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St. John Virgin Islands Trails: Maria Hope

View from Maria Hope Trail Overlook

Now that the remainder of the Big Maho Bay land has been turned over to the Virgin Islands National Park, rangers are already working with Friends of the National Park in clearing the property’s Maria Hope Trail and improving parking at the beach.

The Maria Hope Trail follows an old Danish road that runs between the Josie Gut Estate on the Reef Bay Trail and Maho Bay on the north shore.

 History of the Maria Hope Road

Until early in the nineteenth century, people couldn’t travel all the way from east to west on what was then called Konge Vey (King’s Road) and which is now known as Centerline Rd or Route 10. The road was divided in two by a gorge located at the saddle of the Maho Bay Valley on the north and the Reef Bay Valley on the south. This gorge was known as the defile and was impassable by donkey cart or horseback.

When travelers on horseback or wagon going between the Coral Bay side of St. John and the Cruz Bay side came to the defile, they had two options:

Option 1: There were corrals for horses on both sides of the defile. They could leave their horses in the corral on one side, cross the defile on foot and arrange to take another horse to continue east.

Option 2: They could take the Maria Hope Road down the Maho Bay Valley to the north and continue east on the north shore.

Around the year 1780, the defile was filled in by the owner of the Old Works Estate, Peter Wood, and the two sides of the island were connected by one road for the first time.

When Centerline Road was constructed along the mountain ridge, hundreds of tons of fill were brought in to make the road passable by motor vehicle. In the process, the Old Works Estate and the uppermost section of the Maria Hope Road were completely covered over with the exception of the horsemill wall the horsemill wall, which can be seen as soon as you descend the stairs to the Reef Bay Trail.

The ruins of Maria Hope Estate lie just about 200 feet from Centerline Road at the trail entrance to the Maria Hope Trail. Access to the ruins is provided by a trail going east and up just as you enter the Maria Hope Trailhead…. Read more

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track

St. John and Virgin Islands News

A Major Addition to Virgin Islands Park
By ASHLEY WINCHESTER

Virgin Islands National Park – which already encompasses 60 percent of the tiny Caribbean island of St. John — just got a little bigger.

The beach at Maho Bay and its surrounding hillside recently was sold to the National Park Service in a $2.5 million deal, the Trust for Public Land announced. It’s the park’s largest addition since 1956, when the philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller, hoping to preserve the island paradise he fell in love with, donated more than 5,000 acres toward its creation…. read more

Organizers Seek Input on Plan to Control Invasive Lionfish

By Susan Ellis — January 8, 2014

During the three years after their first sighting in the territory in 2008, about 800 lionfish were taken from the waters around St. Croix. In 2012, the number had grown to between 7,000 and 10,000 fish, but according to research the infestation may be leveling off.

At the end of 2012, members of dive and fishing groups on St. Croix estimated they had removed 7,000 lionfish that year, according to Anthony Mastroianni of Lionfish Safari, a private non-profit group. Jenn Travis, project coordinator and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration coral fellow, said local fishermen could account for another 3,000 fish.

On Wednesday, the Friends of the East End Marine Park, a non-profit organization, hosted a public meeting, attended by a handful of stakeholders, at You Are Here Bar and Grille to review and update the Lionfish Response Plan, written by The Nature Conservancy in 2009.

The updated comprehensive plan, with input from public forums and a written survey, outlines goals to address control and removal of the fish, education and outreach, research and monitoring as well as marketing and communications.

“If we lose the reefs – the coral – we lose the sea grass beds, we lose the sea turtles,” Travis said….

… The Pacific Lionfish was first discovered in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida in 1992. Its spines are venomous but when removed, the fish is edible. Since 1992, the marine predator has migrated to South America and has infested some areas, like the Bahamas, with unmanageable numbers.

The lionfish endangers reef ecology and the fish industry by eating juvenile fish, octopus, squid, shrimp and lobster. They are prolific and adaptable. Mature females can lay 30,000 eggs every four days and they can live up to 15 years.

Lionfish have been spotted at a various depths – from a dozen inches of water to more than 1,000 feet.

As the waters become infested with lionfish, there are fewer fish to feed residents. Tourism suffers because fewer people visit the territory to dive and snorkel. The victim species negatively affect the oceans’ ecology and impacts recreation and commercial interests…. read more

St. John Virgin Islands Live Music Schedule

Banana Deck
Steel Pan by Lemuel Samuels
6:00 – 9:00
693-5055

Barefoot Cowboy Lounge

Ike
7:00 – 9:00
201-1236

Beach Bar
Flipswitch
9:00
777-4220

Concordia
Wayne Clendenin and Pamela Love
4 :30 – 6:30
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Inn at Tamarind Court
Brother Nature
6:30
776-6378

Morgan’s Mango
James
6:30 – 9:30
693-8141

Ocean Grill
Chris Carsel
6:30 – 9:30
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Skinny Legs
Lauren Jones
6:00 – 9:00
779-4982

Spyglass
James Milne
5:00 – 8:00
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See Weekly Schedule

St. John Weather

Scattered showers, mainly before noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 81. East wind 21 to 23 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New precipitation amounts of less than a tenth of an inch possible.

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sunrise over chocolate hole

Sunday Morning Sunrise

Chocolate Hole, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)
Notwithstanding the Flash Flood Warning and the high probability of rain, my weather forecast system of looking out at the sky served me well and yesterday’s hike was rain free.

Last night however, it rained like crazy with thunder and lightning and high winds. So far this morning so good, but it sure looks like rain. Unless it looks better later on today, I’ll probably cancel my planned visit to Jost Van Dyke.

Being that I’m in the process of another book reprint for St. John Off The Beaten Track, I’ve been revisiting the island’s trails to check for changes since the last printing. I’ve also been concerned about trail conditions after the winds of Hurricane Earl and the flooding from Hurricane Otto. Following are reports from last week’s St. John trail hikes.

Francis Bay Trail
The Francis Bay Trail remains in good condition with the exception that part of the new boardwalk constructed for handicap access is now under water. This is undoubtedly due to the unusual amount of rain we’ve experienced lately and will correct itself in the coming months.

Maria Hope Road
The Maria Hope Trail is still in good condition even though there been no improvements or maintenance done on the trail by National Park contractors. The one good overlook has filled in with vegetation and although still providing views they’re not quite as outstanding as before.

Guinea Grass on the Tektite Trail

Guinea Grass (photo by Yelena Rogers)

Tektite Trail
Like the Maria Hope Road, the Tektite Trail remains in good condition despite lack of maintenance. The sections of trail passing trough fields of guinea grass are beginning to become overgrown and may be difficult to follow in the future if the trail does not continue to be well used by hikers.

L'Esperance Estate

L’Esperance Road
The L’Esperance Trail is also in good condition as are the L’Esperance and Seiban ruins cleared by volunteers last year. These estates, however are beginning to show signs of being reclaimed by bush if a campaign of maintenance by either contractors or volunteers is not initiated.

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Maria Hope Trail St. John US Virgin Islands

Mara Hope South Map

The Maria Hope Road runs from Maho Bay all the way to the Reef Bay Trail, however, with the construction of Centerline Road and the enormous amount of fill used to create it, access to the old Danish road from Centerline was rendered steep and difficult.

An alternative access to the northern section of the road now exists and as a matter of fact that section of the trail, from Centerline to Maho, is now an official National Park trail.

On the south however there is no such access and hikers using the southern section of the trail have been accessing it from a point further east on Centerline near the intersection of the Bordeaux Mountain Road. The access is steep and slippery so be careful.

The southern section of the trail is not at this time an official park trail and as such receives no maintenance other than improvements carried out by local hikers.

The highlights of the southern section of the Maria Hope road include access to the ruins of the Paquerau and Hope Estates, and passage through a beautiful dry forest environment. All along the trail we passed by beautiful examples of bay rum, guavaberry and pepper cinnamon, as well as large West Indian locust, genip and turpentine trees.

Maria Hope Trail

The Maria Hope Trail winds through a natural dry forest

St. John Trails: Maria Hope Trail

A stone retaining wall supports the lower side of this old Danish Road

Ruins of the Paquerau Estate

Pepper Cinnamon tree on the Maria Hope Road

Estate Hope, St. John Virgin Islands

Ruins of the Hope Plantation

Rollers used to crush cane stalks

gungalo

Gungalo

termite nest

termite nest

Golden Orb Spider

Golden Orb Spider

Although the road does eventually lead to the Reef Bay Trail, trail conditions below the Hope ruins area deteriorate and passage is very difficult.

On a recent hike I was shown a new and easier way to get on and off the trail at a point along the Bordeaux Mountain Road. (see map)

Maria Hope South St. John US Virgin Islands

Circular structure near the Hope Estate

We also discovered a circular stone structure about 20 feet in diameter and four to five feet tall in the vicinity of the Hope Estate, the purpose of which I have no idea.

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