On top of the World – Black Rock Lake, Lagodekhi National Park
Adversity is the one defining word I am able to describe my experience on this 3-day trek. The trail is hard, steep, and at times offering an extraordinary feeling of being on top of the world.
Location – The short version.
Lagodekhi National Park is located on the southern slopes of the Caucasus mountains, boarding Azerbaijan and Dagestan, at the north-eastern edge of the Kakheti region. The park offers a huge area of nearly 25,000 hectares of protected sub-tropical forest filled with indigenous flowers, fauna, and a handful of wild animals. There are 4 trails offered for those who are interested in exploring the park: Grouse Waterfall (9km), Ninoskhevi Waterfall (8km), 11th-century Machi Castle (3km from main road), and the Black Rock Lake Circuit (48km).
Our day begin with a 2.5-hour drive from Tbilisi, arriving in Lagodekhi at noon. We decided best to load up on a nice meal of eggs, Georgian salad, khachapuri, and a cold beer before setting off on our 13km ascend towards Black Rock Lake and the first of two tourist shelters. It was 13:30 by time we began walking. Let’s just say, ignorance is bliss!
Six hours after vigorously stepping one foot in front of the other and ascending a mere 2000m in altitude we arrived at the first of two Meteo Shelters.
But first, the ascend… Most of the trek on the first day leads you up a rich forest of old beech trees. The trail is well marked and has a fair width until the last 2 hours where it significantly narrows. If you are the kind of trekker who likes to look around as you walk, this is not the trail for you. The scenery is quite redundant, making the trek somehow more of a personal challenge and less of a sightseeing tour. The day required an immense amount of mental strength and precision to complete the 13km.
After what felt like an eternity of uphill trekking, we were blessed with a whimsical walk on a narrow path of waist high wild flowers, which I quite enjoyed. Still no view of anything other than old beech trees and the sounds of singing birds, the little specs of color, shapes, and sizes of the wild flowers did give my wanderlust soul a bit of motivation for our last push towards the tourist shelter.
Arriving at the tourist shelter was a rewarding feeling. We were nothing shy of a very sweaty, sticky, and exhausted mess by the time we arrived. We were blessed with fair weather throughout the first day, until the second we arrived when it started pouring rain. Rain or shine, we needed a rinse down after a long day of a lot of physical/mental activity. Quickly dropping our bags into one of the very clean rooms of the shelter, we stripped down and put on our bathing suits. Running in the pouring rain approximately 100m we arrived at a narrow stream of fresh spring water. First, we dumped cup after cup of freezing cold water onto our bodies, lathering up with soap, and finally rinsing off. We were washing as fast as the speed of light. Once rinsed and becoming increasingly colder, we quickly filled our cups with water and guzzled them down. I have to say this was the best tasting water I have ever drank in my life. Not because of the long day, but genuinely the best tasting water I have ever drank in my life. NOTE: There is no water source between the beginning of this hike and the Meteo shelter. We consumed approximately 3 liters of water on the ascend. Recommended up to 4 liters. Refill at Meteo for next day of hiking 16km.