Dominica's Boiling Lake is approximately 200-250 feet
across (the second largest in the world) and rests at the
bottom of a large sinkhole-like basin. More accurately, it
is a flooded fumarole,
an opening, crack or hole, in the Earth's crust, generally
located within the vicinity of a volcano, which emits steam
escaping from molten lava below.
Currently, the lake is viewable from a broad, cliff-top
ledge about 100 feet directly above its shore. High rock
walls surround and create the basin. ...fall off the
wall -- more than likely you end up in the pot.
lake’s grayish-blue water is easily viewed in its perpetual
rolling-boil state -- looking like a giant pot of water cooking
and steaming on
a stove. The
basin’s water is replenished by rainfall and two small
streams which drain into the area. The water then seeps
down to the lava and is heated to the boiling point.
way, the trail leads through another volcanic area called
the Valley of Desolation – its geo-physical makeup
perhaps provides more curiosities and interesting features
than the lake. Here, the air is hot, steamy and moist, supported by
the sharp, acrid smell of sulphur. The area might remind
one of a steam-room, dry cleaners and laundromat, combined.
Everywhere, vapors and gases are bubbling and escaping from
boiling sulphur-water pots, small spraying and hissing
geysers, cracks and holes, and a small stream that runs
through and beneath the terrain. When exploring, one must be
careful as tiny, often invisible sprays of steam will easily
burn an ankle or foot. Want to cook your lunch or boil an
egg? …you can do so most anywhere, without lighting a fire!
Thanks to Tony Roudette for once again being a great guide!
...and, Alden's two friends, Yan & Dylan for
The trek to
Boiling Lake is perhaps more about the journey than the destination.
one day, round-trip event -- a physically challenging hike
(approximately 16 miles)
along a ruggedly aggressive, mountainous, rainforest trail. Located
east of Roseau, in the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, the
journey is not for everyone.
experience is difficult to explain and photos simply do not capture the
challenges of the terrain… the trail’s snake-like layout is framed on
excessively steep inclines and declines that are repeatedly defined,
then redefined. Accented with mud, rocks, boulders, water, heat and
humidity the trip is an exciting experience with nature.
And, steps! …a
grueling, countless number of wet-slick, moss covered stair steps, (a
huge feat of construction, itself worth pondering) cut from trees along
the trail and laid into the steep path for miles or, when necessary, cut
directly into rock. (Over a period of time, the steps have been
added to the trail to prevent excessive erosion due to foot traffic.) So
many steps hewn up and down into the near vertical inclines that, in
comparison, one might imagine climbing the Sears Tower in Chicago, up
and down 50 times. But, that exercise might be less challenging.
Deceitfully easy in
the beginning, the trail slopes along a relatively gentle stretch of
terrain, winding through the shadowy quiet of the rainforest. But
then, after crossing a stream and an enjoyable drink of cold, crystal
clear, water the demeanor of the path changes.
the journey lends itself to a challenging contest of leg muscles
against steep climbs up and down sometimes along winding,
paper-thin ridges where, in several locations, one can easily
peer, both right and left at an arm’s reach, hundreds of feet down.
our journey, clouds hugged the forest most of the day. Fleeting breaks along
the path, tunnels in the foliage, provided spectacular views of
mountain peaks and villages, miles below. Hot and humid
air settled on us as we
climbed from the Caribbean side of the mountains. Then, a cool,
chilly breeze met us at the top as we proceeded along the
Atlantic side portion of the trail. Finally, hot and
steamy conditions met us at the Valley of Desolation.
Passing through the Valley of Desolation,
we reached the boiling lake in 2:40 hours. (Normal time is 3+
hours one way.) With the clouds hugging the area, light rain
and steam rose thick from the lake; visibility was low.
Only when a breeze blew through for a few minutes were we
given a partial view of the boiling water, churning below as
water in a pot on a stove would -- only in giant's proportion. After a light
lunch and short rest, we began the all too real burden of
retracing our steps. But not before, taking
an hour to soak in the small, bathtub-hot sulphur pools and
waterfalls, -- the cream colored stream water cooled just right in its
short distance flow just below the Valley of Desolation.
determination, rebelling leg muscles and personal gratification,
the return journey to the trail head was finally met. An
experience not soon to be forgotten as, for most of us, our legs
imploded into rock-hard tightness and pain… a side effect that
lasted far too many days. (For all but Tony, who obviously had
more experience climbing the local hills and mountains than the
rest of us!) ...a
challenge someday to be taken, again.