Another hike with the Trail Bandit and Mary
We met at the East End entrance to the Brown Bay Trail. The trail is now in beautiful condition. There’s parking off the road for hikers and the trail is wide and clear. A dirt road near the trail head leads to the police gun range.
Our stated goals for the day are to photograph the ruins on the beach, try to locate the road that must have once connected these ruins to the main Brown Bay Trail (now the only open access is along the shore from the beach), photograph the two overlooks on the Johnny Horn Trail cleared by Jeff Chabot and the volunteer trail crew and find the trail to Murphy’s grave, none of which we accomplished.
We began in good faith walking up the hillside on the south passing the Hermitage ruins on our right. Interestingly, although I have walked this trail many times over the years I never noticed these ruins that so prominently stand just a few yards off the main trail until they were cleared just recently. Shows you how easily you can miss stuff in just a little bit of growth.
At the top of the hill where the Brown Bay Trail makes a small turn and begins to descend toward the north, we notice a narrow spur trail heading over a ridge to the south.
As we are standing there we meet another hiker, a local it turns out, who walks the trail just about everyday.
The hiker tells us the story behind this spur trail.
There’s this guy who for several years has been clearing this trail, and this is no easy trail to clear. This area was heavily grazed for many years and the worst kind of scrub has taken over in many areas and I’m talking catch and keep. But he pushes on, following the ridge over three hilltops, we’re told. He does a good job too; takes away his trash; doesn’t leave old, dead catch and keep anywhere near the trail.
Now, cutting trails in the park is against the rules. In this case, it’s obvious to me, at least, that he’s doing no harm. the environment being so messed up by overgrazing anyway, but nonetheless, he’s not supposed to be doing this.
For whatever reason, he’s left alone; no one complains, and he continues his work. He flags the trail with ribbons to mark the route and at the end of the day, he leaves his tools at the end of his trail and goes home.
One day, I think it may have been about a year ago, he heads out to work on the trail and the ribbons are gone. He walks to the end of the trail and his tools are also gone. The hiker telling us the story speculates that this setback as well as talk around town of increased enforcement of park rules leads to the discontinuation of the trail project.
But the trail is there, and although it is no longer being improved or maintained, it is passable and obvious, and it’s obvious that other hikers have been on it since the original trail blazer stopped working.
Intrigued, we decide to leave the Brown Bay Trail for the time being and see where this trail leads.
At first its kind of tough going, some of the cut back catch and keep has grown over the trail and needs to be strategically avoided. If anyone else ever decides to hike here, I would suggest long pants, gloves and perhaps a small clippers to cut away some of the catch and keep.
The trail soon takes us to a small ruin, probably the domain of some poor subsistence farmer.
Standing within the ruins it came to mind that this trail, although probably never an established roadway, was possibly a walking or donkey trail used by the residents of what are now the two ruins located on the mountain ridge that the path follows, this one, and a second one located further along the ridge near Princess Bay.
We push on and the thick scrub gives way to dry forest,which is easier to pass through. There are tall turpentine trees and thick mampoos and we even several lignum vitaes.
Overhead we hear the screams of a large Jamaican Hawk circling above. Thinking about the vista he must be experiencing, I notice the potential for incredible views from the hilltops that we pass while continuing on the ridgeline path.
If any of these hilltop overlooks were ever cleared they would offer almost 360 degree views of some of the most spectacular views in the Virgin islands, Tortola and the islands of the Sir Francis Drake Channel on the north and around to East End and Coral Bay on the south. As it is peering through the bush in those areas where the catch n keep keep you away the views there are some fantastic views to be had.
The ridge takes us to the Princess Bay ruins and from there we bushwhack down the steep hill to meet the east End Road.
It was a really nice hike after all even if we didn’t accomplish what we started out to do. This trail will most likely grow over if it’s not used, so now is the chance to do it if you’re so inclined…
For more about Brown Bay click: