Friday, January 31, 2014

Snorkeling Parguera

La Parguera:  Cayo Caracoles

General Description:  Short chartered boat trip.  This is an easy snorkel in Mangrove Shallows and shallow reefs near and around Cays.  There is a wide range of accommodations Parguera.  

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Grid Coordinates: Parguera 17-58.444N 67-02.912W   Cayo Caracoles 17-57,758.N 67-02.176W

Maps:  Parguera TPR0042

Finding the Snorkel Area:   From San Juan, the journey to Parguera is a 3 hour trip over the central mountains of Puerto Rico.  Take the Caguas Highway #52 over the mountains to Ponce.  In Ponce merge onto Highway #2 towards Mayaguez travel for 30 miles then take the PR-116 15 miles to PR-304.  Turn left on PR-304 towards Parguera.  Once in Parguera, you can arrange a snorkel trip with a local dive/snorkel tour company. 

For our snorkeling for this day, we arrange a trip with Paradise Scuba and Snorkel Center in Parguera.   They have a store front in downtown Parguera across from the Parador Villa Parguera Hotel.  Follow PR-304 to the town of Parguera.  Turn right at the stop sign at the water there will be a small building that houses Parguera Boat Trips.  To arrange a trip in advance call 1-787-899-7611 or visit their website   A half day snorkel in the Morning or the Afternoon snorkel trip will cost $40.00 per person.

Snorkel Area Overview:   Like Guanica, La Parguera lies in Puerto Rico’s southern subtropical dry forest region.   Once a small underdeveloped fishing village it has become a center for fishing, dive, and snorkel tourism.  Once taking the short15-minutee boat ride to Cayo Caracoles the boat will dock at the buoy behind the Cay’s.   Cayo Caracoles is a set of Mangrove dominated reef Islands.  These Islands hold a diverse set of sea resources.   These Mangrove reefs are known for being an underwater wildlife nursery.  Where young marine life are there to mature and develop for a life in an open coral reef environment.  Parguera and Cayo Caracoles is just one small snorkel area that lies on the eastern side of the Bosque Estatal De Boquerón (Boquerón State Forest) near the town of Parguera.

Snorkeling Instructions:   This will be a guided snorkel through the mangrove reef and Cay channels.  When you first leave the Dive Boat you will snorkel the back side or leeward side of the Cay’s.  You will then snorkel a narrow channel to the reef that is on the windward side of the Island.    This channel is used as a transportation hub for fish between the Leeward and windward side of the Island.  On our snorkel we viewed immature Barracuda and sea turtles.   Once being lead from the leeward and windward side of the Island you will be given an hour or two to snorkel and explore on your own.  Remember to be safe and snorkel with a buddy.  Always respect the Captains or guides instructions on what time to be back to the boat. 

Map of Parguera
Leaving Cayo Caracoles
Paradise Scuba

Brown Chromis

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Burgess and Cummins Falls State Parks

If you are traveling on Interstate 40 through middle Tennessee these 2 state parks are a must see.  They are a short drive from exit 286 in Cookeville TN.   We went to Burgess falls in the morning. Then had lunch in Cookeville. Then went to Cummins Falls in the afternoon.  Both are located on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau, part of the Cumberland River Watershed.

These are smaller state parks.  The round trip hike to Burgess Lower Falls was 1.5 miles.  As you hike to the Lower Falls you see the lower and middle falls in succession.

Cummins Falls was .8 miles round trip.   I want to go back here in the summer to take the dogs.  There are some of the best swim holes in the state here.   These are pools of limestone-purified water at the base of the falls.   These are great for swimming and escaping the summer heat.   Also full of smallmouth bass for fishing.

Burgess Upper Falls

Burgess Middle Falls

Burgess Lower Fall

Burgess Lower Falls

The River after the Falls

Cummins Falls 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Snorkeling Guanica State Forest

Bosque Estatal De Guánica: Gilligans Island

General Description:  Ferry Ride to Gilligans Island.  Easy Swim/snorkel in Mangrove shallows.  There is a wide range of accommodations from camping to luxury hotels.  This is a very unique experience; Bosque Estatal De Guánica is a marvelous place.

 Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Grid Coordinates: 17° 56.494', -66° 52.493'

Maps:  USGS TPR5964558, Punta Verraco, PR; USGS TPR5964576, Guanica, PR

Finding the Beach:   From San Juan, the journey to Bosque Estatal De Guánica (Guanica State Forest) is a 2 hour trip over the central mountains of Puerto Rico.  Take the Caguas Highway #52 over the mountains to Ponce.  In Ponce merge onto Highway #2 towards Mayaguez travel for 30 miles then take the PR-116 exit to Guanica.  In the town of Guanica take PR-333 follow the signs to Bosque Estatal De Guánica.   Follow PR-333 out of the town of Guanica along the east side of the bay entering Bosque Estatal De Guánica follow PR-333 to Copamarina Beach Resort on the right.  Park in the resort parking lot; go to the front desk to pay for the boat ride out to Gilligans Island. 

There is also a ferry at San Jacinto Restaurant which is the first right after the Copamarina Resort off of PR-333.  Turn right drive about 100 meters it will be on the right, on the bay.

Beach Overview:    Bosque Estatal De Guánica is a marvelous subtropical dry forest region; with a great public beach and wonderful snorkeling opportunities all along its coast.  On this trip we stayed at the Copamarina Beach Resort and took the ferry to Gilligans Island, to snorkel and spend the morning relaxing in the sun and the ocean.   Gilligans Island is one of many Mangrove Island Reefs that outline the southern coast of Puerto Rice.  They are full of marine life and Beach recreational opportunities.   On Gilligans Island, you can find yourself a private beach with or without a picnic table.  Enjoy the beach, swim, and snorkel.  The beach is a favorite with locals and tourist alike.   You will see families playing in the water at the shallow beach on the leeward side of the island where the ferry docks. 

When taking the Ferry make sure to pack everything for an extended stay of a few hours or more.  Some Sunscreen, food, and water are recommended.  Have a snorkel and a picnic.  If staying at Copamarina you can have them pack you a food basket. 
If taking the San Jacinto ferry the restaurant has great fish and other local fare for sale.  If time allows this a great place to have lunch.

You won’t find Ginger, Mary Ann and Mr. Thurston on this Gilligan's Island, but you find fish, coral and a very good day on this small Island paradise.

Snorkeling Instructions:    Once the ferry docks it is a short walk down the boat dock board walk; then a short hike of just a couple of hundred meters to the windward side of the Island.   Find a private beach in the Mangroves and jump in.   Snorkel along the windward coast.  The island is held together with the roots of the mangrove tree.  These roots will extend into the water providing a habitat for marine life.  You will be swimming with the fishes, with the mangrove trees blowing in the sea breeze above.  Enjoy.

Guanica State Forest

The Ferry at San Jacinto Restaurant 

The view across the bay of Copamarina Resort 
Mangrove Trees

Mangrove Shallows

The Dock at Gilligans Island

The Beach at Gilligans Island

Gilligans Island from the Ferry 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Snorkeling Playa Cerro Gordo

Playa Cerro Gordo

General Description:  Moderate swim from the beach to the snorkeling area.  Bars and restaurants at the west end of the beach.  Cerro Gordo Beach and Natural Area offer family camping and recreational activities.

Degree of Difficulty: Moderate

Grid Coordinates: 18° 28.923', -66° 20.400'

Maps:  USGS TPR0071, Vega Alta, PR 

Finding the Beach:   From San Juan take coastal highway 22 west; to the Highway 2 at the Vega Baja exit about 10 miles.  Turn left onto highway 2; go under the overpass.  Turn left again on PR-690 past the on ramp heading back to San Juan.  Follow PR-690 north 6 miles to Playa Cerro Gordo.  From Dorado take PR - 693 west 4 miles to PR-690.  Turn right follow 690 north for 1 1/2 miles.

Once arriving at Playa Cerro Gordo at Carretera #690, in Cerro Gordo, Puerto Rico.  The Cerro Gordo Beach Complex entrance will be located on the right. 

Beach Overview:   Playa Cerro Gordo and Parque Nacional de Cerro Gordo are a wonderful combination of a Beach and National Park in Puerto Rico.  It offers beautiful scenery, snorkeling and beach activity.  My son and I took a day trip here.  We loved the family atmosphere and beach.  Right outside the official beach is Calle Principal with small local restaurants and bars. A person can watch the horses tied up along the avenue as you quench a thirst and fill a hunger after a long swim.   This is beach is away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist areas of Dorado.   It is a great place to relax and enjoy Puerto Rico the way the locals do.

To enter the official beach and park area stop at the manned gated entrance.   Pay then drive to the paved parking lot near the beach.  Hours of Operation: Monday to Sunday 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (May 15th to August 15th) 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.(August 16th to May 14th). Drive by the 100 yard past the entrance 690 will end at the Ocean.  You can turn right onto Calle Principal, park here to avoid the $3 entrance fee.
Entrance to Cerro Gordo Beach Park

Fees: Motorcycles $2.00, Autos $ 3.00, Mini-van $ 4.00, Autobuses $ 5.00
Camping areas:  Fees $13.00 per night.  Attractions and Services: Showers.

Telephone for more information: (787) 883-2730
Fan Coral 

Snorkeling Instructions:   The best place to start snorkeling is on the east side of the beach.   Enter the water just before the stream entering the bay swim 300 meters, toward the Island and inlet just past the eastern peninsula.   The best place is on the leeward side of the island and the inlet about 50 meters from shore. 

There will be an underwater rock and coral outcrop that you can snorkel around.  It will contain numerous coral species and many schools of fish.  Beware watch for the Lionfish in the between the rocks. 

View of Playa Cerro Gordo

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Chattanooga: The On-Going Adventure

You know I love me some Chattanooga.   So much that we keep a residence there, a condo that I bought for our son to live in while going to college.   We have been to Chattanooga many times before this and it is in my eyes one for the most scenic places in America.  Sitting along the Tennessee River it is nestled among the hills and crags of the Cumberland Plateau.   Lookout Mountain to the South, Seminary Ridge to the East, and Signal Mountain to the North create a majestic valley that is the city Chattanooga.

Like most great inland cities it is a River City.  The river being its first great mass transit system.    The Tennessee River gains its strength from the Cumberland Plateau to the west and the Appalachia Mountains to the east. In Chattanooga, the Tennessee turns west cutting a divide into the Plateau.  It will eventually turn north cutting Tennessee in two, giving the state its name and life blood.  

For good reason Chattanooga was voted by Outside Magazine readers their ultimate dream town; Oh Sweet Home Chattanooga.   There is so much to do in Chattanooga, hiking, biking and water sports.   Chickamauga Lake a damned portion of the Tennessee River 10 minutes to the north gives Chattanooga an extra dimension.   The inner city has undergone a transformation that includes some of the best restaurants in the state.
During Terri’s Christmas break we decided to spend a few days here.   It has been 17 years since we had been to the Tennessee Aquarium.  Now there is a completely new additional building that houses the sea water exhibits.   

We parked across the River in North Chattanooga and walked across the Market Street Bridge.    The aquarium anchors downtown and the waterfront, as expected the Aquarium was spectacular.  I was most impressed by the butterfly garden.  Imagine walking into a room filled with flowers, plants, and butterflies in the middle of winter.

We also took in an IMAX movie about the building of the Canadian Transcontinental railroad.  Taking this train trip has definitely gone on the bucket list.   This, for the most part, was the whole purpose of the movie, one gigantic travel advertisement.  Well, it worked on me.

The next day on our way out of town we decide to go to stop by Chattanooga Salvage and Architecture Exchange.   This was not your average antique store specializing in old house fittings, columns, doors, garden gates.  I suppose coming from torn down houses and buildings in the city.  You could feel the history of the city in this building and warehouse.   

Then the short 2 ½ hour drive back to Clarksville that still amazes even after all these years,  but the drive is starting to deteriorate.   Into the side of the plateau Houses are being built and a new mine and mining road to the top.   It drives home the importance of protection of these natural areas and the need to protect more of it.