The fire lookout tower that gives this place its name gazes down on the pine forests and almighty expanse of the crater below envisioning in me scenes from Kerouac’s ‘Desolation Angels’. Its empty for the winter months even though the island is experiencing one of its driest cold seasons to date. Though vacated, it stands there perched 1300 metres above the raw Atlantic swell gazing, unblinking, as the locals of La Palma go about their business at the relaxed pace that the sun demands. This is to be my first venture upwards since arriving having decided to take the trail downwards to the ocean the evening before, and what a trail it is.
Lacing my shoes before heading off I am aware of the tower- not intimidating really, more sage-like and wise almost suggesting ‘yeah its gonna be tough but what a reward, come and see what I have seen all the years I have stood here’. I begin to run. First the road section- easy, flowing tarmac with no traffic, almond trees in bloom and shining sun giving the brain and body a Spring boost in early January. After a couple of kilometres the trail appears on the left wasting no time in rising. Within what seems like only a few metres the paved road is disappearing below. The narrow path traverses a small barranca, widens and continues to climb.
Distance becomes irrelevant on trails like these. My legs burn, my lungs draw deep gulps of pine-scented air and my steps become small as I slowly tip-toe up the mountainside. I look at the trail a metre in front, reach it and adjust my gaze a metre ahead and so it goes. Random thoughts come and go but the trail is a constant companion. The embrace of the forest opens a little and I get my first glimpse of the crater rim and the expanse beyond. I stop. I look at the view in awe. Sweat drips down the bridge of my nose and reaches my lips; it tastes like living- like being away from the city, like running up a mountain for no reason other than the love of doing it. I turn and begin my little dance upwards again feeling revived.
I can no longer see the tower and I don’t need to. I know its waiting there for me patiently as I continue my journey. The trail rises relentlessly- steep sections are followed by steeper sections and the trail occasionally becomes a small crag of volcanic rock- sharp and wild. To the left of me the pines become fewer while to my right the crater rim follows its epic loop. No-one passes me by and I pass nobody, behind me the suns colour has began deepening to a molten dark-orange adding a richness to everything around. I climb.
The ground beneath my feet turns from rugged trail to dirt-road. I glance up and there it is; Torre Del Time looming over me, I am close now only 400 metres or so. I climb.
I reach the tower and take in the view of where I have come from, I make out the road far below and the blue ocean beyond. Then I notice. The tower is no longer looking down at all but is, it seems, looking the other way towards the islands highest peaks, magnificently stretching out in the distance. I hear them calling.
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