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Thursday, February 10, 2011

El Yunque National Forest Park [finally!]

Yesterday, spent the entire day in the only US designated tropical rainforest, El Yunque (pronounced "el joon-keh"). The tropical rainforest lies completely within the boundaries of the El Yunque National Forest, part of the U.S. Forest Service. It consists of a small crescent shaped band that lies over the tops of the peaks of the forest, located near the eastern end of Puerto Rico. At the top of the rainforest lies a narrower band of the forest in which plant life is stunted due to a thinner layer of soil at higher elevations on the rocky mountain, as well as higher winds. The photo in the title of the blog is of El Yunque peak in the fog and clouds.

I've posted a wide range of photos from the day's outing, below. We were led by the top rated guide on Trip Advisor for El Yunque, Luis Robles, who was recommended by, of all people, Carole's manicurist at the El San Juan Hotel, Sonia. It was only coincidental that I looked him up and found that he was top rated, and he did more that meet our expectations. A self taught naturalist, guide, former fisherman, Vietnam vet, and Puerto Rican-born, US resident, Luis was a friendly, knowledgeable guy who taught us more than we could ever remember.

Luis [or Louis, or "Louie", he said any of these names work for him], pointing out an Australian eucalyptus:

So here are the results of the day's excursion, not in any particular order except how I want you to see them.

Coca Falls

View from Yokahu Tower, looking down toward the rainforest. The sun poked through the mist for a moment here.

Yokahu Tower. It is basically an observation tower in which you can see marvelous sites from all directions.
 La Mina Falls trail. This is a 1.4 mile roundtrip trail under a tropical canopy of palm and other trees that winds steeply up and down to a waterfall. Was huffing and puffing on this hike, described as "moderate" but I was winded and drenched when I reached the falls, and low on water for the return trip.

La Mina Falls trail.  There are several rustic shelters to stop and take a breather.

La Mina Falls. I was just lucky I guess to get the pretty girl in the shot.

La Mina Falls.
Breadfruit Tree. The breadfruit tree is a majestic, dark leaved specimen that can reach heights of 85 feet (26 meters). The fruits appear at the tips of the branches in groups of three or less, starting out green and ripening to rich brown or lavender in some varieties. Native to the South Pacific, it was introduced to Puerto Rico. The fruit is edible.

White flowers, with lavender color leaves. 

Plantain and inflorescence (the large bud that opens as a flower. Bet you didn't know what that was called!)

Tree snail.


Anole staredown.

Matapolo Tree. Notice the roots that snake across the ground. These roots can grow to stand up to four feet high.

Taino indian face in the rock. Can you see it? We don't know if it was a natural formation or carved by the indigenous indian tribe, the Taino.

Australian eucalyptus.

I came across a recent news story: Ancestral Photo Discovered: Taino Queen Ananana. See any resemblance to someone you know?


Stephanie Stierhoff said...

Nice rainforest photos. You captured a great sampling of the flora and the fauna. I got a sense the humidity from your photos.

Larry G. said...

Ell Yunque was quite an experience.  The only disappointment was the lack of wildlife. You could hear the birds but not see them. The place also was quite spiritual--you could imagine the Taino people living there, running through the trees thousands of years before to hunt. They unfortunately were all but wiped out by the Spanish through war, slavery and European diseases.