As a kid, nothing livened up the room like the sudden proclamation of a sibling screaming “Hot Lava!” Instantly you knew to lift your feet from the floor and travel around via furniture knowing if you touched the ground you were to die a dramatic death via hot lava, otherwise known as shag carpeting. Ever want to climb a volcano but at the same time be reasonably assured of your safety from hot lava?
Well, in San Miguel you can!
Venture out to the ranch area of Alcocer that is surrounded by the Picacho mountain range. I noticed it a week ago when wildfires roared for five days. I was shocked a fire of such intensity burned so close to town.
Park by the middle school and look up to view the rock climbers before beginning your own adventure up. And up and up, past the rock climbing walls and the circling blue tailed hawks looking down for good eats.
Walk up through fields littered with road apples. For those who didn’t grow up alongside the Amish in Hershey, Pennsylvania, road apples are a pleasant term for the excrement of farm animals the Amish constantly moved about.
About half way up the mountain you’ll meet the spot, where in 1973, Jose Luz had his appointment with death. His monument (called a descansor, or to rest) is not where he is buried but where he entered eternal life. Given the steep climb to get this point I’m assuming Jose Luz had a heart attack to die at the same age as Jesus, 33. Or given the proximity, he may have been struck by lightning. Either way, I appreciate the fact that sitting on his monument is rare opportunity to rest not on the ground alongside road apples.
As you continue up you’ll notice the change in flora. With the freshness of air you’ll see lichen on trees and rocks I haven’t seen since I lived on a remote Atlantic Ocean island. Also among the rocks is the Rose of Jericho, or Resurrection Plant.
The Resurrection Plant is a sturdy rose that when dry curls in on itself like a tumbleweed. However, hours after any application of water, they unfurl and bloom again. This death of the plant originally occurred when Jesus died and both Jesus and the rose came back to life on Easter Sunday (hence the name). The plant’s morning dew is believed to help Jesus survive all that time the desert. Today the plant is a magical charm for sustaining life through hardship and resurrection. You’ll likely recognize it as a staple plant featured in every Christmas nativity set here in town.
At the crest of the mountain arrives a scattering of oaks that form a dense, lightless tunnel as you approach the crater. It’s weird to suddenly be in a dense, seemingly fairy-filled forest, much less of oak. Hard to image that before the Spanish arrived the local mountains resembled the forests of New England more so than the semi-arid desert of today that formed following deforestation.
The views are spectacular, on par or above (literally), with climbing the monolith of Bernal and here you can enjoy some shade not found on the Bernal rock. San Miguel de Allende’s department of Ecology maintains a road you can day walk to the peak but it is very lengthy and hot as you are not allowed to venture off the middle of the sun-laden dirt road.
At the crater’s edge you have now been introduced to the volcano, Palo Huérfano (Orphan) which is believed to be the first in the continent, a few hundred years after the rupture of Pangea, forming the continents. Palo Huérfano was the most northern volcano in Mesoamerica separated it from the silver mines of Guanajuato and Zacatecas. Not having erupted in over 12,000 years the once great titan of a volcano is considered to be extinct.
Once back to the car my legs were wobbly from the climb, altitude or fact that my lovely new hiking boots are not made for walking despite Nancy Sinatra’s song to the contrary.
Joseph Toone is the Historical Society’s short-story award winning author of the SMA Secrets book series. All books in the series are Amazon bestsellers in Mexican Travel and Holidays. Toone is SMA’s expert and TripAdvisor’s top ranked historical tour guide telling the stories behind what we do in today’s SMA. Visit HistoryAndCultureWalkin