"St. John Beach Guide" a guide to St. John's world class National Park beaches
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Ram Head Point, St. John US Virgin Islands (USVI)

st john virgin islands sunset at ram head

Ram Head

The above photo was shot yesterday at sunset rounding Ram Head Point.  Ram Head, on the southeast of St. John is always a dramatic place, but at sunset it is particularly beautiful.

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Chocolate Hole St. John Virgin Islands Rainbow

Rainbow
The rain keeps coming.  Not normal July weather here on St. John. Looks like our weather system has developed into a tropical storm, TS Bonnie, heading into the Gulf of Mexico.

Yesterday was clear most of the day and I did get to see a cool rainbow late in the afternoon.

Earthquake
21st July 2010 –An earthquake measuring a magnitude of 4.48 on the Richter scale was felt throughout the Virgin Islands at approximately 8:00 pm July 21st 2010.  The report indicated that the epicenter was located in the Virgin Islands Platform near 18.55 latitude and -64.96 longitude … read more

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Blue patch of sky on a stormy Tuesday Morning

St. John weather: squally Tueday

Squall

There was a promising patch of blue sky peaking through the Tuesday morning cloud cover here on St. John. Within minutes, however, a squall came out of the east producing heavy rains and strong gusty winds.

It’s 6:30 am. The internet is down, I image due to the storms, so I’ll post this later on today hopefully. There’s the sound of heavy rain falling on the metal roof and the distant sounds of thunder. The high winds are blowing water under ten feet of overhang porch roof and into the sliding doors, which due to some design flaw, I guess, allows some of the water to be driven underneath the doors and into the house. Towel time.

Leading Edge

Today’s forecast for St. John from the Weather Underground

“Flash Flood Watch in effect through this evening…

Cloudy with numerous showers and isolated thunderstorms. Locally heavy rainfall possible. Highs 89 lower elevations ranging to 82 higher elevations. Mainly southeast winds 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 70 percent.”

By the way:
Judging from what’s happening outside, I believe we can make that 70% chance of rain into 100%

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Another hike with the Trail Bandit and Mary

View of the Sir Francis drake Channel

View of the sir Francis drake Channel from the Brown Bay Spur

brown bay ridgeline spur

map of brown bay ridgeline spur

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.

Hermitage Ruins on the Brown Bay Trail

The Hrmitage Ruins just off the brown bay Trail

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.

catch and keep

Catch 'n' Keep

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.

Dry Forest

Dry Forest

lignum vitae

Lignum Vitae

mampoo

mampoo

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.

View from north side of trail

view from north side of trail

Princess Bay st. John USVI

Princess Bay Ruins

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:

http://www.seestjohn.com/trails_brown_bay.html

http://seestjohn.com/st_john_life/st-john-usvi/st-john-virgin-islands-brown-bay-trail-revisited/

http://seestjohn.com/st_john_life/st-john-virgin-islands-trails/st-john-trails-two-brown-bay-spur-trails/

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Time, by Curtney Chinnery aka The Ghost From Jost

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overview of Ditleff Point from the development road

overview of Ditleff Point from the development road

Ditleff Point
Yesterday I was out early in the morning checking out the south side for some photos and when I came to Ditleff Point I noticed that although the gate controlling the vehicle traffic was closed a walk through gate remained open. Taking advantage of this access were dog walkers and joggers all of whom were familiar to me.

Passing through the open gate, I began to walk down the now bulldozed and paved road, which not long ago was a rugged dirt track. Along the way I met Miles Stair of  Holiday Homes fame. He slowed his pace and waled with me.

a squall blows in from the east

a squall blows in from the east

Rainbow

Rainbow

On our way back to the main road a squall blew in from the east. The mist from the squall produced a beautiful rainbow that arched over the Point from east to west. I’m excited to come back here, shoot some photos, and take a few jogs, before, and hopefully this never happens, that access is closed off to St. John residents and visitors.

Gated Community

Gated Community

About Beach Access
“…While the coastlines and beaches of of the Virgin Islands are public domain the question of access has nor been formalized. In most jurisdictions which have public beach access laws the owners of properties adjacent to beaches are required to provide public access through the land. Here in the Virgin islands developers and landowners have taken the position that access is only necessary via the sea and providing land access is optional. This interpretation is not always so. For example, the Pond Bay Club on Chocolate Hole was required to provide land access to the beach, Ditleff point apparently not as the gate suggests.

“Historically, land access to Ditleff Point goes back to the first inhabitants of indigenous peoples who had a settlement there some two thousand years ago.

Poor whites abnd freed slaves lived there during colonial times. During substance farming days, a family lived in a house whose foundation still exists, lying just inland from the southern end of the beach.

After that Ditleff Beach was used primarily as access to the sea for fishing and the gathering of whelk and conch as well as recreationally for swimming, snorkeling, diving and fishing. Original trails were replaced by a bulldozed road when a group of mainlanders purchased the point declaring that they had no intention of developing it. For many years St. Johnians and visitors used this road as access to the beaches. When the mainlanders passed away and the property passed to their heirs, the land was cut up into parcels, developed and put on the market, with a gate at the entrance to control access.

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