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!

A Return to Middleham Falls: Hiking to One of Dominica`s Superb Natural Sensations

There she is!  Even through the trees, Dominica`s Middleham Falls is a treat to the eye and a gift to the soul.

There she is! Even  through the trees, Dominica`s Middleham Falls is a treat to the eye and a sight to behold.

Middleham Falls captured my imagination (and my heart) the first time I ever visited Dominica. That very first hike,  I walked all the way from Springfield on the Imperial Road, then traversed a steep secondary road above  Cochrane village before even reaching the trail head. It took me five hours return in those days.  It was exhausting but

Getting closer to Middleham Falls.  Still a little distance to go!

Getting closer to Middleham Falls. Still a little distance to go!

exhilarating.  You can read about my initial fascination and  impressions right here. I have returned to gaze at this marvel of nature several times since March 1997, but I `ve only taken the trail from the Laudat side in the Roseau Valley twice.  So when I proposed  revisiting this waterfall to my longstanding hiking pod friends, they enthusiastically grabbed their gear and off we went! Liz and I were putting ourselves to a test of strength and endurance about our bouts of Chikungunya.  We were curious (and I was a little anxious) to see how we would make out.

The morning skies were dark and drizzly when Nancy, Liz and I set off from Roseau.  By the time we arrived at the trail head and got out of Nancy`s SUV, buckets full of rain were falling on our heads.  Although Nancy suggested that we head north to the Cabrits in search of drier land,  we stayed put and waited it out. We also held back because the Walsh family (Simon and Wendy and their son Andrew) pulled in to the parking lot at about that time, so there was no turning back!

We chatted and snacked for a few minutes at the sheltered interpretive facility, and after a few minutes, the sun came out!  Andrew and his dad took off ahead of us (both are avid athletes and naturalists) while the ladies purposely lagged behind. We set off at a leisurely pace, and were  slowed down at the start when Nancy and I decided to take off our footwear to cross the one and only shallow river on this route.  I didn`t regret it though.  I was happy to have relatively dry boots and socks for the duration of the journey.  Liz sensibly wore all-terrain sandals and Wendy got a little `help“ from her family so that her feet remained dry!

Wendy and Liz patiently wait for Nancy and I to put our boots back on after the river crossing.

Wendy and Liz patiently wait for Nancy and me to put our boots back on after the river crossing.

We ascended some steep steps and then picked our way carefully around exposed tree roots extending  from massive chatanier trees and their impressive buttresses.  The moist rainforest environment did dampen the path considerably, and we watched out for slippery rocks and deep

The prolific tree roots add a bit of a challenge to the moderate hike to Middleham Falls.

The prolific tree roots add a bit of a challenge to the moderate hike to Middleham Falls.

mud  puddles.  Sometimes we engaged in conversation and other times we contented ourselves with listening to the sounds of the rainforest. We admired abundant epiphytes and bromeliads on  the tall ancient gommier trees when we often stopped to refresh from our water bottles. The tuneful call of  mountain whistlers hiding in the treetops accompanied our pleasant foray.

Nancy manoeuvers around  tteh buttresses of a massive Chatanier tree

Nancy maneuvers around the buttresses of a massive Chatanier tree

It would be hard to get lost on this well-marked and maintained trail.

It would be hard to get lost on this well-marked and maintained trail.

After about an hour, we reached a sign which clearly pointed the way to Middleham Falls.  Without delay, we carefully quickened our pace on  the steep and rocky descent, and after about 15 minutes, the distinct roar of the gigantic cascade could be heard in the distance.  We did pass by a couple of pretty mini-falls en route, but they were only teasers leading up to the real thing!

Simon and his son Andrew take a quick rest stop in the mist blowing at them from Middleham Falls.

Simon and his son Andrew take a quick rest stop in the mist blowing at them from Middleham Falls.

Gwendominica takes a moment to catch her breath at the sign pointing the way!

Gwendominica takes a moment to catch her breath at a sign pointing the way!

The rainforest is filled with pretty sights - the mini-waterfalls are cause for a pause along the route.

The rainforest is filled with pretty sights – the mini-waterfalls are cause for a pause along the route.

And then we saw Simon and Andrew,

comfortably propped on a huge rock facing the falls.  They were  soaked by the significant spray showering the area from the powerful force of water flowing down the precipice.  At 270 feet, (82 meters), Middleham Falls is one of Dominica`s tallest chutes, and it deserves special respect during the rainy season. If we had been there in the dry season, we might have been able to descend the rocky slope and have a cool `bath`in the cavernous pool below.  However, we all agreed that the excessive strength of the waterfall was only to be admired from a distance on this day.  Besides, we were already soaking wet! I was glad that I had experienced the chill of this “cold“ water setting before.  You can read about it here.

Nancy and Liz contemplate the beauty and strength of marvellous Middleham Falls.

Nancy and Liz contemplated the beauty and strength of marvellous Middleham Falls.

Wendy`s joyful gaze taken in the natural spendour of the setting.

Wendy`s joyful gaze took in the natural splendour of the setting.

It`s the real thing! Middleham Falls is so tall that it is impossible for me to capture it all on my camera!

It`s the real thing! Middleham Falls is so tall that it was impossible for me to capture it all on my camera!

There`s that cool pool at the base of the falls.  take a dip if you dare (but don`t dive!).

There`s that cool pool at the base of the falls. Take a dip if you dare (but don`t dive!).

Snacks were hauled out and“ inhaled“, as we all had worked up appetites from our mountain-rainforest adventure.  We settled ourselves on various rocks or leaned against substantial trees as we took in this natural beauty and her forceful voice. After about half an hour, Simon and Andrew set off, with Wendy close behind as they were going to finish their day with some fun at Mero Beach. Liz, Nancy and I paced ourselves carefully and kept to quiet conversation or solitary meditation on the return.

By the time we reached the shallow river, Nancy and I unhesitatingly walked right through it!  It was the perfect method for removing mud and dirt that had accumulated on the footwear over the two plus hour trek.

At the Interpretation Centre, we changed into dry clothes in the convenient washrooms, nibbled on some chocolate, and then set off in Nancy`s vehicle  for a light lunch  and a soak in a hot pool at Papillote Wilderness Retreat a few minutes`drive  away.

Liz, Nancy and Anne, the active octogenarian and owner of Papillote Wilderness Retreat  relax after a hoot pool soak.

Liz, Nancy and Anne, the active octogenarian and owner of Papillote Wilderness Retreat relax after a hot pool soak.

When we arrived, we were fortunate to catch up with proprietor and friend Anne Jno Baptiste.  After our quick meal (I had delicious vegetarian callaloo soup!), Anne took us on a little tour of the upper garden and then we settled into a lovely secluded and sheltered hot mineral pool.  We allowed the healing waters to soothe our sore muscles and we further unwound with  light-hearted chatter.

This secluded, shletered pool at Papillote Widerness Retreat is the ideal refuge for treating post-hike soreness.

This secluded, sheltered pool at Papillote Wilderness Retreat is the ideal refuge for treating post-hike soreness.

At the end of this sensational afternoon, Liz and I agreed that despite some soreness possibly due to the lingering effects of Chikungunya, we were ready to take on another moderate hike soon.  Our long-range goal is still set to tackle more of the Waitukubuli National Trail.  Without a doubt, we`ll get there, and Nancy and Wendy will come along for the fun too!

Dominica’s Middleham Falls: A Wondrous Site/Sight to Behold*

 

Springfield Plantation is my preferred starting point for the Middleham Falls hike.  However, the steep uphill climb from there on the Cochrane feeder road adds a good hour or more to the outing before you reach the actual trailhead.

Springfield Plantation is my preferred starting point for the Middleham Falls hike. However, the steep uphill climb from there on the Cochrane feeder road adds a good hour or more to the outing before you reach the actual trailhead.

Middleham Falls

It’s a long, arduous, painful trek from Springfield –

There are several small streams to cross on the way to Middleham Falls.  They may be dry or they may have flwoing water, depending on the weather conditions and-or the time of year!  Rocks can be slippery.

There are several small streams to cross on the way to Middleham Falls. They may be dry or they may have flowing water, depending on the weather conditions and-or the time of year! Rocks can be slippery.  Photo by Edwin Whitford.

clambering over slippery rocks,

 fording shallow streams,

clinging to steep cliffs –

The feeder road en route to Middleham Falls from Springfield passes above the village of Cochrane (bottom right) with views in a southwesterly direction.

The feeder road en route to Middleham Falls from Springfield passes above the village of Cochrane (bottom right) with views in a southwesterly direction from this vantage point.

endlessly uphill.

 

There is no turning back, however.

Too much pride gets in the way.

My guide`s persistent encouragement

makes me more determined

to find my way.

 

My pace diminishes with perpetual distractions.

There is quite a bit of climbing and grappling onto rocks on the Middleham Falls trail - but it`s well worth it!

There is quite a bit of climbing and grappling onto rocks and roots on the Middleham Falls trail – but it`s well worth it! Photo by Edwin Whitford.

The wonders of the rainforest

enchant and intrigue

like a recurrent sensual fantasy,

except that this is not a dream.

 

The rainforest can be a distraction.  It is best to stop  walking and admire it in order to avoid a slip on tricky terrain!

The rainforest can be a distraction. It is best to stop walking and admire it in order to avoid a slip on tricky terrain! (even though it might add a little time to the journey)

Suddenly, I awake from my reveries:

“Don`t slow down  –

you`ll lose the momentum!

Take it in as you go.“

That voice drifts back to me from somewhere up ahead.

 

After seemingly endless hours,

bruised, weary and sore,

I am finally there.

Breathlessly, I admire the splendor of the site.

 

Before me is the most magnificent torrential cascade

Middleham Falls in Morne Trois Pitons National Park.  Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Middleham  Falls is found at about 2,500′ above sea level in Morne Trois Pitons National Park. This cascade is around 270′ high and is known as one of the tallest on the island. It can be difficult to photograph due to its exceptional height! It has  a strong flow year-round. Photo Credit: Wikipedia

towering far above

and showering me with a cold mist

that revitalizes and invigorates my entire being.

 

I gaze longingly at this Dominican wonder,

hoping that I can capture its mighty spirit

and carry it with me always.

 

On a dry day, a dip in the cool pôol belwo Middleham Falls can be very refreshing before the return journey.

On a hot, dry day, a dip in the cool pool below Middleham Falls can be very refreshing before the return journey.

A torrential rain begins to pour 

and it is time to turn back.

But I always long for the day

when I can return to Middleham Falls again.

 

-written near Lakefield, Ontario, Canada

March 1998

* Middleham Falls is located in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It can be approached from Springfield via the Cochrane Village Feeder Road  (4 – 5 hours return at a leisurely pace)  or from the trailhead near Laudat (a shorter trip) in the Roseau Valley.  It is also possible to reach it from Segment Four of the Waitukubuli National Trail. 

You can also hike right through from the Cochrane side to the Laudat side, or vice versa!  Allow the better part of a day to do that – and take some time to check out Tou Santi –  the `Stinking Hole` which is a huge bat cave.  You`ll likely smell it before you see it!

** References:

Dominica: Bradt Travel Guide by Paul Crask. Edition 2 (2011), pp. 127-128. Paul is a longtime island resident (British expatriate) who has provided very detailed background information and  descriptions of the hikes to Middleham Falls, as well particulars about flora and fauna in this area.

Dominica: Discover the Real Dominica: A Travel Guide Written by Former Peace Corps Volunteers by Anna McCanse. Other Places Publishing, 2011, pp. 255-257 A helpful detailed map and specific directions are contained therein.