I’ll skip the city and the cruise ships docked there and plunge right into 5:45 the next morning when we woke up after (some of us had) a rough night with a crowing rooster and barking dogs; Dominica city sounds. We met our guide Haigan and packed him into the car. We then drove (he said) twenty minutes, although it felt like at least forty-five, up and down and around on roads paved, gravel, and half paved half gravel. We finally arrived at the trail head feeling rather ill. And off we were on a rather gentle little trail up through the forest with giant ferns and lizards and thousands of prehistoric looking trees. Gradually we began to slope down towards the Breakfast River- watching for parrots and listening to Hagian tell stories of trips he’d taken before. Recently he took three men who were heading towards sixty up and it took them from eight o’clock AM til eleven o’clock at night to get back- which set the fear of Boiling Lake afire in us skeptics (everyone but Bruce) once again. But by the time we had gone down the steep trail to the ravine where the Breakfast River flowed, drank from it (yes Grandmama I did drink from a river and I hope to God it doesn’t kill me eventually), and ate some peanut brittle we were ready to roll. It was about eight o’clock and we were an hour in.
So back up the other side of the ravine we went, heading towards some now hidden peak that shadowed our destination, the smell of sulfur creeping around in the air. When Ann, Bruce’s wife, asked how long and how far away we were Haigan replied- Don’t think about that, think about NOW. See where you are now and enjoy it. We will get there when we get there and you will enjoy that then. I decided right then and there that my new policy would combine both Bruce and Haigan’s wisdoms and I would begin shouting Live in the Present, Don’t Worry about the Future, Notice the Beauty of Now so the Future may be Just as Beautiful! at random intervals.
Once we were through the valley we went back up on the mountain trail, it was hotter and drier here but still wooded. We walked along a milky white hot sulfur stream and back up and down and around til we came out once again in a rock valley where the Boiling Lake’s steam loomed ahead. We walked along the trail through the heath-like plants and came around the corner to behold the Lake in the cater of this mountain we had traveled and it was truly Boiling. A huge steady boil rose out of the center and could be seen when the mist blew away for a moment. I asked Haigan how many times he had done this hike because it seemed to me that he still looked at the land around him with awe and true love and he replied, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were thousands.
And so we turned back. We meandered though the dry brush and stopped to soak in a warm sulfur pool in the stream that ran alongside the trail. The waterfall rushing into it served as a silky strong massage for the soles of our feet and our tight shoulders, calves and thighs. The trail back up to the overlook was as steep going up as it was coming down but my center of gravity had returned and every step came as it came and we crawled slowly back up the mountain and slowly back down. We crossed over the Breakfast River and were back up on the now seemingly cushy path through the lush forest. My legs were shaky but my heart was laughing. I saw a sunlit leaf smile, nod, and wave to me as I passed by and if my toes weren’t so sore I might have skipped. We had all stopped speaking by then and the birds were alone to sing their screeching, squeaking, soaring whistling songs. As we got to the end we heard a new roar- the cruise ship crowd roar.
At the beginning of the trail there is a cold blue pool that comes from a cave in the mountains. If you swim inside with rocks to the end you find a deep waterfall rushing down from it’s home up higher. Back out at the pool there is a stream of warm water from the volcano above. The pool was full of very white people tied to life preservers who were screeching and squeaking a new song. But they soon left and we swam into the pool with our tired sore legs and back to the waterfall. Mike and I climbed on a rock and looked at the ferns and trees looming overhead and then plunged back into the chilly waters and swam out into the sunshine and ate some chocolate on the rocks outside. The whole hike was like a beautiful story that came and rolled with perfect tempo- ending with chocolate, cold blue water, and a great sense of accomplishment and strength.