Tuesday, March 5, 2013

La Coca Trail: El Yunque


This Sunday, Josh and Amanda and I decided to try out a new trail in El Yunque—La Coca Trail.  We got an early start because we planned to take our time and explore the forest at the three river crossings we’d read that we would encounter on the trail. 

At the first river crossing, there was very little water flowing, and the river was only ankle deep.  A glance to the left, though, showed us a waterfall just upriver.  We trooped over to it and spent some time taking photos and climbing up to the top of it.  There really wasn’t enough water to swim, so we returned to the path after not too long. 

Waterfall #1

Some time after the 2nd river crossing (little more than a trickle of water), we saw a larger waterfall off to our right.  A trail led off the main trail and down to the river—but not to the big waterfall we’d seen.  So we climbed up around the smaller waterfall the trail had taken us to.  This required a bit of work…a muddy, steep slope without a lot of footholds.  With the help of a tree branch that Josh held to give Amanda and I something to grab onto and pull ourselves up with, we made it up with not a lot of trouble.  And we were rewarded with a nice pool at the bottom of the waterfall.  The water was chilly, but refreshing after our climb. 

Waterfall #2 

We spent a while enjoying the view, and playing around on the waterfall, then found our way back to the trail.  The climb down the waterfall didn’t go quite as smoothly as the way up, but other than a small scrape on my shin and some dirt on my shirt, we all survived no worse for the wear. 

When the trail ended at the final (and biggest) river, we encountered another group of hikers.  They said they’d heard of a big waterfall—about 40ft, and asked if we knew which direction that fall lay.  We had no idea, but we decided to go down river for a bit and see if we could find it. 

We walked down the river (well, Amanda and I walked…Josh bounded).  We found some small falls after about 15 minutes and decided to stop there for lunch, as it didn’t seem that there were any huge drop-offs coming up.  The view was beautiful, especially as the sun came out and glinted off the water and made the river boulders shine. 

River "crossing" #3 (walking down the river) 

After lunch, we returned to the trail, met up with the other group of hikers again (they hadn’t found the falls either), and trucked it back up the path.  We made it back up to the car in less than an hour because we didn’t stop at any of the river crossings.  (The way down had taken us just under two hours, waterfall explorations included).  The last leg of the trail is all uphill on the way back, and we agreed that for once El Yunque’s rating of “challenging” for the hike was actually fairly accurate.  We ended the trail sweaty and content! 

As we left El Yunque, we decided to reward our efforts with some ice cream.  We stopped at a little place called Caña where they sell ice cream and natural candies…and sugar cane juice!  I watched the guy feed sugarcane stalks into a juicer.  I’ve no idea what the sugar juice must taste like (sweet…I imagine) but it was a cool little place to see, and a great way to end the day.  

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