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El Yunque

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Before I write about this, let me tell you that about the last thing I like doing is being in the outdoors when it's pouring rain.

But I did want to see El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest in the US national park system, so I went with Ron and Karen (who love the outdoors, hiking, etc) and Trish and Chris, who are also here from the bleachers, and we drove the 35 or so miles to El Yunque.

When they say it's a rainforest, well, yes, it rains a lot. We could see the storm clouds gathering as we were driving, and that's what it started to do shortly before we got there, and it did rain off and on as we were driving up to the start of a trail. You could see wild pink, white, purple and red impatiens growing on the side of the road -- these, of course, are common houseflowers in the USA, but they grow everywhere in the rainforest, as well as hundreds of other types of palms, ferns, and other vegetation.

Timing is everything. We did buy ponchos at one of the gift shops, but the rain let up just as we walked onto the hiking path. We hiked for about an hour, past a couple of really spectacular waterfalls, and finally found a ledge near the waterfall where we brought out the sandwiches we had packed and had lunch. The sun came out just long enough for that, and on the hike back, it started raining again. But with the rainforest canopy of trees, much of the rain never reached ground level. We heard the "co-qui" cry of the tree frogs that live in this rainforest, the call that gives them their name. Never did see any wildlife up close, though there were warning signs that we should avoid any mongoose (which populate this park) that appear rabid. The rangers told us that a healthy mongoose will run from humans, but a rabid one will run up and bite. Fortunately, we didn't have to decide which was which, because we didn't see any in the park.

I'm still not much for the outdoors -- really, give me a nice hotel room with cable or satellite TV on vacation -- but frankly, this is a don't-miss sight, and something you all should do if you ever have the chance to come to Puerto Rico.

To give you an idea of how guidebooks sometimes lead you astray -- we stopped on the way back in a town called Luquillo, which bills itself as the "St. Tropez of Puerto Rico" with "the most beautiful beach in Puerto Rico". Boy, was this a letdown. It is a nice beach on a lagoon, with nice views, but it's behind a pretty shabby looking strip of food stands, with trash strewn about and a few straggly palm trees. Plus, it started raining again, so we came back to San Juan. It was then that we finally saw a mongoose; luckily we were safe in the car by then, as it rummaged through the garbage.

Now, for something completely different -- tonight, the Astros play the Brewers in Milwaukee, with Roy Oswalt, just off the DL, starting for Houston. If the Brewers want to really help the Cubs out, as they did this past weekend, they'll win. If so, the Cubs will be one game up going into their series here tomorrow, and as of this date, the Cubs play no teams with a winning record the rest of the season, as the Expos fell to the .500 mark yesterday with their loss to the Marlins.