Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hiking on St John Island, US Virgin Islands

Reed and I recently took a vacation to the Virgin Islands. It was to be a sailing trip, mainly. I was enticed onto the trip, in part, with the promise of hiking and camping on St John Island before the sailing portion began. I had visions of hiking straight out of the airport and across St Thomas Island to where we would catch the ferry to St John. Upon arrival at the St Thomas airport, we changed out of our airplane clothes, reloaded our backpacks and set out walking. Our first error was not applying sunscreen before packing it into the bottom of my backpack. Our second error was proceeding out of the airport in the wrong direction towards a dead end, while the midday sun beat down on us. We retraced our travel weary steps, used the bathrooms at the airport and got underway again. We walked less than a mile, with a long stop at a public park where we took a nap and it was enough walking for us, in the heat of the day and after an overnight flight. 

We solicited instructions from a woman standing by the road on how to catch, ride and pay for a bus, known as a "Safari." The ride took about an hour. I was grateful the whole time not to be walking. We rode a ferry boat over to St John Island, and this time took a taxi to our campground. It was another place that I had thought that I would walk instead of ride. It was not to be - my body was not willing and it wasn't forced to proceed on out of necessity. Instead we rode the 8 or so miles, up and down and around tight corners. We arrived at Cinnamon Bay campground near dusk. We found our site, set up our tent and I collapsed. Reed kept asking me when I was going to brush my teeth. "Later," I would answer, falling back to sleep. 

I woke in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I hadn't brushed my teeth, nor was I going to that night. 

The following day, exhaustion. We took a short walk with a naturalist and a group, which introduced us to the trail system on the island. Yes, we will walk tomorrow. 
Tomorrow came and we did walk. We set out after breakfast. Up, up and more up. I love up. We climbed up and over the spine of the island, with a number of fantastic views along the way. One mile up, then more up (about a mile) along the road that runs the length of the island. We connected with another trail that took us around and down to the far side of the island. We walked around an old rum factory, enjoyed a snack on the beach and continued walking. I was confident that we'd be able to get a ride back out of the area where we were going and then connect up with the island's bus. It worked! We emerged at a beautiful beach, with a number of fellow tourist parties there enjoying it. One man from Minnesota agreed to give us a ride back to the town in his rented jeep. He dropped us at a grocery store where we experienced anew the staggering prices of food on the islands. We bought some anyway, as our existing supplies of builder bars were dwindling. We had a picnic with our supplies under the shade of trees and near the water. Our company over lunch was free range roosters, donkeys and a number of fiddler crabs. After lunch we set out to continue walking the road until the bus came along. It wasn't long and we were able to flag down the bus. Onboard, we enjoyed the ride along the curving, up and down good road. For fear of missing our trail back to the campground, I pulled the string too early. We got to walk a bit farther than necessary, although, that describes hiking in general. We connected back up with the one mile trail back down to Cinnamon Bay. Success. 
Our hike had been a combination of wilderness and urban hiking - in that we were able to hook up with an island bus to facilitate our loop and it included a grocery store stop along the way. It felt like a combination of hiking the Pacific NW Trail and urban LA's stairs, in a new setting. I loved it. A new place, hiking, food, success. 

Already showing the sweat! 

Freshwater on an island with very little

Hiking in airplane socks with my sandals because we only brought one pair of shoes - our chacos. 

Break time at the oasis

Near the fresh water source 
Giant fiddler crabs abound, noises all through the woods

Almost like the Galapagos - but where are the aquatic iguanas? 

Happy after Hiking

The heat of the day

Overlooking the ocean from about 30 feet up. I love the power of the water moving. 

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