Day 155 (6.17.17): Yellow Rocks, The Volcano’s Peak, and a Pumice Desert

We woke on our second day on the volcano excited to explore the area.  The volcano is actually the remains of a much larger volcano that erupted long ago, so that there is a massive and relatively flat plain inside of a large caldera.  We drove through this area on our way to a place called “Rocas Amarillas” or “Yellow Rocks,” where Diego promised there would be fun hiking.

Rocas Amarillos. etc

As we traversed the caldera, we couldn’t resist stopping to gawk at the other-worldly scenery.  Maybe the thin air was getting to us, but we were all pretty excited.

IMG_2835 We soon reached the trail head, where there is a small hotel and restaurant.  True to form, the chickadees had to eat before we could hike, but we were soon on our way.

IMG_2838Our short hike took us across arid scrub land, with the land so dry that our steps kicked up dust.  Soon, we could see Las Rocas Amarillas, and the girls ran ahead, anxious to climb.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I felt exactly the same.  The rocks formed bizarre shapes, remnants of their volcanic origin.  There were sharp, delicate edges that normally would have been destroyed by erosion in places where there was more rain.  We found twisting canyon-like passages…

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…that ended in cliffs.

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The kids were fearless, so we set off to climb even higher, through scenery that looked like an episode of Star Trek (the original — not that fancy TNG stuff).

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For the most part, the kids didn’t make me too nervous.  There was no water or moss to make the rocks slippery, nor had erosion worn any of the rocks smooth.  When we got higher, however, I realized that some of the rocks we were walking on were not as solid as they appeared.  From one side the rocks looked like thick slabs, but from another angle you could see large hollow spaces underneath, evidently formed by gas pockets in the cooling magma.  It was time to start heading back down, but first we stopped to enjoy the scenery a bit longer.  Scrambling up cliffs, we had ascended rapidly, and the views were amazing.

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You can see in this photo El Teide just to the right.  Going down the cliffs was a little trickier than going up, but we soon reached the bottom.  Julie and Teresa enjoyed a few breaks a long the way.

IMG_2915On the way back to the cars, we passed quite a few massive tajinastes in full bloom.

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We headed back to the house for lunch and a brief siesta.  Refueled and recharged, we set off for our next adventure:  the cable car to the peak of El Teide.  (Technically, we didn’t reach the summit.  In a nod to environmentalism and the value of hard work, the park only allows you to summit the volcano if you hike from a lower elevation.)  The cable car did, however, take us to 11,640 feet, as dutifully reported to me by my phone.  What?  No service on the top of the volcano?!

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Somehow, the landscape near the peak was even more alien than at Las Rocas Amarillas.  Up near the peak, we could see small vents of gas coming from deep inside the volcano.

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It was amazing to look down on the island, particularly where we could see the clouds far below us.  In the thin air, the chicklets got a little crazy, pretending that the were dying.  (Our house was just above Catalina’s pony tail in this photo.)

IMG_4151The last cable car left at 5 p.m., so we had to hustle back to catch it.  Staring at the ground on our way down in the funicular was exciting (and fortunately the car moved slower than in this time-lapse).

We reached the bottom, and started to make our way home.  Midway, we simply had to stop to explore, this time because there was an enormous area of pumice pebbles.

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Rising out of the pumice were rocky outcroppings, woven-through with thick veins of obsidian.

IMG_2951Dusty, tired, and delighted, we returned home for another night of star gazing and celebration, perhaps a bit grateful that this still-active volcano was dormant for another day.

-Will

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