3 Life-Giving Words I Learned in the Dark, Alone with my Daughter, on a Volcano in Guatemala
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”
— Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
I fell asleep at 1:00 a.m., sandwiched between strangers and my daughter.
We were in a tent, the strangers on my right. They were a friendly couple from Brazil — or at least whatever they said in Portuguese sounded nice. They smiled when they said it. All four of us cocooned in borrowed sleeping bags below the summit of Acatenango — the third tallest volcano in Central America.
After she finished college, my daughter, Averie, moved to Guatemala, where she founded a socially conscious clothing and textile production company. When I was able to take a week to visit her, she thoughtfully said, “Hey, you like hiking — there’s a big dormant volcano here. We should hike up it.”
I’m always up for a hike and a good time with my children, so I said sure. She signed us up, then emailed back with the details: Oh, this isn’t a day hike. It’s an overnight, guided backpacking experience with lots of medical forms and liability waivers.
A chance to follow the music?
And that’s how I found myself on the side of a Central American volcano.
We’d spent the day trudging up the volcano, burdened with backpacks that were a function of our bodyweight. The heavier you are, the heavier your backpack. Mine weighed fifty pounds. (It’s a cruel irony to give a guy who already had more weight to carry a heavier backpack — like some kind of reality-TV-inspired weight-loss incentive program.) I was also older than everyone else in our group by ten years. I asked if there was a backpack-weight reduction based on age — they just laughed.
We spent the day climbing through ash-enriched fields of coffee, flowers, and avocados, through a cloud rainforest, and into a dry ghost-forest of ash-choked trees killed by some old eruption.