Paracutin Volcano

This was the most amazing Halloween night of my life. That is still true.

My parents woke us up in the middle of the night, and... Well, read the diary page. Then I'll say more.

Our guides to Paracutin Volcano

Other tourists in our party
These two pictures were not captioned in the album, so I composed captions for this web article. I almost captioned the second picture as 'Dave, Bob, Ruth', but on second thought it wasn't us. I think the middle person is female, and all three look bigger than we would have been at the time. Still, that looks like my hair and Ruth's hair, so just maybe...

The parents weren't saying anything about why or where, just that we were going out in the middle of the night. Halfway there -- at least in terms of time -- we switched to horseback. Of course, the horses were used to handling this route in the dark; night is the best, most dramatic time to view a volcano. We rode across fields many feet deep in rough rocks. The horses were OK because a path had been mostly flattened across the tops of the rocks.

We finally reached a hill and stopped. Our vantage point looked over a flat valley at least a mile wide. On the other side, we could see a truncated cone of a mountain silhouetted against the sky. There were red glowing sparks being spewed from the mountain, sparks that landed on the slope and crept down the hill still glowing. Except... It was a mile away, and the sparks had to be huge, red-hot boulders.

As the sun rose, it was harder to see the glowing sparks; they were most clearly visible at night. But now we could see the cloud of volcanic gases rising from the top of the mountain. We could also see that the flat valley was many feet deep in the sort of rocks we had been riding over. Of course, now we knew that the rocks were lava, cooled and solidified.

Two memorable things from the ride back to the stable:
  • We passed the steeple of a church sticking out of the lava field, probably two miles from the volcano. It was part of a town, one of two that were completely buried in the 1943 eruption. Gave us a better idea of the depth of the lava; that was the only visible part of any building in the destroyed town.
  • One of the guides pointed out that, when we looked into the cracks between the rocks underneath us, we could sometimes still see a glow. He emphasized its significance by sticking a piece of wood (probably scrap 1x3) into the crack, leaving it there a few seconds, and pulling it out. The end of the stick was charred and smoking. Even years after the eruption dumped it there, the lava was still hot enough to start fires.
We were very lucky to see the volcano erupting. The following year, 1952, it went dormant. The valley has vegetation now, and tourists climb the cinder cone mountain.