Skip to content

The Cloud Forest On a Cloudless Night

May 7, 2012

Fog competes with the sun´s last rays for space along the horizon.

Most days we spend with a ceiling of heavy grey clouds overhead.  There is a certain smallness created in your world when you live in a valley nearly always socked in with clouds.  It is a smallness that makes your corner of the forest feel safe, comfortable, and well-known.  Not in the sense that you really know all there is to know here… just that, perhaps, you feel a sort of familiarity with being closed in.

It began with a car ride with Eriberto Bastidas–a warm-hearted man who has known the reserve managers of Las Tangaras for many seasons.  He pointed out an Agouti along the road, watching us as we drove by.  Then, a Broad-Billed Motmot flew by in front of his truck.

The fog began to set in at the trailhead, which is at nearly the top of the hill that descends into our valley.

We unloaded from our taxi ride to the trailhead and watched a pair of Chestnut-Mandibled Toucans preen each other in the setting sun and saw a Crested Guan–a large, prehistoric-looking bird–perched high in a tree.  This was only the beginning to the most breathtaking views we´ve had since arriving here.

As the sun set, the rays competed with the low-lying fog for space along the horizon.  Palms lit up in the pink glow and towered over many of the other trees.  As we walked the trail that we´ve used to get home many times, the sun began to set in entirety… and we realized the night was a cloudless one!  The first we´ve had since being here.  Our ceiling had lifted!


The clouds lifted shortly after this.

A regular caller on a moonlit night is the Common Potoo.  And we heard one just as it became dark.  Somehow, in whistling back at it, Luke was able to call it in to us… and it perched 10 feet about our heads on a dead trunk and sang its mournful song in the dark.  But it wasn´t really dark.  The night was illuminated by hundreds of southern hemisphere stars!

After our encounter with the Potoo, we walked another few hundred feet until we came to a clearing.  Turning off our headlamps, we looked up and around and behind us… at our world with endless sky.  It seemed so big, so foreign, so exotic.

The Milky Way ran across the sky in utter clarity, claiming its space like a highway overhead, and the trees were outlined along the very tops of the hills.  And the hills seemed so enormous–as if they had taken on a life of their own.

To make the experience even more awe-inspiring, flashes of lightning appeared out of the southeast.  On a cloudless night!  At one point, we even thought we saw another hiker on the trail ahead of us.  Until we realized the fireflies had come out in full force in the evening´s darkness.

This moment of standing in the forest as the sky opened up over us, reavealing the stars and the noises of night, is one we will never forget.  It´s easy to go a great long time without seeing something so beautiful that it really moves you.  And on this night, we were both only capable of saying “oh, wow.”

We walked the rest of the way home in mostly contemplative silence, putting our provisions away when we arrived back at the cabin and cleaning up.  Within an hour, we stepped back outside and our ceiling had returned.  And, just like that, life in our cloud forest returned to normal.


In other news, the end of April graced us with our first visitor– a good friend of Luke´s from New York named Nick Stevens who came to spend a few days with us and help us clear some trails and enjoy the birds.  We had a great time with him!

Katie began reclaiming the garden (nicely fenced from the last managers) from the forest and we´ve been working to repaint some of the trail signs around the reserve.

Repainting trails signs during the rain.

Luke saw two Cappuchins on the water trail a few days ago and last night we were visited by Pablo, the Nine-Banded Armadillo.

At the Rerserva Las Tangaras, life keeps keeping on… and we get to enjoy our short time here, keeping on with it.


A male Purple-Bibbed White-Tip, who we affectionately call “Pip,” perches on the deck next to the feeders.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2012 9:18 pm

    Wow! you guys are so lucky to have the potoo come to you like that! Beautiful photos, too.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences.


    • Katie permalink
      June 16, 2012 2:17 pm

      Thank you! Yeah, we feel pretty lucky to have gotten to see it too!


  2. May 8, 2012 10:20 pm

    Katie: That was some awesome writing. I felt as if I was there with you, walking the trail into the clearing and seeing the glory of the night sky. Thanks for the journey! DM


  3. Micah permalink
    May 20, 2012 5:56 pm

    awesome posts. I am wondering about daily life. What are you guys eating, bugs, hassles, town, shopping and the likes. If you get a chance, Thanks Micah


    • June 6, 2012 10:26 am

      Keep all the nitty gritty manager challenges for communications by email among yourselves as I doubt general readers will be too interested in that sort of thing. Thanks. Dusti


    • June 16, 2012 2:22 pm

      Regular food (that you would eat) that we hike in on our backs. Bugs are not too bad… but we have lots of bites. Hassles: the need for propane to be brought in by horseback. Town is lovely. Mindo is a great place full of friendly people. Shopping is done in town and we hike it back in. Thanks for reading!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: