My friend Andrea invited me to go on a hike to some waterfalls in the Los Angeles area. I had seen pictures from her previous hike there and it looked amazing. So, I agreed to get up in the middle of the night (5AM fits that definition for me), carpool with my friends John and Susan, and go hiking.
I woke up and it was dry. I headed up to our meeting point on the Caldera intersection, ran into quite a bit of fog, and then rain. It rained to Gualaca where the group was to gather, dried a bit, and then rained again all the way to the beginning of the hike. When we arrived the rain was just starting to let up.
I am not a good hiker. I am inexperienced, slow, and you do not want to hike with me. If you don’t believe me, ask anyone on that hike! I had my good sandals. It sounded like a great idea, comfortable, secure, and good for wearing in water (I know rivers here are rocky). But, I had never worn them in mud before. As soon as the mud got in them I was sliding around in my shoes and it was very hard to walk. I pushed on though, tightening them as much as possible and carefully picking my way along. By the time I got to an uneven field though it was clear that I could not walk at all. By now half of the attachments on the right sandal had broken and the sole was pulling away from the shoe.
I decided that I had to go back to the car where thankfully, I had stashed my hiking boots. My friend John said he could make much better time than I could in my inappropriate footwear. So, the hike stopped, everyone hung out in a field for what seemed like forever while he went back to the car. Apparently I had come farther than I thought. If I had had any sense I would have changed my mind about the footwear shortly after the muddy road but I didn’t want to be a problem. This turned out to be a much bigger problem in the long run for everyone waiting and for John who had to hike a lot more than he planned.
When the cows approached in the field I wasn’t totally comfortable. They looked like they were all female and calm but still, they are quite large and could be a threat if they wanted to be. I headed back on the path hoping to catch up with John a bit sooner. Eventually he returned with the shoes and it was amazing! I could walk again! What a difference good footwear makes. We head back to the field where everyone was waiting so we could finally be on our way.
Now the fun really began. The grass was high enough that it was hard to see rocks and holes under foot, and soon it was a fairly steep downhill. That was nothing compared to what lay ahead though. We had to make our way down a very steep, muddy, slippery embankment that led down to the river. There wasn’t always something to hang on to and though it wasn’t dignified, I did a fair amount of it sliding on my butt. I figured getting there in one piece was the main objective.
I didn’t go to the upper level. The rocks were wet and very slippery and I am not good at that sort of thing. It was so beautiful where I was I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, and it just wasn’t worth the risk. Besides, my friend Andrea had photos from her earlier trip which I will share below, so none of us have to miss anything.
After a while everyone came back and we made our way up the muddy, slippery embankment which I found very difficult. Thankfully our guide gave me a strong hand up on the more difficult places, and I did the steeper parts on my knees, not my feet, so I eventually made it up. Again, not dignified, but I made it.
Then, the next objective was to go to another spot on the river and see a couple more waterfalls.
We got to the next site and I immediately knew it wasn’t for me. The embankment down was much steeper than the first one. Another hiker who was recovering from a past ankle injury and I both decided to sit this one out, so we went back up a ways to a shady spot with a fallen log to sit on. We chatted, ate our snacks, she cleaned and treated my scratches (thank you Jackie), and we enjoyed the interesting bugs, spiders, and butterflies that came by.
This was a very wise choice. The others said the climb down and back was indeed more difficult. The rocks below were also very slippery, the current was strong, and if one lost their footing crossing the river one could easily be swept down river where a 30 meter drop to the rocks below awaited. If someone got hurt down there I don’t know how anyone would ever get them out.
A couple other hikers decided not to cross the river, so they made their way back up after telling the guide that they would pick us up and we would all go back to the cars.
We have done some hiking down by the river below us, and I went on the Pipeline Trail hike in Boquete which was a smooth path all the way. I was told by others that yesterday I went from beginner level to the big leagues in one jump. That’s for sure! I’m so glad I didn’t try to get down to the river at the second site. As it was I was tired, really sweaty, and covered with mud. Today many parts of my body are sore. My knees, my biggest weakness, are really unhappy with me.
Something to keep in mind for outdoor activities in Panama is the season. I think this hike would have been easier in the dry season. The people who had done this last May said the grass wasn’t so high, there was less water in the river so more rocks were exposed and more importantly, they were dry and not slippery. The way up and down embankments would have been much better also when they weren’t muddy and slippery.
Last, but hardly least, here are the pictures from that hike in May that my friend Andrea said I was welcome to share (thank you Andrea!) They include a little poison dart frog. We saw one on our way up the embankment but my photos weren’t in focus, so I’m glad you can see one here.
Kris, thanks for taking the bruises and aching joints for us. The photos again helped me visualize the beauty of the areas around David. Just the hike up to the first spot would have enthralled me without all the rock climbing.
I took a look at a map to locate exactly where you went.
Selfishly, I’m glad you arrived back in town in one piece so that you can continue blogging about your life there on a regular basis.
I’m afraid I’ve become addicted.
There are tons of beautiful places, and other waterfalls that are easier to get to. These were unusually impressive but I know a couple up the road that you can literally drive to.
I don’t think I would do that hike again, but I would do the drive to the hike. It was really beautiful and if it wasn’t raining it would make for some great photos. I’m not sure exactly where we were on the map but I think I could find it again on the road.
Yes, I am in one piece, sitting quietly today but I’ll be running around again very soon.
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What an adventure Kris! Beautiful photographs. And so brave of you to undertake what sounds like a strenuous and partially dangerous hike – from a beginner to the big leagues in one step indeed!
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I didn’t know what I was getting into until I got there. It was definitely an adventure and something to see!
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Probably a good thing eh? If you’d known you might never have gone- and then you’d have missed it all! Now you can go on the next challenging hike with confidence and aplomb!
Next hike? ha! I am not cut out for hiking. Even an easy one leaves my knees aching if it’s very long. I’m much better on the bike.
Well, you really don’t have to make a habit of it – the hiking that is – perhaps once a year? Or when an interesting one comes up? Biking is certainly more pleasant though!
I’ll stick to shorter hikes, like climbing down to our river here. I can do that
A good idea – your river is definitely worth frequent visits.
So glad you didn’t injure yourself on that hike by the way.
Thanks, yes, me too!
Kris this sounds & looks like a true adventure than just a hike to a waterfall. The photos are great. Melissa & I would like to meet you the next time we are in Panama. We would plan on coming to your region for a couple of days.
Yes it was definitely an adventure!
Keep in touch and let me know your travel plans and we will work something out. 🙂
This is my kind of fun, Kris! I would love that hike and I’m a much better hiker than biker – at least for now. I would like to start biking more too when I get to Panama. I love waterfalls and exploring country like this. But I do believe you’re totally right about doing it in dry season – that seems as if it would make it so much easier!
There are a lot of hikers here and so many beautiful places. You will have a great time! I’m sure you can see a lot more great places on foot than on a bike, but biking is fun too.
I hiked a bunch of the falls around Boquete, I was 21, and in probably the best shape ever except for bad knees that I hurt when I got hit while learning to drive. The knees kept me out of airborne training but not out of the jungle trails; the scenery is just too spectacular to pass up for a few days of hobbling afterwards. And you must go during the rainy season otherwise the falls will not be as robust as during the dry season. Some falls even dry up during that time.
I hope I would be as wise as you in the shape I am in now. Age does not improve knees although my whine is better! A day of installing flooring, and me and my friend, Ben Gay, are buddies for days afterward.
Thanks to everyone providing photos. I felt cooler just seeing those falls.
Yep, my knees are still whining. But, it was something to see those waterfalls. I think seeing waterfalls is better than installing flooring, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
Well 5 AM is not my best time either and I’m not much of a hiker but I do know you NEVER hike in sandals. That’s just asking for trouble. I’m glad you had hiking boots in the car and someone went to get them for you. My neighbor is quite a hiker and hikes daily around here – no hill or mountain is too steep for her. I bet your legs do hurt.
You took some lovely photos and gave us a description of the whole event. Perhaps parts of it were undignified but you do what you have to do in order to make it safely. I bet a great time was had by all. I agree this hike probably would be easier in dry weather.
Live and learn. I go to the river in sandals because I can wear them in the water, but now I know better for anything else. Yes a good time was had by all!
Thanks Kris, it was so nice meeting you on the hike, I enjoyed getting to know you. And you are totally forgiven for the delay caused by the muddy hiking sandals that broke. I would have been headed back to the car myself! I did sign up on your blog page to get future blog emails. Also I want to send you some of my photos/videos
Hi Jacqui and it was a pleasure meeting you too! Thank you for the forgiveness. I will know better for the future.
I took the liberty of removing your email and phone in this post but I’ll contact you directly. A lot of visitors come though here and I doubt anyone would be a problem, but you never know for sure.