Solo Hike on a Flooded Trail
Its easy to wake up early in Costa Rica because the sun always rises before 6am. I head to the beach around 5am. Thank goodness Laguna Lodge is 2 minutes away from the beach. Ahhh, early morning at the beach is so peaceful. There are no new turtle tracks from the night before, just our footprints along the shoreline.
The comfortable rocking chairs on the restaurant patio are the perfect destination after a relaxing stroll on the beach. Sheltered from the elements with a palm thatch roof, this patio is one of my favorite places in all of Tortuguero. In the late summer 100's of butterflies can be found migrating north along the River, neotropical river otters poke their head up on occasion and there's always a toucan or osprey sighting to hope for.
It's a beautiful sunny day for a hike, so I decide to go to COTERC (Canadian Organization for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation). The boat ride from Laguna to COTERC is relaxing. I wonder how did I get so lucky to be here? The Penitencia River is beautiful and the canals on the way to COTERC's Cano Palmas Biological Station are pristine and calm.
After a brief tour of the station's facilities, I am ready for a hike.
There has been A LOT of rain recently and I am warned that the trail might be flooded for about half of my hike. I gear up, putting on a pair of rubber boots (mid calf height), and I leave my camera behind just incase there's lots of water. (Intuition? Maybe) They warn me that "the water might be a little deeper than the height of your boots; just leave them on, they are for protecting your feet, not necessarily for keeping them dry!" Okay?
So I begin the hike, (Trail A) solo, and within 10 minutes, the trail is flooded (Let me define flooded- there is no visible trail, it is a bog- water surrounds me like a giant bath tub, only islands of rooted tree masses are above the water level). It begins just ankle deep, but within 100m it starts getting deeper. I settle in and slowly make my way. In some areas, the water is above my knees. The trail varies from firm under foot to 10" deep in mud. It varies from one step to another. Not much wildlife to be seen, or heard, but the hike is beautiful and quiet, and it definitely challenges my balance. I find frog eggs floating in the water in long clear sacks. It's like I'm walking in a bog or a shallow wetland. I keep a sharp eye out for snakes and try not to brush into trees, as there might be a serpentine resident seeking refuge from the flooded land below.
Thank goodness the trail is well marked (above the water line). I just keep walking straight and I am quickly able to find the next trail marker. I fall into the water only once. While walking, I go to take a step but find that my toes are stuck underneath a buried root and I fall hands first into 10" of mud and 10" of water. It's a good thing my binoculars are waterproof (and I'm glad I've left my camera behind).
I finish the loop and am ready for more, so I hike trail B which is equally flooded but much shorter. By this time, I've got the hang of hiking in 18", or deeper water and I am really enjoying it. I'm up for hiking the third trail (trail C) but am warned that it floods waist deep or more, so I decide to save it for another day.
I'd rate this trail as difficult when flooded and do not recommend it due to the amount it tears up the trail when its this muddy, and because its easy to fall or slip. You also have to keep a careful eye out for snakes. When its flooded, there is less dry ground for them to inhabit, so you are more likely to encounter them in the trees. When not flooded, there is abundant wildlife to be seen and the trail is easy to navigate (well marked and flat). Call ahead if your interested in visiting COTERC and to check the status of the trails.
Back at Laguna for the afternoon, there is more time for bird watching at the beach. By evening, a storm is rolling in and the rain begins (and won't stop for 2 more days) A local Calypso band is playing at the bar tonight. Laguna Lodge might the only lodge to offer live music in Tortuguero. The Calypso band plays original and traditional Caribbean songs to ease us into the cool, rainy Caribbean night. Definitely a fun time!