Parque Nacional Santa Rosa
Trip Start Sep 17, 2010
12Trip End Oct 03, 2010
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It’s being allowed to restore itself to forest so most of the park is second growth rather than old growth forest. I did pass a sign that identified a section that was original old growth with some trees that stay green all year. It contains some trees that are between 100 and 500 years old. The impact this has on the forest is interesting – there are different animals that predominate in the old-growth section and the temperature there is about 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees F) cooler in the dry season
The park is of great historical significance to Costa Ricans, too. Costa Rica has been invaded three times in its history. Each time the invading force was defeated in Santa Rosa. I confess to being completely unaware that one of those invasions (the best known one, as it turns out) was by an American.
William Walker headed a group of mercenaries and adventurers known as the “Filibusters.” They had already invaded and seized much of southern Nicaragua and in 1856, invaded Costa Rica with a goal of gaining control over all of Central America. The president of Costa Rica correctly guessed Walker’s intentions, assembled a small group of fighters and marched up to Santa Rosa where Walker’s fighters were surrounded in La Casona (a large hacienda which is still there) and in a 14 minute battle defeated Walker who never returned to Costa Rica. Later, however, Walker did declare himself to be president of Nicaragua.
La Casona has now been turned into a museum which houses displays describing Walker’s invasion and defeat. While I was there two groups of school children went through the museum with guides who told them about Walker’s invasion and the role of La Casona in Costa Rican history
The most recent invasion was in 1955 by Anastasio Somoza, the Nicaraguan dictator. Santa Rosa was also the area used by Oliver North as a staging point for clandestine US intervention in the Sandinista-Contra war.
The park also contains a large expanse of beach that is ecologically important as turtle nesting areas but all the beaches are accessible only by four-wheel-drive vehicles, even in the dry season. If you’re in a high-clearance four-wheel-drive and want to take those dirt roads you have to sign a waiver at the park entrance acknowledging that you assume all liability and you’re on your own. If you break something you have to repair it yourself because no help is available.
Needless to say, I limited myself to La Casona and a short trail through the forest called the “Indio Desnudo” trail. That translates as the “Naked Indian” trail. The name comes from a tree in the forest named “Indio Desnudo”. It’s called that because of its fairly smooth reddish bark that is peeling making it look like a naked Indian… or a sunburned tourist…
I saw little in the way of wildlife, though the forest was beautiful. A couple of airline pilots who were hiking just ahead of me located and showed me some unmarked petroglyphs. When I found a park staff person to ask, she confirmed that there are pre-Colombian petroglyphs that aren’t currently marked with signs.
I don’t know who was more startled – me or the very large iguana that scuttled across my path right at my feet to its hiding place as I walked by. I left the area then returned later and, sure enough, he’d emerged from hiding to bask in the sun again. This time I knew he was there so neither one of us was startled.
This was my last trip in Costa Rica. Tomorrow I fly out. There’s so much more I want to see and do here, but it will have to wait for another time.