Sunday, February 10, 2008

St. John Adventure - Day 9 (Reef Bay Hike)

A completely amazing day. In fact, we saw so much and had such a good time I can't imagine that I can write it all down. I will try to add more pictures instead.

So today we did the Reef Bay Hike. It starts out at the campground, from where we take the Cinnamon Bay trail, a 1.2 mile hike entirely uphill, and since it was rainy on and off, fairly slippery at the same time. We got going around 11am, with Husband still feeling a little off, so at least I thought I would be able to keep up. He took an entire backpacker pack, while I was carrying only my little rucksack. Here is a view from about two thirds of the way up, looking back over Cinnamon Bay.
The Cinnamon Bay Trail ends on the Centerline Road, which is one of the two roads that run across the island. From here we had to walk about a mile east along the road, taking care to step out of the way of traffic because it was pretty winding (windy?) and only really gets locals, who zoom by very fast. There is also a bus that runs along this road every hour, and costs about $1. All along the road the signs, such as the trail sign and speed limits were covered in bullets. I guess kids here don't know what to do with themselves. That's the bullet holes on the left there. And here is a picture looking down towards the South side of the island where we are headed. From here on it was downhill on the Reef Bay trail.
The trail is very well marked. The National Park takes tours down the trail and then picks up the tourists at the end in a boat and takes them around to Cruz Bay from where they can catch a taxi back. But that is for sissies! We will be hiking down and all the way back up this 3.4 mile trail.
Along the way we met Will, a 30 something dermatology intern from New York City. He was on St. Thomas for a dermatology conference and today was his last day, so he decided to explore. He had already been scuba diving this morning and thought he might do this hike as well. We got to talking because he stopped to take our picture for us, and then we simply hiked the rest of the way together. It was really quite fun having company and he was a really nice guy. We came upon several ruins of sugar mills. Here is a picture of one about half way down the hike.
And here is an image of the trail itself. Pretty easy going, I would say! I just love those sub tropical forests. There is so much life everywhere! We saw mango trees, papaya trees, something called a locust, bay rum trees etc. It was lovely, and the trail tells you about all the different kinds of uses and other useful information.
About two thirds of the way down the trail branches off so you can go check out the petroglyphs. These were most likely left behind by the Taino people, who lived on the island in pre-Columbian times. They are carved into the rocks surrounding a pool of fresh water, fed by a small but beautiful waterfall. The water level in the pool remains constant throughout the year and would have been very important to the natives. Observe how beautifully the petroglyphs reflect in the water. I am especially grateful that we were there right after a passing shower and the entire scene was wet, sparkling and steaming with that mist that you can only get in warmer climates.

And right nearby visitors have left a new generation of glyphs, carved into the waxy leaves of a bush on the edge of the waterfall.
At the end of the Reef Bay trail are the biggest sugar mill ruins I've seen so far (of course I've missed the ones in Annaberg, and they are pretty famous). This mill actually lived two lives, back in colonial times where it was powered by slaves and horses, and then in later years it was revived and a steam engine was put in. Now it is a home to bats, and a nice shelter for when it's pouring out.
This is where they cooked the rum I think.

The bats are everywhere!!
Hiding from the rain. The wooden thing in the back is part of the horse or donkey turning mechanism. The black thing is of a later era.
The steam engine part. It is actually enormous, it is hard to get perspective here.
And here is an odd sign on the bathroom building. What do you think they are trying to tell us?
Finally we also walked to the beach. It was a desolate affair, not a single person in sight. It was overcast and the surf was up, and we got eaten alive by no-see-ums. Needless to say we did not stay on the beach long.
Walking back was a bit more challenging. It was around 4pm at this point, which means that it had taken us 5 hours to get here. I was quite tired, not sure how the boys were feeling. We did not really get a chance to eat, though we were snacking on some nuts. The last mile of the Reef Bay trail, I was just not sure I could make it. I could feel my pulse in the my head, and was sure something was going to explode. Between the rain and the sweat I was drenched, and I was not sure that I could feel my legs. But we had a sneaky plan - we knew that there was a couple that had hiked down just after us and we thought that they looked like they came by car. So we wanted to make it to the top and wait for them, and then see if we could bum a ride back to the next trail head. Unfortunately they were in much better shape then I was and were constantly gaining on us, so I could not even stop to take a breath. By the time I finally got to the end of the trail I was not sure I could take another step. I collapsed quiet pitifully and just sweated in a puddle on the side of the road, which meant that we did not even have to ask for a ride, they offered it to us!
They dropped us off at the Cinnamon Bay trail and took Will the rest of the way into town. From here we had to rush to keep ahead of the falling darkness, and finally made it to camp around 6pm. I was so tired, and we had no fuel once more, so I suggested eating out at the little restaurant they have here, but Husband said that it was more fun to make our food especially now that it was a challenge. It was also pouring rain now. We tried to go to Ken and Eva's, who sadly left this morning to go home, but someone had already moved into that tent. So finally we went to the group camp site across the path and sneakily used one of the stoves that is set out there. By the time we went to bed the rain was so bad that there was a little river running under our tent. The end result was that it felt like sleeping on a water bed, while it gently seeped into our pads. Good times.

No comments: