Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Three crosses hike

On Sunday morning Allie was still feeling sick from the miserable 24 hour flu thing that she acquired. We had made plans to hike with some other teachers from the school, but Allie had to rest up because of her condition.
I left with our neighbor, Jason, who also teaches 4th grade at CDS. We took a cab up to the campusto meet up with a few more teachers from the school, and all six of us plus one border collie loaded into Dave and Robin's 1990 Isuzu Amigo, aka the "Blue Beast."
We drove south of Escazu centro, and into San Antonio, a neighborhood that overlooks the central valley even more. It was neat to see the little town way up on the hill on a Sunday morning, with all of the soccer games, church-goers, and people just relaxing around town. We kept going above the town, and finally made it to a restaurant called Valle Azul. It is supposedly a very good but pricey restaurant, and it has a view overlooking the entire valley. From there up past a few more houses, and finally began our trek up the hill.
Tres Cruces is a hike up a mountain that overlooks our school and all of Escazu. There are three giant crosses that you can stop at during different parts of the hike. The first is a concrete Byzantine cross, I think, because it is more of a plus sign than a cross. Unfortunately it has a lot of graffiti on it, but the view sure is amazing. From there, we hiked up to the second cross, which is a narrow metal cross on top of a concrete pyramid with steps. We took a longer break for food and water here, and watched vultures swoop across the valley. We followed a cow pasture fence up the hill, and it was built in the typical "living fence" style (branches are cut and driven into the ground, where they root and begin to grow again). There were little raspberries growing along the trail that looked pretty, but tasted quite tart. This part of the hike was very hot since the sun was on our backs the whole time. We finally made it to the third cross, which is a huge metallic structure made out of scaffolding. From there we kept travelling up the hill, until we made it to the very top. It was so cool because the vegetation became much more lush. It is foggy up there most of the time, so it is basically a cloud forest, a lot of moss, and plants growing out of the branches and trunks of trees. The cloud forest opens of to a grassy ridge behind the mountain, and from here you have an excellent view of San Jose. There was another hiker who was resting at the top, and one other guy climbed up a really steep part of the mountain...carrying a little kid on his shoulders! He did not have any water or food, and when he got to the top of the ridge, he started jogging with his son still on his shoulders.
The weather was beautiful at the top of the mountain, and apparently it is usually raining or foggy. After resting for awhile and drinking water (it is a very difficult hike - it took roughly 2 1/2 hours to get to the top), we made our way down the back side of the mountain. The south facing side of the mountain was a lot cooler and steeper. You had to switch back constantly and bend your knees a lot, but slipping was still inevitable. It had not rained for a day or two (hallelujah), yet the tall grass was still so thick. Our friend Noah's border collie had just arrived in Costa Rica two days earlier, and she was loving the freedom of the hills. She is a very obediant dog and it was clear that she liked having tasks to keep her busy with, but she did not pay any attention to the cattle like Josey would have.
The bottom of the mountain led us to a river at the bottom. We had to go through some narrow openings in a couple of barbed wire living fences before getting to the water. The river was moving really quickly, and there giant lichen-covered boulders nestled into the grass. Thick trees and bushes provided shade along some parts of the bank, and we rested for a little while and got our feet wet in the water. We had to wait for a Tico to finish moving his cattle along the trail before we continued. We had to cross the river about four times, and during part of the hike we had to walk right down the middle of it for about one hundred feet. We passed some little waterfall, and also a swimming hold that was about chest deep. A couple guys opted to jump into the pool, but I wanted to keep my shorts dry.
Unfortunately we had to walk at a pretty fast pace, because most of our group was very anxious to watch the Sunday NFL games. I would have liked to take more time to look at the plants and animals, but I did notice some cool wild ginger, trumpet vine, and giant leaves the size of umberellas. Also, many of the plants had bright white, pink and yellow designs on the leaves. I have read that the purpose of this is to make animals think that the plant has a disease so they will eat another plant. The hike took us about 4 or 5 hours, and although we took some nice breaks to relax and drink water, we definitely kept a steady pace. I am looking forward to returning to Tres Cruces with Allie, but my soar legs are definitely a little apprehensive still.

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