You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So. . . get on your way!
- Dr. Seuss
Jasmine Ayla is a free-lance writer, traveler and amateur photographer based out of Maui, Hawaii, USA.
Cerro Chato Volcano continued
There is nothing sweeter than forbidden fruit, amiright? And Cerro Chato was forbidden to us several times, the forbidders not realizing that the more they said no, the sweeter the fruit. Well, that's how I felt anyway, but I knew Alice was a little nervous about getting thrown in a Costa Rican jail.
After reading a few reviews and blogs about the hike, I was reasonably assured that we would not get in trouble and the hike wasn't too technical. Unfortunately I didn't map out our approach to the entrance, so we ended up having to pay for a $30 taxi from our hostel, Howler Monkey (just outside the town of La Fortuna), all the way to the Arenal Observatory Lodge (AOL) park entrance. There we paid another $10 each to enter the park, and the taxi dropped us off near reception, where we were thankfully given a pretty clear map of all the trails in the park. From there we walked to the Green Entrance and into the park, down a tree-lined paved road that wound through alternating pastureland and pine forest, surrounded by mountains on all sides. It was really tranquil and beautiful, and we only saw a couple of other souls on motorcycles pass by, no other hikers. Getting to the trail entrance was fairly simple - the map the park reception had given us showed the way (it was just crossed out with a big X). As we approached the entrance, a little animal just popped up in front of us casually and ambled around, checking us out and sniffing the ground in between sneaking glances at us - totally caught us off guard! He was a cute little guy with a long snout, about the size of a huge cat or small dog. We found out later it was a Coati, which is a member of the raccoon family. After a million photos he wandered off and we looked up ahead to see a big sign saying "No Entry", and knew we were in the right place.
The trail started off with a little preamble of gentle ascent into the jungle, and then abruptly got really steep and stayed that way till we got to the top. After about half an hour, we came to a second big No Entry sign, this time with a lot of barbed wire (you can pass through on the right-hand side). The trail can be summed up as very sweaty, very reasonable cardio, and very beautiful. At one point towards the end we were walking along a ridgeline in the jungle, on a volcano, and 'twas undeniably glorious - I'm a sucker for ridges, misty jungle AND volcanoes so my heart was full.
After about an hour and a half, we reached the summit and were rewarded with a stunning view of the emerald green crater lake. After about 1.5 minutes of consultation we decided to skip the extra trail down to the water... it was a little chilly up high, plus we'd left a little later than we meant to (we started the actual ascent around 1:30pm), and it looked like some weather was moving in. We had just enough time to get some photos and smash some homemade tacos and burritos before the clouds swiftly covered any our view of the lake. The descent was much faster and pretty uneventful, but my friend and I both really appreciated the walk on country roads to and from the trail entrance - it meant we could get a perspective of both the countryside and the mountain we'd be hiking, which is something you don't always get on a hike. AND, we saw our Coati friend again at the end of the trail... He seemed to be well-versed in mysteriously materializing out of the jungle and managed to startle us again! Well played, Sam. (we dubbed him Sam)
Forbidden hike success!*
*As of July 2017, the government has closed the trails to Cerro Chato from the Green Lagoon Lodge and Arenal Observatory. People are still using the trail at the Observatory at their own risk, even though it is officially closed.