We scored two spots on Tuesday’s Reef Bay tour. This is a ranger led hike. It began with a taxi ride from the park’s HQ to the trailhead. In the islands what passes as a taxi is either a Ford or Chevy pickup that’s backend has been modified to provide rows of open air bench seating for about fifteen people, all under an awning. We drove the island‘s main road, which runs along its backbone. I am glad that I didn’t rent a car.
The photo captures our hike well. Starting at a 900’ elevation, we descended two miles to the sea, following the course of a stream, which here is called a gut. This hike took our group of thirty about four hours. We had many small children in our company, but I cannot blame them for our slow progress. Kent, our guide, liked to talk. Still, he knew a lot and was well worth listening to. Kent by his own estimation has led this tour 180+ times.
We started in a mountain rainforest and descended first to a drier lower level forest, in the foothills, before reaching an almost desert like plain along the coast. In between were a host of micro climes. Our company of thirty were full of questions for our guide, which he could answer most of them. To stoke our naturalist interests, he purposed a couple of “scavenger” hunts.
The first was for the Golden Orb spider, a spectacularly looking beast, whose webs were once harvested for their tensile strength. It didn’t help that one was directly above Kent’s head when he announced this search. The other one was for the orange fruit, from the Mast tree. So named, because this tall and very straight tree, was once used for sailing ship’s masts. Some park botanist wanted these fruits to repopulated hurricane damage elsewhere, but after the first few examples, Kent declared no more.
We lunched by some Native American petroglyphs. Not the ones posted yesterday. The hike ended at an old slave era sugar mill. Then we boarded a waiting boat back to Cruz Bay. We waded out to a Zodiac that ferried us out to Sadie by the Sea, just restored to service this year after the 2017 hurricanes. Entering Cruz Bay, Captain Tom pointed out all of the derelict boats that FEMA had re-floated, to minimize its costs.
After that all, we were pretty much toast, fried, ready to be laid out. Fortunately, it was three by then, Happy hour time. We ended up at High Tide for a second lunch or maybe an early dinner. It was shady dining, with a great view of the water. Afterwards, we trudged up the hill to Gallows Point and our apartment. Where out on the deck we were treated to and tortured by Banana-Quits, very small, very fast, very hard to photograph, colorful, tropical birds.