Exploring Irazú: The Enchantment Of Costa Rica's Tallest Active Volcano
Dave and I packed a couple of PB&Js this past week and took the hour-long journey to the Irazu National Park, where the country's tallest active volcano stands at 11,260 feet. Irazú has been dated at over 850,000 years, erupting at least 23 times since its first initial eruption recorded in 1723. It last erupted in the 60s, covering all of San Jose and the surrounding areas in ash.
The drive up to the park was beautiful plus long. We took an Uber from our house, thinking it would be just as easy to find one for the ride home. But as the little car chugged higher up and away from any semblance of city or town, we thought we may have underestimated the availability of taxis nearby. We decided to wing it in true pura vida style.
The parking lot was coated in mist and rain, and there was a sharp chill in the air. It took us mere moments to realize we weren't fully prepared for the temperature. We'd only brought our rain jackets for warmth. But the excitement and anticipation were enough to keep us warm. At least for a bit.
As we walked up the paved pathway to the top, I felt like I had stepped into another dimension. The land around us was barren but still had indications of human life. If it weren't for the footprints, tire tracks, and rock cairns, I might not have believed I was still on planet earth.
We made our way to the main crater overlook, which holds a crystal blue pool in the center. Unfortunately, because it is the middle of the rainy season, the cloud cover was too thick to see. But simply knowing it was there- this hidden lagoon holding secrets we might never know- was thrilling.
I didn't expect to see so much fresh and thriving green flora. Poor Man's Umbrella plants glimmered over black soil. Patches of scrubby grass decorated old lava trails. Everything around us felt as though it had been hand-picked from the most enchanting fairytale. A reminder that from literal ashes, growth is inevitable. We sat in the middle of a lava trail and quietly ate our sandwiches, surveying our surroundings with genuine appreciation.
It was getting colder and our clothes were soaking wet. As badly as I wanted to grow roots from my soles and plant myself alongside these Jurassic Park plants, it was time to go. I left my gratitude with the lava rocks, and we shivered our way back to the gift shop to thaw.
Just as we expected, Uber wasn't available in our area. When we went inside the gift shop to request the taxi number, we were told that a bus would leave within the hour heading toward Cartago- only about 20 minutes from our house. It wasn't the most ideal option as the bus takes quite a bit longer than a taxi and doesn't have any heating. But it was pretty much our only option.
As the bus made its way down the winding mountain roads, I replayed the past hour in my head. I thought about how you often hear people say that experiences like this make them feel "so small." I can't help but feel contrary to that. I don't feel small when I hike mountains, dance in the clouds, or stand at the edge of a 1,000ft active crater. It's like all of the parts of me that are so much bigger than my body can finally feel unconstrained and understood. Or maybe it's that, in these moments, I don't need to be understood. I don't need to be understood by the rocks beneath my feet because the rocks beneath my feet don't understand the cloud kissing my cheek. Yet, they live together in perfect harmony.
We don't have to boil ourselves down to tiny specks of stardust. We literally are the stars in motion. So is everything around us. Every mountain we climb. Every plant we admire. Every volcano we explore. We are all related in the most significant way possible. We don't have to understand it. We don't have to let it make us feel so small. We can experience its greatness and let it remind us just how big we are.
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