St. John, US Virgin Islands Trip Feb. 17-25, 2007

(more pictures coming soon!)


Fri. Feb. 16:

We had a 6:00 am flight out of Rochester, NY (cheapest airfare) on 

Saturday - so instead of worrying about snow & driving, we got a 

Super 8 cheap room only 8 miles from the airport on Friday night, 

and stayed there.  I had found out the employees at the airport 

counters did not get there until 4:30 am - so we planned to be 

there by then.  I had found the cheapest way to park - Economy 

Parking outdoors with a shuttle to the airport.  Before dinner in 

Rochester, we drove by the airport to just see where the parking 

was, and it was a good thing - because they had closed the 2 

economy parking areas - so they could plow the parking lots.  They 

had a 3rd lot further away that we found.  Had dinner at a nice 

Greek diner, went to bed early.


Sat. Feb. 17:

Got up at about 3:30 am and headed over to the airport parking.  

Parked the van, put on light jackets, and had just missed a shuttle 

coming out of the lot.  Got the next shuttle, after watching over a 

dozen new cars pulling in to park as well.  Got on the shuttle, and 

he picked up everyone he could, then he started heading out.  Then 

he stopped, and turned the shuttle around, and went back for more 

people.  This was all taking a lot longer than we had planned.  

Finally, he left the lot, and halfway to the airport, the shuttle 

went dead.  He had to try several times to start it up again, and 

finally got it going.  But then, about a few thousand feet from the 

terminal, it died for good.   By then, the passengers revolted and 

demanded we be let off so we could run to the terminal.  He let us 

go ... and we went out in the zero-degree weather to run to the 

terminal.  I went a little ahead to get in line.  When I entered 

the terminal, my heart sank.  The line for the Northeast counter 

was about 100 people long, and we had less than 45 minutes to get 

on our international flight.  A woman who was on our shuttle from 

the parking lot zoomed ahead saying "we'll never make that 

flight" ... so I followed her.  She went right up to the front of 

the line, and yelled for help, claiming she had an international 

flight to Detroit.  I piped up - "I'm on the same flight".  

Amazingly, a counter woman started taking her bags and getting her 

through.  So, after her, I followed suit and asked for help, and 

another woman started helping me.  She had me try the kiosk, but 

after swiping my passport, it said I did not have an E-ticket - to 

get counter help.  Ugh.  Then she checked me in ... but ran out of 

staples.  She had to staple my paper tickets to the boarding 

passes ... and could not find staples.  So, she spent the next 10 

minutes looking in drawers all over, finally finding out they were 

in her main drawer the whole time.  Then she stapled the wrong 

tickets to the wrong boarding passes.  She got mixed up because 

there is a Scott James and a James Scott on the list.  (who’s 

brilliant idea was that?!  - mine)  So she had to tear apart the 

staples, and re-staple them.  So ... you think this is fun?  Keep 

reading .... meanwhile, I have waved Carol & the kids up to the 

front of the line, so we could check the bags. Finally, as I am 

about to leave the counter, I notice there are only 3 luggage 

stickers in my hand, but we checked 4 bags.  She looked at the 3 

behind her - but it was the 4th that was missing.  I told her, and 

we finally found it by the x-ray scanners, and she pulled the 4th 

sticker off and gave it to me.  Carol had taken the kids to get in 

the next line - security - and I then ran over to find them.  Now 

we had another huge line to get through - but it moved fairly 

quickly. Thank goodness we didn't get singled out as a random 

search victim.  We got to our Gate just in time and got on our 

plane - which ended up a little behind schedule.  Whew ... aren't 

vacations for relaxing?  We flew into Detroit .. and had a layover 

of a little less than an hour - before taking a 4.5 hour flight to 

San Juan PR.  We had a 4.5 layover in San Juan, and had dinner at 

the airport and relaxed.  From San Juan, we took a tiny plane (only 

seats 9 passengers) to St. Thomas. 
We were taken out to the 

airstrip - but the pilot was missing.  We had to wait about 15 

minutes before he arrived - I guess we were a little early.  They 

asked me if I wanted to sit in the co-pilot seat - and I accepted.  

I felt like I was back with my father-in-law in his plane.  The 

pilot introduced himself, and said: "My name is A'mar".  He turned 

out to be nice. We departed about 7pm, so there wasn't much to see 

but the city lights of San Juan.  We landed in St. Thomas after a 

30-minute flight, but only found 3 of our 4 bags at the airport.  I 

went to the counter and had to fill out the long missing luggage 

form.  Here's what they actually told me why the 1 bag might be 

missing:  "There were 3 iguanas on the runway, and they may have 

tried to avoid them and that's why your bag might be missing."  Boy 

- and I thought I was good at making up excuses!  It turned out 

that the next flight - 20 minutes later - had Scott's bag on it - 

so we found a taxi to take us to Red Hook for the ferry over to St. 

John.   It was a roller coaster taxi ride through a very busy 

highway ... took over 45 minutes to get across St. Thomas.  We got 

dropped off at the ferry station, which to me looked more like some 

town dump that was under construction.  There was a ticket booth, 

but no one in it. There were some seedy looking characters hanging 

around.   Immediately, there was an older man who ambled up to us, 

and said - "You going to St. John?"  He started taking our bags, 

and piling them on a big push cart.  He talked incessantly, and 

said "he had been working here for 20 years".   I think he meant to 

say, "Scamming here for 20 years" ....  but he took us down to the 

ferry dock, and talked to us until it got her.  Funny how when you 

say you are from upstate New York, or anywhere in NY for that 

matter, that you are automatically from Brooklyn.  Finally - we 

ended up paying some large woman the money for the ferry ride - and 

I tipped the old man $3.  As we walked up the ferry - he started 

yelling loudly, "I get $1 per bag!" - but a ferry official (who 

finally showed up) told me to go ahead and ignore him.  The old man 

kept yelling, but the official warned him off, and we sat down for 

the ride.  Not exactly something you want to go through after over 

17 hours of travel.  The ferry ride was only about 20 minutes, and 

we arrived at St. John around 10pm. (11pm our time)  We found a 

taxi - which in St. John are open-air taxis with a canvas roof ... 

and paid $28 to ride to Cinnamon Bay, our campground.

The temperature was in the lower 80's - and a little humid.  The 

roads are very steep and very windy.  When we arrived at the Camp - 

our name was tacked on the bulletin board with a map to our cottage 

- #9D.  It was dark, but enough cottages were lit so we could see 

ok.  We found our cottage, and collapsed for sleep.  We walked 

right by the ocean to get there, and could hear the waves on the 



Sun. Feb. 18:

We slept in a little - was a beautiful day.  The campground is 

right on the beach, and our cottage was only about 40 steps to the 

white pure sand. 
The cottages are offset to the left of the rest 

of the camp, so it was really quiet, and away from the main 

entrance where people visiting would come in.  Cinnamon Bay is the 

longest beach on St. John, so people didn't tend to walk down to 

our section.  The water has a clear turquoise color that is hard to 

describe in words. 
View of beach near cottage:
The cottages are 15x15 rooms, with 4 single 

beds, a table, 4 chairs, a refrigerator, 2 big fans, and silverware 

and dishes, 4 big beach towels, and linens and pillows.  It has a 

cement floor, with just a carpeted welcome mat inside the door.  

They have electricity.  On the front porch is a picnic table, and 

they also supply a propane grill, as well as a BBQ grill.  There 

was a water spigot just in front of our cottage for rinsing off 

sand, brushing teeth, etc.  We used a communal shower / bathroom 

that had 3 shower stalls, 3 toilets & 2 sinks.  I walked up to the 

front desk by 8 am to get our key.  We had read about people on St. 

John being "on island time" ... and this was true.  Employees tend 

to be very slow, and take their time doing everything, so you just 

have to change you pace.  It's not dramatically slow - but it's not 

for impatient people.  Businesses open "about 10 or 11", and 

usually have signs like "Open sometimes early, sometimes late".  

Once we had some granola bars for breakfast, we decided to do some 

snorkeling right off our beach to the little island right next to 

our beach.  It is called "Cinnamon Cay" (the Cay is pronounced 

"key")  We got our masks adjusted, and Katie & I stuck our heads in 

the water.  The first thing we noticed, right away, was how clear 

the water is.  The 2nd thing we noticed, was that right in front of 

us was a manta ray, with a small parrot fish swimming right towards 

us.  The stingray swam right under us - and it happened so quickly 

that Carol & Scott had missed it.   The first thing Katie did was 

to lift her head out of the water and start yelling, "a stingray, a 

TK with mask:

I reminded her to put her head back in the water so 

she could look at it.  We started swimming out (floating, really) 

to the island.  The salt water is so buoyant, that it takes no 

effort at all to float.  You just paddle your arms and/or legs, and 

you move right along.  We first started seeing tiny little silver 

fish, swimming right in front of us as we went along.  Thousands of 

Once we got closer to the island, coral started showing up, 

and beautiful colored fish and plants came into view.  We had Dr. 

Johnson's guide book, and learned that what we saw most of were 

tangs, angelfish, needlefish, parrotfish, trunkfish, butterfly 

fish, wrasses, damselfishes, and more.  The coral life was varied, 

with giant purple fans, golden elkhorn, black sea urchins, 

gorgonians, giant brain corals, and more.  It was very pleasant, 

just slowly floating around and observing everything.  Hundreds of 

colorful fish would swim right by.   We spent about an hour and a 

half, and then snorkeled back to the beach, where we took a little 

relaxing swim.  There was a reggae band (keyboards & 2 singers) on 

the beach playing live music.  We had PB&J sandwiches for lunch at 

the cottage.  Since we didn't get our rental car until Monday - we 

had dinner at the Camp restaurant - called the Tree Lizard Restaurant.

You would order your food ahead of time, then sit and they would 

bring your food.  We had Mahi-Mahi, BBQ Chicken, and fruit 

smoothies.  The band was back playing at the restaurant, and they 

sounded good.  We played cards in the evening and slept well.  It's 

great sleeping to the sounds of the ocean.


Mon. Feb. 19:

I took a taxi into Cruz Bay to pick up my rental car, and got there 

around 8:15 am.  No one was there ... so I walked around a little.  

Someone showed up at 8:30ish, but said that I would have to wait 

until the person who had my car returned it.  He even called her on 

the phone, and woke her up out of bed - but she said she was 

returning it at the designated time - 10:30 am.  So, I called Carol 

& told her I'd be late - and then walked around Cruz Bay.  It is a 

small town, but busy with shops, restaurants, clubs, etc.  I 

stopped at a Texas Cafe for an English Muffin and sausage ... then 

stopped in at the National Park Visitor Center, where I picked up a 

great map of the island, (map) and looked at their displays on history 

and nature on the island.  I found an ATM machine and took out a 

little money, since we had spent more cash on taxis & the ferry 

than I had expected.  Finally got the car - a Jeep Compass - nice
4- wheel drive SUV that seats 5.  Went back to Cinnamon Bay, and got 

the family and drove over to Francis Bay, just a couple beaches 

east of us on the north side of the island.  They had a nice hiking 

trail there, and we saw some house ruins and some nice views.  Then 

we had PB&J lunch at the beach.  Went snorkeling right off the 

beach, and saw lots of coral and fish.  A young boy was snorkeling 

nearby, and shouted to us that he saw a sea turtle, so we swam over 

to join him. We could see it clearly, swimming slowly along the 

bottom of the sandy beach, and it even came up 3 times for air 

right by us to the surface.  It was wonderful to watch.  Then Carol 

& I went for a long walk on the beach while Katie & Scott snorkeled 

near the shore.  Got back to the cottage for showers, and then 

drove into Cruz Bay and found a grocery store.  The prices were a 

little higher than normal, but not too bad at all.  We walked 

around the gift shops, and had dinner at the Lime Inn Restaurant.  

Excellent seafood, Katie & I shared a seafood & pasta medley, had 

Clam Chowder, great stuff.  We looked at some more gift shops after 

dinner - the best one was Pink Papaya - next door to the restaurant 

- and had the most colorful selection of ceramics, glassware, 

jewelry, everything.  Around 8:15 we went to the ferry dock, and 

met my younger brother Tom right as he came off the ferry.  Tom is 

from Denver, CO ... and we love vacationing with him.  He hadn't 

eaten dinner yet, so he had dinner at a dockside restaurant while 

we talked about our travel stories.  We stopped for a few more 

groceries, then headed to Cinnamon Bay for the night.  We had some 

chocolate cake to celebrate our meeting with Tom successfully.  We 

checked Tom into his tent site - a 4-person size tent with 

screening and all on a wooden platform.  He had a propane lamp 

there - but never needed to use it.   We spent a little more time 

catching up at our cottage, then we went off to bed.



Tues. Feb. 20:

It had rained during the evening, and the morning was fairly 

stormy, with big waves out on the ocean.  We decided to go to the 

south side of the island, where the waves wouldn't be so big, and 

drove for about 20 minutes to Saltpond Bay. It was much calmer at 

the Bay, and since it was drizzling rain, we went snorkeling 

first.  It was good visibility, and we even saw a small nurse shark 

on our swim.  After snorkeling, we decided to hike up the Ram's 

Head Trail, a long trail that goes up to the top of a large hill 

that overlooks the ocean.  We sat on the rocks for our lunch.  It 

rained the first half of the hike, which was nice because it kept 

us cool.  There were lots of cactus, and large plants on this side 

of the island, a lot of variety that we didn't see on the north 

side.  The trail worked its way up and down and onto a long pebble 

beach.  We chatted with some hikers coming back, who told us of an 

island legend - that if you carry a stone to the top of the 

mountain, and throw it into the sea - you can yell out a wish as 

the stone is in the air, and if it reaches the waves below - it 

will come true.  So we each took a stone to the top.  We each took 

turns making wishes.  It was a great hike, and at the top you could 

see for miles and miles.  Wonderful vistas.  We saw a large Hermit 

Crab on the trail.  Beautiful orange and blue colors.  We hiked 

back down, and drove back to Cinnamon Bay for a swim in the 

ocean.   Then we took showers, and drove over to Coral Bay to a 

casual restaurant called "Skinny Legs", which we had read about.  

It was a very low-key place, with simple chicken, burgers, chili- dogs
and Mahi-Mahi sandwiches.  They had some gift shops that we 

looked through, then came home.


Wed. Feb. 21:

It rained hard in the morning, so we played UNO in our cottage for 

a while.  Tom was beginning to think that it rained all the time 

here.  But I assured him that the car rental lady told me that they 

have had very little rain at all in a while, and that this was 

unusual.  After it stopped raining, the sun came out and we showed 

Tom the Sugar Mill ruins right across the street from the 

campground.    It turned out to be a gorgeous day.  We drove over 

to Leinster Bay on the north side - and hiked out the Leinster Bay 

Trail to Waterlemon Bay.  It was a long hike along the shores of 

the beach, and we got out to a point that was close to Waterlemon 

Cay, a tiny island just off shore.  We snorkeled out to it, and 

snorkeled all the way around the whole island.  Lots of beautiful 

fish and coral to see.  It was a more difficult swim back to shore, 

with the current working against us, but we got back fine.  It 

helps not to be in a hurry.  We hiked the long way back to our

car, and drove back via Francis Bay so we could show Tom the house 

ruins at Francis Bay.   We drove back, but past our camp to show 

Tom the overlook over Trunk Bay, which has in my opinion the most 

gorgeous view on the whole island.  The view of Trunk Bay was 

actually the reason we came here ... it had showed up on my 

WebShots program - and it looked so beautiful I decided over a year 

ago to try and get here.  Here's my picture of it:

We drove back to the cottage, and showered and dressed.  We drove 

into Cruz Bay, and went to dinner at The Fish Trap, another place 

Carol had read about.  We were starved, and the 3 boys had
all-you- can-eat steamed blackened shrimp, and wok & salted shrimp.  We 

finished our 1st round of shrimp, and ordered a second helping.  

The girls went shopping during round two.  Delicious!  We waddled 

around some gift shops, and then headed to the cottage.


Thursday Feb. 22:

A great sunny day.  In the morning after granola bars we drove to 

the south side of the island again, to Great Lameshur Bay, and took 

the Yawzi Point Trail, to a little cove a good friend of mine at 

Cornell - Professor Bill Ghiorse - told me about.  It was his late 

wife's favorite snorkeling cove - we called it "Annie's Cove" after 

her.  It was fantastic snorkeling, with crystal clear water.  We 

saw lots including 3 squid.  After an hour and a half, we hiked 

back the trail, looking at some old leper colony ruins.  We went 

over to Little Lameshur Bay, and found an abandoned house where we 

had our PB&J lunch.  We took a hike over to Europa Bay, which had a 

long pebble beach, and went snorkeling.  We were the only ones 

there.   Saw lots of iridescent fish, angelfish, parrotfish, and as 

small nurse shark hiding under some coral.  Hiked back, and drove 

home to Cinnamon.  Scott and I went for a swim before showering.  

We noticed on a map a restaurant in Cruz Bay that had a Mini-Golf 

course, so we went there.  It's called The Compass Rose.  It had a 

gorgeous view overlooking Cruz Bay, and they put us at a table 

right at the overlook.  The sunset - and was picture-perfect.  

There was live music - a girl singer with a guitar player.  She 

also played flute.  We played mini-golf after dinner - and it was a 

gorgeous course - very well kept - with neat historical signs on 

each hole that went through the completer history of the Virgin 

Islands.  Very interesting about all the different country owners, 

the slavery for sugar mills, the slave revolt for 6 months, etc.  

The course was decorated with gorgeous flowers and palm trees. 
the way out, the female singer noticed my Ithaca hat - and said, 

"Hey - I went to Ithaca College - Class of 2003!"  Small world.


Friday Feb. 23:

Another sunny day.  Our morning hike was a very short one up Peace 

Hill - which had a windmill ruin, and beautiful views around the 

islands.  You can see St. Thomas, Tortola and many other islands 

from St. John.  Katie and I saw a little trail heading down the 

hill, and we followed it all the way to the beach.  We hiked back 

up, and drove to a trail to Honeymoon Beach at Salomon Bay.  It was 

a long trail down a huge mountain, but the beach at the bottom was 

fantastic.  It has a few small half-size palm trees growing right 

out of the sandy beach.  Beautiful.  We went for a long snorkel, 

and the water was especially clear.  Carol found a huge conch with 

beautiful pink markings.  Katie saw a flat flounder fish, which 

looked so much like the rock it rested on, that it took us about 

3-4 minutes to actually see it.  It finally swam a few feet - so we 

could see it!  Took the long uphill hike back to the car - and 

headed back to Cinnamon Bay for a hot dog lunch.  Then we snorkeled 

out to Cinnamon Cay.  It was a little murky, but cleared up enough 

to see well.  Afterwards, we swam leisurely back at the beach.  We 

showered and then drove into Cruz Bay, and visited the expensive 

Westin Hotel.  ($450 per night) We walked around the grounds, 

beautifully manicured, with grass lawns, a huge outdoor swimming 

pool, and lots of buildings to stay in.  We ate dinner at Morgan's 

Mango, a place right across from the National Park Visitor's 

Center.  It was a fantastic dinner, and they had an older guitar 

player who played old Caribbean songs and sang.  We had seafood 

kabobs, citrus chicken, jerked chicken sandwich, and Scott had a 

cheeseburger.  We stopped at the grocery store for ice cream pops 

for dessert, then headed home.


Sat. Feb. 24:

We had breakfast, and then headed over to Trunk Bay early and got 

there by about 8:30 am.  No one was there, even though the sign 

said they open at 8:00 am, and so no one was there to collect the 

$4 per person fee.  This was the only beach with a fee, because it 

is here that the only Underwater Trail exists.  We were the only 

ones to start out on the underwater trail.  They had blue & white 

signs at the bottom of the ocean, that described different fish and 

coral.  We saw a lobster hiding in the coral.  Also saw a huge 

jawfish - the largest fish we've seen all trip.  We went beyond the 

underwater trail, and looked around the island, and then headed 

back.  By the time we got back to the end of the trail, the crowd 

had started to come in ... so the timing was perfect.  We swam a 

little at the beach, and then drove into town to shop a little.  

Tom got 4 T-shirts for $18 at a place we had done the same for 

Scott.  Then it was back to the cottage for a hot dog and mac & 

cheese lunch.  We drove over to Coral Bay and got a little gas - ay 

$3.27 per gallon.  Then we tried to drive up Bordeaux Mountain 

Road, to the highest peak on the island.  We kind of went a back 

way - and the road got unpaved and extremely steep.  We finally 

couldn't even figure out where the road led, so we turned around on 

a tiny grassy spot.  Without 4-wheel drive, I don't think we would 

have had a chance.  We found a paved road to an overlook that was a 

high point on Bordeaux Mountain, and stopped at a gift shop and had 

gorgeous views of Coral Bay and beyond.  We bought a Christmas 

ornament at the shop as our souvenir.   We drove back down to 

Hawksnest Bay, and went snorkeling.  We saw a large manta-ray, and 

a squid among all the usual fish.  We finished the day with dinner 

at the Cinnamon Bay Campground restaurant, the Tree Lizard 

Restaurant.  Salads came with mango dressing, and we had fish and 

chicken dinners.    Went back and packed our stuff for the trip home.


Sun. Feb. 25:

Got up and drove into town, and dropped everyone off at the ferry 

dock for a 9:15 ride to St. Thomas.  I returned the rental car, and 

walked back to the dock.  We got on fine, and took the 45-minute 

ride to Charlotte Amalie ... where we saw 3 huge cruise ships 

parked in the harbor.  We got a short taxi ride to the airport, and 

went through customs and checked our bags.  We said goodbye to Tom, 

who got an earlier flight than us - but knew we might see him in 

San Juan because he had a later flight from San Juan.  We had 

snacks at the airport - then took the 9-seater plane to San Juan.  

In the daytime we could see the islands clearly, and it was a very 

scenic flight.  Got to San Juan, and took a long time to find our

gate, since no one seemed to know where it was.  It turns out at 

Northwest was using American Airlines gates.  We got our boarding 

passes and waited in the very crowded airport.  Tom called us and 

found us  - so we could chat with him for a while before leaving.   

It was another 4.5 hour flight back to Detroit.  In Detroit - our 

flight was delayed because they were having another snow storm in 

the Northeast - and Rochester was getting snow.  We did board our

plane late - but after a while the pilot came on and said they were 

trying get a hold of a person on the phone in Rochester, who worked 

on the ground, who could give them a clearer idea of the runway 

conditions.  After almost an hour - he reported that the weather 

had moved off in Rochester - except now the ground crew in Detroit 

was on a shift change - and there was no one to push the plane off 

to the runway - so we waited some more.  Then when they arrived, we 

had to get de-iced.  Finally got to Rochester, about 1am.  Had to 

drive on un-plowed snowy roads back to Ithaca, and got home about 

3:15 am.  Had to work and the kids had school the next day.  

But .... it was all worth it!


We found the island St. John to be spectacular, with gorgeous views 

everywhere we went.  The people were very laid back, and went at a 

slow pace.  There are lots of other visitors all the time, so you 

don't really stand out.  The water was very clear, and very warm to 

swim in.  The salt water made it easy to swim, all you needed was 

to paddle a little and you'd go a long way.  The snorkeling was 

excellent, with thousands of fish and coral to see.  The hiking 

trails were so numerous that it would take over a month do do them 

all.  The beaches were the best we've ever seen.  The sand is pure 

white, and never crowded.  You can park and swim anywhere you 

like.  The Cinnamon Bay Campground was perfect, right on the beach, 

and had all you would need.  It wasn't luxurious, but we spent most 

of the time hiking and swimming.  I'd highly recommend it.  We're 

glad we rented a car, since the roads were so windy and hilly.  We 

never saw bicycle riders.  Taxis were available, but expensive.  

There are only 3 roads on St. John, so it's easy to navigate 

around.  The only real "town" is Cruz Bay, which has plenty of 

shopping, night life, and restaurants.  We all really enjoyed