Hiking the Children’s Eternal Rainforest!

Finca Luna Nueva Lodge is proud to be the neighbor of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, the largest private reserve in Costa Rica and the anchor of the 250,000 acre rainforest system that defines our region of the Caribbean slope.  The Children’s Eternal Rainforest connects a series of smaller national parks, preserves, and forests, and together this vast island of life is one of the largest tracts of tropical rainforest in the Western Hemisphere.

Take a look at the map of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest and see if an image of an animal comes to mind:

When we look at the dark green of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest we see a dragon – can you spot it?  The upper right is the dragon’s head, and her claws are on the bottom right.  Our lodge is located north of San Miguel along the Rio Chachagua River, which flows out of this dragon’s mouth.  Many years ago, Finca Luna Nueva worked with a group of companies in the United States to raise money to purchase land along the Rio Chachagua, which was reforested and then donated to the private reserve.  That land is now part of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, and it restored the dragon’s tongue!  We imagine that because of our efforts our fierce dragon has found her voice and can once again roar out the message of conservation and biodiversity.  Our guests can take tours of our reforestation work and have an opportunity to replant native hardwood species.  It’s only been a brief eight or nine years since we did our first reforestation work, but already many of the trees are 50-70 feet tall, the vines are thick and deep, and wild animals are traveling along this corridor to find food and security in our Luna forest.  One of our brilliant nature guides, the biologist Alberto Rico, explains that our forest is particularly attractive to female jungle cats ready to give birth.  We have lots of food (you see agoutis everywhere, together with the less frequently seen collared peccaries), but due to our location we’re not attractive to the big male cats that threaten the birthing females and their newborn cubs.  Because of that, we’ve recently seen female ocelots and pumas with cubs.

Photo by Carlos Rodriguez

The Children’s Eternal Rainforest owes its existence to schoolchildren in Sweden, who back in the late 80’s heard about our part of the world and raised the first monies to purchase land near the Monteverde Cloud Forest.  That high elevation cloud forest was already protected and called the Eternal Forest by the Quaker families who founded that community.  The Eternal Forest protected the top of the mountain – the “watershed” – that provided water for Monteverde.   Biologists in the community soon realized, however, that you can’t protect just the top of a rainforest system.  Rainforests, and the animals living in them, need to span the mountainsides.  Some animals in the rainforest migrate up and down the elevation of the Caribbean slope as fruits come in and out of season, so protecting just the top of the system would, in time, be a death sentence for the rainforest.  By chance – or destiny? – Sharon Kinsman, an educator from Monteverde, was invited by Swedish educator Eha Kern to visit an elementary school in Sweden. Sharon explained why the Eternal Rainforest needed to be expanded, and Eha Kern invited her excited students to use their creativity to raise money for the project. That ultimately led to a worldwide student campaign to raise money to purchase land that would adjoin the Eternal Rainforest.  The children of the world raised millions of dollars, and in 1988 the first land was purchased for what was to be named the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, or in Spanish El Bosque Eterno de los Niños (BEN).  This newly protected land stretches basically from our farm all the way west to Monteverde – it’s 35 or so rugged miles of uninterrupted mountainous wilderness in the heart of the Panamanian Land Bridge connecting North and South America and the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Not far from our lodge is the Pocosol (“Little Sun”) Research Station of the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, and a group of biomimicry students and instructors organized by our partner farm Brave Earth (special thanks to Yael Marantz and Bryony Schwan!) hiked the Zamia trail and then swam in the caldera of the ancient and now dormant volcano.  The hike was about 3.5 miles in length, and according to one of the smartphones on the trip offered an elevation gain equivalent to about 60 flights of stairs.  The hiking is not technical or arduous, but you have to be ready for a little cardio.  The payoff?  Well, for one the rainforest there is pure magic.

Second, after hiking up the dormant volcano for a bit you get to a bubbling mud pit called a fumarole.  There, hot water and sulfurous steam vent from the rocks, resulting when the water table comes into contact with magma that is still near the surface.  At this spot in the rainforest, you can feel the presence and pressure of colliding geotechtonic plates that perhaps hundreds of thousands of years ago gave birth to an active volcano.  This is how, volcano by volcano, the Panamerican land bridge was born!  Lots of volcanos, mountains, and earthquakes later, the Tillaran Cordillera was formed, bridging the oceans and the continents. Here’s video of the Poco Sol fumarole courtesy of our esteemed biomemetic designer Derek Chittenden:

Our group had a bit of fun giving themselves hot volcanic mud facials.  Tom Newmark and Royvin Guttierez of our farm agreed to model their treatments:

Many folks in the biomimicry group also got into mud mode, as these group photos memorialize:

Then we hiked down the dormant volcano, biologizing all along the way.  Every mushroom, every leaf, every exoskeleton told a story:

Finally, we got to the caldera, a pure and cold fresh-water lake formed in the crater of the dormant volcano.  It was swimming time!

We were especially honored to enjoy the company of Dra. Julia Matamoros, our beloved friend who is president of the Monteverde Conservation League, the not for profit organization that administers the Children’s Eternal Rainforest.  In the photo below Julia and Tom are enjoying a bit of “hydrotherapy” as they lazily float in the serene setting.  And yes, the mud washes right off….

Finca Luna Nueva is proud to support the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, and we hope our friends and guests are inspired to do the same.  Pura Vida!