Hikes of the Carbet Mountains
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Time: 6 hours round trip. Difficulty: 5. Take water. Near-constant exposure to the sun.

Trailhead: From Fort-de-France, take RN3 to the northern starting point on La Trace, a serpentine road through the central rainforest. The trailhead is marked. Or you may choose the southern trailhead at Colson Hospital in the village of Colson, also off N3, which offers an easier walk. Plan on an hour's drive.

These are tough hikes, primarily of interest to those who want a physically challenging climb. However, the summits offer the most spectacular views in all Martinique. When rain makes it slick, climbs are like skating rinks, the descents become toboggan runs.

Leaving from Boucher Plateau, you face the longest climb of the trail. In about an hour you'll ascend some 1300 feet (400m) along a very steep slope. If it's slippery, look for the stakes hammered into the most critical spots to help you ascend.

The flora will become more stunted as the great trees of the Boucher Plateau rain forest gradually give way to high-altitude shrubs like cabbage palms, orchids, mosses, ferns, and mountain pineapple (no edible fruit), all interspersed with small trees twisted into fantastic shapes by the wind.

The trail between the summit of Piton Boucher and the ridge of Morne Piquet slopes slightly and is scattered with many hollows. The crest of Morne Piquet is an hour and several spectacular views of the coastline away.

From here you can see the village of Morne Vert and the district of Verrier. Note the grove of the Swiss Canton and MountJoly. You'll go left there and begin the one hour ascent of Piton Lacroix (3922 feet (1,196m)) to end of your hike.

From the peak, the view extends to the south as far as Diamond Rock and even to the neighboring island of St. Lucia. You can make out the city and the roads of Fort-de-France, the Sacre Coeur of Balata, replica of Sacre Coeur de Montmartre, and the agricultural plain of Lamentin.

It will take about an hour to descend to the crossroad, joining the Trail Road, either by way of the Piton Dumauze and Colson Hospital or by way of Alma Peak and the village of Colson.

Note: The descent from Piton Lacroix may be tricky--a muddy and slippery slope. Further, at the base of the descent from Piton Lacroix, going toward Alma and Dumauze peaks, you'll need to cross a very narrow ridge (about 8 inches or 20 centimeters wide). There's no shame in scrambling across on all fours, or sliding across on your rear.

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