Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cloud Forest

'A cloud forest is a tropical or subtropical evergreen montane moist forest characterized by a high incidence of low-level cloud cover, usually at the canopy level'; I have never been to a cloud forest, and there are several in Ecuador. They are special because of the large numbers of species that are native only to that habitat, and because they are jungles at high altitudes. I have yet to visit a cloud forest. There is so much I have not seen in Ecuador. I have every intention of making up for that and exploring every corner of the country.

There is a trail on Vancouver Island called the 'West Coast Trail' -- I remember taking three or four days to backpack the length of it. I was with a college friend. We met in Vancouver and took the ferry across to Victoria and then drove to the southern tip of the trail. We must have organized a ride back to the car, because we only walked one way. The trail ran near the western coast of the island and was once a logging trail. The story was that the sea was very rough on that side of the island and many ships ran aground, and the rescuers used the trail to save who and what they could from the wrecks. I remember trying to describe what I saw on the trail to others; I kept calling the forest a tropical rainforest, because it rained regularly and the air was full of moisture. We would sleep on the sand with the ocean waves humming through the night, and in the morning the forest would be covered in mist, which never entirely went away. The trees were big and there were many ferns and moss covering every surface. The trail was well maintained, with bridges and wooden ramps where the tail would otherwise be inaccessable. More than once the trial ended at the edge of a waterway. We would have to wait until an Indian in a canoe would come by and ferry us across to the other side. We would have had to hike miles and miles more if we had not hitched the rides. It was a wet several days. My clothes stayed wet, my sleepingbag never dried. Vegetation was abundant and overwhelming and inside the forest we did not see the sun. Luckily, we were never too far from the beach, so when possible we could walk out to the sand and watch the waves or go for a very cold swim. It was summertime, but not a sunny experience. When we arrived at the end of the trail near Tofino at the northern tip, I remember the mist never rising and going out to look for whales, but he weather not being cooperative and not being able to see anything. I imagine that a cloud forest would look like that trail on Vancouver Island, but nowhere have I seen it described as such. Of course, it is not tropical or subtropical, so it does not fit the definition. I guess I will find out when we travel to the cloud forest.

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