Sunday, August 28, 2016

Adventure in Puerto Rico: Day 4

On Saturday we visited El Yunque National Forest.

(See the green symbols for Saturday)

El Yunque is the only tropical rainforest in the US National Forest system.  Note the word "tropical"--we live next to a temperate rainforest here.  And we stayed close to the tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico, too.
Prepare for lots of pictures.  I can't identify most of these plants, but it was amazing to see them just growing there.

Instead of the fir trees and ferns in our temperate rainforest, El Yunque has tree ferns.  See that fiddlehead in the middle?
We began at the El Portal visitors' center, where we entered for free with D2's fourth-grade national park pass.  There we learned about the different layers of the forest.  There are four distinct zones as you go up the mountain, each with its own flora and fauna.
We also spoke with a helpful man who sat at a round desk, surrounded by plant samples.  He showed us how to cut up sugarcane, and let us suck on some pieces.  He also showed the boys how to tickle mimosa leaves to make them fold up, and he showed us a map of the trails.

We drove to the top of the road.
 On the way we saw thickets of bamboo,
 vines that looked swingable,
big leaves,
dew-covered berries,
tree snails,
cascading rivers,
and more big leaves.

 Parking along the loop at the top, we sat in the car, eating our sandwiches, hoping to wait out the rain that met us there.  Again, that didn't work.  So we got out our jackets and the new umbrella, and headed up the trail.  It was a rainforest, after all.  Rain was not a surprise.
We hiked along a river.  Sometimes small tributaries crossed our path.  Dandelionslayer and I splashed through happily, wearing our water shoes.
 We ascended between the palms,
with their weird roots,
 and we found more, and bigger, epiphytes everywhere.
 We didn't see many birds, but we found plenty of snails
and a few lizards.  The stars of El Yunque are the coquí frogs.  We never saw one, but we heard them chirping all through the forest.
Sheltered by the canopy, I wasn't sure when the rain stopped. But soon we closed the umbrella and removed our jackets.
 This reminds me of juniper,
 and this looks like parsley growing on a tree.
Some of the air plants were blooming.
 Eventually we moved out of the palm forest

and into the cloud forest.
 Here we found a new set of flora,
 still beautiful
 and intriguing.
 We spotted some butterflies,
 and their flowers.
 Finally we reached the top of El Yunque Peak,
 where stands an observation tower at 3,543 feet,
apparently built by the Spanish.
 On a clear day, I'm sure you can see forever,
but we arrived at a more typically cloudy time.
 Down we went again,

spotting more flowers on the way.
 The sun came out again.
 And we found a little lizard,
that liked the Caterpillar's sock.
 Then we drove down the mountain to another trail
 that took us to La Mina Falls.
Rollo elected to stay nominally dry,
but the rest of us took the plunge.  The water was not too cold.  The basin was full of slippery rocks, and the water pounded down.
There wasn't really any room behind the falling water, but Dandelionslayer found a way to get under the right side.
I wore the new rash guard and board shorts I'd made--perfect for such occasions.
The river left a weird taste in my mouth.  But it sure was a thrill to get in it!  It was a beautiful day in the rain forest.

For more of the adventure, see:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 5
Day 6


  1. Wow! Just beautiful. What's a rash guard?

  2. That's what surfers call a shirt made for swimming. Sounds like something else, though, doesn't it?