Dominica Hiking
Valley of Desolation & Boiling Lake
Part 2

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his hike is awesome and deserves to be described in detail. As the Caribbean 's best hike, it deserves such recognition...and respect. You can divide the hike into three distinct phases. The first hour is deceptively easy, starting with a moderate twenty-five minute ascent, followed by some ups and downs until you reach the Breakfast River at the end of 60 minutes of steady walking. The river apparently was named by travelers crossing the island who would stop here for their morning meal.

Phase II is a 45 minute walk up the side of Morne Nicholls, a steep and sometimes very slippery climb. Phase III is the slow, scrambling descent into the Valley of Desolation (which itself takes only five to 10 minutes to cross) then another 30 minutes to reach the Boiling Lake.

On my hike, I find the walk to Breakfast River a fairly easy one. Morne Nicholls, however, is a deceptive trickster. In many places it seems as if you're about to reach the summit, but it always turns out to be just another bend in the path. There are always many, many more yards to climb.

About halfway up the mountain we are enveloped in cloud and the valley on our left is completely covered in mist. The scene is like an Oriental painting showing a shadow world with only the outlines of trees and shrubs depicted in different shades of gray.

It's also the type of scene frequently encountered in black and white creature feature movies of the 1930s: just at sunset when the vampire or the werewolf is about to show up.

Actually, we're passing through montane forest and one of the best stands of Wezinye Montany, Dominica's only native conifer. Nearer the top we enter the fantastically shaped elfin woodland, trees stunted by strong winds whose branches and trunks are nearly encased in mosses and lichens.

When we finally reach the 3,000-foot summit of Morne Nicholls, my guide Henry turns and asks if it has "gotten hellish yet?" This is about the halfway point and while the mountain climb has been strenuous and constant, it isn't as bad as I expected. He smiles; I try very hard to decipher that smile. Is the worst behind us, or yet to come?

It is extremely windy at the top of Morne Nicholls. The gusts literally are strong enough to push you off balance, precisely what happened several years earlier to a woman crossing a narrow path at the top--she either mis-stepped or the wind literally shoved her off the mountain. The fall killed her. As we proceed, I find this amazing. I'd certainly have expected more heart attacks.

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Valley of Desolation Part 1