By Ken and Bea
For France and all of you who have expressed delight in being a passive part of our back-roads of La Peñita adventures. This is for you.
Biking is fun, but biking and sharing with friends is special. This morning Tom joined us–our destination was what we call the orchid trail. Biking ends just past el Rancho Blanco, where we hike for an hour or so to the altitude where the Vanilla Orchids flourish.
Shortly after sunrise, we left behind the waking town. About an hour into our ride, the sun’s rays became strong enough to entice Tom to lose his hoodie.
Passing fields of pineapple and banana groves, we continued our climb toward the hills. At one place, we stopped for a breather, and Tom pointed out a White-bellied emerald Hummingbird busily extracting nectar from a clump of flowers. This was a new sighting for us.
Then, a small flock of Black-throated Magpie Jays landed in the trees right in front of us. Anyone familiar with these birds will know they are very skittish and getting photographs of them is next to impossible. But they seemed happy to oblige as we snapped their picture!
There were many birds we saw and heard, but could not photograph–a flash of red signaled a Vermilion Flycatcher flying across the trail, the sun flashing off the blue of a San Blas Jay, Gray Gnatcatchers actively pursuing insects, not still for a moment, Masked Tityra high in a tree, the ever present Yellow-winged Caciques (Calandria in Spanish) and the distinctive tapping of a Lineated Woodpecker, and the call of Chachalacas. A great day for birding!
About a half hour past Rancho Blanco, we ditched our bikes and sauntered up the trail shaded by giant Ficus and Capomo trees. We were joined by some cattle looking to share our cookie break.
On these trails there is always a meet-and-greet the cowboys and these gregarious guys with their five dogs were on their way to move cows to the “maternity ward”.
Tom is very knowledgeable with plants and insects, and introduced us to the ant-lion pits that dotted the sandy trail. Ant-lion larvae are also known as doodlebugs. The nickname is apparently in reference to the winding trails that young larvae make while seeking a suitable location to construct its larval home or pit. The trails look like someone has been doodling in the sand.
The pits have the shape of an inverted cone. The larvae wait at the bottom of this pit for an ant or other insect to slip on the sand, and fall into the pit into the waiting jaws, and meal time is underway.
Too soon we had to return to where we had left the bikes.
Walking ahead, I spotted this gorgeous butterfly still to be identified.
It was mostly downhill for a while and then the unpredictable happened. The chain on Tom’s bike broke. “Look Ma, no chain!” He was able to coast a short distance before a pick-up truck came by. He hitched a ride back to La Peñita. Ken and I pedaled back, and we never met another vehicle. It was Tom’s lucky day for sure.
What a great few hours spent sharing the wonders of nature and each other’s company. Life is good!