Wednesday August 23, 2006

Wednesday August 23


I was right.  12 ½ hours of sleep can defeat any potential hangover.  I woke up clear-headed.  My preemptive strike of going to bed early worked.  I was awake and ready to have fun.  Needless to say, the rest of the crew did not necessarily share in my enthusiasm.  This was the case mainly because it was hot.  Now I know we were in the Caribbean and hot is expected, but hot was being redefined.  Haze had settled in over the island.  We could barely make out St Thomas from the deck.  This was haze that would have made New Jersey jealous.  Couple that with tropics-strength sun and oppressive humidity and you had the makings of an ugly day.  Did I mention how hot it was?


We settled into our seats for a vigorous morning of nothing.  MerlotMan drank his coffee and sat under the overhang, serving as the breakfast buffet for the island’s supply of mosquitoes and no-see-ums.  I picked up a book and headed for the sun deck.  ChurchBomber and JewelrySlut followed me to the sunny side of the pool.  The 3 of us lined up and started to complain about the heat.


A little before 10:00, I announced that it was Adventure Time.  I wanted to hit a trail and do some low-grade, low-effort hiking.  I wanted to do it simply to say I’d done it.  St John, as you can imagine, has a lot of trails.  The Park Service maintains some of them, and people with machetes maintain some of the others.  They range in size from pretty much here to there to several torturous miles.  One large trail, the Reef Bay Trail starts pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  It roams down through the middle of the island and lands at, you guessed it, Reef Bay.  Reef Bay is home to St John’s infamous petroglyphs.  I’d like to someday hike that particular trail.   I get the feeling I’ll be soloing it that day.  You have to sign up at the Park office and go on an escorted trip.  The end of the trail is at the water’s edge, so a boat comes to get you to take you to town.  All in all, the hike takes like 6 hours.  Like I said, when the time comes, I’ll be soloing it. 


In 2004, I’d led JewelrySlut and MerlotMan on what we now call the St John Death March.  I dragged us along Leinster Bay.  It’s at the water’s edge and offers no shade.  I think it was 400 degrees out on the day that we went.  The views are nice, and if you walk a little farther, you get to Waterlemon (not a typo) Cay.  Waterlemon apparently offers some of the best snorkeling on the island.  But, you either need a boat to get to it or the desire to hike an hour each way to reach it. 


MerlotMan made is clear that he was not up for any hiking and stayed at the house.  So, I grabbed, JewelrySlut, the gear bag and some water and headed out.  I had picked a simple trail, the Lind Point Trail.  It goes from the Park offices around the southwestern tip of the island and ends at Solomon Bay.  From there, you hike to Honeymoon Bay and then on to the Caneel Bay Resort.  It’s not long; a little over a mile, and from what I’d read, all in the forest. 


We drove to town, parked the car, and walked right past the Park office and to the North Shore Road.  We started up it and saw a trail head.  Unfortunately, it was for the Caneel Bay Trail, a 2.4 mile trek up a mountain.  Already I’d led us in the wrong direction.  Backing up, we went to the Park offices and found the right trail head behind a dumpster.  The book, Feet Fins and 4-Wheel Drive told me that we’d start by scrambling up a hill.  Right.  By scramble, do you mean “climb a small cliff?”  Because that’s what we did.  I was already in trouble.  Having scaled the hill, we were on our way.  Have I mentioned how hot it was?  The trail, thankfully, was in the forest.  This was good because it offered shade.  It was bad because it failed to offer a breeze or a view of anything but more trail and scrubby trees.  It also offered bugs.  Oh yea, this was fun.  At one point, we heard something come bounding down the side of the hill to our right.  Thinking the island’s version of Michael Myers was coming, we stopped.  No, it was not a serial killer, it was a deer.  It looked us over and walked down the path.  Well, at least we’d seen some nature.  After what seemed like hours of walking, we saw a sign for Solomon Bay.  We made a left, wend down the hill, and found a beach.  It was very nice.  Solomon’s the first beach out of town, but the only way to get there is to take a boat or the Bug Trail.  We had the place to ourselves.  We dropped the bag and waded into the water.  Oh baby, that felt good.  Our peace was broken like 3 minutes later by another couple. How dare they?  We’d reserved the beach for ourselves!  They went to the far side of the bay and set up camp.  We swam around a bit, but the side we were on offered no snorkeling.  After a while, we packed up and started back to the trail.


We got back to the main trail.  I knew we had to round a corner and then go back down the hill to Honeymoon Beach.  We walked on a bit and saw another turn-off on the left.  Assuming it was right, we took it.  We walked down the hill, dodging trees and rocks.  We popped out of the canopy and saw the couple from a few minutes ago.  I’d successfully led us on a 20-minute trek that we could have accomplished by simply walking the length of the beach.  Good going, Magellan.  We went back to the main trail and walked on.  Finally, we saw another turn-off and headed down.  Thankfully, this led us to Honeymoon.  We popped out of the trees and saw that it was “swarming” with people.  In 2004, JewelrySlut and I had come here early one morning for a snorkel and some extra curricular activities and had been alone on the beach.  Now, there were maybe 20 people.  This was unacceptable.  There were also a few charter boats moored out in the bay.  But, we’d come all this way, so we parked and got the gear out.  Honeymoon offers decent snorkeling and we planned to take advantage.  We paddled out to a rocky/grassy area and had a good time.  The sun wasn’t out too much so we avoided getting sunburned. 


We headed out of the water, got dressed and took the path to the Caneel.  Immediately, we were out of place.  I mean, people who go there on vacation wear shoes!  We looked like 2 wet rats.  Trying to remain inconspicuous, lest we offend the local gentry, we made our way to the taxi stand.  We hailed a cab and rode back to town.  We were not walking back.


Arriving in town, we were hot, tired, thirsty and hungry.  We staggered over to a nameless barbecue stand that’s near the old commercial docks.  It looks like hell, but always smells good.  Plus, many of the taxi drivers seem to get lunch from there.  How bad could it be?  We placed our order and I ran across the street to Cap’s, one of the local dive bars, to procure beer.  2 minutes later, I was back across the street procuring more beer.  I was also offered the chance to buy weed form a dude with a very impressive pile of hair on his head.  Politely refusing, I went back to lunch.  Naturally, our order was messed up.  But, it hardly mattered.  We had ribs and chicken and it was unbelievably good.  We chatted with the 2 women who work there and had a nice time.  I should have taken a picture of this place because it looked like a dump.  But, as is always the case, if the locals eat somewhere, it’s bound to be good.  The ribs and chicken were cooked to perfection and the sauce was delicious.  Since we were about to become one with our chairs, we headed out.  We ran into St John Spice again for some seasonings and sauces and headed up the hill to the house. 


Upon arrival, I think we both flopped into the pool with our clothes on.  It was too hot to do anything else.  The rest of the day was spent lazing at the pool.  I was in no rush to go back out to a beach and ChurchBomber and MerlotMan didn’t seem to mind.  At some point, we went back to town for the obligatory Caribs and Conch Fritters at JJ’s.  We wandered town for a little while and went back to the house.  I grilled up some pork chops and we ate in the stifling heat of the house. 


After dinner, it was still hot, so we just sat around playing cards.  I busted out the headache helmet again and was sternly mocked.  You may have seen pictures of the headache helmet.  I’m not wearing a turban or a diaper on my head.  It’s a bandanna with an ice pack wrapped into it.  Mock it if you must, but it kept me somewhat cool.  We all turned in at about 9:00.  It was just too damn hot to stay out in the living room.  We were praying for rain or a breeze to lift some of the oppressiveness out of the air.

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