Wednesday, December 19, 2007

We're back!

And slowly getting caught up on things. We had an amazing time. It is hard to describe exactly how refreshing and nice it was to just focus on each other, unless you have kids of your own and know exactly what you mean.

We did so many things, and took so many pictures, its hard to even know where to begin. For starters, we combined some of our gift money from our birthdays and got a Canon Digital Rebel XTi. I have been scared to DEATH of getting/using a digital SLR camera, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is how bloody EXPENSIVE they can be. But I am SO glad we decided to do it, the pictures we got we just phenomenal and so worth it all.

When we left on Saturday, I was absolutely on cloud nine. I could do whatever I wanted, read a book while we were waiting for the plane, or even take a nap!! How exciting . . . and a true comment on what you really find exciting once you have kids!! :-) At any rate, our flight was delayed a little, but it was no time at all before we landed in St. Thomas and caught a cab and then ferry to St. John. It was so nice to be back in Little Paradise!!

The picture above in the sunrise from Sunday, our first day there, from the balcony of the house. It was pretty much the only nice weather we had in the morning while we were there. Considering the weather is usually fantastic in St. John, we had no idea what was going on. Until, of course, we came home and realized there was a very weak tropical storm while we were there. So, uh, yeah, that explains a few things!!

Anyway, we drove to Cruz Bay (opposite side of the island from where our house is, in Coral Bay) in the morning to get a few things. Along they way, we stopped at a few of the scenic places along the way and took pictures. We had an early lunch, then went to Little Lameshur Bay to give our wonderful little kayak a go. It was AMAZING, we paddled all around the bays in the area, and did the Yawzi Point Snorkel. Normally you have to hike to the point and then enter the water, but we just paddled over to the rocky beach, left the kayak and went for a swim. We had such a blast :-) Day one pictures follow. My only regret was that we didn't bring the underwater camera so I couldn't take photos from the kayak or of the snorkels.

Ruins of Windberg Plantaion. This is right along the road as you travel from Coral Bay to Cruz Bay on North Shore Road!

Overlook of Cinnamon Bay, with Whistling Cay in the background and then BVI.

View of the beach at Little Lamesure Bay from the ruins of the Lameshur Bay Plantation.

Brad setting up our sturdy little vessel!

Another view of Little Lameshur, this one from the beach.

We didn't get a ton of sleep on Sunday night, due to howling storms and major rain. At least now we know why! At any rate, it was too windy on Monday to take the Kayak out, so we decided to hike the Leinster Bay Trail and do the ruins of the plantation their. This is one of our favorite spots--the ruins are right behind the beach, but there is no trail to them and the National Park doesn't maintain the area or really even encourage anyone to visit them. So it's definately "Off the Beaten Track"! I was able to get some great shots of a couple pelicans sunning themselves. Brad took the shots of the ruins. We hiked a portion of the Johnny Horn Trail, then went home for lunch. We then spent the afternoon exploring a variety of other ruins that the area around Annaberg has to offer . And, last but not least, we hiked up part of the Cinnamon Bay Trail to the spur for the American Hill Estate House, which was absolutely amazing. We got rained on for most of that hike, but it was actually fun to be hiking around in the rain. We definately didn't let the fowl weather slow us down!!

Pelican with Waterlemon Cay in the background. Snorkeling around the cay is phenomenal!

Closeup of the Pelican.

I love this picture, he is stretching or something. You can see his tongue. If you click on the pic, you can see exactly HOW GOOD the camera is!! :-)

Water tower at the Leinster Bay Plantation

Ruins of a building associated with a more recent (early to mid 1900s) cattle operation at Leinster Bay

View of a beautiful boat on the bay

These stairs are nearly all that is left of the great house of the Freidriksdale Plantation. While these ruins are right off of the road in the Anaberg area, the NP doesn't maintain the trail anymore, and it is getting difficult to explore the rest of the plantation.

This bridge lies just across the road from the Fredriksdale Ruins. It is a part of the old Danish road system, and is excellent condition!

Little lizard hiding inside the bridge!

This next set of pictures are from the American Hill Estate House. The house was built in the 1920s, and is located at 400feet above sea level. The roof and interior of the house are completely decimated, but the walls seem to be in good conditional. Although the view is largely obscured by overgrowth, you can get a rough idea of how SPECTACULAR this house must have been in its hayday!

On Tuesday, we got up early and decided to hike to the Reef Bay Plantation Ruins. The ruins are situated in the Reef Bay Valley, which is completely undeveloped. The entire valley is owned by the national park and there are no roads. We hiked in via the Lameshur Bay trail, which included a steep 460 foot decent over a saddleback and then a decent of the same into Reef Bay Valley. The hike was wonderfully invigorating . . . . apparently I am in better shape than I realized!

The Reef Bay Ruins are in excellent condition. After the ruins, we visited the petroglyphs, then hiked to the ruins of the Reef Bay Great House and Estate Par Force. All in all, we hiked somewhere in the vicinity of 7 miles. It was a GREAT way to spend the day. We saw a ton of deer in the early morning (yes, there are deer in St. John), and even a mongoose! Random bit of St. John trivia, did you know the the plural of mongoose is "Mongoose dem?"

This tree was struck by lightening and was split in 2. Both sides of the tree are still alive!

View of Genti Bay from the Lameshur Bay trail. The ruins are situated right at the inner "V" of the bay.

Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins

Reef Bay Chimney

Grinder at horsemill

When Slavery was abolished in the late 1800s in USVI, sugar mills were at an impass as to how to continue their businesses. A few plantations, including Reef Bay, imported steam engines to make the work more efficient. A 15 year old girl was crushed in the gears of this particular engine. A few years later, in 1906, the Reef Bay Sugar mill closed down. It was the last sugar mill to end operations on the island.

Old copper pot (used for boiling sugar juices)

Hermit crab. The ruins were also inhabited by LOADS of bats. I like wildlife, but could not convince myself to get close enough to THOSE to take pictures!! Irrational I know, but still!!

Now on to the Petroglyphs. There is a waterfall that flows here during times of heavy rains. Yeah, that would be this trip, if ever!!

The petroglyphs, which have eroded quite a bit and are getting harder to see.

Small waterfall below the petroglyph pool.
Estate Par Force Ruins. As far as I can tell, this was an upper part of the Reef Bay Plantation, or maybe an earlier part. This is another trail that the NPS no longer maintains, but a local trail group keeps it passable. Not much left, but it is so cool seeing how nature is reclaiming these things.

Another shot of Estate Par Force

Reef Bay Great House:

We spent most of Wednesday sitting around the house . . . the weather was incredibly fowl that day, especially in the morning. I also think that this was the day that I got up, ate my husband's wonderful pancakes, and then returned to bed until noon. Now THAT was wonderful! In the afternoon, it cleared out a little and we did a little bird watching in our own back (or front, I suppose, for those of you who know the house!!). There are these delightful little birds called Bananaquits that love it when you put sugar in the bird feeders. I spent hours and a considerable amount of space on my memory card photographing them!

Lizard that lives in the hole in our wall.

3 Bananaquits. The one in the center (has a yellow stripe above the eye instead of white) is a juvenille.

I THINK this guy is a lesser antillian bullfinch, although I can't really remember. He is a juvenile as well, he was all downy on the other side!

I have no idea what this flower is, but it was so beautiful I made Brad take me back so I can get a picture of it. It can be found at the base of the Salt Pond Bay trail.

The weather cleared on Thursday and we launched the kayak from Francis Bay. We paddled over to Cinnamon Bay for some great snorkling, then cut across to Whistling Key and then snorkeled Mary Point. Brad and I encountered a cool little sea turtle, who was content to just go the way he was going, which happened to be the way we were going! We got to get a close look at some neat birds called Brown Boobys (no joke), that I had never seen before. They are really quite pretty, I wish I had gotten a picture! Anyway, long story short, we didn't take any pictures because we were ON the kayak, but had a fabulous time. The wind did pick up a little, so we also got an excellent workout.

Since we had to let the kayak dry out before our trip home, we spent being adventurous and testing out the 4-wheel drive in our jeep by visiting Gooptran and Kiddel Bays. They are accessible by an unpaved, washed out road, making it wonderfully FUN to get to. Both of the beaches were divine, because they were so deserted! We then went to Salt Pond Bay and hiked to the Blue Cobblestone beach for a snorkel and to just enjoy our last day on the island. The wind was picking up again, so the snorkel was a little surgy, but still fun. We sat on the rocks and read our books, enjoyed the sun and our day.

View from our selected reading spot :-)

Blue Cobblestone Beach (again, from our reading spot).
This beach is so cool because, as the name implies, it is all stone instead of sand. The rocks make a wonderful sound as the waves roll them in and out, creating perfectly rounded stones.

And, just like that, our time in Little Paradise was gone. We were sooo very happy to have had the chance to get away, in celebration of our 5th anniversary. Garrett was great for the inlaws. This is probably the first time we went that I felt a strong need to get back home, and that was ONLY because I missed my kiddo. I can't believe we have gone 4 times in 5 years. It seems like the place is a second home . . .

Now that I have written the longest post in the history of BLOGSPOT (it took me ALL DAY!!), I will leave you with the only picture I managed to take of the 2 of us together. Yup, the good ole hold the camera and take a picture of yourself trick. :-)


Kaycee said...

WOW! Those pictures are beautiful!! Looks like a real photog took them ;)!!

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