1costaricaAfter shoveling snow at our house in Saint Paul at 5am, we arrive at our mountain lodge in Costa Rica at 6pm. What a change!This highland region of Costa Rica is a rainforest at upper elevations and range land at medium elevation.We hike through the damp rain forest surrounding our lodge.It is wet and rainy with dense vegetation.Costa Rica is justifiably proud of its national parks and one is 5 km. from our lodge.But there is a driving rain.and the occasional volcanic eruption.The ficus trees are fascinating. They germinate in the forest canopy, send their roots down to the ground and eventually choke their host tree. The buttress configuration provides physical stability in the thin soil.13costaricaEventually we leave the rainforest and are provided views of the Pacific.We pass a church on our way back to the lodge.We shared a table at a roadside restaurant with a family we recognized from the airplane. They live in a suburb of Minneapolis.A bucolic scene near our lodge.The lodge was built nine years ago to be as environmentally sensitive as possible.The interior is open to the outside.Among other recycled materials, the couch cushions are sewn from old truck tire inner tubes.The manager is French and the clientel is mostly European. The food in the simple dining area is near-gourmet in quality and presentation.Cattle look us over as we hike down the mountain to town.We sought refuge from a sudden storm under the canopy of a market. A wind burst promptly blew it off its moorings. The locals with whom we were sharing the space seemed more amused than upset.The weather got the better of us and we moved to another hotel. It turned out to be more traditional and quite beautiful.On another hike to a national park, we saw some of Costa Rica's new energy infrastructure. This big pipeline carries steam from volcanoes to an electrical generation plant. Costa Rica plans to be carbon neutral in energy production within ten years.Watch your step!A white-faced monkey. These and the spider monkeys are common here. We also heard a howler monkey, which sounds like a lion roaring.Costa Rica prioritizes its national parks and we saw many recent improvements. This is the old bridge. . .. . . and this is the new bridge, done in welded aluminum.31costaricaWe have hiked across many back country suspension bridges but this was our first suspended stairway!One upside of volcanic activity is hot springs. These pools on the Rio Negro are of varying temperatures up to 102 degrees Farenheit.