By Erik Samia and Amanda Peterson
Does the colder weather have you day-dreaming about sunny climates? Read on to learn more about the AMC’s ongoing partnership in Costa Rica with the Sendero Pacifico, and find out how you can get away on a trails volunteer vacation to Costa Rica this coming January/February!
Although Costa Rica received serious damage from Hurricane Nate, communities have been quick to restore critical infrastructure, and we are excited that, for the third year in a row, AMC volunteers will be able to work with the Sendero Pacifico in Costa Rica this winter. Volunteers will focus on repairing storm-damaged trail sections that are critical in linking communities to the trail.
The Sendero Pacifico is a new long trail project that will connect the Monteverde region to the Gulf of Nicoya, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica, with many feeder trails in the works. Last year 24 AMC volunteers spent two weeks in the small farming communities of San Luis and Veracruz. The crews were welcomed with open arms and excitement into these rural, mountainous, farming towns that have a beautiful vision of connecting with one another through a network of trails, huts, and camp sites.
The Sendero Pacifico is following a mission similar to that of the AMC’s, with focuses on recreation, education, and conservation. They are also focusing on the concept and importance of “community.” All of the locals want to lend a hand because they see how important a trails system can be there. This trails network will not only give the region a potential economic source as a tourist destination as well as a physical outlet and a connection to nature (all very important), but these trails will also connect the surrounding communities together, while preserving hundreds of acres of forest and streams at the same time.
Many of the locals joined our volunteer crews each day: young teenagers, full grown men, and even a team consisting of a grandmother and granddaughter. No matter who came out to help, they all worked extremely hard with us, cutting, digging, and placing in timber check steps, water bars, and drainage dips. With our continuous interactions with the local people, we felt very much a part of these communities during our time there. With shared stories, laughs, meals, dancing, and practical jokes, we were able to form a deep connection with these people and the project that we were privileged enough to be a part of.
The focus and theme of our time in Costa Rica was to “build bridges.” No literal bridges, although this trail could use at least one of those, but to build bridges that can help form a connection between these communities as well as a connection between the AMC and the Sendero Pacifico. The work and the inspiring determination of the locals made us put our hearts into this whole project and we cannot thank these communities enough for all of their hard work, support, and appreciation.
“This specific project was extremely rewarding and one of the best things I, personally, have ever been a part of. It has reawakened me to what trails are truly all about.”
– Crew Leader Erik Samia
This past summer, we were excited to add more support to this bridge by bringing three young up-and-coming leaders from the Sendero Pacifico to participate in an exchange program with the AMC. Thanks to many generous individual donations to cover travel, equipment, and program costs, Jeffrey, Sebastian, and Francisco traveled to New Hampshire in June to spend their summer immersed in the AMC’s operations. The Chicos, as this trio is known at home, participated in a 4-week Leadership Teen Trail Crew, visited at AMC’s huts and backcountry campsites, and spent a week with a Ridge Runner on the AT. Out of this experience, they gained technical trail building skills, became Wilderness First Aid certified and trained in Leave No Trace principles, learned the ins and outs of trail-based facilities and services, and had plenty of practice conversing in English. Everyone at the AMC was grateful for their hard-working attitude and great senses of humor, and we thoroughly enjoyed having the Chicos with us all summer. We hope that this is an opportunity that we can continue to foster in the future!
Costa Rica is a special place, filled with vegetation and wildlife biodiversity that you have to see to believe, and the most open, honest, hardworking people you will ever meet. The Sendero Pacifico is an extremely inspiring project and those who are involved are admirable beyond any words. We all hope to see this bridge that we have built continue to strengthen over time.