Our current home in Panama is at the base of Volcan Baru, an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama (3,475m or 11,401 ft). Below us is a river canyon with steep rocky walls covered in dense vegetation. All through our Panama trip, I have been quite enchanted by the rich flora and I am equally caught by the vegetation that surrounds us here. We were told of hiking trails that lead through this forest to the river in the bottom of the canyon and beyond. I had to check it out.
The trail I found starts at the end of the road leading to the Boquete River Inn, our accommodation for the month. It is quite steep and rocky as it cuts across the cliff and down into the ravine toward the river.
Vegetation thickens and the sound of the rushing water grows louder the closer I get to the river. Where the trail meets the water I am surprised to see a small, rickety suspension bridge as the only means of crossing.
Once on the other side. I follow a not-so-well-used trail up the side of the ravine. At the top, the trail quickly intersects with a rutted country road and fields that flow up toward the volcano. To my left, a gate clearly indicates Prohibido el Paso. The road to the right meanders through fields bordered with banana trees and palms. For the next couple of hours I wander along, tasting some of the oranges that hang over the road and peeking over fences into the farms.
I made this walk a few times. On one trip, I returned with no lens cap from the camera and had to retrace my steps to the top of the other side. On my way back I ran into a local who was maintaining the trail and after some basic Spanish on my part, and a few hand signals from him, he pulled my lens cap from his pocket. On another trip, our next door neighbour joined me for a walk to the bridge and back.
One of our neighbours, an avid birder, invited me on a walk on one of the locals’ favourite hikes at the north end of town. The trail head is a 45-minute drive from our cabin into a completely different micro climate. The weather here brings moist air south from the Caribbean where it hits the cool mountain air, causing heavy clouds and almost constant drizzle. The result is lush dense growth with iconic vines dropping from the canopy to the forest floor, and large, almost magical tropical plants covering every surface. The trail is called the Pipeline Trail and there is supposed to be a magnificent waterfall at the end. The walk deserves another visit, and Coral and I plan on making the trip on our next car rental excursion.