A Trip Into a Misty Cloud Forest

A Trip Into a Misty Cloud Forest
September 18, 2009 Lainie Liberti

Magic Revealed

Returning from our 1st visit to an active volcano. Poas was magical, as if we were IN a cloud… 3:03 PM Sep 18th, 2009 via Twittelator

We boarded our direct bus to the Poas volcano early in the morning on our third day in Costa Rica. Out of the city for a day, I’m hoping it has more of that “Costa Rica” feel I imagined and oh so craved. It was raining lightly in San Jose as we left. ‘Light rain’ I don’t mind, and I hoped it wouldn’t rain any heavier at the volcano.

I was very excited. This is first trip to a volcano ever, and I was so happy to be having this experience with my son. The bus ride took just under two hours, first through the city, making one stop in Heredia, then heading up through smaller villages, then finally maneuvering up the side of a mountain to reach the national park center. It looked as we were heading into a cloud but luckily the air remained rain free although the ground was already wet.

We arrived at the national park entrance, paid our fee and headed down the path towards the lookout point of volcano opening. When we arrived, we leaned up against the guard rails and peered into the volcano’s open mouth below. Only we couldn’t see anything other than thick clouds, protecting us from invading it’s exposed insides. A little disappointed, we decided to retreat back, take the path that turned off to the lake, check it out and then return, hopefully when the clouds have burned off a bit.

Our plan paid off, and after spending close to an hour hiking the trail to the lake look out point and hiking back, we arrived back to see the clouds in the volcano’s mouth, disappear. We literally watched them evaporate in front of our eyes as if the volcano’s ruling gods took mercy on us and wanted to give us our money’s worth. We stood in awe of the beauty that was revealed. (and took a few pictures). Then, without warning, the clouds came back and we understood that our gift was over. Miro and I turned around and started our retreat down the path towards the entrance. It then started to rain. It didn’t just start to sprinkle lightly, it started a downpour with fury as if this was our punishment for peering into the mouth of the sleeping giant. Suddenly the path we were on, transformed into a cloud forest as we found ourselves running back to the shelter of the park station. We remained there for the next hour as we waited for our bus to return, sipping hot chocolate, playing cards and sharing stories with the other travelers.

More on Poas volcano excerpted from this source:

Poás volcano is a powerful symbol of the geothermal forces that formed Costa Rica.

When the mist and clouds part you’ll see the sulfuric, bubbling, green rain fed lake at the bottom, surrounded by smoke and steam rising from fumaroles. Water from the lake is constantly seeping through cracks in the hot rock, evaporating and building pockets of steam. When the pressure in these pockets exceeds the weight of the water above, the steam breaks through in geysers that rocket up to 820 feet (250 meters) high. Don’t worry about getting a shower though, the crater is 1,050 feet (320 meters) deep. At almost a mile (1.6 km) across it’s also the largest active crater in the world.

Poás is active, but don’t expect to see a full fledged eruption or even any lava flow here, the most recent period of eruptive activity ended in 1954. The last major activity was in 1910 when nearly a million tons of ash was ejected along with an immense column of smoke and steam.

The volcano provides an excellent if extreme example of the effects of acid rain. Around the caldera, and for several miles downwind, the vegetation is stunted brown and black by the tainted moisture that precipitates from the omnipresent clouds near the peak.

Trails that lead through cloud forest stunted and twisted, not only by volcanic emissions but the rigors of the cold windy high altitude habitat. Lake Botos fills an extinct crater at the end of one trail, and is home to many cloud forest birds including hummingbirds, tanagers, flycatchers, toucanets, Costa Rica’s national bird the clay-colored robin, and the area’s most famous avian resident, the resplendent quetzal.

We were so excited to experience our first volcano. As I have read about the many volcanoes in Central America, I think I am most excited about the possibility of climbing an active  volcano. I have discovered one where the lava flows.. Would you do it? Guatemala, here we come, I think  climbing Volcan Pacaya close to  Antigua is in our near future.


  1. Katrina 13 years ago

    Love all your volcano stories. u00a0I simply have to get to that part of the globe to see and feel all this awesome majesty!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.