Written by Mandan Lynn on 11 Mar, 2013
Volcán Barú is the highest mountain in Panama, so naturally we wanted to be at the top. When I told the girl at the hostel desk if we could get directions to the volcano, she seemed surprised that we were going hiking during the day.…Read More
Volcán Barú is the highest mountain in Panama, so naturally we wanted to be at the top. When I told the girl at the hostel desk if we could get directions to the volcano, she seemed surprised that we were going hiking during the day. Many people join guided hikes that start in the middle of the night so they can watch the sunrise from the top. We left early, because we had read that it is a long climb, and we were hoping to get to the top before the clouds obscured the view too much, and so we wouldn't get caught in rain or darkness on the way down.You can take a bus to the trailhead, but we had our car so we drove the 10 kilometers or so to the volcano. We parked on a side road with a bunch of other cars where the pavement ends and the steep graveled incline begins. That initial climb to the ranger station was a doozy. It's quite steep, and already my boyfriend was saying that if the whole hike was like that, it wasn't going to be much fun.We signed in with the ranger and paid $5 each before getting on our way. The next many steps (I'm terrible at guessing distances) were just as steep as the first part, and my boyfriend's knee started to hurt (he has a history of some trouble with that joint). Not a good start, but the good news is that it does level out a bit -- the whole climb isn't as brutal as that first kilometer. As we climbed, we were passed by several four-wheel-drive vehicles full of passengers and luggage. Cheaters!We passed a sign that said we had gone three kilometers and had 10.5 to go to the top. This news was somewhat devastating, because it felt like we had been hiking for quite a while. Update on the knee: starting to really hurt.Onward and upward. A couple of the Cheaters we had passed while they were sitting and snacking after their long, hard Jeep ride hiked right past us -- but sweating all the way.We passed the seven kilometer marker, but my boyfriend's knee was not holding up well. It was looking like we would have to turn around. After another kilometer or so, we did.Which is, of course, incredibly disappointing. We went so far, but not quite far enough to be rewarded with those rich views from the highest point in Panama. At the same time, my legs were pretty tired, and we still had those eight kilometers to backtrack on -- anyone who hikes knows that the downhill can be worse than the uphill, especially those steep parts on tired legs. On the way down, we passed several people stopping for breaks, and several people plowing ahead full force. We got out our spare plastic bags and filled them with the garbage we found along the trail -- it only took about two kilometers to completely fill both bags.Our more-than-half mountain round trip took five hours, and we weren't exactly poking along. The full trip would have certainly taken all day. We were glad to have lots of water, apples, and granola bars, even though the backpack was heavy (you just have to eat faster!). We also each packed long pants and a sweatshirt; the wind up there gets pretty chilly. And especially if you're a girl, don't forget the toilet paper!We're not novice hikers, and we're also both in pretty good shape. If it weren't for the knee, we would have gone all the way -- but it wouldn't have been easy. It was a challenging climb. It's now two days later and my calves are screaming sore. If the top is more important to you than the trip up, go ahead and take a ride up as far as you can. If you love to hike but don't think you can do it for an entire day, there are lots of other, less challenging hiking opportunities around Boquete. If you're ready for the challenge, get up early and go. Even if you don't make it all the way, you'll appreciate the clearings in the trees that overlook a cloudy valley and the effort that gets you as far as you feel like going. Close
Written by buzz_1919 on 23 Oct, 2006
Tony The Guide: I arrived in Boquete in the morning and was greeted by Tony, a guide who was born in Panama City, but lived in Texas for many years and speaks perfect English. Tony was a nice guy; age 30-something, acts 19, but knows…Read More
Tony The Guide: I arrived in Boquete in the morning and was greeted by Tony, a guide who was born in Panama City, but lived in Texas for many years and speaks perfect English. Tony was a nice guy; age 30-something, acts 19, but knows a lot about the area. His Tacoma is parked at the central park area of Boquete and he charges $20-$60 for various hikes around Boquete.
Problem with Tony is that he drinks, and he does it well – so reliable is not a word I would use to describe Tony.
The PlanThe earthquake was a 4.6, enough to scare two guides out of taking me to the top of the Volcano – but Tony was up for it. We set the hike up for the following night, leaving around 2AM (his recommendation).The day before the hike, I went white-water rafting, with the intent of eating dinner afterward and then going to sleep before waking up at 2AM for the hike. When I returned from the white-water rafting trip at 3PM, I called Tony from the pay phones in the town square to verify the time – no answer.
I went and ate, and gave Tony another call around 4PM – no answer. I went back to my hostel and packed my bag for the hike, I killed some more time talking with some locals, then I called Tony again at 5PM – no answer.
Starting To WorryMy schedule didn’t allow for wiggle room for this hike – so I started to get a little nervous. There was no way that the excuse of "the guide wouldn’t answer the phone" was going to fly with my friends back home – I had to do this hike, come on Tony, where are you?!?!Finally, at 7PM, Tony answered his phone. He was in David, would be in Boquete in 40 minutes, and would come to my hostel. Tony showed up 75 minutes later and told me that a lightning storm was rolling in from Bocas del Toro and he wasn’t going to do the hike that night. Disappointed, I agreed that it wouldn’t be done and went up to my room to read and try to decide what I would do instead the next day.
Lightning ShmlightningAt about 9PM, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t scared of a little electricity – besides, how many more opportunities would I have to hike up a volcano and capture both the Pacific and Atlantic in one panorama picture? I’ve forgotten to shut the breaker off when changing out a light switch… voltage doesn’t scare me!I called Tony back and told him that I was going to do the hike myself, and asked him for a ride to the entrance at 11:30 – he warned against it, but agreed to give me the ride. With only 2.5 hours till the hike, and with the adrenaline starting to pump, I couldn’t sleep, so I just stayed up and read.11:30 came… 11:40… dangit Tony! I called again and it immediately when to his voicemail – I am sure that Tony was passed out, with his phone turned off. I politely stated exactly what I thought about Tony to the wall and then looked around for a ride.
Taxi!!!Boquete is the most beautiful, peaceful, quiet place at midnight - there was no one… I mean no one. I walked to the local supermarket (which was surprisingly still open) and saw a cab! I found the driver and asked for a ride to the entrance, he agreed but said he needed to give two girls a ride home first.Feeling sorry for me, the girls said I could ride with them and even told the driver to drop me off first (probably cause I stunk). We drove for 10 minutes up a winding, paved road that turned to dirt and after a few more minutes the driver stopped and happily said "ok!"
I looked out up the dirt road, pointed and said "aqui?" – "si, si" he said. So I got out, checked my flashlight, waved, and started my journey up Volcan Baru, looking back once at the dimming taillights of the taxi.
Psych'd To Go: I have done very little hiking in my life, and what I have done; I would consider "light" hiking. At 27, I am in good shape - I play hockey, ride my mountain bike about 20-40 miles once a week, and exercise…Read More
Psych'd To Go: I have done very little hiking in my life, and what I have done; I would consider "light" hiking. At 27, I am in good shape - I play hockey, ride my mountain bike about 20-40 miles once a week, and exercise my fingers on the keyboard at least 8 hours a day. When I decided that I would make a stop in Boquete with the intent of hiking Volcan Baru, most of my friends thought I was nuts.I read very little about the hike before I went – a little from the Lonely Planet guidebook (which turned out to be pretty faulty information) and a little online, but not enough to scare me off. So despite the pleading of my mother, and the criticism of my co-workers, I decided to do the hike. In an attempt to "force" myself to make it to the top – I told as many people as I could about what I was setting out to do. This way, I could rely on the old "don’t want to look like a wimp" if I hit the wall on the way up.
Pushed By FearLeaving at midnight, hiking by flashlight, alone, with all the jungle sounds you can imagine gave me a little extra boost on the way up. It seemed like every time I started to slow in an attempt to provide a little relief for my legs I was spurred on with a rustle in the jungle behind me. The slope is relentless, with very, very little downhill sections. I would equate the hike to about 4 hours of quick-paced stair climbing.
Stopping twice on the way up was absolutely necessary, and I would have stopped more if I wasn’t in such a hurry to get to the top to see the sunrise (and wasn’t so scared of the puma I was sure was hunting me). Each time I stopped, when I started back up the volcano my legs groaned in stiff pain, reminding me that I was using muscle groups that I don’t normally use. Hockey is rough on the calves, but this hike was rough on the whole leg.
The Decent"Going down has got to be easier", I said before leaving the states, discussing the hike with my friends. "You’ll see", they responded – boy did I ever! I passed the rest station about half a mile down from the peak and thought to myself "nah, I don't need to rest". Well, let me tell you - going down hurt. I mean hurt! It seemed like each knee-popping, toe-jamming, hip-jarring step would be the last one taken before collapsing and trying to roll the rest of the way down. My pace going down matched the pace going up, not because it was at all monitored and controlled – the slope and trail condition dictated the pace.
About 3/4 of the way down, I stubbed my toe bad against the front of my boots, winced in pain, but kept moving. When I reached the bottom, to my horror I realized that the hike was not yet finished. Finding the shortest route back to Boquete, I headed out searching desperately for a ride to the bottom. The long road back to Boquete was paved and had a steady downward slope that didn’t help with the pain in my legs. Amazingly, I found sweet relief in a short section of uphill walking! I found myself wishing that I was going up, instead of down.
The Pain Train
I stopped along the side of the road in the farmland area outside Boquete and sat on a log for 5-10 minutes giving my legs a rest and my toe some downtime. When I arose and started back down the road I realized that I would not be able to stop again before I reached my hostel – my legs were killing me! I was actually scared that I would not make it back and I knew at this point that I was looking at hours if not at least a day of rest before I could walk without a heavy limp.
Determination set in to replace the fear of not making it back to that wonderful uncomfortable bed in Hostal Boquete that I was now longing for. I became like a robot, ignoring the painful electric bolts that accompanied each step I took. I focused 10 feet ahead of me and did not dare try to guess how many miles were left.
Light At The End Of The TunnelI soon noticed that people were around me, and I was back in town. I made my way across the square at my robotic pace and turned into my hostel. Funny thing is, after all that, I now had to climb up the ladder-type stairway leading to my room. Getting my legs to move in the manner my brain was telling them to proved almost impossible as I tried to climb that stair. I was so glad the housekeeper of the hostel was not there to laugh at my attempt to make it to the room.
I closed the door, dropped my pack, and collapsed on the bed – waking up hours later to painfully remove my boots before again falling into sweet, deep slumber. It will be a long time before I get more satisfaction from sleeping in a bed than the one I slept in after that Baru hike!
Heading Up: The hike starts steep, and doesn’t let up. After about 100 yards, I was out of breath, clutching the straps of my backpack, staring straight down and wondering how much further I would go before I would give up.
The coolness of the night…Read More
Heading Up: The hike starts steep, and doesn’t let up. After about 100 yards, I was out of breath, clutching the straps of my backpack, staring straight down and wondering how much further I would go before I would give up.
The coolness of the night didn’t prevent the sweat from completely soaking my t-shirt, but I didn’t mind the dampness. After about an hour of hiking, my legs felt good with that familiar burn in the calves received while playing hockey. Happy that I felt this good after hiking such a steep slope for so long, I cheerfully started to whistle. My breath quickened and I was reminded of the altitude change I was undergoing, I stopped whistling.
Rest StopI decided to stop for a snack and to change my socks about 2 hours into the hike. I sat on a log for about 10 minutes, downing some fig newtons and an apple. After this rest, about 10 steps more up the volcano I felt my legs start to tire. They had been rewarded with some down-time and they wanted more. I ignored the dull pain and kept going, this wasn’t that bad – I was going to make it to the top!
Imaginary PumaBeing alone on this hike at night was quite frankly, scary. Part of the reason I kept going was that noises spurred my imagination, preventing me from stopping. Visions of a puma, following close behind helped to maintain my pace up the mountain.Rustling in the jungle caused my already fast-beating heart to race. At one point, my flashlight caused the brilliant red eye-shine of an animal to appear in the trail ahead of me. I froze as the chills went through my body from my feet to me head and back down. The creature, about two feet tall I would guess, just stared back at me, probably more scared of me than I was of it… probably. It moved away after a minute and I waited a minute longer before thoughts of something from behind got me started back up the trail.
Scared Of The DarkThe trail maneuvers in and out of the dense jungle canopy, providing minutes of light from the moon followed by the pitch black of the jungle. While hiking in the moonlight, I turned the flashlight off in order to save precious battery life. I should have brought extra batteries, but looking back now, hiking up by moonlight was really cool and I am glad for those times when the artificial light was off.
Soon enough though, up ahead I would see the thick jungle approaching, the blackness of the trail seemed like an approaching tunnel. My pace probably slowed each time I saw that tunnel ahead, but my feet kept moving, and the flashlight clicked on 2 steps before entering the darkness.The darkness within the jungle was thick, and the small flashlight provided little help. Sounds seemed to be magnified by the inability to make out objects clearly, and more of the sweat now came from fear rather than the humidity. As slow as I must have entered the covered areas, I must have exited that much faster. As soon as the gray light of the moon was visible up ahead my hopes seemed to soar and confidence was restored – only to be mocked again by the next patch of black.About every 30 minutes or so, I would come across a power pole. For some reason, seeing these poles made me feel safe. I laugh at myself now, but those power poles probably helped me get to the top! I reached the spot where I could see the communication towers after about 3 hours, 45 minutes, and decided to again take a quick break.
Elated that I had made the journey this far, thoughts of the view I would soon see played out in my mind. I looked up, and was blown away by the number of stars in the sky. I had seen pictures like this, but never with my own eyes – absolutely breath-taking! I quickly ascended to the top, using my hands in some places to get to where the 8’ tall white cross is.
Victory!I touched the cross at the same time pressing the stop button on my stopwatch. 4 hours, 8 minutes, 35.72 seconds. I dropped my bag at the side of the cross, set the camera on the ground aimed at the cross, hit the 10 second delay and walked over to get in the frame. I had done it!
The overwhelming feeling of accomplishment drowned out the dull throbbing in my legs. I sat, rested, and waited for the sunrise – huddled in my parka at the foot of the cross.
Heading Down: On the way up Baru I was racing the sun in order to see that sunrise. Going down, I was racing something else. Around 2PM in Boquete it rains - and it rains a lot. I definitely wanted to get down the volcano…Read More
Heading Down: On the way up Baru I was racing the sun in order to see that sunrise. Going down, I was racing something else. Around 2PM in Boquete it rains - and it rains a lot. I definitely wanted to get down the volcano and back to my hostel before the skies opened up. So when it was about 9AM I decided I better start heading back down. My legs felt pretty good and I figured going down had to be easier than going up - right?
I took one final look out at the beautiful green valley below where I was now headed and scanned across and up to the Caribbean. Scanning further over to the left I could make out the coast of the Pacific Ocean and I took another minute to just stare at that view. With the sun up, the beautiful skies lit, and that wonderful feeling of accomplishment - it was impossible not to smile as a made my way back down the narrow trail from the cross to the main service road for the communication towers.
A Little PainI made my way carefully down the loose-rock road past a rest station and stopped just for a moment to snap some pictures of the peak. Getting my MP3 player out of my backpack (which I didn’t dare listen to on the way up for fear of the puma sneaking up on me), I switched on Cake and continued down the trail. Sipping water as I went, stopping a few times to enjoy the scenery, and thinking about what I would do when I got back to Boquete I slowly started to feel the pain in my left knee.
It wasn’t bad at first, just a little discomfort when I would step down hard due to the steep decline. But about 2 miles down from the top, pain accompanied each step. I slowed my pace and started to favor my left leg, which gave some relief – I turned off the MP3 player. I turned a corner and up ahead saw a huge mud puddle in the middle of the road. I remembered having to get past this puddle on the way up – but it didn’t seem like that tough of a task at the time. Looking at the puddle now I was pretty impressed with my night-hike abilities and actually had a harder time getting past it in daylight.
Not Scared NowAround another turn I came across a very large bird sitting at the side of the road. This was the type of bird that the locals had told me about – the one that I had heard while hiking up. The bird has a very strange call, which sounds like a purring cat – not something you want to hear hiking alone in the jungle at night. In the light of day however, I could now laugh at myself for having been so paranoid.
Pleasure Spiked With PainJust heading down one of the steep paved sections of the road, I jammed my toe up against the front of my boot and man did it hurt! I have stubbed my toe before on furniture at home but nothing like this! As I am writing this (5 months after the hike), my toenail is still black. My pace no longer mattered, every step I took sent terrible pain through my left leg. I hoped the slope would soon soften out to a reasonable grade, but it was relentless – this was way worse than going up.
To try and keep my mind off the stinging in my knee, I looked around as I continued down. A couple times I slipped on the loose rock and was just able to keep myself from falling completely. The scenery was absolutely spectacular. I stopped every so often to get some pictures of the jungle around me, and of the Boquete valley below. It was a beautiful day, marred only by the internal tears caused by that unyielding slope.
About 3 miles from the entrance, I passed through the clouds as they made their way up the volcano. Passing through the mist was magical, but unfortunately none of the pictures I took during those amazing moments came out right (only an engineer would actually think that taking pictures inside a cloud would work - duh). Just beyond the clouds, I came up on a remarkable old fence and stunning wildflowers and again stopped to get some shots.
My spirit lifted at the awesome scenery and the knowledge that I was close to the end of my journey. With only a mile to go, my knee even started to feel a little better and I again listened to my MP3 player.
How Much Further?I have no one else to blame but myself – but I will complain anyway. When I got back down to the entrance I realized I was in trouble. Not only had I not made arrangements for someone to pick me up, but also there was no one around to ask for a ride. I decided to head down a road that seemed to go to straight to Boquete, flanked on both sides by farmland. I talked to a few farmers as I continued down the road and asked for rides. Problem was, no one had a vehicle, and if they did, they were too busy farming to give me a ride.
At least a dozen times I had the same conversion with someone new: Do you have a car and can you give me a ride to town? How much further is it? The answers I got were: "siento, no." and "poquito mas". Well, it turns out that "poquito mas" in English means "8 more dreadful downhill miles". My legs at this point were numb and I had pretty much conceded to the idea that I would get absolutely drenched very soon.
Hostel Sweet HostelAmazingly, it just barely started to sprinkle when I reached town. I was able to get to my hostel before it started pouring and collapsed on my bed at about 2PM. Hours later, I awoke to take my boots off and inspect my toe, before falling again into a deep sleep. Later that evening, I got up to get some food, limping the entire way, excited to tell others of my adventure.
Written by Jose Kevo on 23 Oct, 2006
This short but grueling trek is the only one reviewed not within the National Park. The peak is located on eastern side of the Boquete valley, and is a favorite of Panamanians. Since it's on private property, ask around with guides for an escort.Considering these…Read More
This short but grueling trek is the only one reviewed not within the National Park. The peak is located on eastern side of the Boquete valley, and is a favorite of Panamanians. Since it's on private property, ask around with guides for an escort.Considering these were the Highlands, this was just another mountain. From the Jaramillo Alto Road, it didn't even seem that impressive when looking through a zoom lense or binoculars. I had no idea what really awaited nor why this particular peak held such esteem.
Name translates "The Artillery", and holds historical significance. The pinnacle is capped with boulders, which form an illusive cavern where guns and weapons were hidden during various uprisings and revolutions. The walk-through enclosure has openings on two sides; highly unique but nothing compared to what awaited around the exterior.Unless opting to climb the volcano, no where else is said to oblige such encompassing vistas of the Chiriquí Highlands. To the south, glistening of the distant Pacific was visible through late afternoon haze while low-lying clouds shrouded Volcán Barú on the north. Overviews of Boquete are chiseled between tiered layers of foothills seperating the two.
Feelings of power, from conquering the summit, dwindled into nothingness with all that sprawls below. What hadn't already left me breathless was finished-off by savage winds. Views from the top are worth the brief but strenuous exertion for hikers of all physical conditions.Times average 75-minutes to the top compared to 45-minutes on return. From the highway, 4x4's can follow a horse trail until it becomes to narrow, and walking begins. Difficulty comes from steep grade. There are three distinct sections of path that were challenging even in dry conditions.
Lower section is the longest, and most rugged. Rains have washed away large segments, exposing rocky terrain and massive roots systems. Middle section enters forest, where path becomes smoother with ground cover of natural debris. Upper section had no trail. Traversing these windswept pastures was better tackled with horizontal movement, and still felt like the ultimate stairmaster work-out.If it's any consolation, I survived this hike after making another 22km jaunt earlier that morning, but also confess playing invalid the entire next day. Shortly after collapsing outside La Artilleria, barking began at a speck-sized farmhouse on the neighboring peak. Lucho quickly pointed-out dogs were welcoming home their master; trooping up the slope with a strapped-on pack that looked to be as large as he was.Boquete serves as outpost for indigenous highlanders whom make these "shopping runs" as needed. To watch this individual become absorbed into the perspective was one of those confirmations of purpose and place in this vast world; even if only for the moment.I could've stayed up there marveling the views, lost in thought until the cows came home. Actually, they did later that afternoon when returning to Sueños del Río Guesthouse, and finding Holsteins had invaded the backyard. Close
When it comes to crash-course collisions, is there anything that pits denial against reality quicker than the aging factor? As time marches on, funny how the female clock is said to tick towards producing youth, while timepieces of the other gender tock for trying to…Read More
When it comes to crash-course collisions, is there anything that pits denial against reality quicker than the aging factor? As time marches on, funny how the female clock is said to tick towards producing youth, while timepieces of the other gender tock for trying to hold onto it. Don't I know it; the instincts debate over becoming tied-down vs. unconstrained liberation!The whole process for both sides involves changes in perceptions and everyday lifestyles; subtle for some, extreme for others. As a single, middle-aged male, they've been nothing short of what the responsible sector quickly labels "mid-life crisis". Even more enviable, my perpetual state of adolescent whims is exacerbated as a chronic traveler. In a long-line of destinations, who knew that Panamá would be my halftime intermission?'Make hay while the sun shines' suggests taking advantage of opportunities while one can. There's been reluctance to accept shifts between age-old adages and old-age knowledge associated with "maturity", but there's no getting around inherent declines on the physical side which suggest "elderly". Perhaps that's what justifies these growing desires to suddenly prove a few things to myself.This eternal beach bum is no longer content to spend endless hours wallowing in the sand. For too long, sun and fun have swayed more than just the palm trees I loitered under. Not to mention all that sunshine, and now considered intolerable heat, is what transforms plums into prunes. They'll be a diuretic necessity soon enough without having to actually look like one, too.As for my Golden Rule of living, knowing 'I don't function properly when becoming too tropically deprived', it's time to upgrade to the silver supplement that caters to sanity as well as vanity when selecting travel destinations. Hiking around the Chiriquí Highlands diverged onto destiny's path, and merged with a new course in life unknowingly sought. Somewhere along the way, I crested a monumental hill and caught more than just my breath.Gripped within the jaws of mortality, both past and future stood by my side. If only I'd known to hold-on to that moment as dearly as life itself, and not go rambling-off to see what awaited around the next blind curve. Such is life but within weeks of returning home, there was no more denying I had surmounted and gone over the hill at age 46.Not only did a souvenir accident lead to wearing dentures, writing about it was no longer possible without use of bifocals. Upgrading to an auto-focus digital camera will sharpen perspectives, but I still haven't figured out how to compensate for other tell-tale indicators; especially since life's journey will soon be turning into my greatest adventure.
Clinging to the Edge has always, and will always be my forté. However, I've got to remember that throwing caution to the wind, like here atop La Artilleria, now comes with greater risks. As a daredevil on the downhill slide, gravity being unkind to the aged takes on a whole new meaning!
Within the upper elevations, Not Being Able to See the Trees for the Forest was further illustrated the way plant life attaches to every surface, and flourishes like nothing I'd ever seen. Aside from collecting seeds and pods to compliment my in-house jungle, I was more than curious how duplicating these same growth patterns would considerably cut-down on necessary space and watering times.
Hiking around the Chiriquí Highlands definitely takes its toll, and desires to literally Hang it Up for the day were inevitable. The steep rutted road, that connects Cerro Punta to the National Park's El Respinga Ranger Station, is a killer whether going up, or coming down as even this hint from the local farmers indicates.
Truth be told, on-foot navigation was often bumble of a stumble. Actual trails more resembled off the beaten path obstacle courses of the most defiant kind. Even under the best conditions, what didn't lead me astray visually and mentally, tripped me up physically. Stumped, Again doesn't begin to describe the prostrate encounters.
The pair of roosting Quetzals must have gotten a hoot from what this Unfinished Bridge over Troubled Waters instigated. We initially missed them all-together; more intrigued by construction. Once spotting the birds, best lighting came from other side of the ravine. I proceeded to cross along exposed cables like a ropes course, twice because I ran out of film. Insufficient zoom and poor eye-sight, with low aperature-setting on a swinging bridge, might provide adventure but trust me - the photos sucked.
In silence along the Quetzal Trail, Lions and Tigers and Bears, (áy coño), kept tittering through my mind until a pungency started wafting. Lucho pointed out a den; my adding it smelled just like big cat cages at the zoo! Eyes popping, we skidaddled! Odor likely came from a puma, or jaguar which have growing populations across peaks in Parque Internacional La Amistad and Bosque Protector de Palo Seco.
Since I'm not getting any younger, it's time to get off my ass while I rebelliously still can! Growing-up in the Missouri Ozarks, I'm no stranger to walks in the woods, but never realized how I've been upping the stakes through travel leading Back to Pathes of My Roots. Treks through the Swiss Alps were quaint but couldn't feed the tropical fix. Puerto Rico's El Yunque Rain Forest turned the tide for getting off the beach, but this rusting locomotive needed something requiring more steam! The Quetzal Trail proved I can still have my cake, and eat it, too as long as it's not the birthday-kind. Candle count has become too much of a forestfire hazard.
There's nothing like watching a group of rowdy boys for remembering boundless energy of yesteryears. "¿Donde van?", "where are you going?", I asked as they took turns powering joyrides on the make-shift airplane. Considering these Ngöbe Buglé children lived along the Highlands road between Bajo Mono and Alto Quiel, nearby fields likely hold their future destinations as indentured laborers.
Step-by-Step along the Quetzal Trail can prove deadly from more than just the slippery, unstable conditions. Lucho was incessant with reminders to tread lightly because minuscule forms of flora and fauna met an untimely death every time one of my size 13's made contact -- with anything. The eco-systems are that abundant, fragile, and thankfully forgiving. Otherwise, their overpowering, towering immenseness would be no match for hikers, just as small in their presence.
Aches and pains from strenuous work-outs while hiking are inevitable, but if looking for Something to Cry About, try carrying 100lbs of produce up-and-down the slopes all day for $1 an hour! The pint-sized indigenous Americans are more than human dynamos, laboring in volcanic-enriched fields which feed Panamanians and travelers, alike.
Back in Boquete between hikes, spending time with Oscar Valentino was as unique an experience as combing over his homeland Highlands. I never determined where the old mountain goat actually lived but this quaint wooden shack, along the lowlands road to Bajo Mono, would have been a suitable arrangement. If looking to join the global masses, wrecking the region from building retirement mansions, a place like this would serve me fine.
Anyone favoring gun control might want to lobby this Blast from the Past known as La Artilleria. The walk-through formation was haphazardly formed from a volcanic eruption eons ago. Panamanians hid weapons atop this forsaken peak, and that's something Americans could learn from. By the time an individual endured the uphill course simply to retrieve a gun, anger and rage would be whipped into submission!
_______________All-night carousing has become such an uphill struggle, there's no more sense in pretending or feigning interest. I've peaked to that point in life where it's better to be early to bed -- because I'm guaranteed to be early to rise! By 5:00am, chirping birds had reinforced my inner-alarm clock with reminders of what waited beyond the walls -- birth of another new adventure. From the porch of my Guesthouse, the volcano beckoned with brilliance under limitless stars shimmering during a full-moon cycle. Whether pausing for coffee and a smoke or heading straight for trails, determination always got the best of me.
I never made it atop Panama's highest point, but have no regrets from gallantly tramping around the Chiriquí Highlands. There's plenty of Volcán Baru's still out there since time and physical limitations will gradually become my greatest obstacles. I may have crossed over the hill, but there's nothing sinking about it. Climbing towards the Sunset Stages of life's adventure has just begun. Close