This scale applies to all the hikes on all the islands.
In some instances, Length is omitted because the precise distance is unknown, even to locals. Distance is deceptive anyway: what is more important is how long the walk is likely to take.
The estimates supplied are for an average walker stopping to smell the flowers or watch the birds. If anything, the given walking times are more likely to be over-estimated than underestimated.
The reverse is true of the Difficulty of each hike or walk; consider these ratings the absolute minimum. Although weather conditions can dramatically increase a hike's difficulty, nothing, except perhaps the installation of escalators, is likely to make any of the walks any easier.
Here is how the Difficulty scale applies:
Level 1: Easy, with level walking or with very little climbing. Anyone capable of ambulatory movement should be able to finish the described walk in the length of time given.
Level 2: Some ascents and descents, but nothing you shouldn't anticipate on a walk in the forest almost anywhere.
Level 3: Expect to sweat (or perspire, if you prefer). Stamina and good balance are essential to enjoy this kind of hike, as are appropriate shoes designed for serious walking and climbing. Anyone in average physical condition should find these trails just a good stretch of the legs.
Level 4: Time to get serious about the amount of exertion you're willing to expend. A fair amount of stamina is required because of the distance or the terrain. Probably muddy and slippery and/or steep in many parts, and may require some scrambling. Only those in good physical condition will probably enjoy this hike.
Level 5: A gut buster. Requires extreme, sustained effort. Do not attempt a hike of this level unless you are in excellent physical condition. Expect this to be demanding, challenging, possibly even dangerous in spots...depending on conditions. Any hike rated a 5+ is bound to demand all of your attention and skill. Being part mountain goat is a definite asset.
Hikes rated with a Difficulty from 3-5 require good, non-skid walking shoes. The quality of your footwear has a lot to do with how much walking--as opposed to stumbling and falling and sliding on your butt--you do.
Level 3-5 hikers should:
Use backpacks so their hands will be free to clutch and grab tree roots, vines or other vital flora not to fall off the mountainside.
Carry food and water to sustain energy.
Not be hung over or high.
Always go prepared for rain above 1,800 feet.
Oh, yes: Caribbean mud is almost possible to get out of white socks. Prepare to sacrifice those that you wear to the spirits of the Arawaks and Caribs.
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