This weekend, we were able to experience something very unique in the world. We hiked into the clouds.

Less than 30 minutes away from here, there is a national park called Cerro Azul Meambar. The park is a large mountain crowned by a cloud forest. The whole hike was pretty spectacular but incredibly demanding. The trailhead is at 700m in altitude and the trail summits at 1250m (4100ft), which means you gain almost 2000 feet in elevation in the first section of the trail. Fortunately, the temperature was pleasant, unfortunately, the rain was not.

For those that just want to see pictures, the slideshow is here.

The trail begins in fairly dense rain forest, and it rained accordingly. Some of the trees were massive and  supported by buttress roots. Every tree contained tons of other plants, each one was a self-contained jungle. Throughout this first section of the hike, the vines were huge, and the trees immense and tall. The trail was steep and muddy, and we saw the occasional orchid blooming in a tree. The weather moved from dry, to rain, to jungle downpour within the first hour, but somehow, it made it somewhat more legitimate to see everything slicked down and wet. Stacey was 110% sure that dozens of snakes would assault her from the trees and vines, but shockingly, none came down.

 Pictured: Protective gear for aerial attack snakes and all that may be perceived as such.

Toward the end of the ascent, the rain began to slow and the temperature began to cool down. Ferns began to prevail and mosses covered even more than before. Everything became foggier and foggier, a flock of yellow-tailed birds flew through. The trees became smaller and somewhat stunted. Eventually the rain stopped and the trail plateaued. We'd arrived in the cloud forest.

The view before you cross into the clouds.

Cloud forests are unique in the world because they receive relatively little rain, but remain constantly moist due to the cloud cover. The majority of the moisture they receive is from condensation on the plants that then drips down constantly. Everything is consistently wet and the plants respond accordingly. Almost  every square inch of everything organic and inorganic is covered in green: mosses, club mosses, ferns, orchids, and bromeliads, with the occasional aroid mixed in. It's somewhat quiet, and you can never see more than 100 feet ahead due to the cloud cover. One of the most awe-inspiring things was the constant sound of the waterfall that followed you in the whiteness - the rain falling on the giant trees below.

We eventually descended and passed an exceptionally beautiful waterfall, spooked up some a terrifyingly close covey of largish birds (sounded like grouse coming up), and watched several toucans call to each other. Five hours after we began, we arrived back at the base and had a great dinner in the Panacam lodge there.

If you want to see more photos, check out the slideshow on the Pictures page above.

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