Timber framing in Monteverde, Costa Rica

PictureI recently had the most wonderful experience of helping for a couple of weeks to raise the new meeting house at La Escuela de Amigos in Monteverde. David Hook, Shannon McIntyre, and Josh Jackson of Timber Homes LLC from Vershire, VT led the way with this impressive project. Dozens of volunteers helped to cut, plane, sand, and insecticide treat the timbers over the last several weeks under the guidance of David with the constant assistance of Shannon. Josh worked on design and came to lead the four intensive days of raising the bents, plates and rafters, with lots of people power. We ate amazing food everyday and had an incredible time. This community is welcoming and gracious and I feel honored to have been included. You can check out lots of great photos on their Facebook page. 


The timbers are Mexican Cypress, which is a suppressed wood that needs to be thinned and removed. So having an abundance of this wood that really needs to be removed and the fact that it grows tall and straight is really perfect for timber framing. It’s such a different experience then where I have been working in Nicaragua where the deforestation is so severe. It also is reasonably soft for working with hand tools. The red colored king post you see in the frame is from a different type of cedar and the pegs are from Guapinol, which is an extremely hard wood.


Benito leading the way


Jungle Hike

I took the opportunity to go on a three day hike through the cloudforest with a great group of folks staying here in Monteverde. We had a local guide, Benito, who goes out on this trail once or twice a year. His Dad, Wolf, established the trail decades ago but it overgrows rapidly and he tries to maintain it with a couple of machetes. Well, it was a difficult first day. It was long and wet and three people dropped out within the first several hours due to unhappy knees. The terrain was steep and mostly up the first day though there were some rather steep descents as well. Fortunately the ground was soft and forgiving because I don’t know how many times I took a step that I thought would be solid that sent me careening down a slide in a semi split or pitched me forward as my foot snagged a vine or hidden root. I was covered in mud from head to toe. It was in my hair, my underwear and deep in my socks and filling up between my toes. I was quite exhausted from picking myself and a heavy pack up repeatedly, clutching slippery vines, roots and branches as I teetered back to somewhat solid footing. But I was quickly feeling that I was becoming part of the jungle, even though it was hard to imagine anyone actually living in this environment and I was already feeling painfully aware that there would be no fire to warm the wetness out of my bones come nightfall.  The vibrant forest and unusual plant life kept my spirits intact as I was determined to be amused with my staggering and tumblings, splits, and surfing maneuvers. And just to end the day dramatically we had an episode of anaphylactic shock over dinner.  We are all so grateful that it worked itself out since we didn’t have any epinephrine! It was scary but we are all here to tell the tale. 

Day Two proved to be more gentle and we were a bit more adapted. The rain was less constant and the day’s hike to our next campsite was shorter. There I got to sit in a stream, get some mud off and clean out some cuts.. We had lentils, polenta and calmari for dinner and some really awesome peanut butter fudge balls. The horseflies were pretty impressive but not as aggressive as the ones I know from the states. That was a good thing because just one can terrorize you in the north and there were dozens here. So I was happily in the tent by 7 pm. , but not before seeing some stars!

Day Three was a short 4 hour hike and it was sunny. The horseflies decided to come along with us until we got up on another ridge and the winds carried them away. We saw more toads, stepped in an anthill and had to rip off our pants. Benito slowly macheted through an area where he had seen the deadly fer de lance several times before. I stayed close debating whether to be where he could swing the machete and hit me but close enough to take down one of these big and venomous snakes if we happened upon one! I did step on a coral snake and was happy to see I didn’t hurt it on the soft ground and it slithered away. And it was nice to be able to look up at raptors and other birds and not risk drowning from the downpour of rain. And how amazing to take a step on not find oneself twenty feet down the trail covered in mud. We saw signs of puma and peccary and we consumed the last stores of chocolate. We knew that a cold shower and lunch was just kilometers and hours away. Yes, there was a definite lightness in our weary steps. By lunchtime we found ourselves at Arenal Lodge, looking up at the impressive volcano and out at the lake. We celebrated with that cold shower, damp but clean clothes and no more mud between our toes, milkshakes, french fries, cheesecake and coffee. The trip back to Monteverde was stunning. We rode in a jeep down to the lake, a boat across the lake while looking out at the ridge line of our trek, and a shuttle back to Monteverde on lots of steep and windy roads. Thank you Benito for such an amazing opportunity in my short time here.

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