We opted not to travel anywhere during this holiday season and instead take some day trips around the area. Today's adventure: hiking to the top of Mt. Vesuvio! (Yes, that would be the volcano we know as Vesuvius that erupted in 79 A.D. and destroyed Pompeii!)
First part of the adventure involved FINDING the right location. Our GPS initially took us to a different part of the mountain, where there was a road that clearly looked national park-ish (and indeed, we followed brown signs pointing the way to Vesuvio) but had multiple DO NOT ENTER (or the equivalent) signs at the entryway. So we wound our way back down and tried again after Ted did some map investigation, and before long we were winding our way up, up, up a much more promising road. There were unique and interesting sculptures along the way, plus signs that, to my semi-trained mind that has always been intrigued with word roots, indicated people were not to leave the beaten path in order to preserve the natural park area.
Sure enough, we eventually found ourselves at a parking area (2.50 euro to the attendant) and tumbled out, exclaiming over the chilly wind that greeted us. We hustled into the little building that boasted a "toilette" (0.50 euro per person to hover over an ice cold bowl) as well as postcards and panini. Since we hadn't actually started our driving adventure until 12:15, we decided ham and cheese panini were in order before making the hike. We downed the sandwiches as quickly as possible, realizing that the park was supposed to close 2 hours before sundown, which around here has been anywhere from 5-5:30.
Then we packed everyone up, paid the entrance fees, and started the climb, falsely advertised as "only 500 meters." Whatever! We rested at these little lookout areas.
I was very proud of Lucan, who was a trooper on the way up. The older boys were not so trooper-ish, and I could in fact say a lot more about their un-trooperish attitudes, but I will leave that to your imaginations and instead say that there was much encouragement and reminders and admonitions from Scripture about persevering, doing all things through Christ's strength, and not being filled with fear. (Poor Kenna and Lucan, we learned later, were terrified of falling off the mountain.) With that said, it WAS cold. It WAS windy. Terribly so. And it WAS a long, steep hike. (The picture below doesn't really give you a good perspective on how steep the grade was.)
With much relief we sighted a building at what we were sure was the top, and we used the visible goal to encourage everyone the rest of the way. It was indeed very close to the crater. Just a short ways past the tourist stand (where they were all sold out of hot chocolate, sigh) was an overlook where we could see down into the volcano. In fact, we could see steam/smoke coming out of part of the rocks! Amazing! (The second picture below shows the steam--can you see it?)
The steep part of the hike was over; the trail continued to the other side of the rim of the crater, which, had Ted and I been alone, we would have done in a heartbeat. As it was, we had two screaming little boys and older kids who were also more than ready to head back down the mountain, so that was that. One last picture to showcase the view, and then we were off.
If I thought the climb up was excruciating, it was nothing compared to hiking down with a screaming, frantic Lucan. I thought carrying him would help--I knew he was cold, and his nose was running like crazy. He stiffened up when I held him, though, pressing his feet into the front of my thighs instead of wrapping his legs around my hips. After awhile, I finally figured out that he did not WANT me to carry him; he was afraid of falling. Poor little guy! I held his hand firmly in mine, encouraging him as much as I could, but he still wept and wailed and shook all the way down to the parking lot. I had encouraged Ted and the other kids to just keep going, because poor little Zaden was so cold and was most unhappy. I don't know how long they ended up waiting for us, but by the time we got to the Suburban, Ted and Charis were back inside the little shop buying hot cocoa for everyone. Hooray! It was a nice way to end our excursion!
So, the good news is we now have that parking lot programmed into our GPS, so when we bring our visitors (hint, hint!), we'll know exactly where to go! And the drive will be closer to an hour than 90 minutes! And next time we'll be prepared for the winds. And we'll probably leave the little ones either at home or else exploring the parking lot with whoever doesn't want to make the hike!