With the Pacific NorthWest having lowest snowfall in history, I decided to try my luck ‘snowboarding’ a little further south – Nicaragua.
Cerro Negro is one of the 28 volcanos in the county and the only one in the world you can ride down on a board. You can slide down either sitting on a rudimentary toboggan or standing, like on a snowboard. Helen was very excited to do this, but I was a little more skeptical, It sounded like a recipe for disaster.
Cerro Negro last erupted in 1999 and the jet black dried lava contrasts sharply against the green rolling hills that surrounds it. We saw multiple small craters as we slowly climbed up, past small vents emitting wispy clouds of steam. The trail climbed 1500 feet in elevation and as the temperature was above 90 degrees, thankfully only took an hour.
We reached the top and walked over to look into the dormant crater; the smell of sulfur was strong. When you scratched through the first layer of dirt, the ground below was hot to the touch and steam started to rise from the hole. We had a 360 degree view of the Pacific Ocean, numerous other volcanoes and the lush countryside of Nicaragua.
But now it was time to descend! So we put on our over-sized jumpsuits for protection and I strapped on my board. We had the latest in high-tech equipment; plywood cut roughly into a shape of a board with worn linoleum on the bottom and basic strapping to attach it to your feet.
Helen volunteered to go first on her plywood toboggan. She was off in a cloud of dust and she quickly was out of sight over the steep incline. When it was my turn to go, I had to basically point straight downhill to get going, with a gloved hand at the ready to catch my fall.
It turns out that volcanic ash and rock is a little more resistant than snow. I can’t say I was ripping down the mountain, but I slowly got the hang of it, stood up and ground down the volcano, fighting to stay upright. When I reached the bottom I was boiling hot and just relieved that I didn’t take a tumble.
While the riding was not exactly like a powder day at Mount Baker after a massive dump on a bluebird day, it was a novelty to ride down a volcano. I don’t feel the need to do it again, but I’m glad I gave it a go; it was something I will never forget.