The station at Las Alturas sits adjacent to La Amistad, and there are a few trails (senderos) that meander into the primary forests of the reserve. One such trail is Sendero Chai, a straight hike up about 600 m to the peak of Cerro Chai at 2100 m asl. The trail brings one through several forest types, beginning at tropical, premontane wet forest, and ending in some shrub forest at the peak, because these forest types are linked with elevation. It’s an astonishing 2.5 kilometer journey.
Mixed between the peak forest-type and the wet forest is some montane oak forest and a thin band of bamboo-oak. The wet forest has many large strangler figs and Cedrela, amongst other species. I believe the high elevation oaks are Quercus costaricensis, but there are several species of oak in high elevation locations throughout Costa Rica. When passing through the oaks, the forest become a bit quieter and the forest floor feels thick and soft; there is a thick layer of leaf litter that accumulates in these forests, and the litter absorbs sounds like snow. These habitats are my favorite terrestrial types because of their calm nature and tannin-y smells. Cerro de La Muerte sits in this habitat type, but Sendero Chai was the first time I was able to clearly observe transition between forest types.
Here are some photos from each forest type, starting from the top, shrub forest, working through bamboo and oak, and finishing with wet forest.
OTS Las Cruces is attempting to expand and connect it’s biological reserve to another, more expansive, reserve. Currently, Las Cruces protects about 300 hectares of premontane wet forest, and they are buying surrounding pastures to build a corridor. Here are some recently purchased pastures that are still grazed. I believe, once a restoration plan is established, grazing will the halted.