Two in the Wild – The Solo Journey, Revised

twowildbook.jpgMount Chirripo, Costa Rica’s highest peak, is a rock tower looming nearly 13,000 feet above a landscape of surreal contrasts. Dusty trails crisscross and dead end into clear blue lakes that appear like mirages in the middle of a desert. The seventeen miles of uphill terrain alternate between mosquito-infested jungle and fire-blackened forest. In the early morning, jackrabbits chase each other through parched brush, and at sunset the sky echoes with the cries of wild boars.

Mount Chirripo splits the country in two. If you reach the top before the afternoon fog rolls in, you can see the Pacific on one side and the Caribbean on the other. In the evening, the temperature drops below freezing and icicles decorate the roof of the plywood hikers cabin. But in the afternoon the sun is so intense that half an hour without protection can leave your skin bubbling.

The ranger station requires cabin reservations a month in advance, and although the national park surrounding the mountain is only sixty miles from the San Jose bus terminal, it takes a full day of travel on potholed dirt roads to get there.

It makes no sense to head off to Mount Chirripo unprepared. But there are times when life makes little sense, when a relationship ends, when your return flight home is fast approaching and you realize you haven’t had that life-altering revelation you left the States in search of. Like the view from Mount Chirripo, your life splits in two directions: here and there. And you understand with sudden clarity that you must leave, prepared or not.

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