Learning about the “pure life” in Costa Rica

Gilpin group’s adventure includes rainforest, volcano

By Patty Unruh

A small group of Gilpin County high school students and their adult chaperones visited Costa Rica on their spring break March 21 through March 31. The purpose of the trip was for the young people to have real life experiences in using a foreign language and in learning the cultural geography of Central America, the biology and ecology of the rain forest and a variety of other zones, the geology of volcanic parks, and budgeting and foreign currency.

Group leader Barb Bedwell said, “It was an incredible trip, and our kids really represented Gilpin well.”

Students participating were Adria Banks, Grace Diekman, Ashlen Cortez, Faith Trombley, Kenny Larson, Mike Yerkman, Shawn Wacker, and Sierra Bedwell. Staff members participating were Barb Bedwell, Su Henry, Carol Murray, and Kellie Bayne.

They started on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica for three days, in an area called Tortuguero. The area could only be reached by boat through the Tortuguero National Park and canals, which Bedwell said was a fun experience. They observed a variety of wildlife, including birds, cayman, crocodiles, iguanas, and basilisks on their boat tour through the canals. They also got to explore the rainforest on a short hike, where they were rewarded with sightings of a sloth, howler monkeys, frogs, and toucans. The group then explored the tiny village of Tortuguero and dipped their toes in the Caribbean.

Next stop was inland, towards an area called Sarapiqui. In that area, the teens and their leaders did more incredible bird watching and hiking in the rainforest. Their hotel was even surrounded by rainforest; in fact, Bedwell related that a troupe of howler monkeys woke the group at four a.m! That day, they had two of their most amazing adventures: zip-lining and a float trip down the Sarapiqui River. “Everyone really enjoyed both. Our kids are true adrenaline addicts,” she stated. The float trip was a group favorite, as they got to paddle, swim in the river, and even jump from a Tarzan swing into the water.

At the Arenal Volcano region, the tour group stayed in an incredible lodge right at the foot of the volcano and went kayaking on Lake Arenal. They enjoyed a hot spring resort and hiked to La Fortuna waterfall, reveling in a swim in the pool at the base. They also had the opportunity to visit with an elderly gentleman named “Alvaro,” who survived the Arenal volcanic eruption in the 1960’s and told the group his first-hand account of “the end of the world.”

Finally, they journeyed to the Guanacaste region on the northern Pacific coast. That area is a much drier part of Costa Rica. “They call it cowboy country” Bedwell noted. In that region, the group hiked through the Rincon de la Vieja volcanic park and took in some of the Yellowstone-like features: fumaroles, hot springs, and bubbling mud pots. Then they had the chance to shop in the town of Cocoa Beach, wrapping up their journey by body surfing the waves in the Pacific while the sun set.

Bedwell was enthusiastic about the group’s ready-for-anything spirit. “It was amazing!” she said. “Our kids are wonderful adventurers, and they truly lived life to the fullest. They made new friends, ate new foods, had new adventures, and overall just had a great time.”

There is a saying in Costa Rica: “Pura Vida!” It means “pure life,” and everyone says it as a welcome, greeting, or celebration. Bedwell summed up the trip with this thought: “Our kids truly embodied that Pura Vida lifestyle.”

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