{ El Yunque Rainforest }

Aaron had planned out all of the activities we were going to do all week, and each day we would finalize the activities for the next day at the front desk. Some of the day trips that left from the resort had a minimum number of people that needed to sign up for them to take the tour. We had planned on taking our tour to Old San Juan today, but at the last minute it got switched to taking our hike through the El Yunque Rainforest.

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I swapped out my necklace for a pair of tennis shoes and we were on our way. We got lucky and had a tour guide that is a forest ranger at the rainforest. His name was Frank, and he was on vacation leave from work, but agreed with the resort to do this tour. He was a local and the whole trip on the bus to the rainforest he clued us in on everything about Puerto Rico. More on that when I blog about our visit to old San Juan, but he did let us know some great local foods and restaurants within walking distance from the resort we could go to.

One of the things he told us was how the weather is always 50% chance of rain. When we looked at the weather for the week we were a bit worried and thought that we would see rain the whole week. He laughed and said the weather forecast is always 50% chance of rain-and 50% of the time they are right.El Yunque Rainforest blog-3We ended up having overcast weather for most of the trip, and any sprinkles were missed by us because the tree cover was so massive where we were walking. We stopped by a waterfall at the beginning of the trail, and then took a small hike for the next few hours in the rainforest. We took our hike on the Bano De Oro Trail, a small trail that most of the other tourist usually don’t take. It was nice to have it all to ourselves and get a lot of first hand information from our expert guide. El Yunque Rainforest blog-30Baño de Oro is a former swimming hole. The water hole takes its name from the Río Baño de Oro, which feeds the pool. The name means 'bath of gold' in English, and Spaniards gave the river this name because they mined for gold here in the 16th century. The Baño de Oro Natural Area surrounding the pool is the catchment area for the river and pool.
El Yunque Rainforest blog-6rainforest 1El Yunque Rainforest blog-4This is the old swimming house that the trail got it’s name from. It is so crazy how the forest has almost just enveloped the whole building. The rainforest gets about 200 inches of rain a year, so everything there grows super fast. It didn’t take long for the building to be almost completely hidden in the mass of trees.El Yunque Rainforest blog-8El Yunque Rainforest blog-10With so much rain, there wasn’t just moss on the shady side of a tree here, but everything was covered is this soft green layer of moss. I think if we would have stood still long enough, we would have started sprouting a little of the green stuff as well. Our guide wanted to make sure we knew this was a touching forest, and encouraged us to touch everything. The moss felt like a layer of feathers that grew out of the wood, it was so soft.El Yunque Rainforest blog-12El Yunque Rainforest blog-13El Yunque Rainforest blog-16El Yunque Rainforest blog-18We hiked by a small stream that continued to waterfall down the whole mountain. Our guide said that is was their local, “Fountain of Youth”. They believed it would keep them young forever. We took turns having a drink, and he told us a story about this tree on the other side of the trail.

I loved how Frank was so sincere in all he did. You could tell he loved what he did, and found a lot of peace out here in the Lord’s creations. He told how he used to be in the military and after returning from being deployed in Desert Storm he was having a hard time with PTSD, and had turned to a lot of the things the world had to offer to help (drinking and other addictions). He became depressed and really wanted a change. He showed us this tree..El Yunque Rainforest blog-21..and explained that when he got this job and was able to be out here in the rainforest day in and day out, his life took a sharp bend, just like this tree. He became happy and well from his PTSD. It was such a touching moment to be out there and feel his testimony that someone else in this universe cared about his well being. He got choked up, and you could tell how much happiness this place brought him. The rainforest was fun to hike through, and interested to see, but to see his love for it, really make the trip worth it. I think I will always remember him when I think of our hike that day.El Yunque Rainforest blog-20El Yunque Rainforest blog-17El Yunque Rainforest blog-23We had hoped to see some beautiful birds there that day, but there were quite a few people there hiking and I think most of the birds were scared off. We did see a lot of small creatures that Frank pointed out to us along the way. Snails, walking sticks, sounds of birds, and the sound of the famous Puerto Rican Coqui frog. We didn’t get a picture of one, but they make this really loud chirping sound, almost like a bird, and there are suppose to be 800 of them in every cubic foot of the forest. That makes for some really loud sounds at times in there. It wasn’t necessarily a quite place.El Yunque Rainforest blog-11El Yunque Rainforest blog-25El Yunque Rainforest blog-28El Yunque Rainforest blog-14El Yunque Rainforest blog-19They had some itty bitty orchids that would grow on the side of trees or on the underside of leaves. This one was about the size of a small pea. It was so small, yet every little detail was still intact. It was quite amazing. It’s the yellow and red thing on the upper leaf.El Yunque Rainforest blog-22El Yunque Rainforest blog-27El Yunque Rainforest blog-15El Yunque Rainforest blog-29There were rocks along the way that showed proof of how the island was formed from hot volcanic rock that would slide down and cool, and of course would then grow moss on it, just like everything else here.El Yunque Rainforest blog-24El Yunque Rainforest blog-26El Yunque Rainforest blog-31El Yunque Rainforest blog-32As our touring was coming to an end, we topped the summit to take some pictures, and then the rain started. We couldn’t have asked for better timing. The clouds hung so low and just kind of hung on the mountain the rest of the day. We could see the mountain from our resort, and it was beautiful and sunny there, and then cloudy on the mountain. I guess with 200 inches of rain a year, it pretty much just rains all the time. El Yunque Rainforest blog-33When we got back to the resort we decided to take a walk down by the Marina into town to eat lunch at a local place. The meal that everyone had recommended was a dish called Mofongo. Mofongo is a mashed mound of plantains into which a combination of seafood, meat, or vegetables is added. It can be served as a side dish or a main course accompanied typically by beans and rice. They mash up the plantains and form it into this sort of bundt cake shape, then the meat is put into the middle and inside of it. There was a ton of meat that was served with it, and the plantains tasted kind of like potatoes. I didn’t happen to take any pictures, but I found this picture from online (friendseat.com) that is pretty close to what ours looked like. Aaron had a kind of fish with his, and I had some shrimp, and then some beans and rice on the side. Our was also topped with your choice of sauce like this one is. We really had no clue what any of the sauces were like, so just had the man put on his favorite one, and it turned out great. It was nice to taste a little of the authentic local fair.image

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