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NPS Centennial: Island Adventures in St. John

 
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I honestly cannot say what would be my favorite National Park because they’re all wonderfully diverse treasures. I had the unique experience of living on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John. Did you know that more than half of this stunning island is part of the Virgin Islands National Park?

Jody-BVI-1.jpgThe Rockefeller family donated a large portion of land to St. John and 60% of the island became part of the National Park Service in 1956.  Its pristine clear waters, soft sandy beaches, and tropical breezes are a dream come true. And that’s just the beginning! St. John offers underwater trails, one of which leads to a fresh water swimming pool where petroglyphs are carved into the rocks. There are ruins of plantations, windmills, schools, and distilleries.

In addition to the fragrant bay leaf trees, blooming frangipanis, palms, and orchids, one of my favorite parts of St. John is located in the southeastern corner of the island. This area has a drier and more formidable landscape. From the crystal clear waters of the Salt Pond Bay to Ram’s Head Point, a rocky bluff looking over the Caribbean Sea, this part of the island has a stunning landscape.

Jody-BVI-3.jpgWe often anchored in Salt Pond Bay, snorkeling and enjoying sea turtles, sea fans, and searching for flamingo tongues.  We hiked in the early mornings in order to avoid the afternoon heat. There’s a parking area within walking distance of the Bay for people without water access. Walking the short trail, you’ll come upon an idyllic soft, sandy, protected beach touched gently by wavelets.

The trailhead starts at the southeastern side of the beach and heads up through some brush, opening to an area with more rocks and many barrel cacti. We enjoyed eating the cactus’ tart fruit and photographing spectacular flowering century plants. When exploring the rocky nooks and crannies, be sure to watch your step. You can climb to the top and marvel at the sea’s powerful waves crashing into the rocky cliffs.

Jody-BVI-4.jpgHeading back down, take some time to enjoy Blue Cobblestone Beach which is covered with smooth blue rocks. After the hike, it’s a treat to lie down and place the warm rocks on your back. It’s the perfect way to relax before returning to the Salt Pond.

I’m very fortunate to have visited some of our wonderful National Parks. Now, residing in North Carolina, I enjoy her many wonderful treasures as well. I’m grateful for the many conservation efforts of people like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and John Rockefeller.  These men, and many others like them, have helped countless people “keep nature close to our hearts and wash our spirits clean.” And in doing so, we grow to become better human beings.

- Jody, Mast Store Boone