Itzapopo National Park has two of the three highest peaks in Mexico, both of which are thousands of feet taller than any of the mountains in the lower 48. Our trip to this incredible place started when one evening, Mom and Dad announced that we would be taking a two-day expedition the next day. We packed two days worth of clothes, plus every warm article of clothing we owned, since “base camp” would be at twelve thousand feet, and during the rainy season, it becomes frigid at night.
The next morning we packed sandwiches and water, and set off in our rental car. What Google Maps said would be an hour and a half turned into more than two because of how bad traffic was. Lanes seemingly disappearing without warning also took some getting used to. When we got up to the plateau, we saw the bottom portion of a volcano shrouded in clouds on the left, but had no idea where the other one was because of all the fog. Since it was already noon, we packed for a short day hike and after locating the trail, set off.
Just a quarter of a mile down the trail we were entirely alone, a feeling we all relished, because it connected us in a way that no amount of time spent in an apartment will. Feeling elated, we kept going down the trail and up towards the volcano. Even with everything shrouded behind mist, it was an amazing, beautiful place, and we absolutely loved it. We also got to experience one of nature’s tricks; a short way in the distance we could see a radio tower that looked relatively small, and there was only one hill between us. Well, after cresting said hill, we realized that it was at least another quarter mile, and that the radio tower was massive. After having seen multiple movies on people lost in the mountains, we started to understand why it was so difficult for them to get out.
After climbing to the highest point and taking a good panoramic look around, we decided it was time to head back so we could get food and find our hotel. We had realized part way through our hike that the road was far more gradually sloped, and we also knew that going downhill was often more difficult than going uphill. After walking back down the road, we were greeted by a ranger who was unnecessarily concerned about Brenna’s health. After trying to explain that we were just cold to no avail, he directed us over to a Mexican food stall, and ordered us four “hot chocolates”. This was the Mexican take on hot chocolate, made with beans and bananas, and very, very hot. After a few minutes the ranger found a police officer who spoke English, and we were able to communicate and tell him that Brenna wasn’t sick, but that we were all cold.
We began talking with the officer, who had fascinating stories to tell, and after our conversation was exhausted we tiredly traipsed back to the car and drove down the mountain, had dinner, and began the hunt for our hotel we had booked. This proved to be far more of an ordeal than we had anticipated. Within thirty minutes we had dug up and visited four different addresses, none of which actually existed. Fast forward an hour, and we’ve given up trying to find it and driven part way back up the mountain to sleep in the car. After getting as comfortable as four people in a car can, we drifted off to sleep, with a constant downpour outside.
After winding over hills and valleys, we crested the final hill and saw the tiny little spot of La Joya sitting on the side of the mountain. We were all surprisingly energized, but still stopped and snacked. Following our rest was a continuation of the trail, one leading steeply upwards. The first section consisted of mud, mud, and a bit more mud, at a terrible angle. Next came one of the prettiest paths I’ve seen winding through mountains. Lined on both sides with alpine meadow grasses, a sheer dropoff on one side, and a ridge rising high above us on the other, it was an untroubled space, zigzagging up the volcano. On the left, our view allowed us to see a thousand feet down to the bottom of the valley, and behind, we could still catch glimpses of the town more than five thousand feet below.
When we reached the top of the ridge, we could see down the other side, and all the way back to the parking lot, an eight mile hike away. Being in such remote places is comforting, relaxing, and soothing, and we all love that feeling. When we got to the top, we could see miles, and could almost see the other volcano, but within fifteen minutes, clouds that had previously not existed had formed and enveloped us. Freezing and damp, we began our long walk down.