Driving through the park entry the landscape suddenly changed, from rolling brown dessert to giant rock formations and lava rock. It looked kind of like mars. In fact, Austin told me that NASA often practices handling their rovers in the park. It looked mystifying and beautiful, like Arches, Zion, and Sedona all rolled into one marvelous place. It was hard to believe I was about to go trekking in Teide National Park, on the Island of Tenerife, in the Canary Islands of Spain.
Mount Teide towers at an incredible 12,200 feet above sea level, making it the highest peak in all of Spain. Driving to the national park was full of interesting surprises; from the sunny south coast to pine trees and mossy forest, the geography changes suddenly. The park itself lies at around 6,562 feet and is usually covered in snow during the winter months. Temperatures vary throughout the year from below freezing to 104 degree.
When we arrived we were above the clouds, looking down on them like pillows of cotton blocking the valley below. The temperature was a comfortable 20 degrees, but very windy! Our hike was only about 4 miles long, but the wind made it slow going in places. I estimate that we had some gusts over 50 mph at times while we were trekking. It was a nice slow accent followed by a fairly steep descent towards the end. In all, we saw just a handful of other people along the way. The sound of the wind coupled with the intense sunshine reminded me of the sheer strength of mother nature.
Apparently the best way for most people to reach the highest point of Teide is by cable car. Once at the top, visitors can walk around and take in the amazing view. The cable car takes you almost to the summit, but the only way to reach the crater of the volcano is to get a permit first from the national park’s office. There are also guided walks up the volcano for those with the desire and endurance to climb to the summit. I’m told that it generally takes around six hours. My friend Austin helps out with mountain rescue and he told me many stories about having to rescue stranded hikers on Teide. People often under estimate the difficulty of the climb and don’t bring the proper gear. A simple thing like a flashlight, additional bottle of water, or jacket can make all the difference.
What struck me the most during our trek was the severe weather conditions, which probably explains the solitude. It was so quiet on our hike. With the exception of the wind swirling around us, it was perfectly quiet. It was like being on another planet during another time. I could see the astrological observatories off in the distance and imagined the amazing view of the stars and planets they must have during the darkest of nights. It made me want to camp overnight and stargaze up at the heavens. Austin said that for the most part overnight camping isn’t allowed, although some people get away with it once in a while.
Teide National park is a place you absolutely must see if you visit the Canary islands. The Canary’s are kind of like the Hawaiian islands of Europe, full of diverse landscapes, rich history, tremendous beauty, and a unique culture.