Descending Naked Into San Cristobal Canyon

By Robert G. Schill.

Three weeks ago we decided to take a ride in the mountains of central Puerto Rico and find this canyon, a volcanic rift, which is a part of the Fideicomiso de Conservación de Puerto Rico(Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico). Unlike Las Cabezas de San Juan Nature Reserve and several other locations within the Fideicomiso the Canyon has no tourist accessible areas. The area has been placed in a nature reserve but has no infrastructure for easy access. One of the few accesses to the canyon is across private property and down a very steep, muddy, slipper, washed out, path.

The view of the canyon from route #162, which is a mountain road between the towns of Barranquitas and Aibonito, was quite impressive. But, there in the distance was the canyon with it deep slash in the earth luring us. We asked a woman if there was any place for a better view of the canyon and she directed us to a local farmer who lives on a knoll above the gorge. We drove to his place where he was in the process of feeding his rabbits, goats, horse, and a small flock of chickens. And without hesitation he directed us to the edge of his property which looked down onto the River

Below me I witnessed one of the most beautiful and breathtaking waterfalls in Puerto Rico and there I wanted to spend some time. And of course the naturist in me was thinking “au natural time.”

Working into our schedule a day to re-visit the area and do an actual exploration was top priority on our list of things to do. And without hesitate when Míguel suggested today as The Day, the hiker in me was ready to go. And the always-prepared hiker in me made the final preparations the night before.

Arriving at the "Trail Head" early, during a slight drizzling rain, did not discourage us in the least. However, it would make for a slippery path which would introduce my derriere to the trail at least once on the way in to the rift. But first we had to talk to the landowner before we started out on the journey. Maria and her husband were resting on the front porch as we arrived. After telling them of our intention to hike into the canyon they showed us the way behind their home. There we passed a large flock of guinea hens, cackling to one another out for a morning feed.

The grassy grown up field had evidence of some foot traffic into the canyon—trampled grass. Then within a few minutes we entered a scrubby area with a trail of red clay, slippery and muddy because of the morning rain shower. And here it only took a few minutes for me to realize that more care would be needed in the decent to the waterfalls that I so much wanted to visit. Let it be noted that the tread on Míguel's hiking boots was in a slightly more worn condition than mine and he was cautious enough to stay upright during his decent that is only suitable for the experienced Cabra Montesa (Mountain Goat). On our decent we noted that this trial is defiantly for the experienced adult hiker.

The effects of our breakfast were fast waning by the time we got to the rocky riverbed at the bottom of the trail. The sound of the waterfalls just around the bend in the river lured us on to enjoy our lunch in front of the pool that falling water had carved. There arranged for us by cosmic forces from the past was a log conveniently placed for a resting spot to view the falls. Tummies filled and thirst quenched it was time to just immerse ourselves into nature and relax. We stripped out off our sweat drenched clothes.

Exploring the pool I noticed that the water was teaming with small fish. And on the edge of the pool where the water was quite warm a mass of bright green algae grew. In the cooler waters the fish darted out of my way as I waded across the tiny stream to crawl on the rocks to get as close to the falls as I could. I would have loved to bath underneath the falls but the rocks were to steep to get under the water.

And then it started to rain.

As Míguel hurried to retrieve the poncho and protect our gear I was crawling on the rocks to the side of the pool. The rain fell harder and there really wasn't any reason to rush anywhere. I have been told I was sweet but I sure wasn’t going to melt. For about fifteen minutes it rained and I just sat there and enjoyed the downpour on my naked body. I think the shower from above was more refreshing than skinny dipping would have been.

After it stopped raining I retrieved my camera and took more photos of the area. And with the passing of the rain cloud we could enjoy the pleasant sunshine. Míguel reclined on a boulder and soaked in the sun and I went back to my rock climbing to have a photo of me taken at the bottom of the falls.

It was pleasing to know that this area was now in a nature reserve and protected from any further destruction. In the past during the late 1950's to the early 1970's the canyon was used as a garbage dump. Over the course of many years of flooding the only remnants of the past dumping of unusable items were rusted car parts. Most of the metal was so rusted that it was actually imbedded in the rocks of the river bed.

On the way out of the canyon Míguel reviewed with me some of the plants that are growing in the area. One of the plants that I was very familiar with was what I called an umbrae plant (Cyperus alternifolius). The name for it in Spanish is or Paper of the River, which is an appropriate name for a member of the Cyperus family. Another interesting tree was the Cupey (Clusia rosea). A nearby town is named after this tree, whose seeds are an important food source for Paloma Sabanera (Columba inornata wetmorei).The Puerto Rican Plain Pigeon is an endangered species with habitats in the central mountain of the island near Cidra.

We rested often to catch our breath as we crawling up the mountain and out of the gorge. And before we ascended our trail the Canyon lured us for another naked exploration down stream on our next visit. As usual I was tired from the journey but again, as usual, getting this kind of exercise is an exhilarating experience. And experiencing another one of nature's wonders au natural is always exhilarating. I am sure that the canyon will be a place that will become quite familiar with my naked skin. Thankfully this area will forever be a protected area for descending generations, au natural or not.

Robert G. Schill

Certified Tour Guide

Barefoot Adventures Puerto Rico


©Copyright 2005 Robert G. Schill-All rights reserved

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