[Editor’s Note: Considering that the island of Puerto Rico as well other countries and territories are currently on lockdown as a precautionary measure in view of the COVID-19 pandemia, we find worthy to republish some ecotreasures ® articles in this issue. We exhort you to appreciate the privilege of engaging in outdoors experiences, admiring nature and bonding with others and Mother Earth as you read for the first time or again the story below. Nature is awaiting you so visualize your next nature encounters experience for future planning.]
Article originally published in March 2016 ecotreasures issue:
We arrived at Route # 191, the main road of El Yunque National Forest, a tropical rainforest and one of the most beautiful and rich forests in the island of Puerto Rico. This forest is located in the Municipality of Río Grande and is administered by the USDA Forest Service.
This time we headed towards Angelito Trail, which is accessed on Route #988, a forest road after El Portal Visitors Center.
While driving on Route #988, we first had to make a stop to explore the flora and fauna that greet you along the way. Be an adventurer and immerse in nature as both sides of this forest road surprise you with the tree snail (“Caracolus caracolla”). The light green color of this tree snail serves as a camouflage to hide among the plant life found at the sides of the road; so be cautious when you walk and explore around.
We had the luck to see how the tree snail cohabitates with mushrooms as well as another type of snail. The light orange- colored mushrooms are so beautiful that they look like small flowers.
Caution is also important to prevent touching flora that may be poisonous or may cause skin rash. We found the Ortiga brava plant (Urera baccifera), which may cause skin rash, as stated by Ms. Melba Ayala, tour guide from Enchanted Island Eco Tours.
Along this forest road, we also found a diversity of trees. Their freshness, pureness and vivid brown and green colors reflected a strong personality and at the same time a free spirit. These trees actually made us feel that they were guarding us on our path to Angelito Trail. Especially, the mahogany trees (“caoba” in Spanish) standing out at the left side of this road. These trees were planted around 60 years ago as part of a reforestation program implemented at El Yunque, according to Ms. Ayala.
As we kept walking along the left side of this forest road and right before a bridge known as “El Puente Roto” (The Broken Bridge), we found a red flower known as the “smoking pipe” (Odontonema cuspidatum) due to its long and curved shape resemblance to a smoking pipe. Under this bridge, about which I must say it does not look broken, we appreciated part of Mameyes River.
After driving for around two minutes from the bridge location, we finally reached the starting point of Angelito Trail. This trail let us immerse deeper in the forest as we had more direct contact with nature surroundings. This time we didn’t have to make drive stops to be able to explore better nature. This time we were in and at nature and it became part of us. While hiking on this trail we had the chance to admire bundles of trees all around us while listening to the relaxing water-floating sounds of streams and the Mameyes River.
Exploration led us to find small holes at a soil wall that serves as habitat for nests of the Puerto Rican endemic San Pedrito bird (Todus mexicanus), as explained by Ms. Ayala. We kept hiking and found fern trees known as “Helecho Gigante” or “Helecho Arbóreo” (Cyathea arborea), a Puerto Rico endemic tree. This one is among the few fern species that has a tall stem, forming a tree.
Later, we discovered one of my favorite trees: the bamboo tree. The bamboo trees were all bundled, standing out among the rest of the flora nearby. Again, we found guardians of nature.
At Angelito Trail, we were also surrounded by Tabonuco trees (Dacryodes excelsa), which comprise 50% of the tall trees in this rainforest, according to the tour guide. Ms. Ayala explained that the tree sap (“sabia” in Spanish) from the Tabonuco tree was used by Taíno indigenous people for aromatherapy due its odor, as glue to create canoes and as fire extender for torches.
Other trees we found while hiking Angelito Trail were the Palo Colorado tree (Ternstroemia luquillensis) and the Espino rubial tree (Zanthoxylum martinicense), which common names were identified by Ms. Ayala.
Then we glanced at a beautiful blue flower plant (Psychotria brachiata) that looked shy from a distance, but at a closer look let us appreciate a very vivid flower.
The water flow through streams created the perfect ambiance to keep hiking Angelito Trail towards one of the river mouths of the Mameyes River: an impressive natural pool. According to Ms. Ayala, this natural pool is around 8 feet deep. Big rocks around this ecotreasure made this area a perfect one for great photographs.
Those interested in a guided tour in Angelito Trail may contact Enchanted Island Eco Tours by phone or email. T.: 787-888-2887 or 787-564-9827. E: firstname.lastname@example.org. Guided tours availability: 8:30 am- 7:00 pm.
Yunque Forest’s hours of operation: 7:30 am- 6:00 pm.
Note: El Yunque Tours, formerly known as Enchanted Island Eco Tours, provides hiking guided tours at Angelito Trail. Current telephone number: 939-221-2013. E: email@example.com