Virgin Islands National Park: Lameshur Bay Trail

IMG_5874

For the first time, we turned the Jeep left out of Concordia’s driveway, continuing down the hill and past the parking area for Salt Pond Bay. We continued west along the southern shore of St. John as the road turned from pavement to dirt and back again several times. After one of the steepest hills we’d encountered on the island, we passed the beach at Little Lameshur Bay, which appeared to be quite popular even on the remote side of the island. We continued a little further on and parked near the big National Park Service sign marking the Lameshur Bay Trailhead (see map).

Just south of the parking area were the ruins of a bay rum still and lime still that were still working in 1915. Sean, Adam, and I explored the ruins before setting off on the trail.

IMG_5863

IMG_5867

IMG_1496

Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_1513

As at Cinnamon Bay, dense brain coral was used in construction. Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_5873

IMG_1516

Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_1521

Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_1530

Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_5884

Aloe flowers and Little Lameshur Bay.

IMG_5885

Sean captured a video of the sea, a bit of the path between the shore and the ruins, and a bumblebee on a stalk of yellow aloe flowers.

Video: Sean M. Santos

IMG_1549

Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_5891

Reef Bay Trail is the premiere hike in Virgin Islands National Park. It begins at Centerline Road on the island’s mountain spine and descends 947 to reef bay in 2.1 miles. It is popularly done as a guided tour with the Park Service wherein you are taken by taxi to the trailhead, descend the trail, and are then picked up by boat for the trip back to Cruz Bay.

The guided tour was sold out for the entire time we were on St. John, so we were obliged to approach Reef Bay from a different direction, literally. Partly because Sean and I were the only authorized drivers of the Jeep, we needed to do Reef Bay as an out-and-back. We had two options:

  1. Start up at the Reef Bay Trailhead, go all the way down, and then all the way back up.
  2. Start at sea level at the Lameshur Bay Trailhead, climb over and down a 467-foot ridge in 1.8, and end up on the valley floor of Reef Bay.

That we were staying on the far southeastern end of St. John made the decision obvious: Lameshur Bay Trail it was.

IMG_5892

The first part of the trail was a flat path through dry tropical forest.

DSC06032

Image: Adam Geffen

Then the trail began to ascend out of Lameshur Bay and up the ridge.

IMG_5896

Adam photographs the view east toward Little Lameshur and Great Lameshur Bays.

IMG_9768

Image: Sean M. Santos

As soon as we crested the 467-foot ridge, the trail banked right and we began rapidly descending toward the north. The hill fell away steeply past the trees on our left, revealing the breadth of Reef Bay Valley beyond. The breeze was exhilarating.

We passed other parties coming up the hill from Reef Bay, many of whom must have started their hikes in the cooler temperatures of the morning. One was a party of five senior women with walking sticks, another was a couple, he was wearing hiking boots, and she was barefoot.

IMG_5897

The trail banked left, and we descended even more rapidly until we came to a fork. To the left, the trail continued on to the valley floor. To the right, a series of steep switchbacks led to the remains of the Reef Bay Great House. We opted to check out the ruins before going on to Reef Bay.

IMG_5906

As we turned the first switch back I managed to brush my arm against the barbed leaf of a wild pineapple. It lacerated my skin near my elbow, and soon I was bleeding down my arm. I decided to find a spot at the ruins to sit and do trail first aid.

IMG_5930

IMG_5907

The ruins stood on a sunny outcrop. The rest of the Par Force Estate was a tenth of a mile further on, and the estate house would originally have been most easily accessed from that direction. The house’s wide front porch looked out over Reef Bay Valley below (see map).

DSC06049

Image: Adam Geffen

DSC06053

Image: Adam Geffen

The ruins were actually double ruins. The house was originally constructed in 1832 (and rebuilt in 1844). But it had been going under extensive restoration by the Park Service, which abruptly ceased in 1994.

Adam: I wonder why the restoration stopped.

Brandon: What happened in 1994? Republicans took over Congress. Likely there were no more funds for the renovation.

So now there is the ruin of the actual house and also the ruins and remains of the tools (water tanks too cumbersome to remove, for instance) of the restoration that stopped almost twenty years ago.

IMG_5910

IMG_9775

The view from the estate house up Reef Bay Valley toward the spine of St. John. Image: Sean M. Santos

DSC06073

Image: Adam Geffen

DSC06083

Image: Adam Geffen

DSC06078

Image: Adam Geffen

After we’d had a snack and I tended to my arm, we we explored the interior of the building.

DSC06062

Image: Adam Geffen

DSC06066

Bats. Image: Adam Geffen

IMG_5924

IMG_5928

We left the estate house, and continued down the trail until we reached the valley floor.

IMG_5931

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s