Valley of Desolation &
On to the Boiling Lake.
When first discovered around 1870, the region was still thickly forested. It was discovered by two Englishmen working in Dominica, Mr. Watt and Mr. Nicholls, who now have two mountains named after them.
A volcanic eruption of ash in 1880, originating either from the Boiling Lake or this valley may have been responsible for the increase in the size of the fumarole area. Scientists predict the Valley of Desolation will remain an active fumarole region for decades to come.
With more than 50 fumaroles and hot springs in the Valley, the main danger here is stepping through a thin crust of earth hiding a hot fumarole. We follow Henry closely.
Though once lushly forested, the valley floor now has only a dense mat of mosses and lichens interspersed with yellow- and white-flowered "thyme sauvage" and grasses able to survive the harsh sulfur fumes. It is these fumes which are credited with wiping out the forest.
Wildlife of a sort does exist: lizards, stoneflies, mayflies, ants, and of course the planet's hardiest survivor, the ubiquitous, indestructible cockroach.
At the far end is a huge steam vent that Henry invites us "to come stand in for your complexion." After crossing the valley diagonally through the middle, we are back in thick forest, where we walk for another 20 minutes before coming out at the stream where the rocks are coated white with sulfur.
Henry draws an arrow for those lagging behind taking photos. Someone else draws a Carib-like petroglyph of a smiling face on one of the stones; we all avoid stepping on the rock to keep from defacing the finger painting.
More climbing, as we cut diagonally across another valley, then start scrambling over large boulders. This is some of the hardest climbing of all. We all want to stop and rest and eat and recharge.
Not the slightest sign of the Boiling Lake. How much longer can this go on? Can we go on? And why did I assume the Valley of Desolation would be above the Boiling Lake, not below it?
We turn a corner and there it is: a big bowl of steaming white milk virtually obscured by the thick steam. We wait for the winds to shift and push enough of it away to catch a momentary glimpse of the actual part of the lake that bubbles and churns. That's a relatively small area of only about 20 to 30 yards. The entire lake measures about 70 yards across. Ironically, Boiling Lake is Dominica's smallest lake.