With Dominica’s popular annual Hike Fest on the horizon, and my almost complete recovery from a bout of Chikungunya about one year ago, I felt ready to tackle a couple of moderately challenging mountain trails. I had not been on a hike since my revisit to Middleham Falls in November 2014. At that outing, I still did feel some after-effects from my lingering tropical illness. Therefore, I let a few months pass, and filled them with other fun activities, including a memorable trip to Paris.
When I approached Jenny Spencer about a foray to the Freshwater Lake area in Morne Trois Pitons National Park near the village of Laudat, she eagerly accepted. In her profession as a herpetologist (amphibian researcher), she spends considerable time outdoors, no matter what country she is in. It is obvious to me that she truly loves nature and wants to be immersed in it when possible. Her descriptions of searches for the elusive critically endangered Mountain Chicken (Crapaud) Frog with some of Dominica’s Forestry Officers indicate that she is able to tackle any type of terrain in any kind of tropical weather. Therefore, I knew that this trek would be easy for her, and that if need be, I would have a good hiking coach!
I suggested that we start with the Boeri Lake trail, as it is (to me) a bit more challenging than the track around Freshwater Lake. Although the weather was cool, but “not too bad,” I laughingly recalled my last outing to this remote body of water. I told Jenny about how my brother Edwin and I slogged through mud, a landslide and very slippery rocks in torrential rain to reach the shore of this lake in February 2009. When we arrived a good 45 minutes after our departure, we could not see the lake at all! It was completely covered in low clouds. ( I hope my bro will come back to tackle it again someday soon and we’ll hope for fine weather next time!)
When Jenny and I arrived in the parking lot by the Freshwater Lake Visitor Centre, in the shadow of
majestic Morne Micotrin , there was not another soul to be seen. While it was not raining, it definitely appeared to be imminent. We donned our hiking gear and headed to the Boeri Lake Trail-head, a 15 minute walk away. We did then encounter a pair of hikers who rushed past us on their way to the same destination. Along the concreted road, we observed an abundant flow of water in the ditch, and marvelled at its force and the colour of the rocks beneath it. This area forms part of Dominica’s hydro-electric power source, and the water flows to stations found in lower areas of the Roseau Valley.
We started off on the well maintained trail with the intention of taking our time and enjoying the beauty all around us. It would have been difficult not to pause along the early part of the track to admire the breathtaking views of Freshwater Lake to the south and the distant east coast. I did huff and puff until my muscles warmed up: I attributed that condition to the higher elevations and the low moist clouds all around us. Boeri Lake sits at 2,800 feet and at that
elevation is the highest body of water on the Nature Island. The going did get a little tricky when we reached the area of the trail made up of slippery rocks! I stepped carefully and slowly, and balanced myself with the aid of my hiking pole. A recent tailbone injury reminded me that I would not want to land ‘bottom down’ anytime soon! Evidently, I fared well, and Jenny, who patiently kept my pace by following behind me stayed upright due to her superb intrepid skills! Admittedly, we both broke down and took off our boots when we traversed the Clarke’s River. No regrets about that – as the cool water refreshed our warmed up feet!
By the time we arrived at an old platform near the shoreline of this 4 acre lake, the sun actually broke through the clouds. While snacking and relaxing seated on the boards, we quietly thrilled to the serenity all around us. The predominant sound of silence was only broken by our sporadic conversation, occasional finch or mountain whistler calls or the wind rustling leaves in the nearby trees. Over about half an hour, we observed clouds constantly lifting and lowering, and misty shades of blue, green, gray and white enveloped us in this ethereal atmosphere.
Suddenly, we noticed a very dark sky approaching from the east, so we moved off quickly and started the return journey as heavy rain fell from the heavens and dampened our clothes, but not our spirits! We emerged from the forest about one hour later, with high hopes of finding hot chocolate to warm us up at the kiosk in the Visitor Reception Centre!
As it turned out, we were in luck, as the friendly attendant was able to grant our wish, even though she had just arrived to do a little maintenance and did not plan to stay long on this quiet Sunday. (For opening hours, contact Freshwater Lake Adventures at 767-245-7061) While we sipped the sweetness and munched on other sustenance , the wind howled and torrents of rain pounded against the side of the building. We were thankful to have sheltered only moments before this intense deluge. However, we remained hopeful that the weather would soon change for the better so that we could continue with the second half of our agenda: a trek around Freshwater Lake. (It would be my first time back on this lovely trail since 2007, when my brother Edwin was also on-island. I have previously written about that wonderful outing here.)
Wishes do come true, and after about half an hour, the worst of it was over. We decided to chance it and were
duly rewarded for our efforts! The start of the trail was very steep and some of the boards on the maintained steps were wet and slippery. We proceeded with caution and stopped often to admire the gorgeous scenery in all directions. While we never got a peek at the peak of Morne Micotrin, we acknowledged her powerful presence by frequently glancing at the changing clouds around this 4, 006′ massif. We were so captivated with the splendour that encompassed us that we never considered the possibility of a monster lurking in the depths of this lake. It was earlier when we were seated by the shore of Boeri that Jenny had remarked about its similarity to a certain Scottish lake and its famous myth!
Those east coast views, in the direction of Rosalie Bay and the village of Grand Fond in the foreground gave us plenty of reasons for pause. Luckily, the rain held off and the sun made valiant attempts to come out of the dense cloud cover. It didn’t matter to us. We had both succumbed to numerous charms and multiple blessings of a day in a pristine place that epitomizes the essence of the Nature Island. No wonder UNESCO has bestowed the
honour of World Heritage Site upon this remarkable park in the wilderness interior of Dominica.
After having spent several hours in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Jenny and I both felt refreshed and revitalized from our forays around Boeri and Freshwater lakes. We agreed that time spent in this outstanding natural setting can only be good for the soul. Of that, we are certain!