Hiking the Volcano Santa Maria

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.

The eastern view from atop Santa Maria.                © MICHAEL SHEAD

The Volcano Santa Maria; been there, done that…and it was tough!

Ever since I heard about the moonlight hikes of the volcano Santa Maria, I thought that it sounded like a blast!

Hiking through the moonlit darkness into the dawn and then seeing sunrise from the towering peak and viewing up to 11 other volcanic peaks including looking down onto the live crater of Santiaguito, sounded like a great adventure for this Kansas farm boy.

So, here’s the story of my volcanic hiking adventure…

The Mountain

  • Name: Santa Maria
  • Height: 12,375 ft (3772 mts)
  • Type:Volcanic
  • Comparison: Mt. Fuji in Japan is about 10 feet taller
  • Trail rating: Strenuous
  • Trail distance: Approx. 6.21 miles (10 km)
  • Elevation increase from trailhead: Approx. 4,173 feet

The hikers

I had been dreaming of doing this hike for two years so when I found out that some friends were interested I planned it for Nov. 15th, 2013 (technically a few days before the full moon but it worked better for our schedules). There were five friends from ASELSI and three guys visiting town from Michigan plus our friend Kevin, from Totonicapan, our guide, Hansy, two friends of his and two police officers for safety. (Apparently there have been some thieves prowling the trails and they recommend armed escorts to prevent attacks.)

In Quetzaltenango, we met up with Hansy near the stadium and his friend wowed us with a  story of Hansy’s record ascent of the mountain (an incredible 45 minutes). Then we drove over to the central park where a van pulled up at about 12:30 a.m., and we headed out to the Santa Maria Summit Trail trailhead which ended up being quite a long ways from the foot of the mountain but, unless you’re on dirt bikes, that’s as close as you can get in a van. Continue reading

H.E.A.R.T. Institute Community Development

In the early 1980’s, a vision was born to establish a practical training center for Christian workers going to serve in developing regions of the world. In the late 1990’s I considered attending the HEART Institute in preparations for my missions and community development plans, but ended up taking a different route.  While I’m glad I followed a different path to the mission field, I think H.E.A.R.T. can be a huge benefit for anyone planning on living in rural areas as part of community development and missions.

via HEART » Missionary training – cultural adaptation, problem solving, and community development

Telescopes: Glimpsing Saturn

A view of Saturn

A view of Saturn

I remember the first time I looked through a telescope and really saw something fascinating.

I was in college and a local family had sorta adopted me and some friends. The mother of the family was a science teacher and she enjoyed developing projects for her students. One afternoon she told us about a skywatch student group that was getting together to look at Saturn. It sounded fun, and it’d be a chance to get off campus and not spend a lot of money. So we went.

That night we looked through the eyepiece of a cardboard tube telescope. It must have only been about 6 inches in diameter, but as it swept the dark sky, I found myself enthralled because, for the first time ever. I could see for myself: Saturn really does have rings around it. Oh, I’ve seen the cool NASA photos, but for the first time I was seeing it with my own eyes…with the help of that telescope. Sure it was small and blurry, but I could see those rings and that was all that mattered. Mars’ red tone had nothing on those fascinating rings.

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of being around a few telescopes and visiting with people who make them like Gary Singmaster
There is a lot of advanced technology out there like the ones Singmaster makes or the Meade ETX-AT my brother‘s wife bought for him for a gift complete with tracking motors and the like, but I still remember my favorite telescope is that one that showed me the rings of Saturn for the first time. Wow! Across those thousands of miles such a beautiful creation lay spinning away. Seeing that for myself brought out a childlike wonder in me.