A fellowship of nine set off into the wilderness of Mt. Etna for a 30km trek. Sandro, our guide from our first visit to Mt. Etna, led us across lava flows and through forests as we went from the north east slope to the southern. We never gained much elevation so we just set a moderate pace and got to have a break from city views and see the natural world of Sicily at its best. The landscape of the volcano is stunning and surreal. We switched suddenly from forest to desolate lava filled landscapes in a second and could literally see the line where the lava hit the forest. For much of the walk the snow capped crater was visible above the trees.
The first day we were driven up to Linguaglossa. We hiked around the 2002 lava flow and Sandro showed us some lava bombs (rock spewed from craters and fissures) and a lava tube (a long narrow cave). So much of the rock showed the ripples of the lava. A few dead trees with white trunks were dramatically scattered across the vista and the only sign of life was low-lying shrubs and a few ladybugs. In contrast, the forests were beautiful and looked like New England in fall. Most of the leaves had already fallen leaving a red carpet though there were a few trees that still had spectacular yellow foliage.
On Saturday night we stayed at one of the many refuges around the volcano. We reached ours at sunset and started a fire in the dark. We ate foil dinners of lasagna (quickly prepared by Kayla, Hilah, Hannah and I the night before) with a side dish of beans, veggies and lots of cheese. Later in the evening another group of hikers showed up at the door. It was already pretty late and cold out so they joined us for the night making a group of fourteen in our very small shelter. We thought that our dinner had been quite a feast, but it was nothing compared to what the Italians cooked. They had brought raw chicken and sprigs of rosemary along with other seasonings and even a full cake to celebrate one of their friend’s birthdays.
Because the room was getting crowded and this was Kayla’s first overnight hike, Hilah, Hannah, Kayla and I decided to sleep under the stars. Though it was freezing (not literally) and we didn’t get any sleep, we did see a few shooting stars, the Milky Way and we heard two owls eerily calling to each other in the middle of the night. We had all had such a great hike the day before that we were eager and willing to get up from our night of little sleep and start up again. Everyone was brutally sore by the end of 30km and ready to shower and take a nap, but it was a fantastic weekend.
Hilah, Alan, Kayla and Sandro hiking at dusk with Mt. Etna is the distance