What The Heck Did I Sign Up For!?!!!
I’ve hiked mountains before, no problem I can hike Blue Mountain Peak. I even went as far as to tell one friend that I was fit enough for this expedition, when he asked. I had no idea what was waiting for me. This mountain was different, larger, steeper, and rougher than other mountains I have ever conquered. This was Jamaica’s own little way of introducing me to her rough and tough side, yet it was a rewarding experience. An experience I would gladly sign up for again. Welcome to Jamaica’s other side, a test of my character and strength. Allow me to introduce Blue Mountain Peak.
Warning… you may hear breathtaking a lot in this article.
Meet the guys:
The Drive …Start of an Adventure
It was May 14, 2010; we started out from Redground, Old Harbour heading into Kingston. Jeff was our driver, and it was his very first time driving in Jamaica. He drove us to Mavis Bank Police Constabulary, which was even for me as a Jamaican, heart stopping. The road wrapped around a mountain side, which was barely wide enough to fit one car, much less two. It was an adventure! It was beautiful! The mountain range from this level was breathtaking. We parked our car at the police station and our driver picked us up for the one hour drive, of which we only traveled about three miles, to Jacob’s Ladder. We were snapping pictures and recording videos, laughing and talking. This part of the drive is not for the faint of heart. The single lane road, which seemed at some point the vehicle was traveling vertical, while winding through the mountain range…was best left to someone who does it on a daily basis. Plus you will need a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Two Miles of Jacob’s Ladder
This was our first lesson of the night, never underestimate a trail. Jacob’s Ladder was a lose a couple of toe nails, uphill test of endurance that made us wonder if we made the right decision. Janil had a difficult time climbing Jacob’s Ladder. We all did for that matter. To hike here I had to go back in time…a time when I was a girl running up and down mountains and hoped I still have the knowledge and endurance to reach Blue Mountain Peak’s summit. It was the steepest part of the hike and the trail was wider in some spots and rocky. “The Blue Mountains rise to these elevations from the coastal plain in the space of about sixteen kilometers, thus producing one of the steepest general gradients in the world. The Blue Mountains form a cooling relief from the sweltering heat of Kingston below. These summits rise and fall along for 24 miles long and 14 miles at its widest point, where the temperature decreases from around 27°C (80°F) at sea level to 5°C (40°F) at Blue Mountain Peak, just 16 km (10 miles) inland”. One of the best parts of the hike was meeting our guide for the night. He was adorable, and he led the way to Portland Gap.
Portland Gap Hostel
If you’ve read anything I’ve written before, then you know my first advice is do your research. We did and came up lucky. It also depends on the type of person you are. If you are not the outdoor type, this is definitely not for you. There are so many overnight lodges you can stay at, but we chose to stay at the Portland Gap lodging, which I booked through The Jamaica Forestry Department. So, it was more like a two room hostel with bunk beds. It was the least expensive way and more nature bonding. By the time we got there it was dark, raining, windy, and cold. We felt like we were the only ones out there on this vast mountain. We felt very far from civilization and the entire time I was thinking, this was something out of a movie. And we were the only ones foolish enough to attempt this idiotic quest. At least two miles were out of the way. We went to sleep at 9pm.
We woke up to the sound of another group’s arrival at around 12am and lay there for a second listening to the wind, it sounded like a hurricane tearing through the trees outside. I went back to sleep.
Hiking into the Unexpected
We woke up at 2am and our guide did not show up. The girls freaked and the boys smiled and said we can do it by ourselves. Well, Raymond hiked this trail before so he knew his way around and he loves this kind of stuff so much, this was his chance to shine…he was now our guide. Kemar, oh yea, he forgot his hiking boots and was climbing Blue Mountain Peak in flip-flops, and we found out later that, he was getting over the flu. He never once complained. And as for Jeff, he was the one who got us into thinking; we were fit enough to hike Blue Mountain Peak…at two in the morning. Nonetheless, it was pitch black, cold, windy, and raining. As we started up the mountain, the view looking down into Kingston was beautiful and every so often a cluster of clouds would drift by. It was as if you could reach out and touch them. I started to shine my flashlight beam over the dark silhouette of a plant, and found that I was enjoying the early morning hike. We hiked through the unknown for 5 hours on narrow trails…walking through clouds and misty rain. At some point we would see stars when the clouds cleared. While hiking I realized, for once in my life I had time to think without interruptions…and that I was thinking about nothing. It was endless blissful peace.
After frequent stops, my left leg cramping, and Jeff’s heels rubbed raw, we finally reached the Peak. It was worth very painful step we took to get there. I looked around and we all were smiling, we were on top of the world. I always feel free and in awe of how beautiful nature is, when I reach a summit. First we reached the elfin woodland with its unique forest…a flower meadow on the top of a mountain…a Garden of Eden. There were so many plants and flowers, some are not found anywhere else in the world. “The Blue Mountains are home to the world’s second largest butterfly…Homerus swallowtail”. The summit was cold, misty, high, and far away, just…breathtaking. The sky, the clouds, the sound of the wind, the feel of the moist air on my skin, made me wondered ‘am I still in Jamaica?’ A lot of pictures were taken here, everyone wanted to explore each little spot, to absorb every life changing moment of this adventure. Raymond said, “It’s like heaven”, and Natalie said, “A beauty untouched by human hands”. The wind kept blowing clean, crisp, fresh air everywhere, scattering mist on every plant, flower, and grass.
We did not get the opportunity to see Cuba, the weather never cleared up for us. And the cabin at the top could use some fixing up. Not seeing Cuba was replaced by what awaits us on our descent.
Descent into Paradise
Words cannot express the sheer beauty of what we were seeing on our way down. There was a lust rainforest, a stream, birds, views, river rocks, it was unbelievable. We were able to see the different terrain and many amazing varieties of plants. This was my first time in a tropical rainforest and two things made me happy. One, I hiked the tallest mountain in Jamaica to get there, and two, my family was there to share this adventure with me in my home land. Also, we felt better going by other folks on their way up; some were from the Peace Corps operating in Jamaica. When we got back to Portland Gap, we were shocked to find how sculptured the land was. There was also a Park Ranger who was on duty and the dog belonged to him, but it was too dark to see the Ranger’s Station the night before. We were tired and worn out, but were able to take this memorable shot. And we felt like we had been through the worst and the best. Hold on a second…the worst, no! We still had two miles left…hiking down Jacob’s Ladder. Coming down was even harder, at one point Natalie was walking sideways, because the terrain was so steep our forward momentum was causing our toes to be pushed into the front of our hiking boots. Also, instead of walking, it was more like trying not to run or jog…our legs were in front of us with our shoulders pulled backward.
We hiked a total of 14 miles.
We all enjoyed our experiences and would do it again just at a different time of the year, so we can see Cuba. For all you hikers out there Blue Mountain Peak is a must. It was fun, adventurous, and now we can look back and laugh about our personal experiences. Hiking Blue Mountain Peak was an empowering experience and I recommend trying it. It was just… breathtaking. We were at 7402 feet! And we hiked it in pitch black darkness.
Our fee for the guide was refunded and I would use the same office again. The lady I dealt with was very helpful and friendly. She set up the hike, accommodations, and the driver for us, which made it easier. Special thanks to Jantalin at the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust.
The Jamaica Forestry Department173 Constant Spring Road, Kingston 8, Jamaica W.I. Tel: 876-924-2667 or 876-924-2668 Fax: 876-924-2626 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Helpful Tips:
- Rain gear
- Hiking Boots
- Warm Comfortable clothing
- Use a guide
- Enjoy yourself
- And leave a comment if you like my blog :)
- Whitfield Hall: Tel-Kingston: 876-927-0986
- Wildflower Lodge: Tel-Kingston: 876-929-5394
- And Pine Grove: Tel-Kingston: 876-977-8009 and Fax: 876-977-8001
- The Blue Mountains, Jamaica
- Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia
Special thanks to Jeff and Natalie.
By the way, we went back home, slept for six hours, and had a big birthday party for Jeff.