Monteverde Cloud Forest
Two national parks in northern Costa Rica feature different natural wonders, Arenal Volcano, and the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The two national parks border each other, but there are no roads between them. It’s rough country, with impenetrable jungle forests, steep mountains, and narrow, rocky ravines.
To travel from one to the other, you take a shuttle bus to Arenal Lake, cross over to the southern shore, and drive an hour and a half over winding, rocky road to the town of Monteverde.
Trapp Family Lodge
We stayed about 7 kilometer in the mountains above Monteverde. the road was rocky and muddy, but when we arrived at the Trapp Family Lodge, we were thrilled how modern and comfortable it was; a great restaurant, small bar, lobby, and helpful staff. We had to climb winding stairs and paths to get to the third tier looking down over the lodge.
Our room was a corner with full picture windows looking out at the cloud forest and the clouds constantly moving down from the alpine ridge above us. It was mid-January, but temperatures were in the 40’s, windy, and rainy, especially at night when the fierce winds whipped trees around so forcefully I thought we’d had one crash down on our lodge. But it didn’t happen, the tall, vine-covered trees are acclimated to the strong winds.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Our interest in traveling to the 1440 meter high spine of Costa Rica was to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, started by a group of American Quakers from Alabama who settled here in the 1950’s and began a successful dairy and cheese manufacturing enterprise.
When farmers began encroaching on the forest, the Quakers organized an effort to preserved the virgin cloud forest. The united with scientists to form a private environmental and science research center to protect 14,000 acres of virgin forest.
Tours are offered every day which lead through 4 kilometers of trails and sky bridges over deep ravines. Guides point out the many species of trees, wild flowers, insects, birds, and occasional mammals. Our guide was very knowledgeable and stopped several times along the trail to point out trees, vines, and wildflowers. Most trees are layer with various species of plants, epiphytes, flowers, wild orchids, and vines, many that hang from branches, and form roots for water and nutrients.
He shared an amazing fact that some mature trees have more than 4,000 plants or epiphytes living on them, so dense it’s difficult to see the bark of the host trees. Costa Rica ha some 1400 species of wild orchids, small, growing on trees, with intense red, orange, purple blooms.
Deep in the cloud forest, we climbed stone steps to the top of a hill, leading to a metal sky bridge across a ravine. Neither one of like heights, but we started across the bridge, holding the metal cable to keep our balance. But the sky bridge was sturdy, and half way across, we were able to lean down and see the canopy about 20 meters below us. Yikes!
After a few minutes on the bridge, I leaned over and pointed my camera down to capture the sweep of the ravine and trees far below. Nobody push!
We met an interesting couple from North Carolina, Dave and Camie. We walked along with them, sharing stories of travel, families, and careers. After our hike, we invited them to dinner at Trapp Family Lodge that evening. More interesting conversation followed and we invited them to Monterey when they come to the West Coast later this year for a wedding.
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