Sunday, August 26, 2012

When you get lost...stop and enjoy the view.

Saturday morning, I sent Amanda a text that read, “There’s only a 30% chance of rain for today.  Want to go on an adventure?”  We decided to go hiking in the Toro Negro Forest in the afternoon—a state forest I had never been to, about an hour’s drive from where we live.  Jenni and Kelsey (and of course Josh) decided to come along, so by 12:30 the five of us were loaded into the car and headed west on the expressway.

My most trusted PR travel website had been down in the morning, so I didn’t have their easy to follow directions in hand, but I had mapquested our route and written down the directions.
It soon became apparent that it wasn’t going to be a day of easy travels, though.

First, we missed our exit on the freeway.  When we hit Ponce, we turned around, keeping our eyes peeled for the Juana Diaz exit.  We’d only gone 10 kilometers too far, and with the help of google maps on my phone, we found the correct road.

We turned onto PR 149, and had no trouble spotting our next turn onto PR 514.  The directions (and the gps map on my phone) told us to just stay on 514 until it intersected with PR 143.  We drove along the narrow, winding roads, and the hills became steeper and steeper.  Josh had his foot to the floor, and still the car crept up the blind hills at a snail’s pace.  We held our breaths, crossed our fingers, turned around another bend, and were met with…a dead end?  Wait.  That can’t be right.

Dead end on PR 514.  Don't let it get ya! 

We stopped the car and asked a local who was conveniently outside.  He told us to go back to the intersection with PR 5514 and turn there (definitely not on the directions).  We did that, and found our way to PR 143 eventually.  Once we got there, we were faced with the decision: follow the directions and turn right, or turn left, as the gps made it look like the state forest lay mostly in that direction?  We turned left.

Wrong answer.
After maybe 20 minutes of driving (on a wider, flatter, yet still mountainous road), we stopped, got out for a few pictures, and decided to turn around.  We stopped once more for directions and confirmed that yes, we should have turned right at the intersection.

Photo from our turn-around spot

We stopped twice more to confirm directions before we reached the Information Center of the forest.  We hopped out to pick up a trail map, (met a SUPER cute stray puppy), and found that the door was closed, and no one was around.  Though the station was supposed to be open until 4pm, looking at the guest book, it seemed no one had been there that day since 10:45am.  They must have decided to close up early.

locked doors.

SUPER cute stray puppy

By this time it was almost 3:30pm, and we knew we weren’t going to get a good hike in for the day.  One trail started right across the street from the ranger station (and was clearly labeled “Camino El Bolo”), so we decided to follow it for a bit.

We walked for about half an hour along the wide, lush path, before deciding that it wasn’t worth following the trail to completion, since we didn’t know where it was headed, whether it looped, or how long it was.  So, we turned around and made our way back to the car.

Camino El Bolo, Toro Negro Forest

On the plus side, we got a few good things out of the day.  We can get back to the forest pretty easily now (and next time it won’t take us 2 ½ hours to get there), we had an entertaining (and beautiful) drive through the mountains, and we still got an hour’s walk in the cloud forest out of it.
All in all, it was really a pretty good Saturday afternoon!

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