After a couple of weeks at the Biological Station in which we had lectures, assignments, lab practical, midterm and many other activities, it was time to have a break from some "normal" school period and have our next adventure; this time our destination was Eladio's Refuge at the Peñas Blancas valley. Eladio's is found in the heart of the Monteverde protected area also known as the Children's Eternal Rain Forest, to get to this place we hiked for 16 kilometers (10 miles), we started our hike at the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and after a few hours throughout a marvelous forest full of life we made it to our final destination.
Here at Eladio's we learned about how the conservation of the whole area started, and how farmers who owned the land, like Eladio Cruz, saw the importance of preserving and protecting the forest around Monteverde, changed their mind and sold their land for conservation purposes and start working on increasing the size of the protected area and with the help of many donations, one of the biggest made by a group of Swedish school kids, hence the name of Children's Eternal Rain Forest, the area is now the biggest private reserve in Central America covering around 25 000 hectares of forest.
Besides learning about conservation we also hike through the forest discovering new species of plant and animals, used mist nets to catch bats and birds, did a night hike in which we saw many species of frogs, insects and snakes, visit rivers and waterfalls, and the most important we were in the middle of nowhere with no electricity and internet connection, far away from the "real" world just soaking on nature and enjoying this wonderful new experience.
It was only a few days there, but a good energy recharging to go back to Monteverde and start our Independent Research project.
The group is ready and really excited to start the hike to Eladio's, here at the entrance of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. From left to right: Amanda Ogden (Utah State University), Sarah Aitken (University of Pennsylvania) Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities), Drew Rosso (University of Notre Dame), Jimmy Webb (University of Arkansas), Christine Bradley (California Polytechnic State University), and Vikram Norton (University of Massachusetts-Amherst).
Just after a few minutes hiking we encountered a pair of dung beetles carrying a ball of dung. These roller species find a source of dung and make a little ball that they roll to a hole in a safe place in which they lay their eggs to develop.
One of the many rivers or streams that we crossed during our time at Eladio's.
It is not call the rain forest for no reason. Peñas Blancas receive around 9 meters of rain per year and here we experienced first hand.
Eladio Cruz preparing some food for the group. Eladio used to own the land were the refuge it is found, he was the first person who sold his land for conservation purposes and since then he has been a big collaborator on the conservation of the Monteverde area. He is a great naturalist and also an amazing cook.
While mist netting for birds we caught several species of them; hummingbirds, manakins, tanagers were some of the types of birds we caught. Here Derek Frank (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) holding a Long-billed Gnatwren (Ramphocaenus melanurus).
Many species of beautiful of frogs were found during our night hike, here Christine Bradley (California Polytechnic State University) posing with the most colorful of all the Red-eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas).