It isn’t often that you get to stand in snow, on a volcano, and a few hours later you are sipping tropical drinks on a beach in your bathing suit. We did just that over in Hawaii. But it isn’t the only place we have stood in snow, on a volcano - more than two and half miles into the sky- you can do that in at least four states that I know of- and in South America and Japan.
In Ecuador you can even go to two different volcanoes - one that has a lake in the middle and you hike the rim, and the other is the tallest volcano in the World. (or maybe South America- I am old and my memory may have clouded the facts. Might be time for you readers to do some Google searches!)
Nowadays I would have “go pro” footage, drone footage, and SLR camera recordings too- of our journeys. Back in the day (as they say) we only had a pictures if someone was thoughtful enough to bring a camera along. You had to use your senses to record everything to memory- and cement them with the actual conditions: wind, cold, snow, heat, sweat, lack of oxygen (there isn’t any air to spare at 15,000 feet!).
When your lungs are on fire from both lack of air AND sulfuric fumes from the Volcano you tend to remember that. Mostly how you want to just get back down to sea level where there is air: clean, fresh, thick as soup…air!
There is no sprinting once you get past about 10,000 feet up on a mountain, when you get to 15,000 feet you move in slow motion, or you simply stop. If you are one of those unlucky people who’s genetics say you need to be at sea level, you can (and will) develop altitude sickness at 10,000 feet. At 15,000 feet you would be in serious trouble- even with ordinary genes. You have to spend an hour or so around the 10,000 foot level before heading up the hill. Some people try to skip that part and they usually are brought back down in the back of an Ambulance.
If you are young and healthy without heart ailments or lung disease, the hike is doable- but strenuous. And you need to bring layers of clothes. On all of our hikes to these snow covered smoking volcanoes (and some not smoking) we started out in hot muggy conditions, morphed into rain gear outfits as we passed through the cloud layer- then into jackets and hats as we got into clear cold air, and then another layer as we hit another cloud layer near the summit.
This cloud layer brought sleet, then snow- then the best view of the sky you have ever seen. In daylight the blue sky becomes a dark gem like blue like you might put on a ring or on a broach. Even in daylight, at those altitudes above 15,000 feet you will see faint stars out. At night, it is a crystal ball on black velvet- and if you had any breath left, the view would take it away from you.
I was sixty years old the last time I was above 10,000 feet on the side of a mountain volcano. That was at Gobbler’s Knob and Lake George on the famous Mt. Rainer in Washington state. The hike kicked my butt, but the view knocked me on my ass. LOL
I chose that hike because one of my favorite movies is: Groundhog Day. In that movie a lot of the action centers around the gazebo in the town square- the name of that town square is “Gobbler’s Knob.” How could I resist a trail taking me there? LOL
When you climb, hike, or ride up these mountain volcanoes the views are often spectacular…and smelly. Often the caldera has a lake in it. The lake can be of water or of lava. We have seen both kinds of lakes- Kilauea in Hawaii used to have a lava lake in it- as do many of the Volcanoes in the Pacific Rim of Fire.
Iceland has many of both kinds of lakes- as does French Polynesia, Indonesia,the Philippines, Japan, and the good old USA is peppered with them from Yellowstone National Park to Alaska. Even in the Azores we got to stand between the blue lake and the green lake - two calderas (side by side) but because of the mineral content of the two lakes, one looks blue, the other green. It is a remarkable sight to see.
In Guatemala we paddled on a lake in a canoe - just on hundred and thirty years earlier that lake was made of lava! Believe me, you couldn’t paddle in lava. In all the Central American countries you are a stone’s throw from a Volcano. Most aren’t high enough to put you in thin air, they are however, hot enough for you to seek air conditioning. LOL
Fire and Ice - it seems an unlikely combination, but it turns out to be quite common.
And if you hike to these places (and I sure hope you do some day) your lungs, legs, and heart will burn with both fire and ice as they fight for their share of the air!