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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Piñones Trail: Biking, Beaches, Boardwalks, Birds, and a Blue Lizard

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Today, I rented a great little mountain bike to take a ride through the Piñones forest on a beach and boardwalk trail through the woods. Robert, owner of San Juan Bike Rentals (, has a great little business going where he delivers bikes, helmets, locks and a handlebar bag direct to your hotel/condo building. If you remember, last year I rented a rusty old clunker for this ride, but Robert's bike was a nearly new ProdecoTec X3 V3 mountain bike. 

Me and my mountain bike

The Pinones trail starts at Punta Cangrejob, a cape east of the town of Loiza. The trail winds through ramshackle bars and outdoor eateries like the one seen below that look abandoned during the week but are lifely during the weekends. 

La Casa del Miami Vice,

The first views of the trail are of the ocean beaches. 
Beach View from the trail

The trail passes through thick forest on the right, more beaches, then turns sharply into the woods. It was very hot and I only stopped when I heard or saw birds, so I have no photos of the woods themselves.
Beach-side boardwalk section of trail

Once in the woods, I did see a few examples of local wildlife. Puerto Rico is not known for a great deal of wildlife, but I photograph what I do see. 

Northern Mockingbird

This mockingbird has a great call, actually, many calls, and when I heard him, I was looking high in the trees trying to find him. After a few moments I noticed he was on a branch literally 30 feet away, in full view, and didn't move as I brought out the camera and began to take some shots. If you have sound, you can hear samples of these calls here:

Northern Mockingbird
This blue lizard appeared quickly as I rounded a turn, and skittered off the trail. I was able to get a few quick shots before he was gone. 

Blue-Tailed Almeiva Ground Lizard 

Blue-Tailed Almeiva Ground Lizard 

 At first I thought this was a mourning dove, but on closer inspection, it is a Zenaida dove, named after the wife of the 19th century French ornithologist, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor Napoleon. UPDATED: CORRECTION Turns out this is a common ground dove on further inspection. Sorry, so no story about Bonaparte.
Zenaida Dove CORRECTION: Common Ground Dove

Tomorrow, we're off to the Barefoot Travelers B and B on the east side of the island for the night then an early morning walk through the Humacão Nature Reserve.  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Vacation Paradise: San Juan, Puerto Rico

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The big snow of 2016 had pretty much come and gone by the time we departed on our comfortable Jet Blue flight early on a Wednesday morning, but the prospect of warm ocean breezes in a lush tropical paradise made it very easy to forget that "Snowzilla 2016" had ever happened at all.

Upon arrival on the island, as you disembark from your aircraft,  you can't wait to peel away the sweaters and long sleeves of the colder northern climes to adjust to the sudden rush of warm humid air in the jetway and the blazing sunlight of a tropical afternoon. 

Ah, Puerto Rico, my heart's devotion...two weeks to unwind, reinvigorate, and  explore the sights and sounds and tastes, both old and new.

The image above is the view from our balcony room over Isla Verde Beach. The following images are a collection from our first few days.

View of Isla Verde Beach, ground level.

Carole with palm leaf rose

Greater Antillean Grackle

Cattle Egret in a kerfluffle

Young man making palm leaf hats and flowers

Carole, late afternoon on the beach.

Patient customer awaits her treat

Water nymph 

Carole in sun flare.

Late afternoon view from the beach chair.