The day is oozing with “Good Karma”! We began our morning hike in one of Panama’s unique mountain communities named El Valle de Anton. The town sits at the base of a Stratovolcano and is just above the dried up Caldera lake. The last estimated eruption happened over 13,000 years ago. The extinct volcano hasn’t showed any activity since 1987. The town of El Valle’s rich soil and tropical climate, makes for some very fertile farmland.
The trail we selected to hike on this beautiful morning went from rough pitted asphalt to red clay like dirt. As we got further up the trail, it narrowed considerably. We found ourselves walking along the top of a lower ridge looking down at the valley below. The view far out weighs any fear we have of losing our footing and tumbling down the mountainside. The ridge lead us along for about a quarter mile to some carved-out steps.
The makeshift steps (pictured, right) were a mixer of crumbling rock, saturated soil and puddles that formed after the recent rains. As we hike further up the ridge, the trail eventually turns into a mountain hugging path (pictured, below left) where the steps gave way to a washed-out rut that took away any structural footing. Here is where we needed to be very careful.
As we gained altitude and got closer to the mountain’s peak, the trail became more treacherous. Our legs started to feel the climb with the extra effort put forth to maneuver the above-intermediate trail. After approximately another quarter mile, the trail reverted back to a smoother, but still slippery surface. However, it seems that we were closing in on our destination.
Once we reached our pointed position, the panoramic views were absolutely gorgeous. Looking to the east we can see the Gulf of Panama (pictured, right), which is fed by the Pacific Ocean. On the other side towards the western horizon, we could see the El Valle de Anton valley (pictured, left) that was created by the volcano’s surrounding ridges.
We made the trek back down the mountain with out any incidents and drove back to town. The streets have seemingly come alive with cars, scooters and bicyclist since our early morning’s passing. The open market was is full swing, show casing its vendor’s goods and colorful wares.
We needed to stock up on some fresh produce and fruits. So when we eyed the homebuilt bins filled with the countryside’s bounty, we had to stop. The aisles are an organic dream where you can get the purest foods grown for pennies on the dollar. We filled our bags full of nutrition and then ventured around to other vendors. Fresh produce wasn’t the only colorful items under the towns wall-less market. There are colorful pieces of art work such as hand carved bowls, painted glass and textiles draped all around us. I love the Latin style and flare it possesses. It brings a cheerful atmosphere to any room that bares its influence.
My internal clock was telling me that lunch time was rapidly approaching. The expat couple we are sharing the day with knew of a great little out of the way hotel/restaurant named Hotel Ricon Vallero. It was hidden amongst the rain forest like terrain that surrounds El Valle. The quaint little hotel has a rustic feel that touches all of your senses. The aging wood and tin roof that covered the restaurant, held in its first class appeal. The koi pond in the middle of the dining room was fed by a small babbling mountain creek. The tropical plants that grew wild created a natural ambience. The food was as fabulous as the atmosphere was relaxing. After our exceptional dining experience, which did not have a five star tab, we made our way back to town.
There are other restaurants, Mercados and various shops (pictured, below right) that line main street. As the business district fades, we make our way back to the Pan American highway. On our way down from the picturesque town of El Valle de Anton, we took in all we could as the dense landscape passed our car’s windows. The breathtaking beauty that Panama’s mountainside scenery possesses, looks like it comes straight out of a paradise destination publication that sits on any coffee table in the world.
Author: Anthony Scopel
Photographer: Anthony & Maureen Scopel
Associate Editor: Maureen Scopel
Technical Mastering & Support: Matt Kemper
A special thanks goes out to David & Charla for being our guides on this fantastic journey.