Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

February 4, 2013

Hiking the GR 131 Volcano Trail, La Palma

Most of the Canary Islands are dry deserts.  La Palma is the only one with multiple natural springs and lots of flowing water.  Well, not lots, per se, but at least some.  I think it's because of the springs, that fog has a tendency to form around the spine of the island each day.  We could often see this ring of clouds on La Palma from Tenerife, even the sky was clear everywhere else.

So from day to day, you never really know what kind of weather you are going to get on La Palma.  This makes it hard to plan, but we stayed flexible and tried to go where the clouds weren't.   Our second day on La Palma saw us driving over to the western side of the island in search of a place to hike.  We saw that the clouds were staying really low, and immediately we thought of hiking the Volcano Route.  

The high spine of La Palma is shaped like a question mark, and the GR 131 trail runs the length of the spine.   We have hiked several sections of the trail and had our eyes on another part of it, the southern end of the high route above Los Canarios.   We drove up as far as possible on a gravel track, then parked the car and continued on foot.  It was a beautiful day, warm, clear, and calm.   The islands of Tenerife, El Hierro, and La Gomera were easily visible...not a normal occurance, I assure you. 

Thick pine trees lined the path for a few miles.  I love these huge Canary pines.  I've never seen such blue skies as the ones see from through a canvas of green needles.   Luckily these pine forests are thick on La Palma and I got lots of chances to walk in them.   In fog, in wind, in sun, and in shadow, the pines offer shelter and a calming boon to the soul.

Eventually the pines thinned out and we started climbing up on of the more recent volcanos in the islands history....the most recent being the ones farther down at the southern tip.   Volcanic grit seeped into our shoes but the path was easy going even in steepness.  Continuing a few more miles brought us to a nice view point, where we took some time lapse photos (more of these later) and paused for lunch. 

On the way back down (can you hear me saying "onward, back to the pines, mate!") we detoured over Volcan Martin, where there was a proper crater, and a view of the big caldera rim to the north.  The steep descent was on proper deep volcanic scree, which was fun to run down, although it filled my shoes with black sand.  And I almost biffed it on a hidden rock, and with the nasty feel of the sharp volcanic rocks, I was happy to narrowly avoid a tumble. 

The wind rose as we descended, and so did the clouds, but not too much.  We got back to the car before it got either cold, foggy, or too windy.  Lucky, too, as all our warm clothes were left in the car.    Not often that weather on La Palma allows for this...in our remaining days on the island, we never again saw the ridge so clear or warm. 

Distance: 10 miles, 5 hrs, and 3000 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Bottom half of Walk #8 from the Walk! La Palma Walking Guide

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