Misty Rivers

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Bree: We woke early, our tent folded into the hovering cloud sitting low on the mountain. We wanted to get an early start in order to be the first ones on the trail, but the ranger station wasn’t open on schedule. After some deliberation, we gave up and started hiking anyway. No one was around to mind.

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With the mountain all to ourselves, we hit the trails, sticking in the thick sloppy mud almost immediately. We were undeterred. We walked with the cool morning, the mountain now surprisingly quiet. The forest around us appeared in monochrome, the colors drained by the heavy fog dancing between the trees.

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Forty minutes later at the bottom of a slick hill, we arrived at the acid blue waterfall, puzzling over its almost toxic color. Apparently, the river’s color is caused by a reaction between sulphur, copper sulfate, and calcium carbonate. Though we’ve seen some gorgeous blue waters in our travels, this one was the most vibrant.

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The waterfall was kicking up a huge amount of spray, which added to the already misty morning making the rocks near the falls slick with moss. Within minutes we were soaking wet even though we were just standing there. Our guidebook had indicated that it was possible to swim, but the pool beneath the falls was churning fast and swimming didn’t seem all that safe.

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While Ben meandered around taking photos, it took me mere minutes to slip in the mud and I spent a long while dipping into a small pool in the river trying to get the sticky mud off my legs and shorts.

Strangely, on the other side of the lagoon, we could see a very official looking viewing platform that looked nothing like the rock scramble we’d just come down and we wondered a bit where that trail led. We later discovered that there used to be two official entrances to Parque National Vocan Tenorio, but as of late, the government has decided to shut down the side that we entered from. “Our side” seems to now be run by the hotel there, and we overheard a guide explaining to his clients that it is also less developed with fewer “cheesy” sidewalks and boardwalks. In addition, entrance was by donation only, saving us a $10 entrance fee.

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Ben: We continued on the hike through the forest which hung heavy with the smell of sulphur. Much of the stream bubbled as underwater fumaroles rumbled beneath the surface of the water. Before long we found ourselves at the confluence of two streams. Both streams were completely clear, though at their point of convergence a milky cloud of white snaked along the two flows. Each of these streams contains different chemicals and where they meet, the precipitation reaction takes place and the river turns a noxious blue. It was pretty insane to see such a solid wall of color emerging with such sharp a line.

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The way back was met with a slightly busier trail. We crossed the rickety bridges over the seemingly unnatural blue river, and back to the car where we had another meal of – can you guess it – more peanut butter and jelly just as the rain began to pound.

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