Throughout my teaching career, I constantly encouraged young people to put their best efforts into school-related endeavors. When teaching adult canoeing classes, I found myself working hard to motivate reluctant paddlers to “push the envelope”, within their skill levels, of course, when negotiating rapids on a river. Whether male or female, persons of any age can benefit from heart-felt support when trying to “raise the bar” to reach a goal in any area. Although never one of those “rah rah girls” in high school or college, I’ve become an enthusiastic cheerleader in life-no uniform, no loud yells, just smiles and kind words.
This story has its roots in a friendship forged through participation in Conewago Canoe Club activities over a period of 27 years. Linda and I have won medals as a tandem team in open canoe national slalom races, paddled some of the East Coast’s most notorious whitewater, hiked numerous trails, explored cross-country skiing trails, volunteered our services to American Canoe Assoc., taught canoeing classes to a variety of groups, and met people from all over the country. In January of 2007, I had the pleasure of showing my friend that Elderhostel isn’t just for “old ladies”. Together we participated in a “Women in Nature” program based in Costa Rica.
Led by a gorgeous young Costa Rican gal, who turned male heads wherever we went, we enjoyed the support and camaraderie of thirteen other women from across the U.S.A. While being driven from place to place in our own bus by Mauricio, my cohort and I sat with different ladies, making an effort to learn to know our companions in adventure. Near Jaco, we gallant gals snorkeled in the Pacific. Linda and I helped first-time paddlers to overcome fears and to actually enjoy outings in the kayaks or in the large outrigger. On the Tarcoles River, we rode a safari boat watching for crocodiles in the water and birds on the banks. Hiking the Villa Lapas Sky Way exposed some people’s discomfort on the bouncing suspension bridges and the need for encouraging words.
In the Mt. Arenal area, the volcano spit out molten rock which we watched roll down the mountain while eating dinner at our hotel. Seeing glowing volcanic rock and hiking over old lava flows on the volcano’s flank in the rain were the excitement advertised for this part of the country. However, when the chance to take the canopy zip line tour over the Arenal River canyon arose, thirteen greenhorns paid the money and donned the gear. After a steep climb in the rain to the starting platform, we stood nervously through the orientation talk. Some gals never began the adventure. Two did no more than three zips, but Linda and I were among the five who “did the whole thing”. (Mauricio later called us the “Iron Women”.) Using the twelve platforms connected with cables that were up to 350 meters long and 80 meters high, we marveled at awesome views such as that from the long diagonal zip over the Arenal River. The adrenaline rush that consumed me when I left a platform can easily be compared to that felt as one paddles a canoe into a big rapid for the first time.
The Sarapiqui area offered whitewater rafting, rainforest walks, birding walks, an unusually interesting lecture about growing bananas at a Dole plantation, a guided walk in a medicinal plant garden, dancing with the locals, a visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and a close-up and personal handling of a non-biting tarantula. Most held the hairy tarantula momentarily but photos reveal terror in some eyes. Each of us also had interesting experiences during spa day at El Tucano Resort.
In addition to early morning exercises and the planned activities each day, we enjoyed late-afternoon lectures on such subjects as crocodiles, saving the scarlet macaw, the life of a rural Costa Rican woman, and the history of Costa Rica. Together we stretched mind and body, each building her own knowledge base and facing physical challenges bolstered by the cheers of other active, outdoor-oriented women.