Panama hiking


Last week we posted about our adventure to the cloud forest and secret waterfall off the Pianista Trail. Right after that, we had a completely different hiking experience. Just another day in paradise and another weekly hike with Jere McCormick, who leads group hikes in and around Boquete on Wednesdays and Fridays. This hike was through an area called La Estrella, high in the Jaramillo hills above Boquete. The hike is on a quiet gravel road with many meadows of grazing cattle and great views of the Pacific inlets of Boca Chica and the Cordillera Talamanca on a clear day. Best of all, it starts only about 30 minutes from our house. We don’t have to go far to be surrounded by intense natural beauty!

Today we did the Pianista – one of the hiking trails on our “Faves List” – with friends and the pups. Susan cracks me up. Every time we do a hike, she says, “This is my favorite trail!” Well, today she said it again, but this time I tend to agree with her. The Pianista really is a knockout, winding through meadows with stunning mountain vistas along the rushing Rio Pianista, and with an abundance of lush cloud forest vegetation. This trail goes up to the Continental Divide (a more ambitious hike that we did with a group last year), and if you’re especially adventurous, it can take you all the way to Bocas Del Toro on Panama’s Caribbean coast. (CAUTION: no one should EVER go beyond the Continental Divide without an experienced guide. Just Google “Dutch Girls in Panama.”)   Today we had something much more mellow in mind – we wanted…

Panama is just full of surprises. Just when we think we’ve hiked the most spectacular trail, climbed the highest volcano, or swum under the most amazing waterfall, something else comes along to top anything we’ve done before. That happened yesterday when we joined a group of friends to hike to Salto de KiKi, which (depending on whom you ask) is either Panama’s tallest waterfall or its widest.

John and I have seen or swum in our share of waterfalls in Hawaii, Costa Rica, California, Canada, Oregon, and now Panama. I think he’ll agree that KiKi is up there with the best of the best. It plunges several hundred feet into a huge bowl-like canyon, and at its base is the most refreshing swimming hole you’d ever want to find after a hot, dusty climb down, surrounded by plenty of rocks for sunning.

Getting there isn’t easy and definitely requires a guide – mainly because KiKi is deep into the comarca (designated territory, kind of like a reservation) of Panama’s Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous people. Accessing the falls requires a fairly steep, rope-assisted climb down into the canyon and back up. Because it’s so remote, we had it all to ourselves on a beautiful Saturday, and it has an unspoiled, undiscovered quality that made us feel we were living a scene from an Indiana Jones movie.

The waterfalls just keep getting better. I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for life, or at least the life we’re striving for!

I’ve never given the Continental Divide much thought. In the states I’d driven over it a few times but never imagined I’d actually be standing on it someday in, of all places, Panama. In this country it’s the geographical dividing line at which water drains (eventually) either to the Pacific or to the Caribbean. Of course, it’s much lower here than in the Rockies but Panama is a skinny country (hence its designation as an isthmus). In fact, on a clear day it’s possible to see both oceans from the top of Volcan Baru, our highest mountain. Wednesday, we joined Jere McCormick’s hiking group for a rainy, muddy, and breathtakingly beautiful hike up the Pianista Trail out of Boquete. It’s billed as a moderate-difficulty hike but offered plenty of challenge for this creaky, middle-aged group! (Small plug for Jere: She not only leads two weekly hiking groups but also hosts a newcomers’ social every…

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