Monday, February 7, 2011

Plantation Road

On Sunday we hiked the Plantation Road trail in Soberanía National Park.  This trail was originally a road, built by the Americans, to access plantations during the construction of the Panama Canal. The trail goes 7km into the park; it's an old road so it's easy hiking--perfect for kids.

To tempt my kids out of bed I made some banana chocolate-chip muffins (I'll post the recipe later this week).  The muffins weren't really a necessary measure, because we were picking up one of their friends to join us, and they were both very complacent.  It's amazing how the addition of one friend can change the whole dynamic; instead of surly they were actually enthusiastic about the prospect of hiking all morning.

We were at the head of the trail, ready to go in, just after nine.  There were some mountain bikers coming out, and the park ranger happened to be there too.  The park ranger wasn't very enthusiastic about the cyclists, but the trail is really perfect for that.  I would love to go back with the bikes some time.

About a kilometre into the trail we saw (actually smelled first)  some howler monkeys.  They were high up in a tree.
Howler monkeys are impressive for their large size, and of course that incredible sound they make.  Their call can be heard for long distances, and it is ubiquitous on most of the trails in Soberanía.  We've heard them before in the park, but it was the first time we actually saw them there.

A few steps after the monkeys we came to a pretty waterfall.
The day was beautiful and the hiking was very pleasant.  There are many spectacular trees in the park and we seemed to stop every few steps to marvel at one.

We didn't make very good time for the first couple of kilometres just because the day was so lovely, and we all needed to just bask in it.  At the 2K marker I handed out packets of cashews and reminded everyone that we had five kilometres to go before lunch.  We picked up the pace a bit after that.

At about 5k (the markers stopped after 3K) the trail opens onto a clearing--that probably once was some kind of planation; but whatever was planted there has been choked out by canal grass (an Asian species that was originally introduced to stop erosion in the canal).

The kids were getting tired and needed a bit of distracting (singing, storytelling, cheerleading) for the last couple of kilometres.  We didn't see any wildlife, as we were so focused on arriving, but we did pass some beautiful red flowers.

 The trail ends where it joins with the Camino de Cruces trail.
The Camino de Cruces trail is an important historical trail; it was built by the Spanish in the 16th century to connect the Atlantic port to Panama City.  The original cobblestone can still be seen in sections of the trail. Someday we'll tackle it--it sounds like it might be a little challenging for the kids--so we might have to go without them.  

We stopped at the crossroads and ate our picnic.
With bellies filled and legs rested, we made our way back to the car.  On the way back we saw a three-toed sloth high up in a tree, and coati on the side of the trail.  The kids actually ran most of the way back to the car.  It's amazing how much shorter a trail can seem on the way back.

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