St. John USVI Trails: Bordeaux Mountain TrailExcerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald Singer
The Bordeaux Mountain Trail runs between Lameshur Bay and the Bordeaux Mountain Road. Centerline Road is 1.7 miles from the point where the trail meets the Bordeaux Mountain Road. The Bordeaux Mountain Trail is 1.2 miles long and there is a change in altitude of about 1,000 feet. The grade is, therefore, quite steep. It can be strenuous going uphill and slippery going down. The trick to enjoying this walk is to be sure to pace yourself, watch your footing, and bring sufficient water and sun protection.
The view from the intersection of Centerline Road and the Bordeaux Mountain Road, near the Chateau Bordeaux Restaurant was chosen as one of the “Ten Best Views” in the Caribbean by Caribbean Travel & Life in their April 1996 Tenth Anniversary Issue.
Lameshur Bay Estate
In the early part of the twentieth century, this estate was dedicated mainly to the production of bay rum oil. Bay rum trees were cultivated on the upper regions of Bordeaux Mountain, where you will see (and smell) many of these smooth-barked, aromatic trees. This trail was once used to transport the bay rum leaves harvested on Bordeaux Mountain, via donkeys, to the bay rum distillery located at the beach at Lameshur Bay.
The Estate House
The Ranger who lives there allowed the St. John Historical Society to view the interior of the house on one of their guided hikes, but he left this advisory posted on the front door:
Look for a sign with information about the Bordeaux Trail Rehabilitation Project. About 100 yards past this sign, you will find a seat, suitable for one person, made of dry stacked stone with a flat top. Take advantage of this rustic resting place, which was put together by the trail crew. You should find more of these seats along the way, though some have been damaged by hurricanes.
When the trail turns toward the right, you will come to a large tree growing by the side of the path, next to which are some flat rocks to sit on. Growing out of the tree is a strangler fig. There is a beautiful view from here, which looks down into Great Lameshur Bay and out at Yawzi Point between Great and Little Lameshur Bays. To the southeast is an excellent view of Ram Head Point. Just before the trail switches back to the left for the first time, there is a narrow spur trail to your right. This leads to a small, shady plateau and the remains of a charcoal pit. Look for a tamarind and a genip tree and a small stand of teyer palms. The ground cover is love leaf.
Ascending the trail from here you will pass an area of pinguin, or false pineapple, a spiny plant that produces an edible citrus-like fruit. Notice how the environment changes with the elevation; the higher up you go, the more moist and forest-like it becomes. Leaving the cactus scrub surroundings of the lower trail, you will pass through a dry forest environment with characteristic vegetation such as genips, easily identifiable turpentine trees with their reddish, shiny bark and the attractive black caper. As you progress up the trail and the environment becomes even more humid, you will begin to see the many bay rum trees planted in the early 20th century to supply the distillery at Lameshur Bay with their aromatic oil-rich leaves.
You may find another stone seat at this higher elevation, also made by the trail volunteers. From here you can see over the saddle in the mountains to the Sir Francis Drake Channel and British Virgin Islands. After a few more switchbacks through the shady forest, you will reach the end of the trail, which emerges at the Bordeaux Mountain Road.
The plantation was founded by Thomas Bordeaux in the 1720s.
He was a Frenchman who came to the Danish West Indies, now known
as the United States Virgin Islands, along with other Frenchmen
as a result of the revocation of the Edict of Mann, which prohibited
the French government to persecute the Protestants known as Huguenots.
Thomas Bordeaux, who was a prominent citizen in St. Thomas, came
to the Danish West Indies directly from France. Although he was
the owner of the property, he probably never lived on the plantation.
Bordeaux Plantation was later owned by Jean Malville, a Moravian
of French ancestry. Malville was born in the Danish West Indies
and became the first native-born governor of the islands. During
the time of his ownership the plantation was called Malvilleberg.