Soldier Crabs Marching On

Usually, I have every day of our vacation planned before we arrive.  I can’t help myself. It’s partly due to my planning tendencies, partly because I want to make sure we don’t miss anything.  I took a slightly different approach this trip; while I had a few things in mind, we largely decided the evening before what we would do the next day.  I think the fact that neither St. Thomas nor St. John are particularly large made it easier for me to not plan every moment.  I figured it would be easy to see it all.  I was partly right.  We felt like we saw what we wanted to see on St. Thomas.  We could have easily spent a few more days on tiny St. John.

On Sunday evening, as we sat on the lanai enjoying the view, I thumbed through “St. John Off the Beaten Track.”  This well-used book was in the apartment when we arrived and we added to its wear.  It proved an invaluable resource for finding trails and beaches.  A hike to Brown Bay caught our eye:  ruins, beach, goats, donkeys.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

There are goats on St. John.  Lots of goats.  Everywhere.  We could sit on our lanai and watch them walking up and down the road.  And they were not silent goats, as you can imagine.  There are also donkeys, who congregate along certain parts of the road hoping for a handout.  Very friendly those donkeys (we did not feed them).  Oddly enough, I managed to only get two photos of goats and both are blurry. So, you’ll simply have to believe me when I tell you there are lots…and lots…of goats on St. John.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

Also, I use the term “hiking” loosely when talking about St. John.  Not a lot of mileage to be had on a 20 square mile island.  7 miles long, 3 miles wide.  But, it’s so hilly and the roads are so windy that it feels larger than that.  A lot of trails followed the same idea…hilly and windy, short in distance but long in duration.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

We awoke that Monday morning to overcast skies.  We sat on the lanai eating breakfast, watching the sky grow darker.  And darker.  And darker.

The wind increased.

The rain started.

“Passing shower,” we assured each other.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

The wind increased.

The rain increased.

We were thankful we hadn’t headed to the trail early.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

We called it a squall.  It lasted an hour, maybe two.  We decided that if that was a squall that we wouldn’t want to be on St. John (or any island, for that matter) during a hurricane.

After the bulk of the weather passed we headed to the trail.  Because why wouldn’t we?

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com
Trees across trails? Common for us. Cactus? Not so much.

The trail to Brown Bay was well-blazed.  We started with a moderate climb to the ridge line, then dropped down the other side to the bay.  The husband was very disappointed that we didn’t see one single goat or donkey.  However, we did meet a zillion soldier crabs.  You think I jest?  Check this out:

Okay, we didn’t see that many soldier crabs (and, yes, that was filmed on St. John).  And I’m really glad we didn’t see that many, because that would have just creeped me out. But, Brown Bay trail had its fair share.  We had to watch where we walked because soldier crabs have a tendency to roll right in front of you.  Sometimes they lose their grip while crawling uphill and go rolling by.  Other times, in a panic to not be eaten by the giant stomping through their backyard, they curl into their shells and end up wherever they roll…usually underfoot.

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I am happy to report that not one soldier crab was crunched underfoot (by us) during our time on St. John.  There were some close calls, but all remained unscathed.

We reached Brown Bay in short order and were rewarded by a very pretty little beach and bay.  We had read that there were ruins of a sugar plantation along the shoreline, so we began our search.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

I was struck by the amount of garbage that had washed up amongst the trees and brush above the waterline.  Not big hunks of garbage…tons of itty bitty pieces of plastic and other debris.  Like shells on the shore…but, unfortunately, not shells. Reminder?  Don’t litter, people!  Pack it out!  Obviously, all of this junk had washed in from the garbage can that is our beautiful ocean.  Sigh.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

We found the ruins amidst thick vines and trees.  Out of all of the ruins we saw these were the most eerie to me.  I can’t put my finger on why, but I actually felt uneasy at the Brown Bay ruins.  We were completely alone, as we were at most of the ruins we visited.  And, having learned the history of the sugar plantations from our visit to Annaberg, we knew that slavery was the manpower behind these huge operations.  Which lends an air of sorrow and soberness to the ruins.  It’s hard to describe.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com
An old sugar kettle.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

We eventually wound back out of Brown Bay, dodging soldier crabs the entire way.  We returned to the apartment and I reached out to the owner via text to inquire about a good beach to visit for the afternoon.  Because it was hot.  We were sweaty.  Very sweaty.  Sweat that had dried upon sweat that had dried upon sweat sweaty.

Her recommendation?  Jumbie Beach.

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

I just googled “jumbie”.  I have been wondering what it meant.  Turns out it’s a type of mythological spirit or demon in the folklore of some Caribbean countries.  Huh.  Well, I’d like to assure you that it was a very nice beach.  And that’s the beach that I met the ass on. See for yourself:

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

Haha!  I told you!  Donkeys all over!  These ones were mooching for handouts from the tourists hanging on Jumbie Beach.  One lady made the mistake of sharing a granola bar (a single granola bar) and I thought she was going to be mauled by friendly (and hungry) donkeys.

Here’s my personal favorite:

Soldier Crabs, cookdrinkhike.wordpress.com

Jumbie is a small, half moon beach within sight distance of Trunk Bay, the most popular beach on St. John.  We could see the people littering the shores of Trunk Bay as we enjoyed the quietness of Jumbie, which we shared with a dozen or so others (and 6 or 8 donkeys).

After soaking up some rays on Jumbie (well, as much as one can soak up rays when they’re slathered with SPF 50 and sitting in the shade when not in the water) we headed back to our side of the island, stopping for some views on the way.  We ate dinner at a the Shipwreck, a restaurant just up the road from our digs.  We tried conch fritters (we found them to be more fritter than conch, but still tasty) and discovered a curry hot sauce made on-island that was amazing.  A bottle came home with us.  And, we drank rum punch.  Imagine that.

Another day of lots…and, yet, very little.  As it should be when on vacation.

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