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Getting to know America Hill Ruins

March 30, 2015

photo 1There’s certainly no shortage of ruins on St John, and looking back through the archives of this blog, you’ll see that most of our favorite hikes include a ruin or two. One that I don’t seem to get to as often is America Hill, but the America Hill House ruins are some of my favorites – I’m sure you’ll see why when you see the pictures! Not only are the ruins attractive, the views of the north shore of St John are stunning.

In its hey day, the boarding house was rumored to have been used by rum runners, which totally makes sense when you see the nearly 300-degree view it commanded of the north side of the island.

photo 1 (1)The hike up is steep at first, and fairly exposed, but as you cross the gut it levels out a bit and becomes shadier & cooler. Once you reach the America Hill Spur, which is not very far up Cinnamon Bay Trail, it’s only about five more minutes to the ruins. The walls of the house are mostly intact, and you can see where the remains of the front steps were. This wasn’t a “Great House” like the ruins at Windy Point on Johnny Horn Trail, but rather a smaller Estate House which was eventually used as a guesthouse in the early 1900’s. One of the last guests was said to be Trujillo, former dictator of the Dominican Republic, just adding to the site’s illustrious history.

For more information on America Hill Estate House & the Cinnamon Bay Trail, I recommend visiting SeeStJohn.com’s page on the hike – they also have some more impressive pictures!

There really isn’t a bad hike on St John, every trail in the VI National Park has something to offer, but the views and ruins on this particular trail are spectacular.

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Upcoming Blog Post: Cinnamon Bay Trail & America Hill Ruins

March 27, 2015

It’s mid-season here in St John and that means lots of business! The only downside of that is less time to get out and enjoy our fair island, but this weekend we’ve got a new hike on the agenda! The Cinnamon Bay Trail is one we haven’t featured before, and the ruins at America Hill are some of our favorites, so stay tuned for pictures and a little bit of the history of the area, coming Monday morning!

Cinnamon Bay Trail & America Hill Ruins Map

8 Tuff Miles

March 2, 2015

Congrats to all the runners & walkers this past weekend – we’re proud of all of you! Check out the official 8 Tuff Miles results on the race’s website, here!

Photo from Instagram by @meaghancolleen

Hiking: Fish Bay Gut

August 4, 2014

“Guts” on St John are a feature of our mountainous terrain.  During rainstorms, water runs off down the mountainsides and into the valleys between them, making its way toward the sea.  Heavy rains wash soil and sediment downstream, leaving piles of boulders and bare rock.  The gut environments are usually lush and jungle-like, due to the profusion of water in the area.

Pool and Running Water - Fish Bay GutFish Bay Gut is one of the most popular among hikers.  It is one of the only south shore guts with permanent water, along with Battery Gut (also in Fish Bay), Living Gut (Reef Bay), and Guinea Gut (Great Cruz Bay).  This hike is very challenging, as it involves periods of intense climbing and rock scrambling.  The gut environment is dynamic and obstacles can vary depending on the amount of rainfall and the time of year.  Rocks are frequently slippery and passage in and out is slow and remote for rescue crews.  This hike is recommended only for those in good physical condition – DO NOT attempt this hike alone, and always exercise caution.

Fish Bay Gut is accessed from either side of the bridge in Fish Bay.  Be prepared to get wet on this hike, as vegetation can be damp in the mornings, and some portions of the Gut are passable only through the pools and running water.  The freshwater pools of Fish Bay Gut are home to freshwater crabs and small crayfish, as well as fish whose eggs can lie dormant for years until there is sufficient rainfall to support life in the pool.  After about a quarter mile, you will reach the intersection with Battery Gut – the left fork – which continues up through Gifft Hill Valley.  A further 0.1 mile past this intersection, up Battery Gut, you’ll come to the 70 foot waterfall.  There are fresh water pools at the top and bottom of the falls, but the climb is only recommended for experienced rock climbers.  Most of the waterfalls along Fish Bay Gut are more gradual than this one, and more accessible, but climbing them is tricky, and slippery – use caution.

For more information about Fish Bay and Battery Guts, visit SeeStJohn.com

Our hike, the day after Tropical Storm Bertha passed by, was blessed with nearly perfect conditions.  The sun was shining, it was fairly cool, and while there wasn’t quite as much water as we’d hoped, there was enough, and plenty of dry rock and ground to climb on.  We benefitted from a group of four hikers visiting from St Thomas – their hiking and climbing abilities far surpassed ours, and we thank them for blazing a trail for us to follow (albeit much more slowly!).  Check out the gallery to see some more pictures from our hike!

Our Caribbean Inspired “Must Read” List

July 31, 2014

One thing that is true of life on an island is that there’s always time to read.  On the beach, on a boat, on the couch by candlelight when the power goes out (inevitably around here, thanks to WAPA)… tons of opportunities to pick up a whole new world in a book and disappear for a while.

We’re lucky to be here pretty much all the time, but we know y’all miss the Caribbean when you’re not around, so here are a few of our favorite Caribbean beach reads.

Islands In The Stream, Ernest Hemingway

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in 1970, 9 years after his death, this final novel follows the adventures (and misadventures) of Thomas Hudson, a painter living on the island of Bimini.  In Hemingway’s trademark terse prose, we follow Hudson from fishing trips in the Gulf Stream to anti-submarine missions off the Cuban coast.  For a full description, see here.

 

The Rum Diary, Hunter S Thompson

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You just can’t talk about Iconic Literature Set In The Caribbean without mentioning this book.  Lifestyle guide to some, cautionary tale to others, memorable to everyone… begun by a then-22-year-old Hunter S Thompson, the novel takes you through the chaos that was life in 1950’s San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Includes a cameo of St Thomas Carnival as well as a nearly untouched Vieques.  Read the description and reviews here.

 

Archipelago, Monique Roffrey

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Set further down island than our first two recommendations, Archipelago follows the sailing adventure of Gavin and his young daughter.  When tragedy drives them from their home in Trinidad, the pair set out on a journey to the Galapagos Islands via the Panama Canal.  A striking novel of loss and the growth that comes from grief, the novel also benefits from its lush settings along the southern Caribbean.  More description and reviews are found here.

 

Don’t Stop The Carnival, Herman Wouk

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This book.  It’s basically a timeless user’s guide to life in the islands as a stateside transplant.  I own two copies.  One friend of mine keeps copies in her room, her living room, and her guest room, just in case everyone in the house wants to read it at once.  New York City press agent Norman Paperman moves to a Caribbean island and buys a hotel (mid-life crisis, anyone?)… the kind of ridiculousness that only happens down here ensues.  Just do yourself a favor and read it.  Description and reviews here.

 

Go forth and read!  Think I missed a crucial book?  Please share your thoughts and recommendations on Facebook or on Twitter (@Just_BEach)!

 

 

 

 

Sunscreen: Your Skin’s BFF

May 7, 2014

Sunscreen: Your Skin’s BFF

As the season changes here in the islands from winter to summer (yes, we think we have seasons), we’d like to take this opportunity once again to remind everyone: WEAR SUNSCREEN!!

Seriously people, we’re seeing some wicked burns come through the shop.  This article by the ACS (link in the title of this post) provides great tips, please read it.  Most importantly:

#1 – wear sunscreen, obvi.  Preferably SPF 15 or higher, although anything over SPF 30 shows negligible increase in protection.

#2 – reapply said sunscreen, at least every 2 hours.  NOTHING IS WATERPROOF.

#3 – stay out of the sun when possible during peak hours (we say between 11 and 2)

Stay safe out there, sun bunnies.  No one wants to look like leather when they’re old.

Check out our previous sunscreen post, Caribbean Sun,,, Not For The Fair Of Skin, for more in depth information!

National Park Week: Go Wild!

April 18, 2014

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Among the many reasons St John is special, our National Park is surely a front runner.  Comprising 70% of our beautiful island, the Park is a major tourist attraction and also minimizes development and ensures that our beaches and trails will stay pristine.

Every year the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation invite people nationwide to celebrate National Park Week, this year from April 19th to April 27th.  There are more than 400 National Parks nationwide, and people are encouraged to get out and explore them this week – Parks will even be waiving entrance fees on April 19th and 20th.  (For the VINP on St John, our only entrance fee is at Trunk Bay).  This year’s theme, “Go Wild!”, serves as a reminder to get out and enjoy the protected wilderness across the country, and to learn about the history, wildlife, and cultures represented in our National Parks.  For more information, check out this article from nationalpark.org or watch this hilarious (at least to me) video they made to promote National Park Week:

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, here’s a little background on our Park here in St John:

– It’s comprised of 7,000 acres, most of which was donated by conservationist Laurance Rockefeller to establish the Park in 1956.

– The Park also has over 5,000 undersea acres of protected reef and other marine ecosystems.

– Much of the island’s vegetation is second-growth, as vast portions of St John were clear cut in the colonial period to allow for the growth of sugar cane

– Throughout history St John has been a nexus between Caribbean cultures, European exploration, and the African slave trade. The archaeology program within the VINP has been working to illuminate the fascinating history of St John.

For more information, we recommend the VINP website and the St John Historical Society – both are great resources!