I love to play golf and basketball, watch football and even fish (I mean I will even bait my own hook), but camping and hiking, well, that’s a different story. See, I had my fill of camping and hiking during seven years with the U.S. Army. Now my idea of camping is the Holiday Inn Express with a late checkout time, and hiking is a leisurely stroll in the local mall.
So imagine my face as my daughters revelled in that fact that we would be spending quality time hiking in the El Yunque Rain Forest. For nearly a year, we decided a family vacation was long overdue. (Aside: Hands down I believe I quite possibly am kin to the most erratic, but fiercely loving family in the world.) So we three ladies decided to venture to La Isla Encanto, Puerto Rico for a five-day retreat.
As the days quickly approached for our vacation, I began to realize I did not at all parallel my daughters in the growing excitement of this trip and I secretly prayed for rain on our hiking trip (oh, I forgot it is a “rain” forest). The idea of nearly a full week of interaction with my daughters was exciting, except the hiking part.
We landed in San Juan on a sweltering afternoon and were immediately greeted by a throng of beautiful natives. The sweet harmony of their voices wafted through the airport and my interest in this adventure was heightened. I began to look forward to a chance to try my hand in the art of relaxation: a practice I had lost years ago. Granted, while I am no ardent swimmer, nor does my skin take too kindly to the rays of the sun, I was willing to completely indulge in the lifestyle of the natives and soak it up.
Our taxi dumped us off at a posh resort with luxurious décor and friendly staff. The three of us did not seem to mind waiting 30 minutes to check in, as we were struck in awe by the lavish setting that was to be our home away from home for the next several days. Our rooms were divine and I had to catch my breath as I stepped out into the balcony with the warm sun shining fiercely and the Atlantic Ocean roaring ever so invitingly against the boulders. The blessings have always been so plentiful in my life. It never fails when I stop to observe it; I am continually moved beyond words.
This was serenity.
For the next several days we took part in exploratory leisure, spending time with the locals and taking in all the city’s historical sites. Then the day arrived — I emerged from my down bed and the rising sun signaled an impending catharsis. My eyes shot wide open. Peaking through the shades, the sun yawned and personally introduced me to a new day. This was no ordinary sun salutation, there was an uncanny sense of pride in its greeting; a day set aside for “hiking.”
The hour-long trip to the rainforest was accompanied by a stop at one of the roadside stands for roasted pig. And then we continued on the winding road towards El Yunque. As we passed the trees, the larger than life leaves seemed to fan the car and wave us through…it was as if magical. The birds, the sounds, the waterfalls, the smells, all caused my heart to yell: “Magnificent, Marvellous, Awestruck, Wondrous Creation, Breathtaking, and Exquisitely Divine.”
The day trip to El Yunque Rainforest was more than I expected. It was a time for some insight into God’s creations — and awareness of how small, how insignificant we really are. I wanted to encapsulate this whole experience and put it in my suitcase and open it whenever I needed a whiff of calmness. This was NOT hiking, this was adoration and thanksgiving.
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