We have always loved to be active and outdoors, even once we had kids. So our first weekend here, in what was still a very foreign place to us, we threw the boys in the car and started on a dirt road out of town. Jarabacoa is a small town, so it didn't take long! Soon we crossed a decent sized stream, and we applied the old adage that anything below the high water mark must be public land. We jumped out by a bridge and started splashing, exploring, and playing in the small stream. As we prepared to leave and were hiking back to the car, a gentleman kindly informed us that this was private land, and we should be more careful about where we ventured (how we understood him with our limited Spanish I will never know).
This was but the beginning of something we were soon to realize; there is very little public land in the D.R. I am finding it hard to put into words just what a shock to my system this reality was. Quite simply, I had grown up my entire life recreating on the vast public lands that are afforded to us as citizens of the U.S. I had been to countless National Parks, I had camped and hiked through myriad National Forests, I had hunted and fished on obscure BLM properties in numerous states. Heck, even the ski areas leased their lands from the Forest Service!
In the coming weeks and months, it even started to effect how I saw myself as a father in this new place. I had always thought of myself as a good Dad, and to me a big part of that included taking my boys camping, fishing, hiking, skiing, etc. But how could I do that here? Where would I do that here?
Accordingly, we set about trying to figure out what activities we COULD do here. And we came to learn that our first impressions were not entirely accurate. Many larger streams did allow for public access for canyoning, and the region had several impressive waterfalls that one could hike to through the stream bed. Also, there are national parks in the Dominican Republic, but they typically are highly controlled and require you to hire a guide to access them.
Nevertheless, and with the help of new friends who had lived here longer than we had, we were able to find some really great places to adventure in this country. For more details on some of these excellent adventures, check out the “Dominican Republic” section of our Trip Reports page. In the coming weeks, we will share more about how these experiences have shaped and informed how we are choosing to return to our native land - together with our new son whom we recently adopted from the Dominican Republic!