Island Vacation Day 5 – Island Exploration and Brown Bay Trail

Driving to remote areas has never bothered us, in fact we love the challenge and adventure around discovering what might be hidden in the geography of St John USVI around us. This morning was no exception.  We decided to take a ride south and east of our villa to see the areas were were overlooking each morning.  The view was stunning from up above,  the vegetation looked dense and the roads were narrow lines that were barely visible from out 1150 foot perch on Bordeaux Mountain.   We headed out after surveying a couple maps and pointing our finger saying “let’s go there!”
We wanted to see if we could reach the far East end of the island.  We dropped down from Bordeaux Mountain into the village of Coral Bay.  After passing Skinny Legs bar and Grill, the road follows the water and there are many bays with a different environment at each one.  Some were rocky, some sandy, one was mangrove, and as we traveled the road started to climb bringing gorgeous views of both USVI waterways and British Virgin Islands.   We passed through Hansen Bay and saw the small food stand called “Vies”- apparently the food is wonderful, but she was closed on Monday, so we could not try the western Indian specialties served here.  A few day later we ran into travelers that said they paid the $5 to get on the beach and we’re glad they did, as it is a gorgeous clean and quiet beach.
The road lead us to the art studio of Sloop Jones.  You must be a little bold when visiting as it looks like you might be walking in to someone’s home when you pull up to the closed gate.  The sign tells you that the gate is closed to keep the goats out, take our word for it- people are welcome!  The artist, Sloop Jones has been creating “wearable art” for over 25 years, I had read a bit about him before visiting and was impressed with the beautiful articles of clothing in his shop.  The woman that helped us was very informative about the way he creates the paint from pigments, mixing colors by hand and using a custom method that allows the clothing to hold the color after many washings.   She told us that they have customers that have purchased items over 20 years ago and they are still wearing these pieces.   Prices are not cheap, but to have a one of a kind piece of signed Sloop Jones wearable art seemed like a good buy to me, so I purchased a top for me and a dress for the daughter.  She was also a great source of information about snorkel spots and recommended we try Haulover bay that day because seas were unusually calm and we would be able to do both south and north with calm seas.

Sloop Jones Shop Sloop Art


After leaving, we knew the road to the east had ended so we headed back from where we came and toward an upscale housing development we had spotted toward the north of where we were.  We drove the curvy road that climbed up past several sites that were for sale as well as past a few homes that were simply spectacular.  This road, though still paved, started becoming narrow with vegetation overcoming the road on either side of the jeep. As we passed various bushes we noticed several with large burrs and thorny spikes and joked about keeping our arm off of the window ledge!  As we made a curvy turn we were surprised by 2 people taking pictures of the beautiful bay below.  They waved and said with a smile-  “you know the road ends?”  We said yes, and we would be looking for a spot to turn and go back down- another 20 yards and we reach the end of the road for the second time that day.

We contemplated the Haulaway North snorkel, but we were really interested in the Brown Bay hike so we opted to head over to the trailhead for Brown Bay that starts next to the firing range just about a mile east of the Moravian Church in Coral Bay.   We started up the trail knowing that there would be steep inclines.  Because I have a past ankle injury that left a plate and screws in my ankle, hubby was concerned that it would not be a good idea to continue after the first ridge, but my stubborn Dutch girl took over and something inside me would not let me quit.   The hike to the beach took us about an hour.  I won’t lie- this was a loose rocky, gully of a trail that had both of us looking down most of the time to decide where we would place our next step.  But once we got to the beach we were able to hop in the water, cool off and take in the surrounding area.  There were 2 boats moored in the bay, and an empty dinghy on shore.   We looked around the very shallow bay for a bit, spotting several conch in the sea grass under the water as well as small fish.   A couple that owned the dinghy appeared from the trail and we had a brief chat, learning that they lived on their sailboat and would come over the trails a few times a week in order to get some physical activity, walking one of the trails.  They looked to be in their 60’s and were strong and lean.   Must be something to this life!
We decided against a snorkel here as we had just one bottle of water left and knew the hike back would require stamina, so we headed back, determined to beat our one hour time by at least 10 min.  It took 50 minutes and I have to say I had a moment of feeling pretty proud of hubby and me, it was tough but we did it!  We ate our fruit and wraps from the cooler in the car, rehydrated with some water and headed to our reward a stop at Maho beach to take a dip and a rest and then head back to the house for a great
dinner with family, sharing stories of our separate adventures of the day.

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