We went to Pucón a few days to visit Hector, a friend of John and Katie's. He lives in Pucón and was a fantastic host, driving us around to all his favorite spots in the region.
Our first day we hiked up one of the lava paths to just below the tree line of the mountain where the Araucaria flourish. Nicknamed Monkey Puzzles for their directional, painfully spikey branches, a hypothetically unlucky monkey would be able to climb out on a branch, but not back down the tree.
The whole morning while hiking upwards, the clouds obscured Volcán Villarica, leaving us to inspect the very interesting terrain. Our path was originally carved by lava in the 1960s during the last big eruption, and remains relatively sparse due to seasonal snow and rain runoff.
There was forest on either side of us, but our hike was over rocks. A river of stone amongst a sea of green. The path had a pleasant incline; constant but not so steep to wear you out. It runs from the top of the volcano all the way down to the lake. The entire thing can be covered on foot, although you'd need a couple days to make the whole journey.
Hector wasn't 100% sure where to find the trees, and admitted that he'd been unable to find them one other time he'd come out here hiking. But we were hopeful we'd find them and the scenery was interesting enough on its own.
Finally we came over a ridge and spotted the trees! Energized by the sighting, we picked up our pace and in no time found ourselves at the base of the grove.
These trees absolutely tower over the rest! They grow about one centimeter per year so their height is even more impressive when you let it sink in. Hector told us that the trees are so sought after that they made it illegal to harvest wood even when the tree has fallen to the ground. Still, the wood is often found in gift shops, treasured for its intense red glow when put in front of a light, due to the thick resin that runs through the trunk and bigger branches.
We split up and all had a moment of solitude amongst the trees. They were absolutely gorgeous, and the light breeze provided both the perfect ambiance within the trees, and a wonderful cooling effect after we'd hiked up the open path in the sun.
On the way back down of course the clouds cleared up, meaning we all walked down the mountain with one eye looking backwards. But we took the opportunity to snap some group photos with the prized mountain in the background.
All around a perfect hike!