Wild Costa Rica

Our first natural encounter in Costa Rica was not monkeys, as I had hoped, but shit-tons of ants. And unfortunately, this is not an ant problem that you can eradicate. In fact, you may as well strap a pair of antennae to your head and start practicing lifting 50 times your body weight, because this is definitely a case of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

We have learned to live with the ants, but it wasn’t so easy in the beginning. The first night in the house as we sat on the most uncomfortable futon in existence, Adam was slightly dismayed to find that he happened to be lounging on a large pile of ants who had made an impromptu nest in the folds of the cushion. To make matters worse, as we peered into the pile of scurrying ants, we saw that they were frantically moving little white parcels that looked like tiny grains of rice—ant larvae. Continue reading “Wild Costa Rica”

A Blast from the Past Trip: A Thirst for the Desert

I said before that I would try to finish some posts from our last trip and put them up even if they weren’t in chronological order.  So here we have the second post regarding our time in Putre.  If you want to refresh your memory about the people/place, you can read my first post on Putre: Out of the Desert and into…the Desert. So here it goes…

Besides being beset in all directions by wondrous natural beauty, the town of Putre is also filled with some of the friendliest locals that we encountered on our trip – people who literally go out of their way to help you.  People say things like,“You want bread?  Well, I don’t have any right now, let me walk you to the store that does.”  The small store that I frequented most often was run by a rather mirthful man who liked to make jokes whether the tourists understood him or not.  I totally understand how he feels – most of the time in the classroom my jokes are just for my amusement.  For instance, some European tourists came in to buy some tissue.  After a lot of motioning, he finally figured out what they wanted.  He handed them the box with feigned horror – “Gripe de Cerdo!” he shouted, and then started laughing hysterically.  The tourists had no idea what was going on and left with a puzzled look on their faces.  I giggled despite the fact that swine flu was being taken quite seriously at the time – we had been scrupulously interrogated at the border crossing to make sure we weren’t going to cause an epidemic. Continue reading “A Blast from the Past Trip: A Thirst for the Desert”

Good News, Bad News

Our trip to Costa Rica began with a very long day of flights and layovers that ended in the capital city, San Jose.  During the day it was shopping streets, markets, cemetery, parks, cathedral, museum, etc.  Later it was local bars, even a few which are famed for the proliferation of prostitution.  At first I thought that this was an interesting phenomenon to observe, but when we read about how Costa Rica has been put on the watchlist for an alarming rise in human sex trafficking, it ceased to be intriguing.

On an evening walk on our last night in San Jose, Adam said to me in a conspiratorial whisper, “Can I tell you a secret?  I don’t really care for this city.”

I’m loath to make blanket statements about a place that I have only spent three days in when I know that hundreds of different unrelated things color my judgment, but, if I’m only reporting how I feel, San Jose hadn’t knocked my socks off either.  It was, to me, a city like any other with nothing that really stood out.  In fact, I was beginning to think that I would have nothing of interest to say about San Jose, but then, we hadn’t yet met Patricia. Continue reading “Good News, Bad News”

Western Vignettes


Tonight we are camping on an island in the Great Salt Lake.  One minute we were in the middle of strip malls and suburban houses and the next we were in the middle of the lake surrounded by wetland grasses and birds.  The day has been almost unbearably hot, but the evening is perfectly warm and thunderstorms are blowing in.  We sit under the canopy and watch the spidery lightning striking in the distance.  Billie Holiday quietly croons “Them There Eyes” and the crickets chime in.  And as if to remind me that no moment can be totally idyllic, a mosquito buzzes lightly in my ear.

The next morning we awake to see buffalo grazing outside of our window.  The thunderstorms have passed and all around is the sweet smell of dry grass.  Salt Lake City looks like a mirage in the cloudy distance.  There are no sounds but the calls of seabirds and the faint rustle of the buffalo as their huge bodies gracefully swish through the tall vegetation.

Continue reading “Western Vignettes”

Wyoming – a New Perspective

In traveling from the mountains to the desert, we have traded having to look out for bears for being on the lookout for rattlesnakes.  The mosquitoes and biting flies have given way to yellow jackets as number one pest.  Sparse juniper bushes clinging to the chalky hillsides have taken the place of the towering lodge pole pines, brick reds and toasted yellows and browns replace the lush greens of the mountains and forests.

Continue reading “Wyoming – a New Perspective”

The Fellowship of the Bear

“Almost every day, on the park or forest radio, we hear some ranger report a bear sighting, sometimes of grizzly.  Campers molested, packs destroyed by hungry and questing bears.  Somebody was recently attacked and mauled by a griz north of the line, in Waterton Lakes…

No doubt about it, the presence of bear, especially grizzly bear, adds a spicy titillation to a stroll in the woods.  My bear loving friend Peacock goes so far as to define wilderness as a place and only a place where one enjoys the opportunity of being attacked by a dangerous wild animal.  Any place that lacks griz, or lions and tigers, or a rhino or two, is not, in his opinion, worthy of the name wilderness…A wild place without dangers is an absurdity…We must not allow our national parks and national forests to be degraded to the status of mere public playgrounds.  Open to all, yes of course.  But enter at your own risk.

Enter Glacier National Park and you enter the homeland of the grizzly bear.  We are uninvited guests here, intruders, the bear our reluctant host.  If he chooses, now and then, to chase somebody up a tree, or all the way to the hospital, that is the bear’s prerogative.  Those who prefer, quite reasonably, not to take such chances should stick to Disneyland in all its many forms and guises.”

–        from The Journey Home by Edward Abbey

It’s obvious that when hiking in bear country, one must be on the alert at all times. Conventional wisdom states that if a bear hears you coming, it will go away.  If a bear does not hear you coming and you surprise it, there will likely be trouble.  Bears, like my mother, do not like surprises.  Continue reading “The Fellowship of the Bear”

Getting Hyderized

The town of Hyder, Alaska, which had its heyday in the early 20th century when it was an important mining town, borders British Columbia on one side and the vast expanse of Misty Fiords National Monument on all others.  In other words, Hyder is literally the end of the road.  You cannot get anywhere else in Alaska by road from there, so it really is its own little outpost.  According to several residents, the town has a year-round population of about 90-100 people.  It expands somewhat during the summer months when tourists come out to look at the Salmon Glacier and look for bears.  Hyder may be one of the tiniest towns that we have stopped in, but it has more character than most of the cities we’ve visited so far.

Continue reading “Getting Hyderized”