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St John Tarails: Maho Bay Goat Trail

St. John Virgin Islands Trails: Maho Bay Goat Trail

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald Singer
maho bay goat trail map
Maho Bay Goat Trail Map

The quarter-mile Maho Bay Goat Trail connects the Maho Bay Campground with the North Shore Road serving as a shortcut between the North Shore Road at Big Maho Bay Beach and the Campground at Little Maho Bay.

The trail begins near the northern portion of the beach at Big Maho Bay where the road turns sharply to the right and inland.

It is a ten to fifteen minute uphill walk from Big Maho Bay to the campground. On the upper portions of the trail, you will be treated to excellent views of Maho Bay Beach and the north shore of St. John. The two tamarind trees at the top of the trail provide a shady place to sit and rest on the exposed roots between the two trees.

The trail ends below the commissary at Maho Bay Campground. From here the beach at Little Maho can be reached by a series of wooden stairs down to the bay.

Ethel McCully
Ethel McCully, author and colorful St. John personality, made her home at Little Maho Bay from 1953 until her death in 1980. In those days the North Shore Road was only a rough dirt track. It ended at the goat trail, which was the only access to her property.

The story of how Ethel McCully discovered Little Maho is a St. John legend.

Ethel McCully had been working as a secretary in New York. On her vacations she would often come to the Caribbean where she had dreams of someday buying her own house. On one particular winter vacation in 1947 Ethel McCully had gone to the island of St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. From there she booked passage on a Tortola sloop bound for Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

On the tack that would take the sloop out through Fungi Passage and into the Narrows, the boat passed close by Little Maho Bay. Ethel McCully was enthralled by the sight of the small, perfect beach backdropped by emerald green mountain valleys. She asked the skipper to allow her to go ashore to explore. He replied that it was not permitted because he had already cleared out of United States territory.

Ethel McCully announced that if she could not be taken ashore, she would swim. The crew helped her over the side, and she did just that.

She later bought the property and built a house on the bluff above the bay. She did this with the help of six donkeys and two laborers. Ethel wrote a book about the experience that was to be titled; I Did It With Donkeys. Her publisher said “no” to this idea, and the book was published in 1954 with the title, Grandma Raised the Roof. The roof to her guesthouse, which she called Island Fancy, was actually raised in 1953. Before her literary success with Grandma Raised the Roof, Ethel McCully was a mystery writer and an ambulance driver during World War One.

Ethel McCully
NY Times Article

Ethel McCully’s Fight Against Condemnation
In 1962, St. Johnians discovered at the eleventh hour that a bill giving the Secretary of the Interior the power to increase the National Park's land holdings through condemnation was up for final vote in the United States House of Representatives. Ethel McCully and other St. Johnians, including the late Senator Theovald Moorehead (better known as Mooie) went to Washington in an effort to persuade Congress to defeat the proposed amendment. Mooie talked to congressmen and senators and placed an ad in the Washington Post. Mrs. McCully spoke at a meeting of the United States House of Representatives and expressed her ideas about the condemnation amendment.

The following is quoted from an article published in the New York Times on September 9, 1962 by J. Anthony Lukas entitled Grandmother Fights Congress.

A 66-year old grandmother is planning to “raise a little hell” on Capitol Hill this week.

One official had a preview yesterday of the way Mrs. Ethel Waldbridge McCully planned to defend her home in the Virgin Islands from condemnation under a bill before Congress.

The official warned her that a Congressman she planned to approach was “a very difficult man.”

“Well I'm a very difficult woman,” Mrs. McCully told the startled official. So that will make two of us.”

Mrs. McCully, tiny and fragile looking, built her tropical hideaway on the lush, green shore of St. John Island, one of the three main islands in the United States territory in the Caribbean. A successful mystery-story writer, she described her construction task in a book called Grandma Raised the Roof, published in 1954.

But she said yesterday:

“You can change that title now. You can call it ‘Grandma Raises Hell’. Yes, you can say I'm going to raise a little Hell.”

Ask some of the older St. Johnians if they remember Ethel McCully and you may be treated to some entertaining stories.

Ethel McCully died in 1980 at the age of ninety-four. Island Fancy now belongs to the National Park.

Erva Thorp
In the late 1950s Erva Thorp, the former Erva Boulon and her husband Bill built and ran a guesthouse at Little Maho Bay that was called Lille Maho, the old name for Little Maho Bay. Andy Rutnik, Commissioner of Licensing and Consumer Affairs in the administration of Governor Turnbull, and his wife, Janet Cook-Rutnik, now an internationally recognized artist, used to be the caretakers of Lille Maho for Mrs. Thorp.