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Archive for March, 2010

Chocolate Hole, St. John, US Virgin Islands

st john full moon

Another Beautiful Night on St. John

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Mary Bartolucci of Island Style Weddings and Katherine Steinborn of Katilady Events are pleased to announce the formation of the Virgin Island Chapter of the Association for Wedding Professionals International.  The first social mixer will be held on April 13, 210 @ 6PM on St Thomas at Norbu.  Norbu, located in Peterborg, St Thomas is the most elegant of wedding venues.  “We are thrilled that the owners of Norbu have offered their amazing location for our first mixer.” The purpose of starting a local chapter of the Association is to bring together ALL wedding professionals for networking and educational purposes.  Anyone in the wedding industry within the US Virgin Island is most welcome to become a member and to attend our bimonthly get together.

Association for Wedding Professionals International (AFWPI) is an international organization dedicated to providing quality service and a central source of information and referrals – for those planning weddings and those who service weddings. We have a fully staffed Association office dedicated to the support of our members and the brides. We have been providing services for the wedding industry since 1995.

Members receive benefits through networking and discounted services. Brides and grooms receive free referrals to wedding professionals. Members have agreed to a set code of ethics, assuring greater confidence in shopping with them.

Mary and Kati have been members of the International Association  for the past two yrs. Mary has travelled to the Philippines and Mexico on AFWPI on FAM (Familiarization) trips.  Kati also participated in the Mexico FAM trip.  The FAM trips offer not only an educational experience in another location for destination weddings but also a great opportunity to network with other wedding professionals.  “The experience that we have received from traveling to other destination wedding locations has been immeasurable.  We have been able to expand our knowledge by learning from other destinations.  More Fam trips are planned one being in Tobago soon.”

For more information on joining the Association or the upcoming event- contact  mary@islandstyleweddings.com or kati@katilady.com

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Leinster Bay Trail Head

Leinster Bay Trailhead

Donning my trusty Camelbak backpack, GPS and digital camera, I set out to photograph some items of interest on two spur trails off the Brown Bay Trail.

I parked up at the Annaberg Parking Lot and headed down the Leinster Bay Trail. It’s a really beautiful walk, starting out under the shade of a canopy of dry forest trees and then opening onto a shoreline trail. The view from the Leinster Bay Trail is nothing less than spectacular, the trade winds generated breeze refreshing and the trail is comfortable and easy to walk, level and well cleared.

Passing several groups of hikers on the way, I was impressed by how popular the trail has become. There were many yachts on the moorings, beach lovers at the beach and snorkelers plying the waters near and around Waterlemon Cay.

At the beach I headed up and inland on the Johnny Horn Trail.

The guard house near the top of the hill has been well cleared and there are great views of the bay and beyond from there.

Continuing on the Johnny Horn, passing the spur to the Murphy Great House on Windy Hill, I come to the Brown Bay Trail intersection and head north and down hill towards the coast. The trail is now well cleared and easy walking.

I’m looking for the spur trail that goes to an old graveyard. Heading east along the shore, I come to a salt pond on my left and begin looking out for the narrow, but supposedly easy to find spur trail to the cemetery, which I was told was located about 100 feet south of the Brown Bay Trail just before reaching (to the west of) the side track to the beach.

True to my friend’s word, the trail was easy to find and a short walk through the low lying forest leads me to an impressive cemetery, surrounded on four sides by beautifully constructed stone walls. The four feet high walls form an approximate square about 100 feet long on each side. Two pillars, one of which has since fallen down, at one time supported a gate.

Ornate metalwork surrounds the actual grave where a two year old boy was buried in 1860.

st john trails: grave at brown bay brown bay trail:cemetery walls st john trails: cemetery at brown bay

st john trails abattoir on brown bay trailReturning to the trail and again heading east, I pass the beach and begin to ascent a hill. On my left I find the steep path leading down to the coast where there are the remains of a stone structure, which I am told once served as an abattoir.

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lime flower

lime flower

I though I might share some of the little things that made me smile this morning.

I noticed that my lime tree is in flower again. This is a local lime tree, not a grafted one. The limes have seeds and they turn yellow when ripe. They’re full of juice and are sweet in a limey sort of way. I planted this tree from a seed given to me by John Gibney, taken from a lime grown on my favorite lime tree. The tree flowers all over and almost all the flowers ripen turn into limes that fall to the ground when they get ripe. I would guess that each time it bears it gives at least 100 limes, probably more.

Now the lime tree is in flower once again and today as I walked by, I remembered something about the flowers. They’re special also. They have the most delicious aroma, like a beautiful perfume from an expensive perfume store.

Good T’ing! Made me smile.

aloe flower

aloe flower

I have a lot of aloes in the garden. I used to used them in shakes, but not so much recently. They’re good for sunburns or any kind of burn. Now they’re all in flower. The best thing about the aloe flower is that it attracts hummingbirds. My neighbors Adam and Jane have a hedge of aloes where I took this video on day when the aloes were in full bloom.

orchid

orchid

This is one of my favorite orchids. It’s not native to St. John. My guess is that it came fro El Yunque in Puerto Rico, but I’m not sure. It has been in bloom many times and each time it makes me smile.

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Press Release: St. John Film Society

St. John Film Society: AgronomistHello Film Lovers!

Please join us this Thursday night at The Marketplace in Cruz Bay for a FREE FILM about the late Haitian radio broadcaster, Jean Léopold Dominique. In this important documentary by director Jonathan Demme, Dominique is remembered as a human rights activist, freedom fighter and national hero.

Today, almost ten years after his still-unsolved assassination, Dominique continues to inspire the battle for liberty and democracy in Haiti.

For more information visit www.stjohnfilm.com

THURSDAY, MARCH 18th
7:00 PM
MARKETPLACE, CRUZ BAY
Third Floor Courtyard

Donations will be accepted at the film on behalf of Haiti Community Support a Virgin Islands non profit organization. Learn about their heroic mission at: www.haitisupport.org

As always, the Film is Free!

Come early for better seating. Bring a seat cushion for comfort.

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St. John Virgin Islands Trails: Dam on Camelberg Trail

Old Stone Stone Dam

St John Virgin Island Trail map

Camelberg Trail

Thursday
On Thursday I hiked the Camelberg Trail, an old Danish Road that had recently been rediscovered and then made passable to some degree or other.

My goal was to get photographs of the trail’s two highlights, a ruin, previously lost in the bush, and what had been described to me as “a beautiful old stone dam.”

When I reached the part of the trail that I was supposed to navigate in order to come upon these highlights, I  became discouraged due to the lack of a discernible path and by the rain that had begun to fall. Little did I know that when I made the decision to give it up and to return to the top of the trailhead on Centerline Road and to my dry, warm parked car, I was standing no more than ten yards from the modest ruins. I realized this upon returning home while I pored over my maps.

St. John Trails: Camelberg Ruins

Ruins on Camelberg Trail

I resolved to return to the trail the next day and take my photographs.

Friday
Finding the ruins was easy this time, but as the hiker who turned me on to the trail had already told me regarding the ruins: “they’re not much, but they’re there.”

After photographing the not so impressive ruins, I set out on the “track,” which was to lead me to the “beautiful old stone dam.”

bromiliad

bromiliad

Previously I had used the word “passable” to describe the degree of difficulty presented by the Camelberg Trail. Perhaps I spoke too soon or at least too optimistically.  I once again became discouraged after a few minutes spent extricating myself out of a tangle of stickery bromiliads, which I had encountered in the forest after losing the “trail,” marked from time to time by ribbons tied to the trees, that I had been following.

After a few more little trail-related mishaps I found myself once again abandoning my quest to find the “beautiful old stone dam,” which in my mind had now become the “damn dam,” at least for the time being.

Saturday
Yesterday I resumed my search for the damned dam, more determined than ever to get my photos. This time, however, I followed a new route in order to access the damn dam. This was a far more gentlemanly way to get there, and one that I was confident would result in success. The new route was the L’Esperance Road, a veritable superhighway when compared to the Camelberg access.

St. John Trails: L'Esperance

L'Esperance Road

The L’Esperance Road
My plan was to hike the L’Esperance Trail as far as its first intersection with the Camelberg Trail and then either follow that track up to the dam or, if that failed, continue on to the gut and scramble up the gut until I reached the dam.

I arrived at the L’Esperance Trailhead at about 3:00 in the afternoon. There were five vehicles parked there and I was struck by the realization of how popular this once hardly known track had become.

And no wonder, this is a really beautiful hike, something you realize right from the start of the trail where the road descends following the lush Fish Bay Gut. It’s an easy, comfortable walk (at least downhill) with beautiful foliage and rock formations accompanied by the sounds of songbirds and (at times) water trickling in the gut.

Yesterday a full-sized buck stood on the trail just about 20 yards away, staring at me for an instant or two, before gracefully bounding off into the safety of the forest. Another time I saw a wild boar in that same area.

St. John US Virgin Islands Trails: Estate L'Esperance Bridge

Estate L'Esperance Bridge

St. John Trails: Estate L'Esperance

Estate L'Esperance

Just about a tenth of a mile from the trailhead, you’ll come an old stone bridge leading to the ruins of the recently cleared L’Esperance Estate. About a mile further on there are two short spurs leading to Estate Seiban also cleared by volunteers. Seiban is the location of St. John’s only Baobob tree that at one time was so lost in the bush that many disputed its very existence.

I could go on and on about this trail. There’s a beautiful bay rum forest, an old daub and wattle cottage full of old bottles, the ruins of Estate Mahlendahl, as well as access to the Reef Bay Trail, the Great Seiban and the Camelberg trails.

But it wasn’t always like it is now. After Hurricane Marilyn struck in 1995, fallen trees became covered with catch and keep, and as more and more scrub grew up, the road was rendered just about impassable.

Along came the Trail Bandit and groups of concerned hikers who spent years clearing the road little by little. Of course there was resistance from those that oppose trail improvement, but the hikers prevailed.  In 2007, volunteers, this time park approved, did some trail maintenance and  the L’Esperance Road was accepted as “a valuable addition to the VINP hiking trail system.”

More recently, both Seiban and L’Esperance were cleared by Jeff Chabot and volunteers from the Appalachian Mountain Club in conjunction with the Friends of the Virgin Islands National Park and the VINP.

Now the trail is a delight to all and the opposition’s nightmares of wholesale abuse of the land never materialized.

And the Damn Dam?
This was supposed to be an article about the dam on the Camelberg Trail and so it will be.

Remember, my previous attempts had been frustrated by a rainstorm and a lack of commitment that allowed me to be scared off by a tangle of bromiliads and the scratches and bruises caused by not paying enough attention in an inhospitable environment. Add to this the verbal attacks launched against me for having revealed in my blog the existence of a now passable Camelberg Trail and this DAMN DAM was starting to cause me some grief.

Problem Solved
Between the two rough tracks leading from the ruins on the Camelberg Trail to the L’Esperance Trail, there is a gut where the dam is located.

I took the easy way out. Combining an enjoyable hike down the L’Esperance Road with a short scramble up that same gut, I easily reached the old stone dam and took my photos.

Although I had come this way in order to photograph a damn stone dam on the Camelberg Road, I returned with, not only some fairly decent photos of said damn dam, but also, a renewed appreciation for the L’Esperance Trail and to those whose selfless dedication and hard work have enabled so many to enjoy the beauty of St. John and hopefully to walk away with an understanding of its unique natural environment.

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St. John Virgin Islands Trails: Camelberg trail

Camelberg Trail

Camelberg Trail, St. John US Virgin Islands

Some intrepid St. John explorers turned me on to this not so well known hike, which follows an old Danish Road below Camelberg Mountain, as shown on Peter Oxholm’s map of St. John, published some 200 years ago.

The old Danish Road is apparent, but overgrown, the trail over the road is rough, maintained apparently by the few hikers that use it. Although the trail is fairly obvious and is marked in placed by ribbons, I used a GPS and a good map to reassure me of my location. An excellent map of St. John, containing most of the trails, as well as the old Oxholm Map of St. John can be purchased for the low price of $2.00 each or downloaded free of charge at http://www.trailbandit.org/store.htm

At first you will be following a mountain ridge, on a relatively flat forest trail shaded mostly by native dry forest trees. In this area you’ll pass by stands of smooth shiny barked, guavaberry, aromatic pepper cinnamon and bay rum trees and beautiful rock formations, decorated by algaes and colonized by anthuriums and bromiliads.

As you descend towards the L’Esperance Road, more sun penetrates the canopy and you’ll start seeing tyre palm stands and patches of bromiliads growing closely together.

The following is a description given to me by a previous explorer:

“The Camelberg Trail runs between Centerline Road and the L’Esperance Road, beginning just east of the BVI overlook on Centerline. There is parking on the south side of the road about 200 feet east of the overlook. Walk back toward the overlook, and when the bank in your left is about three feet high above the road, head into the woods. It is easy to see as others have gone before you. The route is whacked out but not cleared for a trail so don’t fall on the pungie stakes.

This old road is superb all the way out past Camelberg and you should have no trouble following it. As you head down toward Fish Bay, the trail is less obvious, but well hacked out. You should see tapes in the trees.

St. John Trails: Ruin on Camelberg Trail

Camelberg Trail Ruin

As you approach the L’Esperance Road the trail forks near an some old ruins that aren’t much, but they are there. There are also many orchids here too. After the ruin, the track bears right and works it’s way down toward the gut and down to the L’Esperance Road. Ok, there aren’t any great views, but the part of the trail before you head down the hill runs through a beautiful forest. If you are interested, there is an old stone dam in the gut and a road heading to the south east from the dam. This road is hacked out part way but there is a 100 foot section that isn’t.

Ah, just when you thought you were done: turn left and hike toward Reef Bay on the L’Esperance Road. After you pass the gut that runs down to Fish Bay, and are heading up hill toward Reef Bay, turn left on the old road that heads north. Follow this road and diagonally up to the saddle. From the saddle, stay to the left side of  valley and you will find a track that takes you along the ridge, then turns left and down to the gut. Cross the gut and walk along to the next gut, and turn left and up the second gut. Keep looking to your left, and you will see the stonework on the side of a road that heads up and back toward Camelberg. It is back from the gut a bit so look closely. Follow this road steeply up the hill. After a bit, the road runs out, (probably it switchbacks up someplace). Just make your way up and left to the top of the ridge. There are various tapes in the trees from previous explorations. Once on the ridge, you should be able to follow the track of previous travelers, all the way back the Camelberg Trail. Turn right and walk back to your parked car.”

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Orchids, Chocolate Hole, St. John US Virgin Islands March 7, 2010

Orchids, St. John US Virgin Islands st john virgin islands flora:orchids orchid st john island

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Here’s another in the series of newly cleared overlooks, the product of the hard work done by Jeff Chabot and his trail clearing volunteers. This one is the popular Lind Point Battery Overlook on the Lind Point Trail.

Lind Point Battery Overlook

St. John Trails: Lind Point Battery Overlook

view to the north from the bench on the Lind Point Battery Overlook

St. John Trails: Lind Point Battery Overlook

view into cruz bay

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As promised here are some more photos of the overlooks recently cleared by Jeff Chabot and his crew of intrepid volunteers. From those of us who hike the trails of St. John:

THANK YOU!!!

St. John Trails: Caneel Hill Overlook

View from the Bench on Caneel Hill

The Caneel Hill Bench

St. John Trails: Caneel hill Bench

View from the Caneel Hill bench

Hikers following the Caneel Hill Trail beginning from the National Park Visitors Center in Cruz Bay or from the Caneel Hill Spur will arrive at a wooden bench just before they reach the summit of Caneel Hill. There is now a view from this very welcomed resting spot that at least for the view to the north goes, rivals the view from the viewing tower at the summit. This thanks to the hard work and dedication of the trail crew from the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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Brought to you by Gerald Singer, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)