Thorn Around the World

"Darts can save the World

The picture to the left was recently sent to me by Tom and Linda, the directors at CloudBridge, the eco-reserve in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. It shows one of their researchers enjoying darts on the "ThornBoard" outside the school building, where scientists and students gather to learn about and implement the reforestation projects. I never dreamed that I'd find darts at this remote location, let alone make a board out of cloud forest cypress and paint. My hope is that the people at CloudBridge enjoy the game as much as we do; but, more importantly, I hope that the greater darts world-and you-will help support this wonderful effort to save a piece of our planet. Here's how it happened, during my last days at CloudBridge...

It was November 23, near the end of my tenth week abroad, seeking and spreading the sport of darts from Iceland, through Europe, to Spain, and across the Atlantic to Central America. It was my last full day at CloudBridge, a heavenly place tucked in the high jungles below Mt. Chirripo. The day started like the previous three, with coffee and pancakes in the cliffhanging dwellings where researchers can stay, study, and reverse the effects of deforestation.

Linda came by in the morning and invited Jules, my Australian travel partner, and I to visit the hot springs nearby. Without any hesitation, we accepted, and were soon rolling down the long steep path of a road to San Gerardo, up another steep road to Linda's friend's house, near the trailhead up to Aguas Calientes, where thermal pools of steamy water awaited.

At the start of our short hike up, we enjoyed some ponies grazing about the tropical trees and flora. A suspension bridge, worthy of a scene from an adventure movie, stretched across a rushing creek, and Jules and I took some photos as we crossed. After a humid uphill hike, Jules, Linda, her friend and I arrived at the entry to Aguas Calientes. We paid the small fee, changing into our swimsuits, and plunged into the clear blue pools being fed by warm natural spring water. A family of locals was there enjoying the day as well. And, for the next couple hours, we just floated and soaked, talked and bathed, relaxed and rejuvenated, wading in the water, surrounded by dripping green cloud forest.

By midday, we returned to San Gerardo, where Tom was again waiting for us, and another bumpy wild ride back up the rutted half-lane dirt road up to CloudBridge. On the way up, Tom mentioned, "Adam, I found a good piece of wood we can use for your dartboard. Linda and I will bring it and some paint by this afternoon, and we can make it." He probably didn't realize how exciting to me this opportunity was, as I quickly replied with an enthusiastic, "Okay!"

Upon our return, Tom gave us a thorough tour of the research and educational facilities he had personally built, along with the help of volunteers, workers, and donations from supporters. The school could house classes and labs for students, powered by eco-friendly energy sources of sun and water. And, we strolled through the plant nursery, where hundreds of young tree sprouts were being raised and prepared to be strategically re-planted in the damaged and reclaimed parts of the cloud forest.

Jules and I spent the late afternoon watching the clouds and rain move through the vertical walls of jungle across from our deck, surfing the internet, enjoying some cervezas, and planning the next leg of our adventures through Costa Rica and into Nicaragua. Around six o'clock that night, Tom and Linda came knocking, with a bottle of wine, and the supplies we needed to make the dartboard.

We splayed out the materials on the main dining table in the research house. Glasses of wine were poured, and we began discussing possibilities for the design. "I'd like to make a board that the students and researchers could enjoy, and possibly encourage them to study nature," I said. We bandied ideas about: labeling wedges with names of plants, animals, waterfalls, and other interesting things around CloudBridge, possibly throwing darts to decide what students could learn about in class or search for on hikes. In the end, we decided to start simple-they could always decorate the board more later-and choosing green, blue and red paint for colors. With the skill of a seasoned master craftsman, Tom used a string and pencil to outline the outer and inner circles of the triples and doubles, and we carefully measured and lined the wedges with a flat edge.

Soon, we had a perfect web of a dartboard outlined and began to paint-Linda, Jules and I handled the colors, while Tom manned a handheld blower to dry the paint quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed the act of making this board together, over wine, and friends, and took several pictures as the board came to life. Finally, we were down to the bullseye, and I decided that an image of Earth would be fitting for the cork-so, carefully, I drew in the continents and oceans in green and white, completely proud of our creation. Finally, in a fit of pride, I decided to name it the "ThornBoard", and stenciled in that title across the top, along with some of my signature symbols. This dartboard truly represented so much of what I love: from me and my home town, to spreading the sport I adore, promoting friendship around the globe, and saving the dart, one person, one tree at a time.

When it was finished, we stood it up for a gander. I looked in my dart case. I had two sets of darts. One was the set of heavy front-loaded steel tips given to me by a bar owner in Castlebar, Ireland, host city to the 2011 WDF World Cup. The other set, was my interchangeable soft and steel set, that I had brought with me from Portland, Oregon, and had traveled the world with me; sadly, one of these darts had suffered a broken tip, so I really only had two darts. I thought about it briefly, and decided to leave these two darts with the ThornBoard at CloudBridge, a fitting final stop for one of my cherished globetrotting dart sets. Frank, from Holland, one of the researchers there that week, took the first few shots. The darts stuck perfectly in the soft cypress slab, just as if it were sisal. It didn't take long for Frank to hit the first bullseye, right in the heart of planet Earth. We all smiled at our little creation, raised our wine glasses, and made a toast.

That evening our conversations carried on into the evening-about travel, about life, about nature-until darkness took over the forest, and the occasional sound of howler monkey echoed off the hills. No one was happier than me that night, and I slept with a bounding grin. I hoped that the board would be loved and enjoyed by researchers and students for years to come.

In the morning, it was time to pack and move on. Tom and Linda joined us for the long curvy wind down the mountains, to the town of San Isidro, where we would catch a bus to San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica-Jules knew a fun hostel where we would stay and plan the rest of our journey through Central America. I, of course, hoped I could find a dart bar or two in the city as well.even though I knew it would be hard.

We said our grateful goodbyes to Tom and Linda, with hugs and pictures, and then, they and Tom's truck were gone. Jules and I were alone again, soon tucked into our bus seats, rumbling north to San Jose, looking at the scenery.

Just last week, a year and half after being at CloudBridge, Linda sent me the pictures of researchers playing on the Thornboard. She added that they loved it, especially the scientists from countries where darts is popular-they too, like me, never expected to see a dartboard hidden in the remote cloud forests below Mt. Chirripo. But, there it was. She mentioned that they wish they had more darts. I replied, "I think I can help." And, as I write this article, I'm hoping to hear back from my dart friends in Costa Rica, and that maybe they can get some spare darts up to CloudBridge for me.

As you'll see in my next few articles, I did find darts in San Jose. In fact, I found an entire league of incredible players and talent-a marvelous community of passionate dart players in the heart of Central America, virtually unknown and undiscovered by the rest of the world. The infamous Dartoid found them once. I was about to find them again.

Over and double out.


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