by Sophie Impellitteri
When I saw the sweat drop off my face and streak my mud caked ankles I really thought I am never doing this again. Never again am I going to let someone convince me that hiking 5 hours up a mountain will be fun. I get winded carrying my school books to a third floor math class, so why did I think I would be capable of hauling a 50 pound backpack to the top of a volcano.
By the time we reached the top and fell onto our bags, I hardly cared about the volcano sitting behind me. All I could think about was how, on top of everything, there was no shower, and no bed. The only things waiting for me were a too–small tent and a very early hike back down. All I could think was that I never wanted to do this again.
But then we started walking up the final slope to the rim of the volcano. All at once, the forest was gone and my entire view was consumed by reddish rocks. I was in a movie or on Mars or in a dream, and my brain was so preoccupied with consuming it that, for a moment, the aches were forgotten.
The rim sloped like a tilted soup bowl, that is, if soup bowls dropped off in a way that instinctively made you crouch and grab the ground with your hands even though you’re still several feet from the edge. Between puffs of sulfur, glowing lava lit the bottom. Through a camera lens it looked like nothing more than a few orange specs, but in person it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen. We watched the sunset paint orange across the tops of the volcanoes that lined the distance.
That night, the tent fit about from my head to my knees, making it an incredibly unsatisfying sleep for my gelatinized muscles. But we laughed at the craziness, the drunken silliness of sober people who have had a hell of a day.
In the morning, we scrambled half-asleep to the top of another ridge where we were met with rooster cries echoing from all directions. The sun rose and left a clean, clean blue. Mist snaked below us in between the ridges, a river of breath flowing through the treetops. I wasn’t bitter that it was 4 am and I was awake. Actually, I was wondering how I missed this every single day.
Now that I’m back in the comforts of my home, and all I can think about is how to get to the tops of other volcanoes. Yet again, never again has become what’s next.