Dominica:  Boiling Lake, Jan. 31, 2009

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Hike to (and from) Boiling Lake

Sea Cat's assistant Desmond had promised to pick us up at shortly after 7 AM and take us to shore so we could catch a maxi-taxi bus to the trailhead to the Boiling Lake.   When he hadn't shown by 7:45 Barb called Sea Cat and he came out and took us to the pier in front of Ft. Young Hotel.   We walked from there to the bus station near the Botanical Gardens, where we were told that the bus would not be there until 9 AM.  Darn.  We had just settled in for a long wait when a maxi-taxi stopped with a passenger at the corner.   Barb asked if it were going toward the trailhead, and the driver indicated that was not his route, but that he was willing to go for $60 US.   When Barb talked him down to $15 US, we jumped in and were taken on a narrow twisty mountainous road up to the trailhead near the entrance to the Mountain Tram.  So by 9 AM we began the hike described by cruising guidebook author Doyle as a 7 to 9 hour round trip, although we had also heard a time of 6 hours.  The first quarter of the hike was through dense forest over a well-maintained path that rose fairly gently.  Lots of boards and logs placed as steps, but occasional flat places were muddy.   The second quarter or so was much steeper, along a path that traversed a rising ridge from which we could hear through the trees noisy rivers far below on both sides.   The third quarter was up and down:  way down to a river to be crossed and then way up and then way down to another river, and then -- well, you get the idea.   And then a very steep descent into the Valley of Desolation, with its steaming vents and sulfurous odors and bubbling mud-holes and lack of vegetation.  Just as we reached the center of the desolate valley we were overtaken by a young Czech girl/woman and her local companion who was serving as her guide.   And just as they overtook us, the guide uttered a loud profanity.  And no wonder, for there along the path was a boa constrictor.   The guide was as amazed as the rest of us, for he had never seen such a snake in that unlikely location.   He took pictures of the girl -- who later told us she was crew on a yacht that was in St. Martin, and had flown in for a quick holiday -- as she teased the snake, and so I grabbed the chance to snap a few as well.  The path got harder to follow as we left the Valley of Desolation and followed along and across and along and across a stream bed that was running with warm/hot water white with minerals.   No signs, and no indications of where the path was.   Maybe that is why so many folks recommended having a guide, including Doyle.   But Maggie and Dean (Rain) had gone without one just a few days earlier and told us there would be no problem.  So we carried on and found our way.  (The youngsters had left us so far behind that they were no help.)  The Boiling Lake was indeed.   Boiling, that is.  The lake steamed so vigorously as to totally obscure the surface down in the 50-foot-diameter crater.   But then the winds would shift and swirl and sweep the steam briefly in the other direction, and massive roils could be seen, in this, the world's second largest boiling lake.  Awesome, and well worth the effort to get to it.

Early in the hike we walked along this pipe delivering water to a hydro plant

Thick woods and thick mud early in the hike

See what we mean?

First steep ascent

Mystery fruit growing along the path

Sign one hour in from the trail head

Up an interminable ridge

Panorama to the northwest

At the top of the ridge

Panorama northeast toward the Valley of Despolation and Boiling Lake

Much later, a view from on high: portion of Valley of Desolation on right and mist from Boiling Lake on left

The descent toward the Valley of Desolation

Descending down to the Valley of Desolation

Descent into the Valley

Later in the descent to the Valley of Desolation

Barb entering the Valley of Desolation

The Valley

Panorama of the Valley

One of the vents in the Valley

Boa constrictor in the Valley of Desolation!

Young Czech girl poses not too near to the snake

But when it crawls into a crevice, is emboldened to grab its tail ...

... and becomes surprisingly comfortable with the idea

Traversing from the Valley of Desolation to the Boiling Lake

Right after this was taken, Barb slipped and fell into the river

The acidic water leaves a white slippery scum on the rocks

On the last little hill before the boiling lake (its vapor in the background)

Peering over the edge at the Boiling Lake

Huge ...

... roil ...

... in the lake

Returning toward the Valley of Desolation after seeing the Boiling Lake




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