Tag Archives: brown bay trail

St. John Trails: An Unofficial Brown Bay Ridgeline Spur

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


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…

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St. John Trails: Two Brown Bay Spur Trails

Donning my trusty Camelbak backpack, GPS and digital camera, I set out to photograph some items of interest on two spur trails off the Brown Bay Trail.

I parked up at the Annaberg Parking Lot and headed down the Leinster Bay Trail. It’s a really beautiful walk, starting out under the shade of a canopy of dry forest trees and then opening onto a shoreline trail. The view from the Leinster Bay Trail is nothing less than spectacular, the trade winds generated breeze refreshing and the trail is comfortable and easy to walk, level and well cleared.

Passing several groups of hikers on the way, I was impressed by how popular the trail has become. There were many yachts on the moorings, beach lovers at the beach and snorkelers plying the waters near and around Waterlemon Cay.

At the beach I headed up and inland on the Johnny Horn Trail.

The guard house near the top of the hill has been well cleared and there are great views of the bay and beyond from there.

Continuing on the Johnny Horn, passing the spur to the Murphy Great House on Windy Hill, I come to the Brown Bay Trail intersection and head north and down hill towards the coast. The trail is now well cleared and easy walking.

I’m looking for the spur trail that goes to an old graveyard. Heading east along the shore, I come to a salt pond on my left and begin looking out for the narrow, but supposedly easy to find spur trail to the cemetery, which I was told was located about 100 feet south of the Brown Bay Trail just before reaching (to the west of) the side track to the beach.

True to my friend’s word, the trail was easy to find and a short walk through the low lying forest leads me to an impressive cemetery, surrounded on four sides by beautifully constructed stone walls. The four feet high walls form an approximate square about 100 feet long on each side. Two pillars, one of which has since fallen down, at one time supported a gate.

Ornate metalwork surrounds the actual grave where a two year old boy was buried in 1860.

st john trails: grave at brown bay brown bay trail:cemetery walls st john trails: cemetery at brown bay

st john trails abattoir on brown bay trailReturning to the trail and again heading east, I pass the beach and begin to ascent a hill. On my left I find the steep path leading down to the coast where there are the remains of a stone structure, which I am told once served as an abattoir.

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