Arenal Observatory Lodge, Costa Rica
The Waterfall Trail, located off the side of a farm road within the Arenal Observatory Lodge complex, is a short, (1100 meter, 0.7 mile) relatively flat loop trail leading to a 20-foot cascade. Rain was saturating the air and the surrounding forest when Pick and I began our hike, the moisture creating a dark and somewhat gloomy atmosphere—complete with lush tropical ferns and palms drooping under the weight of water-laden limbs. A torrential downpour the night before had led to a slippery and muddy trail, one that was getting muddier by the minute—hopeful that the rain would stop eventually, we continued toward the waterfall. As we made our way through the misty gray forest, a flash of orange caught our eye—just up ahead, perched on a trailside branch sat a rufous motmot. We followed as the bird made its way down the trail, snapping photos whenever an opportunity would arise, and delighting in its antics—a definite highlight of the hike. At approximately the halfway point of the trail (550 meters), we reached a sign marking the location of the waterfall—not yet visible from our ridge top vantage point. Up to this point, the trail, although muddy, had been easy to hike thanks to the flat grade, but reaching the base of the waterfall required a relatively steep cliffside descent down a rain soaked path—an intimidating prospect when you could see that a massive landslide had recently occurred on the opposite bank of the Danta River. Cautiously, we made our way down the switchbacks until we were able to get a clear view of the waterfall—a view clear of trees, but still partially obscured by flood debris near the base of the falls—it was at this point, about halfway to the river, that we decided to return to the main trail and continue the loop. A short distance from the waterfall, we took a side excursion over and back across the Danta Hanging Bridge before finally returning to the farm road—next up, a jaunt on the Escondido Trail.