Jamaica’s Blue Mountains

Sleep should be impossible. A chorus of unfamiliar insects wavers between high, screechy whirs and low, deep buzzes like a broken radio searching for a signal. Crooning frogs insert themselves into the racket as fireflies streak the night skies. But sleep comes easy tonight.

A 10-mile hike past giant fig trees and across gin-clear rivers to this remote hunter’s camp has my eyelids heavy—which is good because tomorrow’s itinerary calls for 3 tough miles to a seldom-visited landmark at the center of Jamaica’s history. Under normal circumstances, 3 miles wouldn’t intimidate. But the Blue Mountains are anything but normal.

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Like most foreigners who have heard of the “Blues,” I knew nothing about the place, save that the range produces some excellent coffee. But that was before I hiked here. Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, a collection of steep mountains and tangled jungles, covers 159 square miles in the heart of the island. But unlike in most tropical rainforests, hazards common to the biome—malaria and venomous snakes—don’t exist here. That means worry-free trekking in both rain- and cloud forests and an opportunity to camp among rare species like streamertail hummingbirds and the Jamaican giant swallowtail, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere with its 6-inch wingspan.

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