writing

Mountain Stream

We pulled off the winding road at a small trail and wandered among the trees towards the sound of a mountain stream. The birds called out from the trees, unafraid of our presence.

Over a small rise, we found the mountain stream. The water flowed over the rocks and boulders. I found a small pathway down to the water’s edge and scrambled down. A larger boulder, smooth, was within reach. I climbed over to it and took a seat.

The streams of the light filtered through the poplar and oaks which surrounded us. The breeze was light and took the edge off the warmth from the sun. The water was cold and refreshing, but I only sprinkled a bit of it on my face, wishing I had on my suit.

Yellow swallowtail butterflies fluttered by, following the stream. They moved faster than I’d ever seen, darting in and out of the sun’s rays. I was lost in watching them for a while, relaxing and forgetting the rest of the world.

Eventually, I drifted back into the real world. It was getting late and time to head on back. But, I’m thankful for the nature break.

About Me, writing

Accidental Hike

It was 2004. Unemployed for the second time in a year and a half, I found myself needing to get away from the job search for an afternoon. Nature walks have always calmed me. So, I picked up my camera and decided to head over to the Alafia River park. It offered some fresh air and a much needed escape from the frustrations of a job search.

I parked my car at the Equestrian Trail entrance. It was marked with a hiking marker, so it wasn’t just for horses. I located a map and had planned a small loop I estimated would take about an hour, along the east end of the park, jumping between the blue, white, and green trails.

As I started out, the trail took me alongside some fishing ponds to the property line of a neighboring ranch. Cows dotted the pastureland adjoining the trail. I took my camera and focused in on a black cow with a white egret on its back in the distant field, capturing the moment and then continued on my walk around the edge of the ranch.

I heard a rustle nearby. Ahead of me, at a bend in the trail, a large steer with crooked horns peered at me. We were separated by a fence, but he watched me as I walked by, snapping shots. His horns made him look confused, as if he were asking a question.

I walked a little further along and found a shady spot to stop and take a drink of water. I looked around at the time, and thought I should have already come to my turn for the white trail, but did not recall seeing any markers. I must have misjudged the distance, so I continued on the blue trail, watching for any markers.

Along the way, I snapped some photos of a few birds, dragonflies, and butterflies. This was back in the day of film cameras, so I tried to limit my shots. I contemplated doubling back on my walk, but knowing I had already walked for an hour and a half, reconsidered and kept moving forward.

The trail led me to a clearing with no shade. At this point, I knew I had missed my turnoff. I spied some powerlines off in the distance and made my way to them. These would lead me back to the road along side the park hopefully.

An osprey flew overhead. I captured a couple shots and pushed on. I wished I had a way to figure out exactly where I was, but this was in the days where cellphones were just phones, not the smart phone contraptions. That, and there was no signal on my Nokia anyway to make a call.

I could hear traffic off in the distance and continued towards the sound. Finally, I saw a truck pass by on the road ahead. I knew I was headed in the right direction after what was now at least 3 hours of walking. As I approached the road, the trail I was on split into two directions.

Again, I guessed wrong, thinking I had doubled back on my walk, and headed westward along the trail. In 20 minutes, I found myself at the main entrance of the park. Relieved, but more than a mile from my car, I walked up to the ranger station.

Sweaty, thirsty, and exhausted, I asked for assistance from one of the rangers to get back to my car. The ranger smiled a knowing smile. “It happens all the time. Do you remember where you parked?”

I nodded, too tired to blush or be embarrassed, and muttered “The Equestrian Trail entrance.” The ranger drove me back over to the car. I climbed in my hot car, and blasted the AC. I was never more happy to have an air conditioned car in my life. My one-hour walk had turned into a four-hour unplanned hike. This is where I learned my first hiking alone lessons — always bring water and a snack, know your route, and when possible, don’t go it alone!

travel, writing

Fairy Pool Frivolity

Near the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the mountains rise up and the thick rainforest covers the mountainside. We hiked the dense forest on a winding trail which included suspension rope bridges and narrow steps up and down the slopes.

From one of the suspension bridges, we spied our ultimate destination. A row of fairy pools fed by a stream originating further up in the mountains glistened beneath us.

We wound our way back down the trail. The final descent was steep and the sweat from our hike clung to our brow. The fairy pools enticed us to keep climbing down.

Finally we arrived at the pools. A continual rush of water made its way down the mountainside, filling the main pool and spilling over its edge, downstream to smaller pools.

We set down our packs and slid out of our hiking boots and clothes. Everyone had donned suits underneath, knowing these pools were our destination. We stuck our toes in the water. It was cold and refreshing compared to the heat in the Costa Rican sun.

Rich and Don jumped right in, splashing about and rough housing like the childhood playmates they were. April and I found our way to a shallow spot where we could relax and avoid the chaos from the guys.

Someone had suspended a rope up the rock where the water cascaded. The guys climbed up the rope and slid back down the rock, splashing in the pool.

I decided why should just the guys have all the fun? I waved to April and dove into the pool. The power of the water coming down was more forceful than I expected. I found the end of the rope and pulled myself to the base of the rock, staying out of the splash zone as much as possible.

While I didn’t have the arm strength like the guys, I floated in and out of the falling water. It felt good on my shoulders, massaging away any stiffness from carrying my pack.

Finally, I let the rope go and allowed the water to push me back into the center of the pool. We all climbed out of the pool and dried off after floating around a little more.

We found a dry spot, unpacking and drinking our waters then hiked back out of the jungle. The hike out was flatter and easier than the hike in. When we arrived back at the post where we started, we were greeted with a delicious Costa Rican meal to refuel us for the rest of our day.