When Andrew and I received our invitation to serve in Nicaragua in March of 2014, I was teaching Science and ELA at Molalla River Academy. As my science classes were studying plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, and Nicaragua is the “land of lakes and volcanoes, it was a perfect fit. Using the amazing resources on the Internet to see real time data from Nicaragua, my science classes in Molalla, OR studied the series of earthquakes that shook the region last spring as well as the chain of 13+ volcanoes and volcanic complexes that run along the western edge of the country.
While it may not exactly sound like rest, as it was really hard, this past week during Semana Santa, we took the week off to cultivate some play and travel into our lives. The first weekend of the break, we had the opportunity to hike one of Nicaragua’s stratovolcanoes, Volcán Telica.
A few nerdy notes for my former students, or really just for anyone who is interested:
- Stratovolcanoes are often known for their steep slopes and violent eruptions, due to the build up of thicker, more viscous lava.
- Stratovolcanoes often form just off of a coastline where there is a subduction zone, where the tectonic plate under the ocean is being forced under a plate of continental crust.
- Hood and Mt. Saint Helens are stratovolcanoes, too.
- Stratovolcanoes can go years without erupting (think Helens or Hood) or can be currently active with smoking tops and fluid lava (like Volcán Telica!).
- Telica’s last eruption was in 2007, and it is currently classified as an active volcano.
- At night, if the smoke clears enough to look down over the edge, one can see the glowing lava in the crater of the Telica Volcano.
- Telica has a height of 1,061 meters. The difficulty of the hike isn’t in its height, but that there are no roads that lead to the base. The round-trip hike is suggested to take between 7 and 12 hours, but you can camp on the top overnight to rest.
Yep. That’s right. I just said that people camp at the top of an active volcano after hiking for hours to get there. Which brings us to our Semana Santa trip up this volcano.
A crew of 30 PCVs decided to tackle this specimen to start off our spring break. Our trip started simply enough. Carrying our food, tents, and water, we began wandering through the dried up riverbeds that lead to the barely marked trails of the volcano base. It was quite the crew, so we got a bit spread out. I should also mention that it’s the dry season (read HOT season) and we were in the country’s hottest department walking through a desert riverbed.
But our spirits were high, and we kept trekking. After getting lost and turning back around a few times, we began to wonder if we would make it to the base of the volcano before dark. The idea of climbing up the volcano, with all of our things, in the dark did not sound like the adventure we were wanting. So we picked up the pace, kept drinking water, and eating bean paste (it might look like poo, but it keeps you going!) and worked our way to the last leg of the journey.
The last couple hours up the volcano were tough! Andrew had to help me with my bag (meaning he carried his full camping backpack on his back AND mine on his front) at one point so we could keep going and use every bit of daylight left. He definitely wins the husband of the year award. Our hard work paid off, though, and we arrived at the summit with the fading summer light.
Seeing something so immense and still so alive does something to you. I wish I could fully describe the incredible awe I felt looking into the crater that night. While we couldn’t see the glowing of the lava, (the sulfuric smoke was too thick when we were up at the top) a few of our crew threw rocks in. We listened to them sizzle as they hit the lava at the bottom.
From seeing the shack that houses the seismographic instruments at the summit, to watching the sunset behind this majestic mammoth of a volcano, this was a science teacher’s dream come true.
The 7-hour hike up (we added a good chunk of time with our getting lost and such) had sufficiently tired me out. Even though we slept on the ground with only yoga mats to comfort us, with three people in a two-man tent, and it felt like we were camping on a slightly slumbering giant, I slept soundly.
We left early the next morning, wanting to get a start before the hot Nicaraguan sun claimed the day. Even as exhausted as we were, I couldn’t help but feel so small, and feel such awe as the sun rose on the volcano, lighting our way.
We would love to hear what you think about this guidepost:
+ What are your forms of play and rest?
+ How can we redefine self-worth?
Read/join the discussion here.