Pacaya Volcano (family hike)

We spent the last ~2 weeks in Guatemala, where the pace of life was slow, and wifi was even slower. Uploading photos and writing blog posts was essentially impossible. Honestly, it was nice. I turned off my phone for the entire trip, and checked my work email on my laptop once a day.

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Wheels down in Guatemala
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We rented a small apartment in Antigua – our home for the trip.
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We did a lot of this, and it was awesome
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We ❤ Guatemala

One of the main reasons we went to Guatemala was to take Spanish lessons, which we did every morning from 8 am – noon. We all learned a ton, and we also still have a ton to learn! We plan to use duolingo to keep practicing, and hopefully set up some Spanish-only playdates as well.

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We all took one-on-one lessons at Antiguena Spanish Academy.
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Rowan and her teacher Melissa
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Tom and his teacher Oscar.
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Some of Rowan’s schoolwork

Of course, this blog is mainly supposed to be about endurance sport, so I should probably get down to business: Technically, our first hike in Guatemala was really just a very short (1/2 mile?) walk up Cerro de la Cruz. It’s like a miniature version of Rattlesnake Ledge: both the views and the crowds were stunning. There is a safe paved trail that switchbacks up to the top of the hill. You can easily do it on your own during daylight hours.

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Standing at the top of Cerro de La Cruz, looking down on Antigua with Agua volcano looming in the distance
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Standing at the top of Cerro de la Cruz, looking behind me at all the other tourists.

For our next hike, we skipped a day of school to go up Pacaya, one of the many active volcanoes in Guatemala. At 4 miles round trip and 2200 ft of elev gain, the route is relatively mellow and kid-friendly. Even so, this was going to be Rowan’s biggest hike to date, and while we wanted her to try her best to get up the mountain, we also wanted to keep it FUN.

Pacaya is in a national park, and park rules dictate that you must hire a guide to do the hike. We went with Old Town Outfitters, and I’d highly recommend them. Our guide Pablo was a friendly knowledgeable local who spoke excellent English and handled every detail, including packing us an amazing picnic lunch.

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Crushing it!
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Lunch spread courtesy of Pablo
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Pablo putting “Mayan Make-up” (tree sap) on Rowan

Tom and I decided ahead of time that our biggest goal for Pacaya was to make it a fun family day. We didn’t want Rowan to feel rushed or pressured about reaching the top.  As a last resort, we knew that there were locals with horses who often followed hikers up the mountain, so she could always get a horseback ride to the top if necessary.

I am so proud to say that Rowan did the entire hike all on her own two feet! More importantly, she did it with a smile on her face, and it never felt like we were dragging her up there. When she got to the top she said “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to hike up here all by myself! But I DID!” ❤ ❤ ❤

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Tom and Rowan on the final uphill push.
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Rowan at the “summit.” They don’t let you get any closer because it’s so active (most recent eruption was in 2014)
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Pacaya. The lava in the foreground is from the 2014 eruption.

We wandered around the lava fields for a bit, taking pictures and learning about the volcano, and then had a leisurely lunch while looking at volcans Fuego, Acatenango and Agua in the distance. All in all, probably our best family hike to date!

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From left to right, Fuego (erupting), Acatenango (hiding in the back) and Agua up front.
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Fuego erupted several times during our hike, which didn’t seem to phase anyone at all. If I saw a volcano doing this in WA state, I think I’d start planning an evac route!
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After lunch we roasted marshmallows over an active volcanic vent
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Happy camper
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Laguna de la Calderas, as seen from the flanks of Pacaya
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Super fun family day!

4 Replies to “Pacaya Volcano (family hike)”

  1. Fantastic fun family trip!
    I see that there is a trail right across that 2014 lava flow….Apparently some folks didn’t read the memo about “no travel.” 😉

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