Monday, February 7, 2011

Bosque Alegre Wildlife Refuge

After a respite of more than a year, we were able to dive into a weekend adventure that included backpacking and camping, two of our favorite things!  Thanks to the planning skills of our newfound CouchSurfing friends, Matt and Megan, we were able to explore some of Costa Rica's natural beauty just outside of Cariblanco, a community north of San José.

Saturday morning we woke up not so bright, but early (two weeks in a row, I know!) and made some last minute adjustments to our packs to account for the rain that was pouring down.  Our bus was surprisingly early and did not go to the community beyond ours and so we ended up running through the rain, after the bus, hoping that we would be able to make it to town in time.  It turned out that the bus was stopped just around the corner, but it made for an exhilarating start to the weekend.

Once we made it to Cariblanco we had a 6 km hike to the Bosque Alegre Wildlife Refuge where we were going to spend our evening.  The Bosque is home to the Congo Volcano (dormant for many years) and three lagoons, Hule, Congo, and Bosque Alegre.  We were fortunate enough to spend time at both Hule and Bosque Alegre during our quick trip.

Hule Lagoon
We arrived at the overlook for Hule Lagoon shortly before the fog rolled in and were blessed with beautiful views of nature.  The lagoon in and of itself was gorgeous, but there were also great waterfalls peeking through the jungle that grew on the mountainside.  We saw a pair of toucans hopping through the trees below and were able to examine them a little more closely thanks to our last minute investment of binoculars (purchased in the weeks before coming to Costa Rica).  Their colors were amazingly brilliant, something I hadn't quite expected. With florescent green beaks, bright yellow chests, and turquoise blue feet we were shocked into awe and were left wishing that our cameras could magnify as well as binoculars!

In front of Hule Lagoon
Matt and Megan

With the fog rolling in (and quickly obscuring the amazing views from above) we decided to make the hike to the waters edge.  The hike down was pretty quick, though rocky, and required skirting some mud holes and also crossing one mountain stream.  We also had to take a break to allow for the ATVs and dirt bikes that came flying through the woods - we stepped to the side (heeding Matt's warnings to keep an eye out for snakes) and tried to not inhale too much exhaust.  When we decided that the threat of being run over no longer existed we finished our hike to the water's edge and found a crew of Ticos prepared to camp for the night and cleaning the fish that they had caught.

We ate a quick lunch and then moved on, hearing that there was another lagoon about 30 minutes away.  We didn't want to spend our night in the wilderness in the middle of a fishing party and we were unable to find trees that we thought would satisfactorily hold our hammock.

Our hike took us through the muddy trails that the ATV and dirt bike crew had followed and once again had to stop to let them pass.  We mostly avoided sinking up to our ankles in mud and didn't slip and slide too much (thank you trekking poles!) as we made our way to Bosqu Alegre Lagoon.  We were in heaven when we arrived.  The site was quiet, had a flat spot for Matt and Megan's tent and several tree options for our hammock.  We began setting up camp as a storm rolled in.

It was during this time that each member of our crew of experienced adventurers did the thing that we all knew not to do.  We set up our sleeping arrangements without ever having done so before.  Matt and Megan had a new tent that they hadn't used before, but at least it was a tent and could rely basic tent setting up knowledge to make their home for the night.  We dove into the adventure of setting up a camping hammock for the first time (aside from one quick test in NC where we only set up the hammock and our butts touched the ground when we got in it).  We knew that the hammock needed to be slid inside of the mosquito net and that the rain fly covered everything in order to stay dry - but who couldn't figure that out?  After two attempts we were satisfied with our end result and happily moved the rest of our gear out of the rain.  Then the rain stopped - good timing, right?

With the rain gone and the knowledge that darkness would soon be upon us, we decided that it was time to settle in for dinner.  We made some delicious angel hair pasta with mushroom sauce (Costa Rica has some wonderful foods that come in backpacker friendly packaging) and miso soup to fight the chill (yes, we've become accustomed to the heat that smothers the non-mountainous areas of Costa Rica).  As we were finishing up we heard a sound in the trees overhead and were able to spot a critter that seemed to have fallen from a higher branch upon waking up!  After looking around online we have been able to deduce that that critter was most likely a Mexican Mouse Opposum.  It checked us out for a while, we checked it out, and then it made its graceful escape by jumping from tree to tree and disappearing into the darkness.

Matt then went to get some water to clean with, but on his way to the lagoon let out a cry and quickly came back to camp.  His not so exact words were, "I think it was a rodent-type thing.  It looked like a frog and moved like a snake."  Megan more or less replied, "like a lizard?"  This was the most profound conversation we had with our more scientifically minded friends over the weekend.

At that we called it a night and with the exception of Chris falling out of the hammock while trying to get into it, we had a successful first night in our ENO Camping Hammock.  We stayed dry and weren't quite touching the ground when we woke up.  We had also reached Chris's goal of not dieing during the night.  We might do some things differently in the future, but even so, the adventure left us longing for our MSR Hubba Hubba (and the places it has been) which has taken up residence in North Carolina until May 2012.

Rising to the sounds of Congos and the bright sun (at roughly 5:30am) we set to breaking camp (also a learning experience) and making breakfast (opening a package of queque seco - dry cake and mixing together fruit flavored oatmeal drinks).  We were on the trail shortly after seven to be sure that we would make our bus back to Puerto.  We had been given an hour time period during which our bus would leave, so we erred on the side of safety and got to town about two hours before the bus left.

Bosque Alegre Lagoon in the Morning
Hule Lagoon in the Morning
(Notice the islands of vegetation that
were not there the afternoon before)

1 comment:

aaron wk said...

sweet photos. i keep forgetting to write johanser. i will tomorrow!