From Costa Rica to Starbucks – the Doka Coffee Estate

While celebrating my birthday in Costa Rica, my mom and I had the opportunity to visit the Doka Coffee Estate in Alajuela, Costa Rica.  Since I am a huge Starbucks aficionado (just ask the baristas on Canyon Road in Puyallup, Washington), I thought this would be a great way to learn about the beverage I enjoy so much and visit a real working coffee plantation.  Coffee production first began in 1779 and the first exported beans to the United Kingdom happened in 1843 by William Le Lacheur Lyon, captain of the English ship, The Monarch.


Coffee Seedlings

After a brief stop at the seed bed to observe and learn about the development process of the plant and the history of the coffee plantation, it was on to observe the oldest humid coffee processing plant.  Declared to be an Architectural Heritage for Humanity in 2003, the coffee processing plant operates by hydraulic power.


Coffee peeling machinery

After the grains are classified and de-pulped, it’s off to the fermentation tanks where the fermentation process provides significant taste of the coffee that will soon be enjoyed by many.


Fermentation tanks

Once the fermentation process has been completed, the coffee is then dried – either in the Guardiola or on the patios under the sun.  After the drying process is complete, it is then stored in sacks in the bodega (coffee house) until it is exported or roasted in country.

Mechanical coffee dryer

Mechanical coffee dryer (Guardiola)

Using the sun to dry the coffee.

Using the sun to dry the coffee.

Once the coffee is dried it is stored in the Bodega.

Once the coffee is dried it is stored in the Bodega.

Some of the coffee is roasted and then packaged by hand on site for tour participants to purchase and take home to enjoy; however, the majority of the coffee produced (I believe it is around 40% of all the coffee produced) is exported to the United States.


Until the next adventure….






Standing on the Edge – Poás Volcano National Park

It is quite a surreal feeling to find yourself standing on the edge of an active volcano and watch the steam from that volcano rise towards the crater rim on which you are standing, bringing with it the obnoxious odor of sulfur. That is just the experience you may enounter if you make a visit to Parque Nacional Volcán Poás (Poás Volcano National Park) in the Alajuela Province of Costa Rica.

Established on January 25, 1971, Poás Volcano’s main crater is 950 feet deep and frequently has small geyser and lava eruptions. My mom and I visited Poás Volcanao twice during our week exploring Costa Rica, the first time was early in the morning with our cousin before we split off from the people we were travelling with and the second was with a tour group operated by Grey Line Bus Tours that was part of a day tour to the Doka Coffee Plantation, Poás Volcano, and the La Paz Waterfall Gardens (more on the coffee plantation and the waterfalls in another post).

I was glad that we had the opportunity to visit the first time early in the morning as the second time we were there (with the tour group) the clouds and mist had moved in and you couldn’t see down into the crater at all (unfortunately, as much as we would like it to be so, nobody has control of the weather). Our first visit was under a gloriously blue sky and you could observe the steam seeping from the lake in the active crater.

There are two other inactive craters in the park as well, Von Frantzuis crater and the Botos crater; which, has a cold, deep lake in it surrounded by the vegetation of the cloud forest. I didn’t get a chance to see the other two craters on either trip to the volcano as we were short on time and I didn’t want to get left behind. Oh well, something to look forward to seeing if I ever get the opportunity to go back again.

The park is among the most develped in Costa Rica, with a paved road leading right up to the visitor’s center (which houses a cafe, restroom, gift shop, and a small informative museum). Even people with mobility issues can make it out to the crater rim as the walkway is wide and is wheelchair accessible. From the visitor’s center, it is a short 15-minute walk to the crater and the rain-fed sulfuric lake below. There are warning signs near the crater rim advising visitors to spend no more than 20 minutes at a time near the edge of the crater due to the sulfur gas emissions in the air.

As far as volcanic activity goes, there were moderate eruptions in the early 1950s and some brief periods of activity in 1989. when the access road into the park was closed. The park was temporarily closed in May 1994, when the volcano showed some signs of activity and in July and August 1994 when it rumbled to life once more.

If you are planning a trip to Poás, and aren’t taking your own vehicle, it is worth it to know that the majority of tour operators don’t arrive at the volcano until fairly late in the morning, making it difficult to see anything before the clouds and mist have had a chance to move in, obliterating your view down into the crater. If you aren’t driving up to the park yourself, try and find a tour groupd that arrives before 10am for the best chance of being able to stand on the rim of an active volcano and peer down into the active crater.

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Torrey Log Schoolhouse

Construction began on the Torrey log church on September 18, 1898.  Local settlers provided the labor, materials and cash for this unique log structure that had a steep hip roof, square bell tower, flared eves, and a pink sandstone foundation.  On December 19, 1898, the school opened for the first time in the 21 x 37 foot, one-room building providing an education for the children of Torrey and the surrounding ranches.  The building wasn’t just used for school and religious services though, it was also used for dances and civic, social, and religious meetings until two red sandstone buildings were constructed, one for a school and one for a church.

Use of the original log building continued both by the LDS church and the community until the 1970s.  The LDS church deeded the log building to the local Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in 1990, with the provision the the building was to be moved from Church property  Since that date, the building has undergone major renovations and restoration and continues to be used for religious, civic and educational functions.

Torrey School - September 18, 1898

                                                         Torrey School – September 18, 1898

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Grass Valley School

Originally built at 2325 Miner Street, the Grass Valley Schoolhouse was built around 1901 in a design typical of other schools being built in Colorado at the same time.  The bell in the tower was not only used for calling children in from recess, as it also served as a fire alarm for that area of Idaho Springs.  The schoolhouse also held various meetings and community functions before the school was closed in 1917, after which, it was converted into apartments.

Grass Valley School (1901-1917) Clear Creek County, Colorado

Grass Valley School (1901-1917) Clear Creek County, Colorado

The owners of the building gave it to the Historic Society in 1894 and the society convinced the city to save the school from demolition and renovate it to be used as a city hall.  The school was moved to its current location in 1986 and is now the cornerstone of the downtown improvement district of Idaho Springs.  In addition to being the City Hall, the old Grass Valley Schoolhouse also houses the Idaho Springs Police Department and the Idaho Springs Municipal Court.

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Independence School

Around 1864, the first school in the Fort Lupton area began in an abandoned log cabin, that had a cellar where the children and their teacher could hide in the case of an Indian attack.  A new log school house was pieced together in 1867, using whatever materials the farm families could find.  In 1875, the school was moved to a second log structure.

First named the “Acorn Academy” by the school children, the school name was changed to the Independence School sometime between 1890 and 1893.  The first teacher was Mr. John Perry, whom the ranchers and farmers had difficulty finding funds to pay in the first years of the school.

In January of 1900, population had grown significantly and it was voted upon to build a new brick school house that still stands today just south of Fort Lupton.

Prior to the schools relocation to its current location, the school was converted into a two room home, after which it became a house for migrant workers before eventually being left vacant.  The Watada family donated the school to the South Platte Valley Historical Society in 1998 and it was moved seven miles north to where it still sits today.  It has been restored with the help of a Colorado State Historical Fund Grant, and today the school is open for historical events and classes.  Since 2000, children, ages 7 to 16,  have had to opportunity to attend historical school sessions and learn what it was like to attend a school in the 1800s.

Independence School - 1875-1900

                                                          Independence School – 1875-1900

Until the next adventure….

Schoolhouse Saturday – The Democrat Gulch School

Originally located in the Idea School District near the southern Morrow-Gilliam County line, the Democrat Gulch School served students in the area from 1885 until the mid-1930s.  The school was relocated to its current site in 1976 and restored as a local historical monument.

Democrat Gulch School - Built 1885

Democrat Gulch School – Built 1885

Until the next adventure…

Schoolhouse Saturday – Byrd Schoolhouse

Built in 1879, the Byrd School was originally located seven miles south of Pilot Rock, Oregon on land that was donated by Maria Byrd.  In the early days of its operation, it was a tuition school that typically operated for three months, or as long as a family could afford the expense of sending their child(ren) to school.  Students either walked or rode horses to attend class and in periods of deep snow, fathers would often hitch up the horses to a wagon with sleigh runners and transport the children to their classes.  By 1940, it was determined that busing the students to Pilot Rock was more economical than keeping the school open and the school was closed.  The building was then used for grain storage for several years.

Byrd Schoolhouse

Byrd Schoolhouse

In 1990, the building was moved to the grounds of the Heritage Station Museum by volunteers.  It was been restored to look as it would have 100 years ago.

The interior of the Byrd Schoolhouse, much as it looked 100 years ago.

The interior of the Byrd Schoolhouse, much as it looked 100 years ago.


Until the next adventure….


Lowell Covered Bridge – Lane County, Oregon

Sometimes the best surprises on road trips are the little spots that you come across on your journey to some other destination.  Lowell Covered Bridge is just such a place.  Now granted, I didn’t just happen across it, as I had visited it a couple of years ago to create an image for my Christmas cards, but it was still a treat to stop at it again.  Built in 1907 by Nels Roney, the Lowell Covered Bridge replaced a ferry operated by Amos Hyland that crossed the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.  A truck struck the bridge in 1945, causing extensive damage to the structure and it was replaced by the current structure.  The floor of the bridge was replaced and the structure raised six feet in preparation of the flooding expected to be caused by the construction of the Dexter Dam.

On November 29, 1979, Lowell Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Oregon Department of Transportaion, along with Lane County and the United States Forest Service built an outdoor interpretive center at the site.  This interpretive center has several signs depicting the history of the remaining covered bridges in Lane County and the surrounding areas.

The design of the Lowell Covered Bridge is the relatively rare Howe Truss, patented in 1840 by William Howe, a Massachusetts millwright.  It includes vertical posts in tension and diagonal posts under compression.  It is truly a marvelous thing to stand in the middle of a bridge constructed completely of wood and look at the beauty in the craftsmanship of days gone by.

Lowell Covered Bridge

Lowell Covered Bridge

Lowell Covered Bridge Facts:

World Guide Number: 37-20-18

Year Built: 1945

Truss: Howe

Span: 165 feet

Stream:  Middle Fork of the Willamette River


Until the next adventure….



Schoolhouse Saturday – the Fruita Schoolhouse

Prior to Elijah Cutler Behunin donating land for a school in 1896, classes had been held for two years.  The first school teacher was twelve year old Nettie Behunin who taught the children of the eight families living in Junction, Utah, in the Behunin home.  Her first class had 22 students that included three of her siblings.  A peaked, shingled roof was added to the building in 1912 or 1913 and the interior walls were plastered in 1935.

The Fruita Schoolhouse as it appeared in the 1930s.

The Fruita Schoolhouse as it appeared in the 1930s.

Eight grades were taught the “three-R’s” at the one room school and if a teacher had enough textbooks and felt qualified, then other subjects such as geography were added.  In 1900, the first county approved classes were taught by then 22 year old Nettie, the first authorized teacher.  She was paid $70 a month compared to her male counterparts who received $80.  The school was closed due to a lack of students in 1941.

In 1964, the National Park Service nominated the school to the National Register of Historic Places and restored the structure to how it appeared in the 1930s.  Today, the school still stands in its original location and those that take the time to stop and peek through the windows can, with a little imagination, reflect on what school was like in a time when the classroom wasn’t ruled by computers and white boards….listen carefully, you might still be able to hear the old school bell ring.

Until the next adventure…

Schoolhouse Saturday – the Old Bailey School

Built in 1907, the old Bailey School is one of the last remaining one-room log schoolhouses still standing in Michigan.  It bears the name of a lumberman who was part of the crew that built the school and supervised moving it to a new site in 1913 where it continued to serve the community until 1941.  After the school closed, students were transported to Oscoda Schools.   Partially restored in 1973 by the Mikado Township, the Old Bailey School was disassembled, moved and restored in 1998 to its current site in Alcona County.

I wish the building would have been opened when I visited as the interior has been furnished with items used during it’s time, including desks, a drinking pail and dipper, coal stove, blackboard, books, and a recitation bench.  The original school bell still sits on the building’s roof waiting to summon children to their lessons.


The old Bailey School

The old Bailey School

The Alcona Historical Society holds an annual Log Cabin Day and Strawberry Social at the school on the last Sunday in June.


Until the next adventure….