Ricardo, now 50, grew up in the community of Montevarde near the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve. He was the sixth of eight children in his family. His father, Wilford “Wolf” Guindon, was instrumental in fueling Ricardo’s passion for nature.
Wolf was a founding member of the Monteverde Quaker community. In fact, the cloud forest boasts a sign and trail in his honor.
Growing up next to a tropical forest was the norm for Ricardo. He and his siblings were more often outside the house than in it. Their mother “gave up” on her hopes of a clean home, because they always seemed to bring the forest in with them.
Wolf took him to his first visit to the cloud forest. His family pioneered in cutting trails through the forest. Being surrounded by conservation and wildlife influenced Ricardo’s career and life. His earliest and most treasured childhood memories are in the cloud forest. In fact, his first memory is of the sound of chainsaws cutting down trees.
Ricardo describes a vivid and colorful childhood. He was at home in the forest and used the inside of strangler fig tree as a playhouse and cave. The gigantic tree was hollow on the inside and allowed climbers to enter onto high branches.
Ricardo often climbed to the top of trees from inside their trunks. He was a modern day Tarzan, swinging with his siblings through the cloud forest on vines. The sturdy vines grew from the tops of the highest trees.
But there were always safety hazards in the forest. Ricardo recalls when one of his brothers ran into a porcupine. The quills were embedded in his leg and Wolf used pliers to remove them. This process also was used when the family dog had its frequent run-ins with porcupines.
Wolf also had a farm, which Ricardo would visit often. He saw his future as a farmer.
“My first experience here (at the continental divide) was actually not a pleasant one,” Ricardo said. “I was chasing my father’s cattle across the Caribbean side of the forest.”
After attending college he realized his passion for the forest could lead to a career in conservation.
Ricardo has worked as an ecological tour guide for decades. His family’s roots run deep in Monteverde conservation. An adopted cousin was the first person to discover the rare golden toad of the cloud forest region. Ricardo recalls holding golden toads in the 1980s, early in his tour guide days.
He has many stories from his days in the forest.
“One of the experiences I had in high school was when a friend from Canada came down and we got off on the wrong trail,” Ricardo said. “We ended up on the boarder trail, then we started running back. … We would look back and see our boot stuck on the trail.”
Luckily Ricardo knew his way around the cloud forest and soon had the pair back by nightfall.
Ricardo’s profession, life and family are all a part of the rich and unique history of the Monteverde cloud forest. He began his life by using the forest as a playground and today he can be found giving ecological tours and enhancing the knowledge of many visitors in the cloud forest.
— Breanne Brammer