This particular cloud forest was Monteverde Cloud Forest. It straddles the continental divide and covers about 26,000 acres of northern Costa Rica. Its name, which translates as “Green Mountain,” came from that of a nearby town which, in turn, was named by Quakers from Alabama draft-dodging the Korean War. True story. The forest reserve itself was established in the 1970s.
It took a little while for us to notice it, but we finally saw through the astounding camouflage of a leaf bug. It was about the size of my thumb, and didn’t so much as flick an antenna the entire time we observed it. Almost like it was a plant. I mean, in the sense that it was placed there by the staff. Accidental puns are hard to get out of.
Right before we took our first step into the forest, it started raining. And didn’t stop until we left. And for some reason we didn’t think to buy slickers or umbrellas at the gift shop. It was almost like the ranger pulled a lever for rain right after he set up that fake bug. Walking those 2.5 miles in constant rain felt like I was in one of those old war movies where squadrons trudge through the most miserable conditions or that one Ray Bradbury story about the planet where it always rained to the point of driving men mad.
At one bend in the path, we saw something jump four feet vertically into the air and disappear up an embankment. I have no clue what it was. My brain didn’t even register a shape. Just a dark mass maybe the size of a softball, like a clump of ground detritus had suddenly gained consciousness and ran terrified of life, like we all should.
By the time we made it to the ledge overlooking the continental divide, we hadn’t seen a single animal besides the ranger’s pet leaf bug. And then we didn’t see the continental divide. We were completely enveloped in Stephen King’s Mist. Except that his had cool wildlife. This was just like being inside a…Oh. Cloud forest.
I was walking at the front of our party, when suddenly, strutting confidently across the path like there was a crosswalk painted there, was a big, furry arachnid.
And that little guy made that wet walk worth every squishy step.
Incidentally, we saw our first wild monkeys on the drive home, hanging out in trees above a busy highway. Go figure.