St. Martin to St. Maarten
Paradise Peak-Concordia Pass
Here's a surprisingly long mountain walk

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Length: 3 hours each way. Trailhead: The western end of the Paradise Peak Road in front of the French Telecom fence.

This walk will take you from the highest point on the island to Concordia Pass, above Marigot. This will offer some spectacular views on a clear day. Red and green blazes on tree trunks mark the way.

After 10-minute walk along the crest line through old guava orchards you’ll arrive at the foot of huge boulders. To your right, there will be occasional breaks in the 100-year old orchards of mango and lemon trees that will give you a view of Marigot and the Colombier valley, with Anguilla in the background.

The trail will rise and fall as you traverse the spine of the peaks, and you’ll receive a good lesson on the island’s geography. On the east side of the island it’s mostly dry forest thanks to the constant trade winds.

The west side, the lee side, is the lushest with tall gumbo, mange and kapok trees. Some locals refer to this as a rain forest but it hardly receives enough precipitation to qualify.

You’ll do a fairly steep rocky descent and after about 45 minutes since the time you set out you’ll reach a pass with an electric pylon. The forest disappears as you cross a field planted with cabbage, cassava, yam, banana, papaya, hot pepper, tomato, chive and thyme. This field may be in the middle of nowhere, but farmers who walk to it from the valley floor obviously tend it carefully.

The trail picks up again running northeast as it hugs a series of low retaining walls formerly used for agricultural terraces. After about 1.5 hours you’ll come to a fork in the trail. One path leads up Mt. Flagstaff (390 meters). The one you want is marked Col de Concordia. You’ll walk along a stone wall that marks the French-Dutch border.

About 20 minutes later, you’ll reach a junction with the trail that leads from Colombier to South Reward near Philipsburg. Follow the green and red blazes leading through ficus, gum trees, cacti and ferns. From here you have a good views of the Bay of Philipsburg and any cruise ships in port this day.

The trail continues to roll up and down. Shortly, you’ll see Concordia Pass, both capitals and Simpson Bay Lagoon. The distant island is Saba.

You’ll begin to descend along the crest line until you reach a dirt trail. On the right is a stone enclosure that made up the foundation of a traditional style cabin. At Concordia Pass you’ll join the dirt road that links Marigot with Philipsburg. Finally, you’ll reach a stand selling Creole foods and cold drinks. And, hopefully, some one to pick you up.

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