Monday, February 18, 2008


Lois Greiman

I just returned from Costa Rica where it was a little more than 100 degrees warmer than it is here in Minnesota. But the temperature wasn’t the best part of the trip. It was the ADVENTURE.

Here’s the scoop: My oldest son planned to vacation with friends in Central America, but they dropped out at the last minute. He had planned to climb a mountain, trek through the rainforests, and campout nightly. AND he planned to do it on $500.

As much as I hated leaving the frigid northwesterlies of my homeland, I couldn’t let my wee son (24 and 6’3”) brave the tropical climes alone. That would be wrong. So I shoved a backpack into my suitcase and boarded a plane.

We arrived in San Jose on Saturday and headed for the hills. On Monday morning we set out with our packs for the lodge on Mt. Chirippo. It was the hardest 7 miles of my life and took us ten hours. The lodge was really just a concrete garrison. Very cold, with solar lights which turned off at 8 pm and didn’t come on again until dusk the next day. At dawn we trekked the rest of the way to the summit. There was frost on the ground and the last kilometer or so was as steep as a staircase but once I was able to breathe again the view was spectacular. At 3800 meters above sea level you can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic.

We made it back down the mountain on the following day although it was totally dark long before we finished our hike. The Ticos get about twelve hours of light a day year around. It seemed very strange, but not problematic. Turns out that after 30 kilometers of trudging I can sleep for twelve hours straight.

Despite my uncertainties, I could still walk on the following morning. I just didn’t want to, but my wee son had made plans. We hiked for 5-14 hours every day.

The jungle is amazing! So dark, so loud, so fantastic. Even in the dry season, thousands of foil-bright petals are strewn across the trails. Plants grow on plants that are growing on plants. The flowers look like exotic birds set in strange positions. We saw slothes, river otters, freaky frogs, a million funky lizards, and three types of monkeys, some of which tended to howl at us as we passed through their world. And the beaches…they stretch on forever and where we were…often 10 miles from the nearest road, there was not another living soul in sight.

The rural areas of the country are a world apart. A world where people live with their chickens under their houses. Where they ride horses to school, where public transportation consists of a jeep with two wooden benches meant for 8 passengers. But which will hold 14--believe me.

I came back leaner and happier and better educated than I’ve been in years. I also came back with a yearning to see more of the world. Not the Hiltons and the Holiday Inns, but the real world, the simpler world. I want to see it and explore it and feel it.

It’s taken me nearly half a decade to discover what a big, gorgeous world it is out there.

So what parts of our amazing planet have inspired you? I’m looking for my next adventure.


Playground Monitor said...

You're a good mother. I'm not sure I would hike 14 hours a day for my kids. I did take a week off work when #2 son was in 5th grade and chaperone a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. It wasn't as intense as your adventure but it was loads of fun.

I think the last real adventure I had was going to Mexico 5 years ago for our 30th anniversary and going to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza. It's fascinating and incredible to see how advanced these people were.

And back in 2000, the DH and #2 son and I spent 9 days traveling in Alaska in an RV. I watched them fish for salmon and each reel in a 40 pound fish. We traveled by bus way, way back into Denali National Park and saw Dall sheep and bears. We took a boat excursion out to a glacier and saw the huge chunks of ice calving off into the bay. Alaska is a great place for adventures.

My sister and I are trying to plan our 2008 girl's trip but I have to get this foot healed and rehabbed first (it's doing great by the way and God bless pain pills!). We've been country fans in Nashville, driven the Natchez Trace and shopped til we dropped in Cozumel. We're looking into a place called Hike Inn. Not intense hiking but a great get-away.

Lois, you rock!


lois greiman said...

Alaska is a great idea, Marilyn! Not to mention a girls trip. The only girls' trips I've done have been to conventions and that's usually pretty high stress.

I'd love to see the Smokey Mountains, too.

Betina Krahn said...

Lois, you're my hero! And I echo what Marilyn said: you're a great mother!

How cool to do the hiking with your son! Despite the hardships, it's clear you had a wonderful experience. I'd love to have been there with you! and I hear you about the noisiness of the jungle-- everyone I've talked to about a rainforest trek says the same thing: noise, noise, noise.

Great pics, by the way! And do you recommend it as a weight loss plan?

Helen Brenna said...

Awesome, Lois! What an experience. I'm hoping my kids will do something like this with me someday.

Alaska is great for adventures, but you have to watch out for the bears!

Go to Peru, Lois! And then I can live vicariously through you!

Debra Dixon said...

That is awesome Lois!

I travel constantly but it's mostly airport-hotel-airport.

Next year my sis, mom and Uncle will be taking a long "see-the-world" vacation and I'm sending my sister a note right now to come read your blog today.

lois greiman said...

Weight loss! No kidding, Betina. I told Travis he could advertise this as a miracle cure for Christmas fat.

Unfortunately, I'm already eating my way back up to normal. I felt so great when hiking and living on pineapple and coconut we found in the forest. Loved it!

MsHellion said...

I know I was supposed to marvel at the blog, but I've just been staring agog at the hottie pictures of your son. *abashed face* I know, I know...

Michele Hauf said...

Fab pics. Lois sent them to me last night so I could resize for the blog, but it looks like I made them too small. So please click on the pictures and you can see them full size and the gorgeous landscape (er, whatever your idea of mansc—er, landscape may be.)

Christie Ridgway said...

Lois: You are such a great mom! I like hiking and my sons, but no way could I rough it like that. Timely post, though, because Surfer Guy and Son 2 came home from a short skiing trip yesterday amped up about a trip to Belize they hope to take this summer with my brother-in-law's family and led by an old college friend of ours. It's mostly a dive/snorkel trip and they check into a hotel only every 2 days just to take a shower.

Um, yuck. I'm not going. I may, however, be talked into meeting them at the end of the trip at some resort in the area!

lois greiman said...

LOL! I'll tell Trav you were appreciative, Hellion.

One of my personal goals for the trip was not to worry about my looks...which, after seeing the pics, I have to tell you, I managed admirrrrabbly. But it's different with men...sometimes they just look better as they get scruffier.

I realized after the fact that this wasn't a journey I'd make alone and probably not just with female companions. It was good to have a big, scruffy looking gringo between me and the world. :)

Cindy Gerard said...

Lois, you're very brave. And it sounds like an amazing adventure. You still have to hike the Grand Canyon. It's amazing - and since you hiked a mountain in a rain forest with both heat and humidity, you can definitely handle the dry heat of the Canyon. It's grueling too but so empowering and beautiful.
Big question, because I'd like to do more hiking too - how do you keep blister free? That's my biggest problem. I always end up with bleeding blisters and trust me, they are very painful. I've tried everything - beeswax, mole skin, tough skin, Vaseline and duct tape - like I said, I've tried many things. What's your secret?

lois greiman said...

You guys are making it sound like I was such a martyr to go along--okay, I admit I kind of made it sound like that...but honestly, I was thrilllled to get the chance to tag along. Trav did all the planning so all I had to do was try to keep up. I don't know why like that that kind of grueling trudging. Sometimes it's just nice to know how much you can do. Turns out I can climb a mountain. Hmmmfff.

Travis is downstairs right now plotting an attack on Mt McKinley. "Mom, it's the highest peak in North America. We could so do this." Before he was just planning Mt. Whitney in California. I've been trying to resist. But it's getting really tempting.

Can we say masochist?

lois greiman said...

Cindy, huh. I just don't get blisters. Have no idea why. It's not as if I do anything right. Just wear tennis shoes for hiking and go barefoot whenever I can. Maybe it's all the barefooting. I can still run down a gravel road without from my childhood on the farm. :)

Kathleen Eagle said...

Wow. I'm always amazed when people sort of like me venture into the wild. I drooled over Laura Resnick's 6 month sojourn deep into Africa, totally roughing it (although she went with a small group). It's not something I would attempt, but I envy people who have the nerve to do it. You're one of those people, Lois. Thanks for the vicarious adventure!

Oh, but that "world apart" idea? I've been to places that are just like that, and one of them was in your home state not so very long ago.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Saw a Nat'l Geo special recently (Six Degrees Could Change the World) about the people in the Amazon rainforest--natives trying to save their way of life in a once beautiful area that's being decimated by "civilization." I highly recommend the program.

And knowing our Lois, this is a cause she'll be shouting even more loudly from the rooftops after her latest adventure. Save the Planet!

lois greiman said...

LOL. The Nodaks might be insulted if they knew you were comparing their way of life to a third world country, Kathy. But...maybe not. And now that you mention it, I do see the similarity.

I am now seriously considering going to the RWA conference just so I can climb Mt Whitney in CA while I'm out there and call it a business trip.

Bridget Locke said...

I was going to make the hot son comments too, but figured since you're his mom.... LOL! :)

I give you credit. I am not a hiker. Have never felt the urge. I also HATE to camp. Bad, bad memories of camping. Eesh!

Though I will admit that if I'm ever able to get to the British Isles, I will totally spend most of my time just wandering. That's my ultimate goal. :)

AuthorM said...

Sounds like you had a great time, and the pictures are beautiful. But I agree - -you're an awesome mom. We're taking a road trip this summer to Yellowstone and I'm anticipating much pulling out of hair. (But my kids are still little and need waaaay more work.)