Yesterday morning I went for a walk in Old San Juan with my wife and a friend. I had received a press release from the National Park Service announcing the inauguration of the first stretch of the “‘The Paseo Del Morro’, a Nationally Designated Trail, designated in 2001 and internationally recognized, which aims to connect natural, cultural and historic areas of the communities of Old San Juan, La Perla and Puerta de Tierra”.
At 10:00am there was an inaugural ceremony with the Major of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz, National Park Service Superintendent Walter J. Chavez and other state dignitaries. Of course, we weren’t invited to that ceremony, and frankly I didn’t care. All I wanted was to walk the stretch, make some pictures and draw my own conclusions like any regular tourist would.
The “Paseo Del Morro” starts at San Juan Gate and extends to the base of Fort San Felipe Del Morro. According to the National Park Service’s press release the walkway will eventually go all around the old city and end at ‘“La Princesa Bastion at Castillo San Cristobal’ across from the Capitol building’. In its present state the walkway is a little under a mile long. So, according to my calculations, the finished version should be somewhere around 3 miles long.
So what is exactly the “Paseo Del Morro” and why is it there? Well, when the Spanish colonial government built the city walls their objective was strictly military. The main concern was keeping the enemy out. To that end the walls ended at the water line. However, if they would have remained that way erosion would have destroyed them a long time ago.
To protect the walls the U.S National Park Service has slowly but steadily been depositing thousands of black volcanic boulders adjacent to the wall base that serve both as a breakwater that protects the foundation of the walls from erosion and as the base for the “Paseo Del Morro”. The result has been an ample and beautiful walkway that also assures that the San Juan Walls will actually be there for the enjoyment of future generations.
From the “Paseo Del Morro” you can see Fort San Juan de La Cruz “El Cañuelo” across the bay and the old leper hospital. Both of these structures are in the municipality of Cataño about 10 miles west of the San Juan Metroplex. And if you really want to see a stunning view of Fort San Felipe del Morro that’s the place to see it from.
Another interesting feature is when you arrive at the fort itself. Notice the massive stone upon which the fort is built. These Spanish engineers really knew there stuff.
And here’s a piece of trivia for you. Did you know that the original fort that was going to be commissioned to protect the entrance to San Juan Bay was “La Fortaleza” (presently known as Santa Catalina Palace)? That’s right. But someone dropped the ball and built the place too far in, where it wasn’t effective at all. So I guess you could say that the present governor’s mansion was a mistake from the beginning.
The walk took about 30 minutes at a slow pace. And it was hot… really hot!!! The blistering Caribbean sun, and the fact that there isn’t a single shade along the way, marred what would have otherwise been a wonderful trek. I can’t imagine what walking the entire three miles will be like when the walkway is completed. So my advise —if you’re planning to walk the “Paseo Del Morro”— is to wear light clothes, comfortable shoes and bring lots of water. An umbrella wouldn’t hurt either.
So, in closing, the “Paseo Del Morro” is a great idea that’s missing just one thing: SHADE!!! If they would only install some umbrellas along the stone benches or plant some trees along the side of the walkway it would be perfect.
Enjoy Puerto Rico,
©2014,Orlando Mergal, MA
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