Day trippers find the crater a fairly easy hike, since the taxi drives them up most of the elevation, and they are left with a long steady downhill and then a rocky river descent to the finish. Why I decided to go the other way I'm not quite sure, but I do like to start and finish hikes under my own steam. No taxis for me. Rob dropped me off at the river bed and my pack felt much heavier than usual, loaded up with extra food and sleeping gear. I could tell I was tired, too...the 2 weeks of steady long day hikes and beach walks were much more than even I was used to.
But the river was an amazing place and the variety of rocks in the flowing river kept me searching for new colors. It was another sunny, clear day, and I was lucky to be walking in such a place. The river, flowing from springs deep in the crater, often colored the rocks orange from iron-ores. In other places the trail brought me high above the water looking down into narrow gorges.
A detour was a must to go up to see the Cascada de Colores, where the river bed got more and more orange from sediment until it was fairly glowing. The cascada wasn't really much, though, just a man-made dam with orange and green stains from the water flow.
From the riverbed up to the campground, the trail climbed steeply but was well groomed and smooth...probably the best maintained trail on the island, and that's saying a lot. I was sweating but it felt great in the dry air by the time I arrived at the campground. Which was a ghost town. I dropped of my permit in a slot in the locked visitor center, then toured the area for the best locations. I didn't see any sign of life aside from an empty tent. The deeply shaded grounds were lined with tall pines, but I could hear another river gurgling nearby. In short, it was paradise. I found a spot where the sun shone down on a bed of pine needles, and proceeded to spend several hours reading and sunning, with the river a calming background trickle.
Near sunset, I moved out into the wide riverbed to catch a timelapse of shadows on the crater rim, and cooked supper on a rock. My bed for the night was on layers of thick pine needles which someone had helpfully gathered. As darkness settled in and I with it, I suddenly wondered where my walking pole was, as it was not near my sleeping bag. I found my flashlight and went looking for it in all the places I had visited, but saw no sign of it. I suddenly wondered if someone had taken it...unlikely given that I hadn't seen a single person all day, but the trees were thick. Could there be a thief? I couldn't believe it, yet where was my stick? (The short answer was no....I found my pole the next morning exactly where I had left it, somehow evading the dim light of my flashlight search the night before!)
I struggled to get much sleep that night, for some reason, and found that the light of the moon in my eyes was keeping me awake. Yet it was an absolutely perfect night, warm, calm, at times foggy and yet clear, with no hint of chill. The moon and the stars waded through the trees above me, and there were no sounds aside from flowing water. Well, aside from a really annoying rooster. What's a rooster doing up in the crater, anyway?!
I had planned on doing an extra hike up to a large waterfall in the morning, but in the end, just didn't really feel like it when I woke up. So I cooked breakfast in the warm air, and then slowly hiked up and out of the crater along another nicely graded path. And I do mean slowly....I could tell that the endless days of hiking were catching up with my legs. Fog shrouded the crater rim and it was kind of a grey day. At the end of the hiking path was the road descent down to the river where Rob was waiting for me. I suddenly realized that walking down the 10 miles of road switchbacks would take me forever (it seemed), so I took a few hiking trail shortcuts instead. These were really steep, and made me want to get back on the road and flag down a taxi, I was feeling that tired. The road went off somewhere else for a while, though, and I was stuck on the trail.
It was on a graveled path where my tired legs lost their footing and I went down hard on the rocks. Luckily the rocks were of the normal variety and not the sharp volcanic stuff. After a few whimpers, I realized that I hadn't done much damage besides small scrapes and what would turn out to be a softball-sized bruise on my thigh. I continued on hoping to hear the sounds of a vehicle...I really wanted a ride down now. Nothing. I continued on, more trail shortcuts, and soon the river started to look larger...I realized I was getting a lot closer to it than I expected. I determined to finish the descent on my own steam (good choice...no vehicles ever did pass me), and soon I could see Rob at the river coming back from his own hike up into the barranco. It wasn't the strong finish I was hoping for, but it was an absolutely beautiful night out and so peaceful that I will remember that, rather than my crash!
Distance: 13 miles, 8 hrs, and 3500 feet of elevation gain (and loss).
Walk #17 from the Walking on La Palma Cicerone Guide
|Cascada de Colores...clearly not the best time of day for photos of this|