Bittersweet blessings and beginnings

RafaelSo, I haven’t updated this blog for a while.  I’ve had life going on.  Our daughter, Mae, was born last year prematurely, and she passed away after a month in intensive care. She was doing so well and we are heartbroken.

Cele and I were stunned to find out that I was pregnant during this time.

Our son, Rafael Emre (Rafael meaning God Heals and Emre meaning Brother), was born in February…after 6 months on bed rest.  The birth of our son is bittersweet. It doesn’t make things better, you can not replace one child with another.  We miss our daughter so much and love our son.  I never quite know what to say when people ask if Rafael is our first.  He is not.  He is a blessing, as was our daughter.

Rafael and I returned to Panama in March after going to the states for his birth.  As for blessings, I am blessed to have this business with my husband right now, where we have the flexibility to work and take care of our child at the same time, where our son can grow up in a world perfect for a little explorer – with rivers for swimming, bugs for capturing, and horses for riding.

Orchids of the Wierd

orchid I swear it looks like a crawdad! Cele and Eric came across this funky looking orchid in El Pantano, Santa Fe, a couple miles from our inn. I think the species is Coryantes maculata, an uncommon orchid known for liking acidic soil. Because of this, it often grows on top of ant hills and is pollinated by only one genus of bees. Talk about being picky!

Exploring Santa Fe, Panama Trails Part 3

Waterfall at Alto de Piedra
Third Waterfall, Alto de Piedra, Santa Fe, Panama
waterfall top
The third fall is surrounded by rainforest, and forested hillsides surround the falls in three directions.


Alto de Piedra – The Final Waterfall

I have been mentioning the three waterfalls at Alto de Piedra.  Last but not least, the third fall can be reached from the same trailhead area as Waterfalls 1 &2, but by a different trail.  Rather than taking the trail behind the white building, you set out on a footpath to the left, in front of the building, ascending a short hill for 100m before taking a footpath to the right (where there are a group of tires to help you pass the mud) descending another 700m or so to the third waterfall.

The fall is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s larger than the first waterfall, with a larger drop to a pool below – where you can swim!  When I went, I have enjoyed getting my feet wet in the pool, but there is not much comfortable sitting room on the river rocks. I also had a dangerous situation when an unstable  boulder that I was sitting on that tipped over.  As you enter the pool area, you’ll be surrounded by cliffs.  You’ll note a landslide to the left, all underlining the need to be careful of big boulders in areas with wet, saturated soil.

The Trail

Trails in Santa Fe are not the maintained trails that many hikers may be used to.  They are more either 4×4 dirt roads or horse trails or narrow footpaths.  For these waterfalls, the trails are footpaths, ranging from 1m to 1ft in width.  They are not maintained for hikers, rather for local people who happen to use them. In wet season, the paths can be overgrown.  The third waterfall footpath is  very muddy and descends through the rainforest.  It takes me about 20 minutes to descend and 25 to ascend again to the parking area.  There is one large tree that has fallen across the trail.  It’s very slippery. This marks the point wherea very narrow, steep footpath that connects to the trail for Waterfalls #1 and #2, but I do not recommend taking it. When ascending from the third waterfall, it is easy to take this trail by accident

Exploring Santa Fe, Panama Trails, Part 2

Second Waterfall, Alto de Piedra

Second Fall, Alto de Piedra
Second Fall, Alto de Piedra

There are a series of three waterfalls at Alto de Piedra.  The second is my favorite, and the hardest and most dangerous to get to.  The waterfall is made up of four mini waterfalls, cascading about 80-100ft to the forest below.  Beautiful!

How to get there:

The safest way to get to the waterfalls is to take the trail to the first waterfall, described in the previous post.  About 100ft before you reach the first waterfall, there is a footpath from the main trail, leading upwards.  Take this trail, and follow for about 8 minutes and you will reach the falls.  I just was on this trail today. Be very careful, it is very muddy, narrow, not maintained and with very steep drop offs. There are areas where you will need to grab on to roots to balance yourself, and you should wear boots.  If you have poor balance or mobility issues, this trail is not for you.

TRAIL LENGTH FROM TRAILHEAD: Approx 800m; Plan 1 hr for a round trip visit to the second waterfall.

Exploring Santa Fe, Panama Trails, Alto de Piedra Waterfalls

Alto de Piedra Waterfalls, the First Waterfall

Alto de Piedra, Santa Fe.  First Waterfall
Alto de Piedra, Santa Fe. First Waterfall

Alto de Piedra waterfalls are very pretty, and a perfect taste of the region.

Alto de Piedra is an outlying neighborhood of Santa Fe.  The trailhead is about 3 miles and 1000ft above Santa Fe town center, bordering the National Park.  There are a series of three waterfalls.

Trail description

The trail to the first waterfall descends about 400 ft in 1/2 km through rainforest.  The trail was paved in places at one time, though it is always muddy, steep, and not well maintained.  It is the easiest of the three trails, but still slippery and muddy -I wear my black rubber boots to hike it.  You will see typical rainforest trees – stilt palms, guarumo, strangler figs.  After descending 400 ft, you come to waterfall, perhaps 20ft in height, as steep forested slopes with large ferns surround the pool in 270 degrees. Very pretty. In the morning, we’ve seen hummingbirds play in the falls.

How to Get There

Waterfall Trailhead Location in Alto de Piedra

The trailhead is located off of the paved road that goes towards Calovebora.  On the other side of the uncompleted center, see picture below.  (please note, this is NOT the same information center as the one that my husband helped complete) the trail starts out, wandering through an orange grove before starting its descent.

Trailhead locations for Waterfall 1
House at Trailhead for Waterfalls, Waterfall 1 trail is located on the other side of the fence in back of the white house.

In November, we’re going to start a bike and hike  rental option, with bike rental and  trailhead drop off  for those people who would prefer to rent a bike, be dropped off at the trailhead, do the short hike, and coast down the 1000ft elevation change and three miles back to town.

What to Bring

  • Water.  Though the hike is short, uphill in heat is not my favorite. I bring a bottle of water with me.
  • Long-sleeve shirt.  I wear a long sleeve shirt for the bugs, and put on insect repellant before I go.
  •  Sturdy shoes.
  • Be aware that there is no cell reception in the Alto de Piedra area.