"St. John Beach Guide" a guide to St. John's world class National Park beaches
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Archive for April, 2010

Tell us a little about yourself.
I was self employed for about 30 years with an electronics design and small scale manufacturing business here in Henniker, NH. About 10 years ago I got sick of filling out government forms and paying taxes for the privilege of hiring people, so after finishing the last contract, I closed the doors, and retired. People didn’t believe me, so I had the work phone disconnected. It took a while, but they finally have forgotten about me and I am retired. If I had the money, I would have retired when I was 20, but I didn’t.

How is it that you originally decided to come to St. John and make a trail map?
I first went to St. John in 1965 because my parents had gone there and liked the place. On my first few visits I did the usual tourist stuff, and, the snorkeling was superb. After a few visits, I started to venture out on more of the hiking trails. The map that the NPS gives out has never been worth much and for a new visitor to use it to find his or her way around, it is almost useless. Also, over the years, trails were not maintained and the NPS solution was to erase them from their map when they became overgrown. GPS technology had become available at reasonable prices and armed with a hand held GPS receiver, it was possible to accurately map the roads and trails. How hard can it be to make a map? Well, when I started, it was harder than it is now, and I didn’t know anything so I made the process more difficult than it had to be. My initial map was made in 2004 and was pretty good for a first effort. I had 9000 of them printed. The trail map bug had gotten me. I published an improved edition of the St. John hiking map in 2006. In 2008 I designed a version of the map for the Park Service, that shows only the approved hiking trails and that map is sold at the Park Visitor’s Center in Cruz Bay. I am almost finished with what will probably be the final edition of my St. John hiking map. I will include not only the approved hiking trails but will also show a lot of old Danish roads and trails that are not maintained or approved, but are great fun to explore. I hope other hikers will continue helping to keep the trails open.

What was the condition of the trails and the park when you first arrived?
When I first came to St. John, the trails were in pretty good shape. Over the years, the trails were neglected and many got so overgrown that you couldn’t even find them any more. In 1978, I went down the L’Esperance Road with a couple of friends. It was hard going, and early in the hike, one of my friends said “What we need here is a machete”. About 200 feet further along the trail, there was a machete lying on the ground. It was even fairly sharp. With this newly acquired weapon, we were able to make it all the way to Reef Bay. The catch-n-keep had torn our skin and clothes, but we made it. Some years later, I once again tried to follow the L’Esperance Road. It was impassable, and in places it had disappeared. I bought a machete and started to clear a path on the road. Of course, there was no way I could complete the task in one trip, so every time I returned to St. John, I cleared some more. Over the years, I finally had a path all the way to Reef Bay that people could walk. At some point, someone came in with a tractor, and removed the huge fallen trees that I couldn’t cut and widened out the first 2/3 of the trail. I don’t know who did that work, but I thank them. Gradually, trail clearing became sort of an obsession and I located and cleared many old trails and roads.

What contact have you had with with park officials and local hikers?
The Park officials became aware of my work when I published my first map. The chief ranger at that time was enraged, and called me at home and screamed “YOU CAN’T JUST MAKE A MAP!” I tried to explain that the first amendment to the US Constitution has a few words to say about the freedom of the press. I met with members of the Park staff at a public meeting and discussed what I wanted to do, and they essentially said no. The meeting was attended by a reporter who published a story about what was discussed. My first contact with local hikers was on a hike down what has become the Maria Hope Trail. The trail was badly overgrown and as we approached the lower end, the brush was so thick we couldn’t get through. They said that at this point, they scrambled down the hill to the gut to reach the road. They were armed with rose bush clippers and I had my machete. I suggested that if I went first, we could get through. I hacked and they dragged brush away. The first decent of the Maria Hope trail in recent times had been done. A number of the hikers were amazed at how well a sharp machete works and became converts. I have had many great hikes with the local hiking groups. I have noticed that there are some who want to keep their trails and discoveries a secret and I have left a few trails off the map at their request. These were trails in remote areas where I didn’t think many would want to go anyway. No map ever shows everything.

Were they cooperative?
The Park service has, in general, done it’s best to stop my work.  I spent a lot of time trying to get the old roads and trails back on the NPS map, declared legal trails again and hopefully, maintained. There was one ranger in particular, who, if he responded at all, would have a long list of “what MIGHT be required” for a particular trail officially recognized. It “MIGHT” be required to have an archeologist and a rare plant expert sent down from the States to survey the proposed trail. There was no money available for that. The local staff experts were way too busy to be able to look at new trail or ruins. After several years of  fighting for these trails, my learning more about NPS rules, and a change of leadership at VINP, some progress was made. First, a temporary superintendent put a stop to all the “MIGHT BE REQUIRED” conditions, and the present superintendent has made huge strides in getting VINP back in shape. Now a number of the old trails have been officially reopened.

What trails have you worked on?
I started, as I mentioned above with the L’Esperance road. After that came the Tektite trail, the Cabritte Horn spur, the Europa Point trail, the Tamarind Tree trail, the Water Catchment trail, the connector from the Water Catchment to the Caneel trail, the Great Sieben trail, the trail down to Par Force ruins from the Reef Bay Great House area and the trail up to America Hill. All of these are now officially recognized by the Park Service. There have been many other trails that I and others have worked on enough to get through but these aren’t cleared to any standard, and are not at this time recognized by the Park Service.

Which currently unofficial trails would you most likely want to see adopted by the park and why?
I would like to see the southern extension of the Maria Hope trail be cleared and officially reopened. It is a beautiful road and passes the ruins of the Paqureau and Hope Estates. This would require making a short section of new trail to connect with the top of the Reef Bay Trail, as the original trail bed has been destroyed by the building of Centerline road. This would make the Reef Bay Hike a loop hike.     I would like to see the trails out to Turner Point reopened as it is beautiful out there and the eastern part of VINP is currently mostly unused as are no cleared trails or official access.    The area out by Camelberg Peak is a beautiful forest with old roads and is currently little visited. A cleared trail there would make a nice loop hike with the L’Esperance road.  Mary Point has old trails, beautiful views, but is currently badly overgrown with catch-n-keep and painful to visit.

How do you find old roads?
Many of the old roads that I have found are shown on the Oxholm 1800 map of St. John. I have also used aerial photographs taken back in 1954. I built a 3D viewer that was very helpful in finding old roads on these photos. Many times, if you just hike through the woods you will come across parts of old roads. Sometimes they quickly disappear and other times, they can be followed a long way. Unfortunately, many of the best of the old roads have been destroyed by modern road building.

Do you make new trails?
No. There are roads and trails going everywhere on St. John. The old roads were designed and built by people who knew what they were doing. St. John is so steep that most of the old roads are built up on the down hill side, with stone walls. These roads have existed for 200 years or more. If a new trail were to be built, similar construction methods would be needed. This would be more work and expense than would be worthwhile. There are plenty of existing, well built, roads and trails out there. They just need clearing and maintenance.

Have you donated any money for trail  improvements?
Yes. One of the arguments for not opening any new trails, expressed by the Park Service, was that there is no money available to maintain the trails. I started a Trail Maintenance Fund that is available for that purpose. The VINP is in charge of the fund. Hopefully, those of you who like to hike the trails, but don’t have time to do trail work, will contact the VINP superintendent and donate some money to help hire others to do the work. I gave the artwork for the trail map to the Park Service. $1.00 from the sale of every map they sell goes to the trail maintenance fund.

Tell us about the new map work in progress?
The map I am working on will probably be my last one for St. John. I will include most of the old roads and trails I know about. Some are great and others don’t amount to much. They are there and people who like to explore may enjoy them. I will put the location of all the trails on my web site as .GPX tracks. Those who are interested can load any track onto their GPS receiver and accurately follow the path. My web site also has the St. John map available to upload to your GPS as an accurate base map, showing all the trails, etc. I will put a list of some of the trail head waypoints on the web site.

How can people obtain your maps?
My maps are available at a number of stores on St. John. The Park approved version of my map is for sale at the Visitor’s Center. I also sell my maps and mail them to people. The cost for the printed maps is listed on my web site.  www.trailbandit.org The web site has all the maps available for free download and there is other information there too. I will be updating the web site soon.

Anything else?
It has been sad to watch VINP decay over the years. Many who work for the Park seem to think that their employment is some sort of a welfare program. It is too bad that there are so many employees who can get away with doing as little as possible. It would be far better to hire contractors do the work because a contractor does a specific job and gets paid when it is completed. Park employees have been getting paid but in many cases, they haven’t done much work. Many on the staff are content with the way things have always been. I have been pleased and encouraged by the changes that Mark Hardgrove has made and the improvement in the condition of the Park since he came. Hopefully the next superintendent will keep up the good work.

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St. John Virgin Islands Beaches

Caneel Bay St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)

Caneel Bay

Cinnamon Bay St. John USVI

Cinnamon Bay

Beach on Ditleff Point St John

Ditleff Beach

Salomon Bay

Salomon Bay

Hawksnest Bay St John

Hwksnest

Honeymoon Bay St John

Honeymoon

Lameshur Bay

Lameshur

Gibney Beach

Francis

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Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin Islands (USVI)

Trunk Bay, St. John USVI

Trunk Bay Overlook

Trunk Bay is the jewel of St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park. It’s got it all, incredible beauty, facilities, lifeguards, underwater snorkel trail. And if you would like to experience Trunk Bay, practically deserted and without paying a fee, just arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon. See Trunk Bay – Google Map

Trunk Bay
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The Home of Dr. William Thornton, Little Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin islands

Little Jost Van Dyke British Virgin Islands, home of William Thornton

Home of Dr. William Thornton

Dr. William Thornton, the designer of the US Capitol Building, was born in Great Harbour Jost Van Dyke in 1759. In later years he lived on Little Jost Van Dyke.

The remains of the Thornton residence lie on a ridge on the Western side of the island overlooking Tortola to the south and Lost Van Dyke to the west.

The following photos illustrate the hike I took with Curtney “Ghost” Chinnery to Dr. Thornton’s home.

Ghost and I put in at the old dock that lies on Little Jost Van Dyke across Long Bay from Foxy’s Taboo. It’s a tough approach and you’ll need a shallow draft boat and some creativity to tie up here.

Once we accomplished that we hiked along the coast and picked up a trail of sorts leading to the remains of an old structure once destined to be a bar and restaurant on the western beach south of Dim Don Point. As we approached the old structure, we needed to keep alert for the numerous suckers that seemed to be just about everywhere.

From the old unfinished and crumpling, bar we bushwhacked up the hill to the ridge where we came upon the remains of the old Thornton residence.

Visit to the Home of Dr. William Thornton, Little Jost Van Dyke BVI

old dock

hillside

coconut grove

large rocks

abandoned bar

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abandoned bar little jost vab dyke

Interior of the bar

ruin of thornton residence, little jvd, bvi

Thornton ruin

view from ruin

view from thornton residence

baby goats

baby goats

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Hawksnest Beach St. John Virgin Islands

Hawksnest Beach

Reef Fest On the Beach
Hawksnest Beach, Noon to Sunset

Come to Hawksnest Beach on Saturday and enjoy, snorkel clinics, underwater guided reef tours, kayaking and sand castle contests.

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St. John Trails: Durloo House

If you look on the east side of the steep hill going down to Hawksnest Bay you should see an old stone stairway. This was once the entrance to a house that at one time belonged to Laurance Rockefeller. The house eventually became the property of the Virgin Islands National Park and was demolished. Nothing remains.

Today if you climb the staircase you’ll notice a trail leading through the bromiliads that takes you to the ruins of a stone structure that is said to have once belonged to Peter Duurloo, born on the island of Statia in 1675 and died on St. John 1746. I have also seen his name spelled Durloo and Durloe. The three islands, Henley Cay, Ramgoat Cay and Rata Cay are collectively known as the Durloe Cays and were undoubtedly named after him

Peter Durloo was one of the original planters who took possession of parcels of land on St. John when the Danes laid claim to the island in 1716. Durloo took up what is now some prime real estate, Cinnamon Bay and Caneel Bay, which he named for the bay rum trees (Caneel in Dutch) that were so plentiful there.

Charlotte Dean Stark, who wrote Some True Tales and Legends about Caneel Bay Trunk Bay and a Hundred and One Other Places on St. John, had this to say about Mr. Durloo:

“He was a colored man from one of the more southerly islands, probably Satia, where the Dutch were struggling to keep their foothold. It seems likely that most of the Dutch planters in St. Thomas were the colored sons of Hollanders who had been brought up by their fathers to learn the business, whatever it might be. Not many women went out with the original explorers who seized islands in the chain to the south of us.”

The site has been cleared by Jeff Chabot and his volunteers, but is unlikely to stay that way. So if you’re interested in a little history and don’t mind the uphill walk from the Hawksnest parking lot, you may want to pay a visit while the visiting is good.

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HELLO FILM LOVERS!

Please join us tomorrow night, April 22, at The Marketplace in Cruz Bay for REEF FEST FILM NIGHT, featuring three different short films about protecting life in our Virgin Islands waters:

THE LEATHERBACKS OF S.T CROIX
a work in progress by Steve Simonsen

SEAS OF CHANGE: Spawning Aggregations in the Virgin Islands
by Tim Kelly and Perry Picker

AN UPDATE ON THE INVASIVE LIONFISH
presented by Karl Pytlik and Jessica Hornbeck

St. John Film is proud to partner with the National Park, the University of the Virgin Islands, and Friends of the Park to celebrate Earth Day and Reef Fest 2010.

Please visit  www.stjohnfilm.com, for more information about this special film night and other Reef Fest events.

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I have an uncanny way of being able to find the Ghost. Case in point the “Scotland Yard Incident.”

It all started one day in 2002 when I came home to find a rather unsettling message on my answering machine. It was from a Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin from Scotland Yard asking me to please give him a call. He left a phone number from the BVI.

I immediately ask myself what I possibly might have done to incur the interest of this  venerable law enforcement agency.

I rack my brain. What could they want? What did I do? Should I call? I can’t think of anything and so I decide to call.

“Hello, Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin Scotland Yard, who’s calling?”

“Gerald Singer from St. John”

“Oh good, Mr. Singer. I’m glad you called. We’re coming to St. John in  a few days and we’d like to talk to you.”

“What’s this about?” I ask.

“We’ll talk about it when we get there,” he answers, “we’ll call,” and he hangs up.

Mystery still not solved.

Three days later the phone rings.

“Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin, we’re at Cap’s Place in Cruz Bay. Can you come down and talk to us?”

“OK,”

So I go down to Cap’s along with my then girlfriend and there sitting at one of the tables are two casually dressed agents along with their wives.

I identify myself, join them and take a seat looking out at the street.

“So what’s the story?” I ask.

Well, the story goes like this:

The two agents are on Tortola investigating a murder, in which the local BVI police department are getting nowhere. The Scotland yard boys, however are pretty sharp and they have a good lead, a witness or a suspect who was in jail and there was this guy sharing a cell with him that they felt had some information. They didn’t want to approach the guy directly or ask too many questions locally, because they were afraid that the guy would be suspicious and hide or run. In their investigation they find that this fellow with the information has a friend on St. John that could act as an intermediary and that friend is me, and the individual they’re looking for is Curtney Chinnery, the Ghost.

“Would you talk to him,” they ask.

Before I can even answer the question I look out onto the street and who is walking by but none other than the Ghost himself.

“Excuse me a moment,” I say to the agents and walk out onto the street.

I walk over to Ghost and explain the situation and ask him if he wants to talk to the agents. He says, OK and we walk over to Cap’s.

The agents deputize the Ghost on the spot and the information that they gather from him proves to be helpful in the ultimate solving of the case.

Scotland Yard agents at Cap's Place

Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen from Scotland yard, their wives (left), Habiba, the ex girlfriend (between the two agents) and the Ghost (front)

Island Sun August 2, 2002
“Man charged in Bally Murder Case”

On 30 July, Darren Hodge, age 25, a serving prisoner at Balsam Ghut was charged with the murder of Jason Bally. A police sources stated that this case has been unsolved since October 1999. Ag. Commissioner Barry Webb reviewed the case last year and recommended a renewed investigation.

His Excellency Governor Frank Savage agreed to two officers from New Scotland Yard being attached to the investigation team which has been led by Inspector Alexis Charles. The Scotland Yard officers are Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen. Experienced RVIPF officers and Attorney General’s office have worked closely with the  officers from London for the past six weeks to bring this investigation forward.

Bally, 25, was shot in the street outside the Domino Gas Station in Sea Cows Bay on 15 October 1999. A native of Trinidad, the victim had been employed at Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke.According to police, investigations revealed that Bally and a male companion were walking along the Sea Cows Bay Public Road in the vicinity of Domino Gas Station when a black male approached them from the gas station area. A loud blast was heard and Bally fell to the ground while his companion escaped unharmed and alerted residents of the area. On examining the gas station police found that an attempted burglary had taken place and recovered items used in that attempt.

While police have gathered enough evidence to bring a murder charge against Darren Hodge, the investigation is still ongoing. There were a number of suspects involved in the attempted break-in of the gas station and efforts continue to collect evidence to prosecute them for burglary and to determine what part, if any, they played in the murder.

The investigation team is still keen to hear from anybody with information about the case. In particular, assistance is sought regarding two gas tanks left at Domino Gas Station by the suspects. It has never been established where these came from, but it is suspected that they were stolen from someone on Tortola.  Additionally, the weapon used in the murder is believed to have been a handgun that has not yet been recovered.

Police sources further noted that on 16 December 2001, Darren Hodge who was remanded to H.M. Prison for burglary escaped but later turned himself into police on 17 December. Hodge was due to be released on 19 August 2002, however due to the present matter he will have to reappear in the Magistrate’s Court on 23 October.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the investigation team on a dedicated telephone number: 468-9136. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.

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Jost Van Dyke seen from St. John

Jost Van Dyke Seen From The Trunk Bay Overlook on St. John

Albert Chinnery

Albert Chinnery Cistoms Man on JVD 1972

Jost Van Dyke Customs 1972

Customs House 1972

Prince Chinnery

Prince Chinnery, Government Agent on Jost Van Dyke 1937

Little Girl, Jost Van Dyke 1995

Little Girl: Jost van Dyke 1995

Ethien Chinnery

Ethien Chinnery Culture Bearer

Gerald Chinnery

Gerald Chinnery

Godwin

Godwin

Kendrick Chinnery and Governor Schnieder

Kendrick Chinnery bartending at the Soggy Dollar Bar with former USVI Governor Roy Schneider 1995

Greg Callwood

Greg Callwood

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the following comes from some notes that I dug up last night:

Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands Notes
In 1980 there was only one vehicle on Jost Van Dyke, a Jeep. There were no paved roads, no electricity, save for a few solar panels and generators, no phone except a radio phone at customs. The ferry, The blue Atlantic, was a hand-made wooden craft capable of handling about 10 people, tops.

Electricity came to Jost Van Dyke in 1990.

My First Automobile Ride In Jost Van Dyke
Saturday, April 15, 1995

It was a beautiful evening. The moon was full, the seas were calm and the sky was clear.

We left Chocolate Hole, on St John just after sunset. The moon rose over the mountains in back of Cruz Bay as we rounded Lind Point on our way to Abe’s in Little Harbour, on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

Abe's Restaurant Little harbour Jost Van Dyke British Virgin Islands

Abe's

Abe’s was fairly busy. Bareboaters from Germany, a woman with high heel sneakers and short shorts, a couple from Tortola with a 40 foot Hattaras and some others. Steve, Abe’s son, was tending bar.

We had a big dinner. Lobster, conch, rice and peas, corn and cole slaw.

During dinner I saw a Suzuki Jeep leave from in front of Abe’s house. It got my attention because I never had seen a vehicle on this beach before.

Later, just as we were finishing dinner, the vehicle returned. I saw the driver for the first time. It was Steve. I asked him where he got the jeep, and was it his and where he was going.

It turned out that Kendrick, one of my old friend’s Etien Chinnery’s sons, was now in the business of renting vehicles. Kendrick, who was a former customs officer and bar tender at the Sand Castle in White Harbour had also began Jost Van Dyke’s first ferry business. He had one jeep for rent, this automatic transmission Suzuki Jeep for rent for $35.00 a day. Steve had rented it for three days.

I asked Steve if he’d take us for a ride and being the nice guy that he is, he consented. We went over the mountain to Great Harbour, around the bottom in back of the beach at Great Harbour, passed Rudy’s and then along the waterfront and back to Foxy’s where there was music and dancing.

Foxy had left for the evening and Tessa was closing up the store. Ivan was playing guitar with a local trio. The bar was fairly crowded and everyone was in good spirits. I saw some of the regulars there,  Godwin and Nippy and Melvin were dancing with the tourists. My friends, Etien Chinnery and Junie, Abe’s brother from Little Harbour, were over by the band watching the scene.

We were in for a treat, another first for me. Dean, one of Foxy’s sons, was going to do his famous fire dance. It was a great show. Dean was in costume and made up like an African warrior. The sound of drums from the drum machine. He danced with his fire sticks and blew fire out of his mouth like a fire breathing dragon. Then he broke up some liquor bottles in a cardboard box and placed the broken shards on the floor. He danced on the glass and then  he danced holding up the biggest man in the house, a 250 pound Brit, in his arms. Dean was quite the showman and I was duly impressed.

After the Dean Spectacular we got back in our rent-a-car and drove back to Abe’s for the moonlight trip back home to St. John.

Thanks Steve. Thanks Dean. Thanks to all my very special Virgin Islands friends!

GS 4/15/95

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