The area for our over night stay was Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Lodge (MTCDL). Jeffrey Dietrich proprietor of MTCFL was Boquete to give a presentation about his lodge in the cloud forest in the La Amistad National Park. I was enthralled by Jeffrey's presentation and immediately sent the word out to my hiking buddies and others asking if anyone would be interested in doing this overnight trip to hike and explore the area.
Jeffrey and Alma Dietrich the husband and wife team have made MTCFL a very comfortable natural setting for bird watching and hiking in this area of Panama. The area is remote, one of the highest points in the Chiriqui Province with stunning views and if you are seeking solitude, flora and fauna then it is worth the visit. MT is 2,605 m/over 8,000 feet high, nestled in the middle of a 400 acre private reserve.
Our day began on a Saturday morning in Boquete as 20 of us met to begin our five car convoy, stopping in Volcan for lunch at Mana's Lodge. I had phoned three days prior making a reservation. Thankfully our group were the only guests in the restaurant making this a good choice as the food and service very good. After an hour or so, our convoy continued to MT following Jeffrey's directions. The road to the lodge took almost two hours as it is a rough rocky ride on a back road and my suggestion as well as Jeffrey's a 4WD is a must, good tires tires help as well.
We pass Los Pozos a hot springs. Jeffrey mentioned 10 people can go into the Los Pozos and that there is another water hole next thermal pool to it to cool off. Our group did not have time for this but, possibly on the trip, we will. Los Pozos is busy on the weekends as many from Volcan go there to picnic, relax, take a dip and swim.
After arriving to the point where our cars could not continue further, Jeffrey met us showing us where to park. Some opted to take a ride with Jeffrey up to the lodge and 14 of us decided to take the trek up to the lodge giving our legs a good stretch, as well as taking in the natural surroundings with our guide, Renoldo. Renoldo is a young man of seventeen and has become one of the guides for the lodge, he mentions to me, he has learn much about nature from the biologists who visit the cloud forest during the year.
We take the scenic route crossing rocks in small creeks covered with Carpet Moss. The terrain in a cloud forest is soft at each step, we feel a thick soft floor under foot. Fallen leafs, acorns and other natural debris adds a richness to the soil and vegetation. If one would fall it be like falling on a a soft mattress but, no one falls in this group of hikers. There are many Giant Mamacillo Oaks, Aguacaton (member avocodo family), in the forest. It is beautiful hike! As the group hikes in deeper and deeper into this forest, Renoldo points out orchids and something, we would have missed, a micro orchid, so tiny it is only seen through the Renoldo's binocular's and difficult to capture through a camera lens. Also, another young hiker, Josh points out a Dry Leaf Frog using the carpet of dry leafs as it's camouflage. Nice job and a great find Josh!
We continue hiking to the lodge, then, we began to hear the load roar and call from the Howler Monkeys. They hang around the canopy of the trees surrounding the lodge and are visible. During our visit, we saw seven nestled on high branches, one infant was being carried around on it's mother's back. The species of monkeys that can be seen in the 400 acre cloud forest are the Spider Monkey, Howler Monkey, and Capuchin. The Resplendent Quetzale is a frequent visitor during mating and nesting season. Puma, Jaguarundi, Jaguar and other wild life such as the Peccary, roam around at night. Jeffrey has cameras that have captured these marvels as they roam around throughout the night.
After hiking for two and half hours, we arrive at the lodge's reception area meeting Alma for the first and who is also the chef and a very good one at that. We are all so very excited to be at the Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Lodge and were busy taking photos of the tree canopies below us, the tall Mount Totumas, the hummingbirds zooming around us feeding from the feeders and natural flowers familiar to the area that Jeffrey and Alma have planted around the lodge.
After dinner, we sit around a chat with Jeffrey about his venture in saving this piece of the universe. I feel that this sums up Jeffrey's quest.
"understand that only a thorough comprehension of ecological sustainability planted in the minds of the young will provide the fertile grounds for the healthy environment which our future generations and the natural world will require to thrive. Honoring this belief, a commitment to providing access to the reserve for educational institutions is at the core of the project for Mount Totumas Cloud Forest Reserve".
The following morning after breakfast, we broke up into two groups hiking for another 2 to 2 and half hours. Our group led by Jeffrey hiked through an area were Bromeliads in a mist laded by the micro climate of the Bajareque Trail thrive. Each tree held its own botanical garden of diverse plants another plant pointed out was the ancient Cyatheaceae Tree Fern evolving roughly 400 millions years ago where evidence shows that the lineage originated in the Late Jurassic period. We see many of these huge ferns on trails in Boquete such as, Pipeline Trail, Sendero Los Quetzales, El Pianista all living and basking in Boquete's cloud forest.
After hiking that morning, we bid farewell to our two wonderful hosts as, we leave behind a beautiful and cherished area in Panama. Mount Totumas Loud Forest Lodge is certainly a serene area where one can be with nature in all it's glory, where one can meditate if you wish in the calmness of the cloud forest, and where one can walk nine trails high up in the cloud forest to Mount Totumas in the Province of Chiriqui. This place is certainly Off the Beaten Path!
Since visiting the lodge and walking through a few areas in the cloud forest, I begin to understand more about the biodiversity of a cloud forest and how Panama is a very important country to share it's ecosystem with the rest of world. Mount Totumas Lodge with it's 400 acres is sharing and doing it's part in making this possible. We are so fortunate and I am very grateful to live, having the opportunity to be so close to this type of environment. Many of us forget how important the role of a cloud forest and rain forest plays in our world. Leaving in Boquete, Panama reminds daily of it's important role. Thank you Jeffrey and Alma for letting us visit and learn more about nature.
I will most definitely visit you again in the spring of 2016.
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