Over the weekend, I met the love of my life! Let me explain why, as we indulge in the mystical beauty of the El Yunque National Forest in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
I have skied and conquered the snowcapped mountain of Mount Hood in Northern Oregon. I hiked the Reef Bay Trail in St. John, United States Virgin Islands. However, none was quite as fascinating as navigating through a rainforest.
The El Yunque National Forest also known as Bosque Nacional El Yunque is a subtropical rainforest that resides on the top of the Luquillo Mountains on the eastern end. This shaded mountainous tropical rainforest is home to a variety of tree and plant life as well as to birds such as the Puerto Rican Parrot, the Red Tail Hawk/Guaraguao and the Tody/San Pedro. The Colorado Forest, Guilarte Forest, Toro Negro Forest and the Tabunco Forest all make up the El Yunque National Forest.
After an hour-long drive from Old San Juan to El Yunque, I walked across a wooden bridge and was greeted warmly by the friendly staff who sat at the welcome desk in the El Portal Visitors Center. There was a small fee of $4.00, and in exchange, I received a map of the nature trails with the option of doing a self-guided tour or having an experienced Forest Tour Guide. Either which way, the journey lasted approximately one hour.
Inside the El Portal Visitors Center, there were exhibits geared explicitly towards highlighting the details of the plant and animal life that exists in the forest. In my opinion, it is important to stop here before going on a tour because it makes it easier to recognize the variety of plants that you will encounter on the nature trail. Afterwards, I watched a short film in the movie theatre, took some pictures of the waterfall in the middle of the center and officially began exploring this mysterious rain forest.
I drove as far as I could to the top of the forest. On my way, there were tall bamboo trees that lined both sides of the road. I stopped and photographed the waterfalls that were flowing down the rocks and landed in a small pool of water. Some people attempted to hike on the slippery rocks, but I didn’t dare do that. Along the way, there was a little town that had shops and stores that sold cold beverages and souvenirs.
Finally, I stopped at the lookout point; the view was breathtaking! The mountainous terrains of the rainforest outfitted with tall lush green trees that covered every inch of land were beautiful. The sun shone brilliantly over El Yunque and the birds gently glided in the sky. I peered through a telescope, and I saw a closer version of the trees and birds. There were a plethora of a variety of tall trees that made this rainforest enchanting!
After admiring this natural beauty, I continued driving until I reached the tower. I climbed the long spiral staircase and made it to the top. The view was once again breathtaking. I could see far into the horizon from this height. After enjoying the cool breeze, I came down and walked around the grounds before I continued driving to the top.
When I arrived, there was a barricade with a sign that invited you to park your car and hike up to the top on foot. By this time, the evening was coming in, and there was a beautiful sunset. In the forest, there is only natural lighting, and since the sun was descending, I couldn’t hike the trail. Therefore, I took one last photo and turned the car around.
With the wind blowing in my hair and a big smile on my face, I drove away feeling honored to meet the love of my life finally…The El Yunque National Forest!
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