RICON DE LA VIEJA NATIONAL PARK, Costa Rica — Climbing over rocks, avoiding fallen branches, and trying to keep up with a quickly moving forest guide warrants a few moments to just relax — and breathe.
One deep breath greets the nostrils with a smell of pollinating flowers. Another breath sends in the freshness of nearby waters. Farther down the path, a third breath makes the nose hairs jump at an unpleasant odor — rotten eggs.
The Rincon de la Vieja National Park in Costa Rica is home to volcanic mud pots that produce a foul smelling stench as a result of the sulfur released from the ground. Scientifically defined, a mud pot is a hot spring or fumarole made up of a pool of bubbling mud.
To the untrained eye, these pots of mud don’t look much different than a witch’s brew bubbling on the stove. Thick waves of smoke carried by the winds, and bubbles that squirt gray clay up to five feet in the air are two characteristics of mud pots. The mud bubbles form in high-temperature geothermal areas, and can get as hot as 230 degrees Fahrenheit.
Despite the awful smell of sulfur, and uncomfortably hot heat, these mud pots are definitely worth the hike it takes to see them. If you ever get the chance to visit a mud pot, make sure to brace yourself before you take that first deep breath of rotten eggs.
— Cidney King