|La Coca Falls, El Yunque Forest|
El Yunque is a National Forest and part of the National Forest system-- it is also the only national forest that is a tropical forest! The park is located in the mountains, where it rains daily as clouds pass through daily and release their rain as they pass through the forest. Upon arriving we were welcomed with the most refreshing, steady rain. The sun shined, and for once, the rain didn't feel like a burden, instead it was easily accepted and enjoyed by myself and the forest too.
The forest does charge a small fee if you want to visit the visitors center, but otherwise, all the trails and viewing areas are free. I suggest a visit to the welcome center, it was a great way to see the variety of people visiting- we saw a high school/middle school group on picture day, in the forest. They all were dressed in white, with their hair done, clothes pressed, looking pretty fabulous. The center also provides information about the tropical forest, species there, products from forests like these, conservation, and so on.
The forest was a very beautiful place, photos do not do it justice. Also, there are a lot of pictures, giving you some seriously fair warning-- but I'm not sorry :) enjoy:
|The post right outside our guest house had Puerto Rican Woodpeckers on it every morning!|
|These woodpeckers are endemic to Puerto Rico - you can't find them really anywhere else! It sounds similar to other woodpeckers when it vocalizes, so when I heard the call without seeing the bird- my first instinct was woodpecker!|
|It acted like a robin, looked like a gray scale robin, and ran around on the ground like a robin...|
|I was not alarmed to find out that the red-legged thrush is a thrush, like our American Robin. With a thicker bill, these guys were mostly seen near the ground, foraging in mud along the roadsides.|
|A view from a parking area.|
|The coast from the top of Yokahu tower- a great vantage point for great views!|
|The tower is an easy climb- and I have height issues, especially with grated metal stairs-- like those in lighthouses... these were solid and I made it to the top with no problem!|
|And that is El Yunque, with a height of just over 3,500 feet above sea level.|
|A face in the mountains|
|A black-cowled oriole|
|A large tree snail on the side of a picnic gazebo as we hiked to La Mina Falls.|
|Little and flitty-- also very common and always calling, the Bananaquit.|
|So apprently there are mammals on PR, the introduced mongoose. They were of course brought over in attempt to control rat populations.|
|I enjoyed their reminders along the trail to take your trash with you.|
|I watched this little PR Crested anole climb a stem to catch something yummy.|
|When he reached this point he encountered a stink bug that was just about as big as he.|
|....And so he retreated and left me with a typical rainforest photo op.|
|This I have ID'd as the Trunk Crown Anole, Anolis stratulus. And there is one very distinct feature on him that helps in identification....|
|Amazing stilt roots!|
|A spiny orb weaver hung tight over the trail on its web.|
|Getting closer to La Mina falls...|
|And there it is! You could take a dip in the waters at the bottom of the falls- but the water is quite chilly.|
|Tim got under the falls, braving the chilly mountain river water to get this shot with his goPro.|
|Our bed & breakfast hostess, Nilda, was very proud of her Puerto Rican heritage, she taught us about her rock garden and how each rock was special, and how she saw something more than a rock. She took great pride in her rocks and had a closeness with the land she lived on. She also showed us many of her belongings, relating to Taino culture including a painting of a Taino woman in front of the waterfall- she assured us that we would see this woman in the falls when we get there. She asked us to do one thing on our visit to the forest, and that was to bring her back a rock that we could see more than just a rock.|
I found this rock... as I dropped my camera into the river (and it is thankfully in the process of being repaired). But I was super stoked to get it back to Nilda, it was the woman in the falls! She was so overcome with happiness and adored this rock. The lady is not afraid to show her affection, she will shower you in hugs if you asked her to- she was so happy that we brought this back to her. I was really happy to find it and share it with her to keep forever. If you are ever looking for an incredibly hospitable place to stay in the amazing mountain forest, I highly recommend Nilda and her La Paloma Guest House. She took such great care of us, cooked for us, introduced us to her family-- the very least I could do was find her the best rock in all of El Yunque!
Nilda really made it important to let her guests know that they should look at things not only with their eyes but with their heart, and her belief in doing just that really resonates with me.