Well, it’s official. This weekend, someone’s rain dance or water delivery or clothes on the line worked fantastically well. Because Sunday morning we woke up to the hammering of rain on the metal roof, isolated sounds of thunder, a canceled half day charter and rolling power outages. It POURED all day long and accumulation rose over an inch in one day! Which is fantastic news, considering that earlier this month the NOAA declared that the territory was officially in a severe drought. And the browning hillsides reinforced that proclamation with visual evidence.
Each year, the Virgin Islands experiences what is considered the “dry season” from late winter through early summer. Every single year, we start to hold out breaths about cisterns running dry (water delivery is expensive!) and watch disdainfully as the hillsides slowly change from their brilliant shades of green to a dull, dirt brown. This year has been no different…Over the past few weeks we have all been doing a little rain dance with each passing cloud as we hoped for a solid day of downpour (or three!). And Sunday we got our wish!
So, yesterday, I took a drive out the North Shore to take some peeps at the flowers freshly in bloom and the island’s beginnings of greening up for the summer months and rainy season. Before I proceed, I do want to warn that it still looks a bit dusty…We need A LOT more rain! But, Sunday’s nearly one and a half inches of accumulation pushed us in a good direction.
Monday morning, I grabbed an iced coffee from North Shore Deli and headed up the hill from Mongoose for a leisurely drive along the waterfront. After nearly nine years on St. John, I can honestly say, the views and the colors still absolutely take my breath away as I round each sharp turn and steep grade of this drive. It doesn’t get old. First, I stopped at the Cruz Bay overlook and took in the sights of Love City. Home. It always amazes me how quiet and peaceful town looks from this perspective.
From the overlook, I took a little jaunt up the hill to see the beautiful flowers on the property that once hosted the popular restaurant, Asolare. A lot of people may not know this about me, but Asolare is the reason I moved to St. John. I had never been to the Virgin Islands before, but in a bout of restlessness in Denver, started scouring Craigslist ads for jobs in the Caribbean. One of the ads I responded to was for Asolare…They hired me over the phone, promising me four shifts a week and I bought a one way ticket. To say that I miss both dining and working in this once beautiful space is an understatement! Irma destroyed this incredible restaurant and, from what I can tell, there has been no movements to redevelop or repair the property since 2017. But, the landscaping is still beautifully maintained and the Bougainvilleas were putting on a miraculous show yesterday.
Another of my old places of employment, Caneel Bay, was looking particularly magical from the overlook at my next stop. It doesn’t look so broken from this angle, right? FYI, the National Park Service has conducted another round of environmental testing of the contamination on the property and hosted community input panels this Spring. Once we have the results of those from NPS, I’ll be updating you all in detail.
For now, the only access to the property is dining at ZoZo’s, which you can access by boat from the dock or via a complimentary shuttle from the parking lot on property. Or, pay the ten dollars to shuttle through the property to Honeymoon Beach.
As I passed Hawksnest, I noticed the absolutely overflowing parking lot. The cars in the image below were just the beginning of the row of about a dozen vehicles lined up on the roadside. NPS DOES ticket vehicles for parking violations and if you choose to park on the roadside and your tire is even touching the painted line on the edge of the road, they WILL give you a fine. Trust me when I say, if the parking lots look like this now, they will likely look the same throughout the summer months. Skip the ticket that could turn your free beach day into a rather expensive endeavor and grab a taxi from town! You’ll be supporting a local business AND saving yourself the parking hassle.
As I continued my drive on the traffic free roadway (everyone must have been at the beach 🙂 ), I paused for a quick second to snap a picture out the window as I drove past a new perspective that I have loved since Hurricane Irma changed much of St. John’s landscape. Prior to the 2017 super storm, this view was blocked by foliage and trees. I’m not a fan of the fact that the trees are gone, per say…But, always look for silver linings and shifts in perspective, right? I LOVE coming around this bend on my way home from the beach with a spectacular view of Gibney, Oppenheimer and Hawksnest on the horizon.
While we are talking about Irma and foliage, can we just take a moment to remark at how beautifully the canopy of trees has filled back in?
Just past Easter Rock, I pulled into the Peace Hill Parking lot for a quick hike up to the ruins of the old mill. As I parked my car, I noticed this tire cover that made me laugh out loud. A casual reminder to take it slow and easy while driving the steep grades and sharp curves of St. John!
The top of the trail at Peace Hill is one of my favorite spots on St. John. Rarely are there any other people up there, the 180 degree views are spectacular and its a great spot for a picnic or a sunset viewing. Additionally, there is always something spiritual about being in the midst of these ancient ruins by yourself. Take a moment to pay attention and respect to the lives threatened and lost to the dark history of slavery here in the Virgin Islands….
As I said, things are still PRETTY brown, but the tips of the trees greened up nicely in Sunday’s stormy weather!
From Peace Hill, I had to head back to town to run errands, do taxes and catch up on some more work in lieu of joining the rest of the island at the beach 🙁 But, I was super grateful for being able to take 30 minutes to take in the views and stretch my legs in one of my favorite places….Just five minutes from my front door.