

 Once again, it was a hike in, but much more flat with a pathway so Lucy, although tired, did great.

Let’s just take a look at how powerful that water is:

You could crawl in this little crawl-space right back behind it.

We had to really smoosh into that little cave/tunnel:

…to get up to here:

Claire took off her shoes so they wouldn’t get soaked going right behind the fall:

Here I am trying to crawl out of that thing:

Elle and I walked down that labyrinth of steps to the next level:

While Dave and Lu got a head start to get back out of that thing:

Someone told these people that one of these kids was famous so they all wanted a picture:

This picture is a good depiction of how everyone felt at the end of the hike back out:

We stopped at this smoothie stand and waited forever…not such a good move since we were ready to get on the road again…

…so that we could get to the last stop of this adventure: these swings:

You stood on this platform and they dropped that plank of wood right out from under you and off you went.

Let’s check it out, here’s Dave:

I think this is Steve to give a little more drama:)

Check out how far we got catapulted out there:

I’m sure glad those straps held up!

Here’s Grace:

Claire was scared to death and had to mull it over for quite a while…

But she got up there:

And didn’t regret it 🙂

Lucy chose to write more of her book while she waited:

And got the chance to take her own lightweight swing at a different spot before we left.

…which she was pretty delighted about I must say.

Grace also did this upside-down one…

Wow, that whole thing was adventure upon adventure, a few days we won’t forget, that’s for sure!  The moms went to gather some snacks for the 8-hour drive back to OSSO…man I love grocery stores and all the unique things you can find in different countries.
…and then we were on our way.
By this time a good portion of the group had started to get that dang 24-hour bug the director had when we first got there.  By the end of our trip I think all but two of us got it.  I felt so bad for the people who had it on that long, dark, bumpy bus ride home.  But maybe their minds were distracted from it just enough since they were filled with all those adventures so freshly implanting themselves in the golden strands.  Or maybe they were just thinking of the best way to throw up discretely in a bus filled with so many people.  Oh boy.
If you’ve made it this far you deserve a medal.  Lots of memories packed in this post!  Thanks for coming along 🙂
Love, Shawni


  1. I am so so very proud of Lucy and her grit, determination, and guts! So many people won't even try zip lining, yet here's a young girl flying over a rainforest basically in the dark! The things she has accomplished from learning to ride a bike, diving lessons (again, not really being able to see what you are diving into), swimming under a waterfall and so very much more. Lucy is definitely going to go places!!!! I don't see bad vision holding her back. Way to go Lucy!!
    Jamie Noto

  2. Love seeing Lucy with her cane in so many of these pictures. Gradual sight loss is challenging. You don’t realize how much the vision has deteriorated until you venture into unfamiliar environments. You seem to have a nice balance of challenging Lucy and then giving her breaks and alternatives.
    While hiking with a cane is not optimal, I know several people who are visually impaired who hike with trekking poles. They offer feedback on the terrain, but also assist with balance, while allowing for greater independence (instead of sighted guide). If you opt for that, have the person in front of Lucy wear bells on their pack, walking poles, belt or wrist. This can give her directional information.
    Check out this video of kids who are blind on a hike:

    Braille Trail in Phoenix: http://www.azbrailletrail.org


  3. How do the baths compare to Iceland?

    I could see how a lot of the trip was a bit much for Lucy. Your family is so large, has she asked to stay home during these kinds of trips? Could someone stay with her like an elder cousin or grandparent or uncle? You said Grace was doing HEFY. The whole family doesn’t have to do it for the kids to get the experience, again. Your inlaws seem to be doing similar things in retirement. When Lucy is grown, it’s going by so fast, you and your husband will have more free time to follow their example.

  4. How do you plan your trips? I love the unique things you find to do. Paragliding over the alps, sleeping on a boat in Thailand, your jungle experience. I would be interested in what resources you use to find these adventures and plan your trips.

  5. How do you plan your trips? I love the unique things you find to do. Paragliding over the alps, sleeping on a boat in Thailand, your jungle experience. I would be interested in what resources you use to find these adventures and plan your trips.

    1. We just ask lots and lots of questions, and do a lot of research 🙂 Also it's nice to have family who lives in a place to help you get around (like Switzerland and England). The boat in Thailand was recommended by someone at church in China. In this case OSSO plans this trip to Baños so we didn't have to do much planning which was so nice!

  6. I can imagine how heartbreaking it is for you as parents to watch her vision deteriorate so much. I mean, actually no, I CAN'T imagine! I'm so sorry! I do love how much of the world you have SHOWN her with her sight before she loses more. And I love that you gently challenge/encourage her while also giving her reprieve when she can't do something. You are such great parents! And I love that your children chose this trip of service and adventure over THINGS!

    Thanks for sharing your journey…always!

  7. That yummy, yummy fruit is Lilikoi, or Passion Fruit. In Spanish it can be called, 'maracuyá' or 'granadilla' (the double "L" is a "y" sound). 🙂 The best fruit! What an amazing adventure you guys had!

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