Virgin Islands National Park: Ram Head

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Friday, March 8 was overcast. It was the only morning of the trip I slept late, and I woke to find Adam making pancakes for breakfast. We discussed which adventures to have today and ultimately decided it was a great day for a hike because the sun wouldn’t be beating down on us. Bethany declined to join us both because she had sprained her ankle in January and it was acting up and also because she had some work to do on writing a grant. So she set herself up at a table by Concordia’s pool where there was access to wifi, and the rest of us assembled our gear.

Ram Head trail is one mile long. It begins at the far end of Salt Pond Bay beach and ends at the top of Ram Head point, 200 feet above the sea (see map). The first part of the trail skirts the rocky shore of the small peninsula immediately south of Salt Pond Bay.

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The trail climbs gradually as it turns south along the end of the peninsula, offering dramatic views of the mouth of Salt Pond Bay. The drama of the scenery was only enhanced as dark clouds began to pass overhead. Soon it began to rain, which was refreshing.

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We rounded the end of the peninsula and encountered the next stretch of shoreline, a gorgeous blue cobblestone beach. The trail reenters forest as it descended toward the shore, which was all for the best because the rain had increased in intensity. Finally, Adam and I had to pull our rain covers over our backpacks, and I protected my camera by wrapping it in my baseball cap.

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Peering out through the foliage as the rain falls harder.

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The rain made the blue and green stones all the more lovely.

The rocky shoreline created shallow pools where we found snails and sea urchins.

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A small red sea urchin is just barely submerged in front of the largest stone in the photo.

After the beach, the trail ascends steeply in a series of switchbacks to the peninsula’s spine. There were many shortcuts carved by impatient hikers between the switchbacks. The vegetation changed to cactus and scrubby brush adapted to an arid, windswept climate.

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The trail led to a great split in the rock and a view of the eastern side of the peninsula.

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Image: Adam Geffen

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It was raining on us as we approached the point, but looking back and around, some parts of the area were sunny, and some were even darker than where we were.

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Looking back along the trail at the bulk of St. John. Concordia, where it had already stopped raining on Bethany, is visible to the right. Image: Sean M. Santos

And then suddenly we were there, at the end of the world. For my part, it was the farthest south I’d ever been on the planet.

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The rock that forms Ram Head is the oldest on St. John. Half a mile thick, the only only rock underneath it is that which makes up the sea floor.

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The view northeast toward Coral Bay.

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Image: Adam Geffen

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Image: Sean M. Santos

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Video: a 360° panoramic view from the top of Ram Head

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A hermit crab walked slowly along on the height of Ram Head. We were amused to see him so high up.

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A Gray Kingbird perches on a shrub on Ram Head.

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A Green-Throated Carib hummingbird, also perched on at the top of Ram Head.

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The lichen reminded me quite a bit of Isle Royale.

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The view west toward the southern shore of St. John.

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The view east toward the British Virgin Islands.

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Concordia, splayed out across its hill. Image: Adam Geffen

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Adam and Phil started back before us. There they are on the trail.

On the way up to the top of the point, it was difficult to distinguish the actual trail from the impatient short cuts. On the descent it was easier to follow the trail proper. And it was rewarding to stay on the path because the first large switchback snakes around the western side of the peninsula for a view of the vegetation along the shore.

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It had finished raining before we departed the top of Ram Head, but the swiftly moving clouds still created some moody seascapes.

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Although there were cairns of piled bleached coral, clearly left by the Park Service, when the trail ran along the beach, there were also other ephemeral art installations, presumably not created by park staff.

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Pearly-eyed Thrasher

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Looking back, the line of the trail is visible on the opposite ridge.

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When Sean and I arrived at Salt Pond Bay, Adam was already snorkeling, trying out the replacement snorkel he’d picked up at the Concordia shop. We all went for a quick swim to cool off before heading back up to the tent.

We relaxed the rest of the waning afternoon until we went to dinner at Cafe Concordia. The food was outstanding: thoughtful, fresh, laid-back gourmet fare prepared with flair. We laughed and chatted for a couple hours.

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After dinner, all five of us climbed the hill to look at the stars. Then we returned to the eco-tent to fall quickly to sleep.

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