Obviously, having gone to Pucon and hiked for miles on the flanks of Volcan Villarrica and driven hundreds of kilometers through Parque Nacional Villarrica I would have been disappointed to go home without seeing the peak.  I really wanted to see all three of the peaks in the park but I realized Saturday night I’d have to be out of bed early to be able to drive to the eastern end of the park and have time to make my flight in Temuco.  I opted instead to get a good night’s sleep, have another fine breakfast, and see what I could see near Bambu Lodge.

I got a first look at Villarrica in moonlight before I went to bed. By 10pm, it was clear.  My next look was just before sunrise and then I spent hours staring at it.  It’s a stunning mountain and, with the smoke spewing from it, I can see why people, like me, come from far away to have a look.  I am not writer enough, alas, to describe it so I will let a few pictures do the talking.

I also got a look at the other two volcanoes on this clear day.  I drove east of Pucon a bit and found a location where the top of Quetrupillan poked over the nearer ridges.  Quetrupillan is not nearly as tall as Villarrica and is much flatter on top.  It hasn’t erupted since 1872.  Later, from the airport and then from the plane, I had a great view of not just Villarrica but Lanin as well.  Lanin is the taller (and larger) of the two and well to the east.  Lanin is mostly in Argentina.  Reading up on these I learned that the Chile/Argentina border is, by treaty, the continental divide running along the Andes.  An interesting, if not terribly relevant, point.  Once we had gained enough altitude to be roughly level with Villarrica, it was clear that Lanin was the larger mountain.  Quetrupillan was not visible between them.  For the rest of the flight, I had the Andes, and more volcanoes, laid out to my right.

I took the photos below from just above the trailhead of yesterday’s hike.  I parked in the same parking lot and walked up a small lava flow to gain about 100 meters in elevation.  On the left flank of the mountain, just over the ridge, is where the craters from yesterday’s hike lie.  I would dearly have loved to repeat the hike today but also really wanted to make my flight home.

I also embarrassed myself by interrupting a couple who were speaking English.  The lady asked the gentleman how long the trail was.  I jumped in to tell them about my experience and wish them well and express my envy that they were doing it on a clear day.  The gentleman said that the trail is much better on a clear day but that it’s nice all the time.  I agreed and then realized that he was a paid guide and that they were not a couple.  And that he definitely didn’t need my help in explaining the trail.

I’ll close by praising the trail one more time.  I think a great trail needs to be at least good in all conditions.  If a trail is only good because of a single view that can be clouded out, it isn’t a great trail.  The Los Crateres trail was a wonderful experience that provided a lot of sensory input even with cold and cloud.  I’m certain it’s much better on a clear day but if you end up there on a bad weather day, don’t skip it for that reason.

Pictures:

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