It started innocently enough. We were going to do a little hike from Cruz Bay around the headlands to the North Shore Beaches of Honeymoon Bay and Caneel Bay. Then to make things exciting, return via the trail across North Shore Road that takes us to the top of Margaret Hill before the descent back to Cruz Bay. It was August 2017. The plan was to do a relatively easy hike to re-acquaint ourselves with the island and get a little exercise after spending the previous day in airports and airplanes. An experienced St John USVI hiker with a horrible memory for elevations recommended this particular outing.
It is easy to access the Lind Point Trail from the National Park Headquarters. It is a delightful and scenic trail with lovely views of the harbor to the south and St Thomas to the West. Once around Lind point, the trail descends to Honeymoon Bay and becomes a walk on the beach to Caneel Bay. There is a spur to Solomons beach for those inclined to visit a white sand beach with shallow entry into the water and some of the best snorkeling. It is about ten days before Hurricane Irma visits the island, so Cannel Bay resort is open and a great place to stop for ice cream and a drink. So far, so good, in fact, so wonderful.
The trouble starts when we enjoy the moment a bit too long and the August afternoon sun pushes the silver mercury snake up the glass capillary of the temperature meter. But, no worries, across Northshore road is Caneel hill trail. It’s under the forest’s canopy and on the north side of a big hill protected from the sun. Silly mid-latitude natives, we are 18 degrees North of the equator; the sun might as well be directly overhead. The trees may offer a bit of protection from the sun, but they are also offer excellent protection from cooling breezes.
Climbing the endless switchbacks of Caneel Hill in such conditions is a sweaty, dizzying ordeal. The summit seems like it will never come, and when it does, it doesn’t really. Only a brief plateau before another 129 feet of elevation to reach the top of Margaret Hill, a total of 848 feet above the beach. At least it is downhill to Cruz Bay, where any of the establishments will happily serve any beverage of choice. So give this hike a go, but don’t do it on an August afternoon. If you are acclimated to airconditioning, you will melt.