Last Sunday was my last dia libre (free day) in El Salvador. Joaquin and I decided to end it in style with a hike up Volcan de Santa Ana. In case you’re wondering if ‘volcan’ means ‘volcano’, the answer is ‘Si’.
It is not an easy hike and I was a bit nervous. It is the country’s tallest volcano at 7,812 ft or 2,381 m. The city in which I’d been living is very flat. But walking many kilometers each day around the city with a backpack was pretty good training.
Each day, a group gathers to go up together for safety reasons. They assemble about 11:00 to go up with a guide and a police officer. This day, there were about 150 of us. We ascended through jungle to a high desert climate with vegetation similar to what I saw when I hiked the Grand Canyon several years ago. Up to this point, it is straight forward climbing along switchbacks. As the trail transitions from desert like to lava rock, it gets a little tricky to tell the trail from drainage channels and the trail bed is really loose.
The reward is reaching the top. Looking behind you, you see the valley and Izalco volcano. Off to one side is a large lake, partially obscured by haze. In front of you is the crater. And this baby is not extinct; she is only resting. That is steam coming from the water below. As an added treat, there was a Mayan ceremony underway. We snapped some photos, ate our lunch, grabbed a lava rock or two as a souvenir, and treated the policeman to one of our extra sandwiches and Snickers bars. Pretty soon, the guides blew their whistle and it was time to head down.