2018 in China marks the Year of the Dog (cool fact: both my son and I were born during the Year of the Dog—and on the 19th day of our birth month). In our family, 2018 also marks the Year of the Volcano (and I don’t just mean our daughter’s explosive tantrums). Without meaning to, we’ve centered our travels around these powerful formations. I guess when you live and hang out around the Pacific Ring of Fire, that’s bound to happen, though.
Mt. Fuji and Mt. Hakone (Japan)
We started the year with a trip to Japan in February. Mt. Fuji was a formidable site on the horizon as we landed in Tokyo. So, of course, we had to get up close and personal. We ended up taking a tour that, not only took us to perhaps the most famous volcano in Japan, it also brought us to Mt. Hakone. Fuji was definitely cool to see. Unfortunately, we were only able to go part of the way up because the top of the mountain was covered in snow. However, it was the first time Baby Girl got to see snow. She loved it!
While Fuji was cool to see, Hakone, with its hot springs and views of Lake Ashinoko, is a beautiful destination for rest and relaxation. The volcano actively spews sulphurated steam that you can view from the safety of a cable car as you ride up the mountain. Just be wary if you are sensitive to strong fumes—the sulphur is quite pungent.
There are many organized day trips that will take you from Tokyo to the mountains. We did the Sunrise Tours JTB Bus Tour (Mt Fuji & Hakone Day Trip). Or you can ride Japan’s famous Shinkansen (bullet train) to the volcanos and back to the city.
Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens (Oregon and Washington)
The next three volcanos were majestically perched on the horizon of Portland. Unfortunately, we only got up close and personal with one of them, but it was one of the coolest places I’ve been in the world: Mt. St. Helens. I’ve always been fascinated by this volcano—perhaps because its most famous eruption was two years and a day before I was born. So, the date was always pretty easy to remember. It’s still an active volcano. The last eruption was July 10, 2008; however, it didn’t hold a candle to the 1980 eruption when Mt. St. Helens blew its top and sent lahars rushing through the valley.
Today, the land surrounding the volcano looks like it belongs to another planet. Very little vegetation exists on the sides and base of the mountain which is marked by peaks and crevices created by the lava flow. It almost reminds me of the Christmas crinkle cookies popular here in the Philippines.
At just about two hours from Portland, it’s an easy day trip if you live in or are visiting the Rose City.
Diamond Head (Hawaii)
When we went to Hawaii in May, we didn’t have to worry about Diamond Head (which hasn’t erupted in more than 150,000 years), but Kilauea was rumbling, grumbling and spewing. News of the volcanic activity on the Big Island was playing 24-7. It was on this trip that Baby Girl became obsessed with volcanos. She now loves volcanos and likes to ask us if we’re going to see another volcano whenever we travel.
Fortunately, we stayed safely in Oahu our entire trip and got to enjoy the beautiful views of Diamond Head from the beach. We didn’t get to hike up it as we weren’t sure the trek with a toddler and the heat would mix, but we enjoyed plenty of activities in its shadow (including the zoo and aquarium).
Crater Lake (Oregon)
This lake fills the caldera created by the collapse of Mt. Mazama. It is located in south-central, Oregon—just a hop, skip and a jump from wine country. Interestingly it is the deepest lake in the U.S. and the second deepest in North America (thanks Wikipedia).
Oregon was hit with some bad forest fires this summer and there was one burning in the north end of the park when we visited. We were able to get some good views of the lake in the morning, but by afternoon the visibility was as poor as what we experienced living in China. Still, it was quite a lovely day out with our new family of four.
Crater Lake National Park is a large park with plenty of great views (when the air quality is good). Just four-hours south of Portland, it’s a great option for a weekend getaway if you live in the area.
Taal Volcano (Tagaytay, the Philippines)
This complex volcano is located on an island in the middle of Taal Lake. About an hour and a half from Makati (Manila), visitors can enjoy sweeping views from the surrounding ridges opposite the island. You can even hop on a boat and hike up the volcano. Since we were traveling with a two-year-old and two-month-old, we decided to just view it from the Twin Lakes development. Twin Lakes is a new, mixed-use property that will eventually include residences and a winery. Right now it is a neat little spot full of restaurants and a couple of sweets shops—most of which have million-dollar views of the lake and volcano.
Taal Volcano is the second most active volcano in the Philippines. It has erupted 33 times, the most recent being in the 1970s. It has shown signs of unrest since the 1990s, but that hasn’t stopped visitors from going there—and why would it? The air is clean and the temperatures are a few degrees cooler than in the city, making it a really pleasant day-trip from Manila.
At the end of this week, we are headed to Bali—the Island of the Gods—where I’m sure we’ll see even more volcanoes. It feels like the perfect way to wrap up the year. Stay tuned to my Instagram account for pictures from our trip.