The California Blog: Lose Yourself In Sequoia

DSC_0354 copyAfter finishing our tour of Crystal Cave (Read about that blog here!), and eating lunch (should I mention that I stumbled upon a bee hive, and got stung three times? Ah, that will be a good story to tell one day. haha. My fault for wandering off trail.)  We set out to enjoy the Sequoias. We decided to take Congress Trail, which is located near the General Sherman Tree Which we had seen the previous day (Want to read about that, too? Click here). The trail was an easy walk, we took our time and spent the rest of the day amongst these trees.
I really enjoyed how the shadows and burns of the sequoias played a large part in the beauty of the trees, as if the dark shadows and burns just made you appreciate the depth of color of the bright red bark.

Counting Rings

On this trail we truly got to see what the forest fires do to these trees. Oddly enough though, the fires are necessary for their survival. By burning the accumulating down branches, litter, and duff, the fires allow the seeds to reach mineral soil. And in heating the soil, the fire changes the texture of the soil in a way which allows the seeds to be covered by a few millimeters of it.

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Timing of the burn is important, though! One experimental burn took place in August, 1969. Allowing two months of seed fall before winter. On plot #3, which was burnt the hottest, more than 40,000 sequoia seedlings per acre were found, while on plots 1 and 2 which were lighter burned, about only 13,000 per acre germinated. The three burnt plots averaged in nearly 22,000 sequoia seedlings per acre.

Not a single sequoia seedling was found on the unburned control plot.

I had expected the sequoias to have a smooth texture, like most trees do. Perhaps an even harder bark to resist catching fire. To my astonishment, they have a surprisingly fibrous, dry, hair-like bark. Something akin to a coconut’s fibrous  layer.
DSC_0296 copy    And somehow this bark prevents the trees from burning down. The scars they do receive from the fires are impressive. Some trees are hollow, but still live and grow.DSC_0324 copy         You could walk right through this tree, which I did, and got this shot:
DSC_0326 copy                                           The inside had been hollowed out, perfect for making a tunnel.  Sequoia With Scar

And from the other side the scar slid up the tree. As if this tree’s tunnel and scars weren’t enough, it was also growing upon some stones!
DSC_0320 copyWhat an interesting tree. DSC_0331 copyThis next one had a peep hole. See that log in the bottom right corner? That’s a regular tree. These trees were all massive.

DSC_0277 copyAlong the way, we spotted this man taking a nap a little ways off the path. He looked so comfortable, and peaceful. I can only imagine what delightful rest the forest would offer. I do find it hard to believe that he looks so tranquil when he’s using a stone as a pillow. I thought I was a deep sleeper!

And with that we wrapped up Congress Trail.
This is a new one
My friend who is very fond of rivers spotted part of this one from the road. It was really breath taking.
DSC_0366 copyThe water was beautifully clear. I decided to dunk my feet in, and watched small fish congregate around my toes.

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The small town of Exeter lays outside of Sequoia. It’s a really cute quaint town. I absolutely enjoyed walking through it, we decided to stop by Sunday before leaving. If you want to enjoy the shops, you’d be better off going on saturday. Everything closes on sunday. I shaped a few photos I wanted to share.
DSC_0379 copy_This is it DSC_0373 copy_Fotor DSC_0380 copy_Fotor DSC_0381 copyI loved all the murals around this little town.

That concludes our Sequoia trip!

Tell me in the comments below what’s your favorite town to have visited. Have you ever seen the sequoias with their great scars?

Rain Descents On Costa Rican Forests.

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This year we have had an abnormally dry spring. While May usually  marks the transition from the dry season to the rainy season, this year we had hardly any rain. On one hand this is pleasant because you have the whole day to enjoy the wonders of Costa Rican country, but on the other everything starts dying down from lack of rain. Not such a pretty sight.  Alas though, the rain has come. Some people don’t like the rain, but I enjoy it immensely. And if there is one thing Costa Rica knows how to do, it’s rain.
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Now that June has come along, we can expect plenty more rain. June is considered one of the wetter months, particularly for the Pacific coast. Luckily, the majority of the rain falls in the afternoon or evening showers, leaving you the whole morning to early afternoon to enjoy.

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There is never a bad time to visit Costa Rica, but the low rainy season is one of the most beautiful.  Have you visited Costa Rica? What was your favorite time of year? Comment below and let us know!

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(Tricia is sick this week, so sorry for the slightly different style. Hope you enjoyed still.)100_1186

A Failed Adventure; A Hidden Treasure Found

Hill Side Trees

Many a times we have set out with the intent of doing something and have failed for different reasons. By living  Costa Rica I have learned to go with the flow and improvise,  it is the attitude of many of the people here. I think this idea of making the best with what you have, makes Costa Ricans rated one of the happiest people on Earth. There is no crying over spilled milk.Mini Coffe Mugs

We had an opportunity to use our “go with the flow” skills the other day. We had planned to visit Turrialba Volcano, but the weather didn’t permit us to accomplish this. By the time we reached Finca La Central, which is about 6 kilometers from the volcano, it was raining and very foggy.
Hill House

Restaurant

This is the outside of the restaurant

Thank goodness, we found this country store and restaurant and decided to enter to see if the rain would let up. In my childhood, I had lived for a short time in Costa Rica and was suddenly reminded of the Costa Rica of days gone by. When we entered there were a group of local men having coffee. I asked them a question, and was reminded of  the Costa Ricans of not so long ago, shy and soft spoken. People would often not look you in the face and talk to the floor out of shyness. I found this very endearing.

We met some people who were hiking from the town of Cot, who informed me the  Parque National Volcan Turrialba was closed due to the ash it had been spitting. It has been closed on and off due to the volcanic activity.
Entry

The restaurant was rustic and clean.

Type Writer KeysType Writer
The restaurant had several antiques, this Smith-Corona typewriter was one. What called my attention was that it was made for the Costa Rican market, besides the Spanish alphabet, it had the colones sign.

Heater Perfection
I loved the name of the wood burning stove, it gives the impression that even a poor cook can do well on this stove.
Cash Register Cash Register keys
An old cash register, I don’t know what such a fancy cash register was doing in such a rural area.
Tortilla Aliñanda Tortilla aliñada Con Café
This is one of our favorite things to eat, tortilla aliñada. It’s a tortilla with cheese mixed into the batter before it’s cooked. The best ones I’ve eaten have been made with cheese from the local dairy farm, this was one of those.

Sewing Machine SingerCoffee Mugs Coffee Strainer
This is how coffee used to be, and still is prepared in many homes. Coffee is placed in the cloth bag and water is poured over it.Doggie
Restaurant came complete with a dog! Coconut
I had forgotten what this was used for, until it dawned on me. It’s a half of a coconut used to shine wooden floors.
Doors
After we had coffee and our tortilla, it was time to go.
Foggy Cows
There are many dairy farms on the road to the volcano. It’s not unusual to have cows cross the road on their way to the milking.
Cabbage RowsIn the early 1800’s a boat of Irish settled in this area. Some of the towns and people have Irish surnames. Potatoes, cabbage, and carrots are common crops. Many of the fields are plowed with oxen and cared for by hand. BridgesA  foot bridge.
Haunted Gate
There aren’t many houses in the area. We were surprised to find such an ornate gate in the area. With the mist, it looked like something taken out of a spooky movie.

We will return in the future when the park reopens, to see the volcano.  Even though we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do, we enjoyed the time we spent in the Danza con Nubes (Dance with Clouds, appropriately named) restaurant in Finca La Central, Cartago.

A Waterfall Paradise; Our Trip to San Rafael de Vara Blanca.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country and many people come to admire its nature. It’s one of the most visited countries in the world for ecoturism. But, one of the things that keep tourists coming back to visit is its people. Costa Ricans are a warm and friendly people, specially the people who live outside of San Jose, the capital. We met some of these people when we were on one of our Sunday outings.

I wanted to go to Vara Blanca of Alajuela to see how the reconstruction of the region was going.  Two or three years ago the Vara Blanca-Cinchona region suffered a 7.2 earthquake, between 100-200 people were killed, mostly due to a huge landslide that occurred along the San Rafael River.  On an impulse, I turned off the road between Vara Blanca and Cinchona to go to San Rafael. The road was good until San Rafael. But once past the town, the road turned to dirt and we soon came to a river without a bridge that had been washed away due to the earthquake. Luckily, I stopped to ask how the rest of the road was and that is how I met the Peraza and Carvajal family. They invited us to their farm, gave us a tour, and fed us. Here are some of the pictures, we decided to post the pictures in several blogs due to the amount of pictures my daughter took. We will post information on how to contact them if you’re interested in renting their cabin or taking a tour. This is an adventure for people who like roughing it and experiencing nature untamed.
Las Tres MariasThe mountain was covered in mist for most of the day.

See itI stepped over this lizard without seeing it.
Mini falls
We made our way down a ravine to see the SanRafael River…
Jungle Falls and were surprised to find not one but three waterfalls.
Splash

Small fall

This waterfall was next to the previous one.

Grass

Little Man.
Notice the man in the lower left corner.

Leafy

Flowers Fall

 Rocky Falls

This is the third waterfall, we had to climb back up the ravine and enter the river further upstream. This waterfall and the first were about the same size.

Mushrooms

Drop
This is the view from the top of the first waterfall.
ViewsThis is the view towards the Poas Volcano. I was impressed because most visitors of the volcano look towards where we were standing, the view is much more impressive the other way around. On a clear day you can see the plains of San Carlos and the Pacific Ocean.
HouseThis is the cabin the Carvajal – Peraza Family rent.

People Mountain

Leaving at the end of the day.

Gallo Pinto: The Costa Rican Breakfast of Champions

Gallo Pinto is the Costa Rican equivalent to Chinese fried rice. It is made with left over rice and beans, a Costa Rican cuisine staple. Traditionally, it was made in a comal. A comal is similar to a wok only shallower, made out of cast iron, and instead of one handle it has two smaller handles. The tradition of cooking with comales has been lost in many homes. It has been replaced by teflon coated frying pans.

Gallo Pinto

If I would have been feed Gallo Pinto growing up, I wouldn’t have passed many a sad and hungry mid-morning at school, my empty stomach growling, eyes riveted to the classroom clock, waiting for lunch to roll around. Gallo Pinto is a staple for breakfast in my home now. It is a filling and energizing way to start my morning. It is easy to make, just follow the following recipe.

2 cups DAY OLD rice

1 cup black beans  drained reserve 1/4 cup of liquid

1/2 medium onion,chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 red bell pepper, chopped

In a wok or frying pan, saute pepper in 2 tbsps olive oil for about a minute. Add onion and cook till it just turns translucent. Add garlic, briefly saute, DO NOT BROWN.  Add beans and liquid from beans. Let saute for 3 minutes. Add rice. Toss until warm and liquid is uniformly absorbed into rice. Serve. Top with a dollop of sour cream.

Gallo Pinto is usually served with eggs, fried plantains, tortillas and farmers cheese, but bacon and sausage can also be an accompaniment. Disfrute!

Exploring Rivers in Costa Rica

Most  people come to Costa Rica to take in the beaches, but the rivers are just as beautiful.  Here are some pictures of some of the rivers we have visited.

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This is a stream that runs along a development my husband is doing in Pilas of Alajuela. It is in a little canyon like most streams and rivers in Costa Rica. The hike down was quite an adventure.

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I found this bridge quite interesting, it was in a very  rural area near Cuidad Colon. It must of been used a lot in the past, I suspect to get from Cuidad Colon or Puriscal to Atenas, but for some reason the road and bridge were negleted.

100_1339 102_0879DSC04254Savage’s Foam Frog.
Leptodactylus savagei.

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The Tibas River near Los Angeles of Santo Domingo, this river also runs  along a development of my husband. The picture was taken during the dry season. One day near the beginning of the rainy season, we went down to the river and it must of rained hard somewhere further up the mountain but not where we where, it was impressive how fast the river began to rise, something to be aware of in the rainy season.

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