Who’s Abroad!

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El Yunque National Forest by Joshua Casey

June 2nd, 2015 · No Comments

Today we visited El Yunque National Forest.  El Yunque is the only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest system and has been a federal forest reserve for over 100 years.  Our first stop in El Yunque was to visit La Coca Falls.  Due to the dry weather the region has been having, the falls were not running as they normally would, but it was still a beautiful sight.  Next we stopped at Yokahu tower which is an observation point in the forest that offers an amazing view of the forest.  After leaving the tower, we were given the opportunity to take the 2.4 mile hike to El Yunque peak. The hike normally takes 1.5-2 hours to reach the top and the same to get back down. With our pace, we managed to reach the top in a hour and back down in just 45 minutes.  It was a fun, but a tiring hike that was worth every minute of it.  After returning to the bottom of the trail, we went to cool off in the river at a swimming hole in the reserve.  There was a rope tied off a tree on the one side that people were using to swing and jump in. It was interesting to see that even young children, that appeared to be 5-6 years old, were allowed to climb up and do this.  Of course a day in the rain forest isn’t complete until you get caught in the rain and that’s exactly what happened on the walk back to the van.  It seemed to come out of nowhere, but was refreshing on a hot day. I did learn a lot of interesting things during the trip to the forest such as at different elevations there is drastically different amounts of rain. The higher elevations of the forest can see over 250 inches of rain in a year while the lower elevations typically get 50-60 inches of rain.  It was also intriguing to find out that unlike most rain forests there are no large animals in El Yunque.  This is because Puerto Rico was formed from volcanic activity during the Triassic period and there has never been a land bridge to any continent so all the animals in Puerto Rico arrived by flying, swimming or floating.  The largest mammals in El Yunque are mongooses, rats and bats.  But, there are reptiles such as the Puerto Rican Boa which can grow up to six feet.  Also, it was very surprising to learn that there are no poisonous animals or insects within the forest.

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