Posted: Tuesday, February 12,2019. 2:13 p.m. CST.
“There is magnetism in wild places. And it calls to us on a spiritual level. Connect to a higher sense of adventure in Belize on Victoria Peak Natural Monument.”
Rising abruptly from the lowlands, the jagged Cockscomb Mountains are an impressive mass of rock visible from the coast. Of the range, Victoria Peak Natural Monument boasts the highest mountain at a height of 1,120 meters, making it the second highest elevation in Belize. During Belize’s dry season in February through May, visitors get a unique chance to conquer the Victoria Peak Trail.
The odyssey begins within the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary’s park headquarters – the last bit of civilized comfort and online distractions. The innocent Victoria Peak Trail signage gives way to a mostly flat old logging track that twists northwest towards the Peak itself. A quick stop over at the 13km Helipad includes the refreshing respite at the provided picnic tables along the banks of the Sittee River, as well as a chance to take in the expedition ahead. ATVs are available up to this point.
Most groups are able to push through to 19km on day 1; the ascending and descending undulations quickly change to up, up and up. While catching your breath, be sure to look around – fresh jaguar prints in the soft sand will create new motivation and remind you you’re in one of the earth’s last truly wild places. With the shift in altitude and humidity, you’ll soon reap high elevation species such as Brown Violet-ear Hummingbirds, Crested Eagles, and the Fiery-colored Orchid (Epidendrum ibaguense) as you near the summit. At “Deadman’s Camp” aka 19km, enjoy a well-deserved massage from the mini-waterfall and stream. Over a campfire, share stories of the day with a soothing bowl of carb-loading noodles; licking flames will synchronize with laughter and counter the cool night air of the jungle.
Exhaustion teases on day 2, but is quickly replaced by the exciting prospect of standing tall upon the heights of the Maya Mountains to marvel at its beauty from 360 degrees. Carrying an essentials-only daypack and one deep breath, one step in front of the other through the moist, dwarfed elfin forest starts the final ascent from “The Saddle” to Summit. Rope and harness are necessary for the short rock gulley climb amongst a sphagnum moss blanket, but with a final push of both exertion and exhilaration – you’ve made it! All the while, the emerald expanse of the Stann Creek District fans out in the distance below. Whether you reach the summit or not, standing in awe of a mountain is one of the few experiences that leave us feeling rooted – fully connected to the world and its intricacies. Victoria Peak Natural Monument is no exception to being a pocket of wonder and refuge for those looking for a deeper connection than WiFi.
Surely a bucket list item of Belizean adventure for the self-proclaimed weekend warrior in each of us, do note that Victoria Peak is reserved for intrepid hikers. Choosing to embark on the 27-kilometer one-way trail requires all hikers to be accompanied by a licensed tour guide and registered as early as possible. For more information on the Victoria Peak Trail, visit www.belizeaudubon.org/
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