St. John Virgin Islands: Brown Bay Trail Revisited

Brown Bay Trailhead
Brown Bay Trailhead
Old Cistern

Yesterday, Habiba and I revisited the Brown Bay Trail.

We began at the trailhead out on East End, where a National Park Service sign marks the entrance to the trail. Parking for three or four vehicles is available here.

A short distance from the road, the trail forks with a trail to the left leading to the Virgin Islands National Park firing range and the Brown Bay Trail running straight ahead and up the hill.

About a hundred yards up the trail we came to something I had never noticed before, the remains of a large concrete cistern supported on the lower side by buttresses. Apparently it was previously hidden in the bush, but it’s extreme proximity to the trail makes me wonder about how much attention I was paying on all those previous hikes.

More ruins
More ruins
View to the south
View to the south

We followed the  narrow trail leading to the cistern and once there we discovered more trails and more ruins. We’ll need to investigate in order to find out a little of the history behind these structures.

The Brown Bay Trail runs up the hill on the southern side of St. John crosses the ridge of hilltops forming the narrow peninsula of East End and then descends to the northern coast.

The southern face of the hillside shows evidence of once supporting animal grazing. This section of trail is by and large hot, dry and scrubby, but here are several places from which there are openings in the bush allowing for good southerly views.

Genips
Genips
Habiba and the Donkey
Habiba and the Donkey

Crossing the ridge and descending the northern hillsides is a welcome change. It’s cooler, shadier and more importantly, we’re now going downhill.

Here we met a donkey that was hesitant to pass us on the narrow trail. Behind him was a hiker with two dogs, that barked threateningly, such that the donkey was even more hesitant about turning around and going the other way. Eventually, we stepped back into the bush far enough so that the donkey could pass us and go on his way leaving us and the dogs behind.

The environment on the north is dry forest and not nearly as disturbed as the southern side.  I noticed a lot of West Indian Birch along the trail, which I used to cut for fish pot braces. Guavaberry trees also caught my eye, but most welcome was that genip tree with ripe genips that required some work to gather, but tasted pretty sweet.

Brown Bay
Brown Bay
Salt Pond
Salt Pond

The trail descends to the northern coastline and meets a spur to the beach at Brown Bay. Previous visitors have constructed rudimentary benches where one can sit, relax and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of this rarely visited beach.

Trails behind the beach lead to a salt pond and an area of extensive ruins, well worth exploring.

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