Day 5 – Slippery When Wet

After reading those last few posts, you can definitely tell that I stayed up until 2am writing those last few posts. The quality of writing was sickening and for that I must apologize. Here’s something slightly less terrible.

NOTE: It’s June 13th now, so I’m writing these by looking back at my past journal entries. Just thought I’d let my audience know.

May 29th, 2014 – El Pahuma Orchid Reserve

Today marked our even higher ascension along the montane cloud forest mountain range, ever so slightly depleting our available oxygen levels and our remaining energy reserves. Spectacled bears were the reason for our climb. The spectacled bear is native to the local ecosystem of Ecuador and is, in fact, the only species of bear found in South America. The Ceiba foundation has made a restless effort to increase the awareness of the conservation of this endangered species by marketing this bear as a mascot of sorts for Ecuador. The people are excited and in awe when they find out that this most majestic beast has chosen their backyard as a refuge from the anthropogenic forces destroying its natural habitat. Ceiba has even succeeded in spreading the word among the hearts and minds of Ecuador’s future by educating the youth through school advertisements plastered along the walls and doors of classrooms. Mission success.

In addition to my newfound knowledge of the Ecuadorian equivalent to Smoky the Bear, it  was about time that the stakes were raised a little in this program through a little friendly competition. At the turnaround point of our trail, our instructor assigned us the challenge of finding 13 specific plant adaptations or families that were have learned since the start of this program. With an opportunity to increase my alchemy skill and bragging rights on the line, our group took this seriously (sort of… Team Get-the-Hell-Out-Of-Here can only try so hard). After scavenging for what we believed to be 12 of the items on the list, our effort waned we trudged through the torrential and now muddy forest. And because I get distracted so easily, there was a point where I had to run through the forest path to catch up to my group. The Forest Gump rainfall eliminated any traction available for stable footing and a solid form upon the forest floor. But oddly enough, I found stumbling through the landslide slopes to be an exhilarating experience. Sure I had mud all over me, but I didn’t care. That only enhanced my experience.

And the results were in! Lady TA Amy Janik told us that we had confused our leaf structures… ferns not allowed. And one more reason to despise seedless vascular plants. 11 of 13 isn’t bad. And there was a three-way tie for first, but our group was not included. Even the soloist did better than us (it’s “Grainger Danger” from Laura Aprill). Although being the only losing group sucks, I’ve learned something from this. And that was the whole reason for coming. So the success that was at the tip of our fingers slipped out of the overstretched reaches of our weather-beaten bodies. I blame the adiabatic cooling and the resulting rainfall. What a competition indeed.