Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cloud Forest

Tuesday, May 29

An exciting day: this is my older son's 21st birthday! I miss him and wish he was here with me in Costa Rica.

We assemble for breakfast at Monteverde Lodge. Hearty, for a day of hiking ahead. We load into the van and drive the short distance to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. We get out of the van and move towards the trailhead: DSCN0445 (Yes, I know I used this photo already, but this is actually where and when it was taken.)

I'm going to insert a series of snapshots taken as we hiked up to the Continental Divide: DSCN0446

We climbed higher and higher into the clouds. They obscured our view to the forest far below: DSCN0461
Along the way, I plucked Impatiens: DSCN0462
Impatiens are an invasive species here, escaped from ornamental cultivation.
But there are many pretty native plants: DSCN0463
Eventually we reached our destination, the continental divide and were happy for that: DSCN0467
(Note the Gunnera on the far right.)
It was too cloudy (remember, it is called the cloud forest) to see far either East or West but it was still dramatic to be there. All that theory about adiabatic processes etc. all come together when you are feeling it.

This is probably the clearest view we had, in this case to the East: DSCN0468
And of course, this being a seminar, we had a lecture: DSCN0469
We hiked back down: DSCN0473
and looked for birds as we went: DSCN0475
We heard a Quetzal but did not see one. We did see an Emerald Toucanet up close, but it was too dark for my limited photographic skills.
We went into a classroom for a lecture on management of the reserve. The highlight for me was the collection of video clips from their Cuddeback game cameras of mammals such as Puma, ocelot, peccary and brocket deer. Very, very impressive.
There has been all manner of research at this site stretching back decades: DSCN0476

We returned to the van, tired but very excited.
Lunch is at a fine local restaurant: DSCN0478
We also had long-reaching discussions about educational travel, science, climate change, water resource management and village politics. Fascinating.
The garden out front was also interesting. I had never seen big-leaf Hydrangea in the tropics! DSCN0479
We visited a greenhouse that produces native plants as alternatives: DSCN0481
but we were all getting tired by this point. We listened to a lecture on philanthropy in the enormous Eternal Children's Forest and how donations from around the world support a conservation project in which ecotourism places a comparatively small part. The discussion afterward ranged into ranger programs to control illegal logging and wildlife poaching, watershed management, hydroelectric development on both large and small scales and climate change. If anyone did not already know, "sustainability" covers a broad range of topics. Everyone had something to contribute--and much to learn.
Dinner back at the lodge. Raining heavily. Another big day tomorrow so early to bed for all.

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