The Boeri and Freshwater Lake Trails: Lovely Little Treks in Dominica’s Mountainous Interior

Gwendominica takes on the Boeri Lake Trail in Dominca's Morne Trois Pitons National Park.  Photo taken by Jenny.

Gwendominica takes on the Boeri Lake Trail in  Morne Trois Pitons National Park. Freshwater Lake appears in the upper left hand corner. Photo taken by Jenny.

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!)

Jenny is ready to  hike to Boeri Lake!

Jenny is ready to hike to Boeri Lake!

When Jenny and I arrived in the parking lot by the Freshwater Lake Visitor Centre,  in the shadow of

Plentiful rainwater run-off  in the Boeri Lake area is a source for  nearby hydorelectric power stations.

Plentiful rainwater run-off in the Boeri Lake area is a source for nearby hydro-electric power stations.

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

The Boeri Lake trail offers wonderful views of the mountains towards the east coast in the proximity of the village of Grand Fond.

The Boeri Lake trail offers wonderful views of the mountains towards the east coast in the proximity of the village of Grand Fond.

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!

The rocky part of the Boeri Lake Trail requires patience and agility as those rocks are notoriously slippery!

The rocky part of the Boeri Lake Trail requires patience and agility as those rocks are notoriously slippery!

In this cooler, very humid tropical environment, moss grows easily on the trees.

In this cooler, very humid tropical environment, moss grows easily on the trees.

Jenny contemplates the removal of her hiking shoes before crossing the Clarke Hall River.  Yes, she did do it, and loved it!

Jenny contemplates the removal of her hiking shoes before crossing the shallow Clarke’s River. Yes, she did do it, and loved it!

I had not seen Boeri Lake in sunshine since 1999! I was overjoyed to see it 'in colour' instead of black and gray on my fourth trip!

I had not seen Boeri Lake in sunshine since 1999! I was overjoyed to see it ‘in colour’ instead of black and gray on my fourth trip there!

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.

The colours on and around Boeri Lake are constant changing - from moment to moment!

The colours on and around Boeri Lake are constantly changing – from moment to moment!

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.)

Freshwater Lake is lovely from any vantage point.  It is a reservoir which is one of the sources for hydro-electric power stations on island.

Freshwater Lake is lovely from any vantage point. It is a reservoir which is one of the sources for hydro-electric power stations on island.

Wishes do come true, and after about half an hour, the worst of it was over.  We decided to chance it and were

Getting arounfd Freshwater Lake involves  a lot of ups and downs, as seen here.  Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

Getting around Freshwater Lake involves a lot of  dramatic ups and downs, as seen here. Photo taken by Jenny Spencer.

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!

Plentiful bromiliads were attached to a mossy tree along the Freshwater Lake trail.

Plentiful bromeliads were attached to a mossy tree along the Freshwater Lake trail.

Nature enthusiast Jenny smiles after having discovered a large female grasshopper ( I call it a crack-crack bug) as she moved along the Freshwater Lake Trail.

Nature enthusiast Jenny smiles after having discovered a large female grasshopper ( I call it a ‘crack-crack’ bug) as she moved along the easterly side of the  Freshwater Lake Trail.

When Freshwater Lake looks like this, the possibility of monsters and myths comes to mind.

When Freshwater Lake looks like this, the possibility of monsters and myths come to mind.

From this easterly view point above Freshwater Lake, it is easy to understand why the Kalinago people named Dominica 'Waitukubuli', which means 'tall is her body'.

From this easterly view-point above Freshwater Lake, it is easy to understand why the Kalinago people named Dominica ‘Waitukubuli’, which means ‘tall is her body’.

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

Jenny took plenty of photos as she carefully stepped along the Freshwater Lake circumferential trail.

Jenny took plenty of photos as she carefully stepped along the Freshwater Lake circumferential trail.

The hour or so hike around the heights of Freshwater Lake is not for the faint of heart.

The hour or so hike around the heights of Freshwater Lake is not for the faint of heart.

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!

Ti Domnik Tales is One Year Old!: the top 12 posts of the past 12 months

Gwendominica is abundantly thankful to her readers and supporters of Ti Domnik Tales.  Photo taken by Laasting Images Photo Studio, Roseau Dominica on Creole Day, October 26, 2012.

Gwendominica is abundantly thankful to her readers and supporters of Ti Domnik Tales. Photo taken by Lasting Images Photo Studio, Roseau Dominica on Creole Day, October 26, 2012.

March marks the first anniversary of my blog about Dominica, called Ti Domnik Tales. Coincidentally, this month also means that I am beginning the 16th year that I have lived on the Nature Isle. I am delighted to have published 50 posts and to have received more than 10,000 visits during the first year of this blog’s existence.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has referred to this website for information, curiosity or interest in some of my published experiences about Dominica. I am especially grateful to author Susan Toy for her encouragement, as well as website designers Carrie Mumford and Wendy Walsh for their technical assistance in getting the blog “up and running.”  My loyal family and friends, as well as faithful “followers” and those who “like” me make this literary experience even more rewarding and gratifying.

I will definitely “keep ’em coming,” with an aim for  a total of 100 posts over the next year.

Thanks again for checking into some of  the places, adventures and personalities that have enriched my life on the Nature Isle! I hope you will continue to enjoy Ti Domnik Tales.

Apart from a heavily consulted archives, here are the top twelve posts of the past year:

1. Spending a Spa Day at Papillote Wilderness Retreat

2. Dominica’s Antony Agar : Australian Ringer, Caribbean Sea-Captain, Schooner Builder, Author

3. Dominica’s Hike Fest: It’s “the best!”

4. Dominica’s Carnival Celebrations: Original, Traditional, Fun!

5. The Voice of Ti Domnik Tales

6. Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital: Part 1

7. A Morning on Mero Beach

8. ‘Ma Pampo’ and the Centenarians of Dominica

9. Roseau Dominica: Charming Caribbean Capital; Part 2

10. Celebrating ‘Canada Day’ in Dominica with Yoga, Friends and Snakes!

11. Colour, Tradition and Spectacle: Dominica’s Carnival Monday ‘Ole Mas’ and Youth Parade 2013

12. The Voice of Ti Domnik Tales

If you have a moment and/or a thought to spare: PLEASE TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT TI DOMNIK TALES. 

Thanks for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales!

Thanks for your interest in Ti Domnik Tales!

My burning question is:

SHOULD I TURN TI DOMNIK TALES INTO AN E-BOOK AFTER I HAVE REACHED 100 POSTS?

Your input would be most appreciated, dear reader!  Please leave your comment in the reply box below.

Sincerely,

Gwendominica

A Walk Around Freshwater Lake in Dominica’s Morne Trois Pitons National Park

Dominica’s Freshwater Lake is found in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This protected area became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Eastern Caribbean in 1997. The Visitor Reception Centre and parking lot can be seen in the distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

There are several weeks to go this hurricane/rainy season, so my hiking forays throughout Dominica are still on hold. In the mean time, I do like to reflect on my favourite  hikes on the Nature Island.  One of them is the well maintained trail which goes completely around Freshwater Lake, and is located near the village of Laudat in Dominica’s interior. This body of water forms part of Morne Trois Pitons National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It’s the largest lake on the island, and the second deepest after nearby Boeri Lake.  Of course, you can also trek to Boeri Lake from  the trail-head on the northeastern side of Freshwater Lake (look for the signs on the road). It takes about 45 minutes (one way) and  can be a bit challenging as it crosses a section of Morne Macaque, also called Micotrin, the highest mountain in the Roseau Valley.

However, the circuitous groomed track around Freshwater  Lake takes an hour on average, or more if you wish to admire the circumferential views and/or catch your breath!  I’ve been up there (meaning at the very top of the Roseau Valley!) a number of times over the past 15 years.  I could never be bored with this morning or afternoon outing because the weather conditions have been vastly different every time!  I do confess I only ever came upon Boeri Lake on a clear fine day one time many years ago. It’s the highest lake in the country at 2,800 feet.  I actually took a dip in the deep, cool, clear waters.  I hadn’t been in Dominica very long, so I could tolerate it.  I assure you that I couldn’t do it now!

Freshwater Lake seems to be shrouded in mystery as low clouds create an eerie aura. Maybe a monster really lurks in its depths! Photo by Edwin Whitford

 To get to these inland lakes, it’s an easy  half hour drive up the Roseau Valley on a newly rebuilt road from Roseau. After having left the intense heat of the town and arriving at the parking lot near the shore of Freshwater Lake, the change in climate, terrain and atmosphere can be very dramatic: low lying clouds; a chilly and penetrating mist; a bracing breeze; and poor visibility around the large lake make it easy to imagine why there is a myth about a monster  there!

Before I head off on the trail, I like to have a cup of cocoa tea in the snackette at the Reception Centre to energize and (sometimes) warm myself before the initial uphill climb.  The friendly staff at Caldera’s Dining and Aquatic Sports (tablatie@hotmail.com; 245-7061) offer hearty snacks and sandwiches most days (9 am – 5 pm) during the tourist season (October to April) and most weekends during the other months of the year.  You can also rent a kayak or rowboat from them if you’d like to spend a little time on the water searching for that monster!

Majestic Morne Watt can be seen by looking in a southerly direction a short distance from the Reception Centre. It is named after one of the men who trekked to the Boiling Lake in the late 19th century and then told the world about his experiences.

After my refreshment, I wend my way towards the path by the hydro-electric building (to the right of the Reception Centre when facing the lake).  I take a few moments to wander in a southerly direction to admire Majestic Morne Watt and realize that the famous Boiling Lake is over that way too.  A few minutes further along, I  plant my feet on carefully constructed steps as I make my way to the top of the ridge on the eastern side of the lake. I am usually soaking wet fairly soon – but whether it’s from my exertions or the persistent mist, I am never sure.  Most likely, it’s the result of both!

The track can be a bit slippery in the persistent moist conditions. I always recommend a walking stick and keeping close to the ground whenever necessary! Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Gwendominica stops to catch her breath and patiently waits for a break in the clouds. Photo by Edwin Whitford

As I make my way along the ridge, I admire the views of the lake, abundant wildflowers, verdant precipices and the mighty Atlantic in the distance, whenever there is a break in the clouds.

When the clouds lift, the reward is this sensational view to Rosalie Bay on the Atlantic coast and the village of Grand Fond above it. The Chemin Letang trail passes through these mountains from Freshwater Lake to Grand Fond. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

I especially adore the vistas of Rosalie Bay and the village of Grand Fond.  There is a wonderful inland trail, called Chemin Letang which traverses the mountains between Freshwater Lake and Grand Fond.  It’s about 2 1/2 hours to hike it one way or five hours plus for a return trip.  There is a trailhead maker on the eastern side of the Freshwater Lake trail.  On the Grand Fond side, a villager, or  a certified guide can direct you to its starting point and give you some fascinating details about this historic track.  I’ve done it twice from both sides.  While I am slipping and sliding on the often slick track, I am in awe of the many Dominicans who used this well worn path before there were roads to the southeastern side of the island.  They would carry their produce and wares from the east coast to Laudat on one day, and then continue on to the Roseau market to sell their goods the next day, and then do the return journey after that!  No wonder there are so many centenarians and  physically fit seniors on this island!

Freshwater Lake as viewed from a northeasterly point above it. Morne Nicholls (left) and Morne Watt (right) feature in the distance. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

As I continue along in a northerly direction,  the path begins to descend and soon I am surrounded in forest before emerging along the western shoreline of the lake. In the pristine air and lush surroundings, I have definitely worked up an appetite during my hour-long vigorous foray on the Freshwater Lake track.  I head back to Caldera’s Dining kiosk and partake of a hearty cheese, tomato and lettuce sandwich on a whole wheat bun.  Of course, I can’t resist another cup of cocoa tea.  I deserve it, I think.

Stunning views of the Roseau Valley down to Roseau are plentiful on the road to/from Freshwater Lake, just beyond the junction to the village of Laudat. Photo by Edwin Whitford.

Before departing this lovely locale, I take some time to view the room of exhibits of the geological formations in this area, which add greatly to my understanding of this abundantly volcanic Nature Island.  As  I drive out of the parking lot, I content myself with the knowledge that I’ll be exploring more of Dominica’s unique Morne Trois Pitons National Park  very soon.

An Afternoon in the Rainforest

gwendominica on the suspension bridge over the Breakfast River Gorge 300 feet below.

UPDATE: MAY 30, 2012.

Dominica’s Rainforest Aerial Tram has ceased operations.  This is a very sad day for the tourism industry in Dominica.  I wish all the staff the best of luck and thank them for providing an excellent tourism product.  For further information, consult:

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/business/sixty-six-jobless-as-aerial-tram-shuts-down/  and

http://dominicanewsonline.com/news/homepage/news/business/aerial-tram-dominica-explains-shut-down/

On a cool and drizzly Sunday afternoon, I accepted a friend’s invitation to join her and members of the Dominican Welfare and Hospital Aid Scheme on an outing to Laudat in Dominica’s interior .  In this lush location, we took a tour on the Rainforest Aerial Tram. (http://www.rainforestadventure.com/)

I had not been back to take another Tram tour since it first opened in 2003!  I wasn’t really sure what to expect after all those years.  When we arrived, we had to wait for some time, as a number of groups from a cruise ship were preparing to board the gondolas which could each only hold 8 guests and a guide. In the mean time, there was delectable Dominican coffee to drink, sheltered picnic tables upon which to sit and spectacular scenery to admire at the ‘ground level’.

After about half an hour, we were asked to assemble in an orderly  fashion and we quickly  boarded several of the 22 gondolas in preparation for our above-ground tour.  Our ascent would begin at about 2,000 feet above sea level.  We would climb to 2,500 feet (the upper limit of the rainforest) where we would disembark for a brief walking tour.  Then we  would descend on another cable line that would keep us above the tree-tops for most  of the return journey.

Our friendly guide, Craig Johnson  incessantly plied us with piles of  fascinating facts about the flora, fauna, geology and history  of Dominica for more than one hour. My only regret is that I was not carrying a notebook .There was so much to remember!

A friendly ‘Parasite’ forms a symbiotic relationship with a tree

Craig told us about the four levels of the rainforest and its abundant foliage. There seemed to be endless plants, trees, flowers and birds thriving in this moist and fertile terrain.  He especially amazed us with his in-depth knowledge of plants and their scientific names, as well as their English and Creole versions.  I was further impressed with his understanding of the medicinal and traditional uses of a number of  plants. It seemed that a remedy for almost every ailment can be found in the rainforest.  We saw plants that could alleviate migraines, reduce hypertension, soothe sores and enhance sexual vitality, among other things.  We all  agreed that nature’s pharmacy is obviously found on the Nature Isle.

The plaintive calls of thrushes and the melodious trills of the elusive mountain whistler accompanied us as we  slowly moved along while admiring all of the stunning sights. “Rider,” a bold little Bullfinch hopped on board for part of our excursion as he searched hopefully for a crumb or two.  We were certainly completely immersed in our rainforest experience!

While we oooed and aaahed at this ‘heaven on earth’, Craig  reminded us that there are frighteningly few rainforests and that they only cover  about 6 % of the entire planet.  These precious portions of land are too vital to our survival  to ever be destroyed again.

As an avid hiker, I also paid strict attention to which plants could provide food and water in case I were ever lost  in Dominica’s  dense  jungle.

But next time, I’ll be sure to bring that notebook!

Magnificent buttresses of the Chatannye (pronounced Sha-tah-nay)tree.They are a prominent and spectacular sight in Dominica’s rainforest areas.

The rainforest here is dense and lush with hundreds of plants and trees, which have regenerated since Category 4 Hurricane David wiped most of them out in 1979.

Look out below! The depths of the Breakfast River Gorge 300′ below the suspension bridge. It flows into the ‘mother’ or female cascade at the twin Trafalgar Falls.

Mighty Morne Macaque (French) Micotrin (Carib) which means monkey in English is one of Dominica’s highest mountains at 4,006 as seen from the upper descending gondola line’. There are no monkeys on the Nature Isle, but you would have to be one to climb it!