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Day 2: Hiking Through Virgin Rainforest, Night Hikes, & Bat Catching

January 10, 2017

 

 

 Back when my three boys were little toddlers running around the backyard catching bugs and filling their days with wonderment, it was pretty obvious that these little guys were captivated by nature. I took them to the Milwaukee Public Museum exhibit of the rain forest in Costa Rica and instantly they darted off in search of adventure and discovery. We went back to that exhibit many times and decided that our next family vacation should be that place, the field research station deep in a virgin Costa Rican rain forest. I had no idea how that place would also capture my interests and change my life. Welcome to day 2 of my bucket list adventures, hiking through a virgin rain forest.

 

We arrived at Tirimbina, a rain forest research center in Costa Rica, totally unaware of what we are about to experience. It was late afternoon and the daytime critters we're getting cranked up talking about their day’s activities and plans for tomorrow. We couldn't wait to go explore the forest, all of us, so we threw on our boots, fanny packs and other assorted REI essentials, and headed to the suspension bridge. This massive bridge crosses over two rivers onto this island that is rain forest reserve, protecting vegetation that has never been cut down. The boys were 4, 5, and 7 at the time.

 

I was super excited to see large mammals in the forest like tapirs, monkeys, anteaters, sloths, and jaguars. But I felt a little ill-equipped to protect my boys without a rifle slung over my shoulder, a revolver and machete hanging from my hip. I was pretty sure that's what the dad in the first Jurassic Park movie had on him at all times. I did have a hat and handkerchief around my neck though.

 

Crossing over the bridge was thrilling as it swayed back-and-forth, creaking a lot and felt appropriately rustic. I'll never forget stepping off the bridge into what felt like a world that has been preserved in time. I know that sounds totally cliché but it really is true. There was something totally different about being on the soil in this forest. You could feel it in the energy. We marched forward with our rain forest guide to expose the wildlife that was hiding in plain sight and watching her every move. The trees are so big we couldn't hold hands and surround some of them. Leaves looked like green surfboards hanging from limbs. The air was thick and the smells were humid. We saw so much wildlife in that first afternoon