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Tuesday, June 9 (Day 2) – I’ve Got Soul But I’m Not A Soldier Crab

July 11, 2009
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Deli Grotto Breakfast Sandwich

Breakfast of champions

7:36 am – Willfully emasculating myself for the purposes of purchasing the scrumptious “Sunshine Day Dream.” No, it’s not a Vitamin D-deficient Care Bear. It’s the breakfast sandwich of Reef Bay hiking champions found only at the Deli Grotto. It’s like an Egg McMuffin, only the secret ingredient is love, not corporate fascism.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER – 54b is not a paid spokesperson for the Deli Grotto (even though he loves them unconditionally and they look the other way when his 15-minute Internet time limit has elapsed).

8:00 am – Peering down the 20-step stone staircase at the Reef Bay trailhead–also known as the express elevator to hell–and appreciating the National Park’s sense of humor. It’s like some Ranger said, “you’re about to descend 1,000 feet to the ocean. Enjoy the first 10. From then on you can kiss your Gluteus Maximus good-bye.”

8:23 am –Inspiring a new Caribbean cocktail called the “webwacker” as I unwittingly clear the trail of all hidden spider webs with my face. Oh, how I love the taste of “spider meringue” in the morning.

Petroglyphs

Petroglyphs

8:47 am – Solving the mystery of the Petroglyphs by scientifically surmising that the 2,000 year-old rock carvings are actually a Pre-Columbian comic strip about a bulbous-headed, socially inept Taino Indian, his unsupportive networks of friends, and his precocious dog. Apparently my esteemed colleague (and really cool wife) concurs–“wah, wah-wah, wah, wah-wah.”

9:02 am – Frosting the path less taken by hanging a left onto the Little Lameshur Bay trail instead of going on to Genti Bay. Much to our amusement almost every other step is met with a close encounter of the third phylum. That’s right, the Winnebago of the animal world: The Soldier Crab. How these little Sisyphean scavengers manage to haul their heavy shells up these steep hills is beyond me, so I decided to lean over and ask one.Reef Bay Trail Waterfall at the Petroglyphs

Reef Bay Hike Sign

Sign of the Apocalypse

I knocked on his shell but received no answer. Apparently, Herman’s hermit knew I was not up to something good. So I knocked again and said, “housekeeping.” This time the little bugger poked one claw out and shot me the middle pincher.

9:29 am – Charging up the steep ascent on the Little Lameshur spur noticing that hiking uphill is not nearly as fun as down hill…and uttering these karma butt kicking words to my wife: “Come on sweetheart, it’s not that bad, imagine there’s a Skinny Legs’ Bleu Cheeseburger at the top.” Let me just assure you now that dumber words could not have been spoken while walking through “the valley of the foreshadow of death.”

10:18 am – Snorkeling out to and around Yawzi Point (peninsula between Great and Little Lameshur Bays). Very nice, lots of little coves and a ton of fish. Plus, it was the perfect excuse to rock my skin-

Little Lameshur

Little Lameshur

tight rash guard. It hugs the body good and makes me feel sexy even though my spandex-incased love handles make it look like I’m trying to shoplift a Butterball Turkey.

11:59 am – Starting to feel lightheaded standing at the crossroads of Reef Bay and Little Lameshur trails deciding whether or not to keep going on to Genti Bay or head back to the car. Apparently the fact that I’m almost out of water, drank like a sailor on shore leave the night before, and had been perspiring like a pack mule on meth was lost on me because we proceeded to the bay without delay.

12:15 pm – Crashing at the Reef Bay Sugar Mill Ruins like a diabetic at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Fear Factory. Even though the big mill wheel that used to crush sugar cane hasn’t been operational for almost 100 years, it now looks to me like it’s spinning again and  those mushrooms I found on the trail are beginning to seem like a bad snack choice.

Reef HikeRegardless, I refused to turn back and walked the last 30 yards past the Ladybird Johnson Memorial Crapper (she came to STJ once and wasn’t a fan of the lack of restrooms) out to Genti Bay where low and behold, Charon the Ferryman was waiting to take me across the river Styx…actually, there was a boat going back to Cruz Bay.

But did I do the sensible thing and explain my delicate condition and plead for a ride back rather than hike back 2.4 miles (ascending 1,000 feet) with my gas tank on empty? Of course not, I’m a man. We never ask for directions, help, or a doctor.

1:11 pm – Sucking wind slumped over on a rock completely exhausted (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) about a mile from the trailhead contemplating becoming a permanent fixture on the Reef Bay Hiking Tour – I figure they have a placard pointing out the Wandering Jew, why not a sign for the Wheezing Catholic.

1:13 pm – Bonking hard less than 100 feet from our last stop trying to catch my breath again while sharing this exchange with my wife:

“ Sweetheart, if I don’t make it, tell my wife I love her.”
“Hate to break it to you, honey, but I am your wife.”
“Oh good, okay, give it to me straight…how am I looking?”
“Like Brad Pitt on a spit.”
“No seriously, is it bad?”
“Well your pupils are about the size of bb’s, your gums are turning white, and if you don’t keep moving, you’re going to completely cramp up.”
“Sounds promising…oh, hey, sweetheart…”
“Yeah…”
“If I don’t make it, tell my wife I love her.”

1:30 pm – My “iron-woman” wife, who is relatively un-phased by this cardiac-arresting journey through the “heart of darkness,” is no longer amused with my impromptu rest stops and is now yelling at me like a drill sergeant, literally kicking my butt up the hill. Even more pathetic, she’s carrying my backpack too. Can my self-respect and pride possibly sink any lower than this?

1:37 pm – Yes, yes it can. Taking another break while a family of four with two young kids passes us like Lance pleasure biking on Alp d’Huez. One of the kids, who apparently sprained her ankle minutes before crossing a stream, actually stopped crying after seeing a Soldier Crab kicking dirt in my face. Parenting 101: “Never ask your kids what could possibly be worse, but never miss an opportunity to point it out to them.”

1:43 pm – Psalm 23-B: “Yea, though I hike up the gut of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil: For my wife art with me to comfort me and pay me back with encouraging words like, “Skinny Legs just called, they’re naming a cheeseburger in your honor…it’s called the Flopper.”

Reef Bay Hike Stairway

Stairway to Heaven

2:00 pm – Oh, thank God. Nearly six hours and 15 pounds of water weight later, we’ve finally arrived at the stairs at the Reef Bay trailhead…or as I now refer to them, “The Stairway to Heaven.”

MY PAIN, YOUR GAIN – For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Web site “Map-My-Hubris,” we hiked over 10 miles in sauna-like conditions. Even with two big bottles of water and several Cliff Bars as well as being in pretty decent shape, I simply bit off more than I could chew and underestimated the humid conditions. And while most people reading this may deem my folly the height of stupidity, it’s definitely a good example of just how fast one can turn a pleasurable Virgin Islands experience into a dangerous situation. My hyperbole above aside, there definitely was reason for concern and I’m sorry for putting my wife through that ordeal.

That being said, I don’t want to make the Reef Bay Hike out to be some sort nature trail to hell. If I’d been properly hydrated, eaten when I should have, and known my limits, I would have been fine. Despite the bad experience I got myself into, I will definitely hike it again (probably won’t add the Lameshur side-trip though).

Smoothie Shack

The Smoothie Shack. A place for hydration.

2:07 pm – Cramping up something fierce while buying bottled water from the Smoothie Shack on Centerline Road like I’m hosting a hurricane party. To give you an idea of just how dehydrated I was, it took seven bottles of water before I had to pee again. My wife was literally threatening to drop me off at the Medical Center near Gift Hill for an IV and a lecture for the physiologically impaired.

5:33 pm – After several more bottles of water and a body temperature-lowering siesta back in the cool waters of the Meritage pool, my vital signs had returned like a rebooted Mac. Unfortunately, my wife’s good mood and normally pleasant demeanor had not. Apparently in the pantheon of bad husbandry, taking unnecessary risks with your life on vacation ranks right up there with leaving the toilet seat up, forgetting anniversaries, and missing the funeral of an elderly in-law to attend a football game. Who knew?

Lime Inn

Lime Inn

7:32 pm – Call it male intuition or female insinuation, but somehow I just knew that suggesting we go to a bar to watch Game 4 of the NBA Finals was not in my best interest tonight. Fortunately for me, nothing says you’re sorry quite like grilled Caribbean Lobster, Brie en Croute, and Key Lime Pie from the Lime Inn. Thanks to Rich (another host with the most) for seeing to it personally that we had a great night. And giving me scoring updates on the Lakers/Magic game on the sly.

8:17 pm – Reassembling the two halves of my lobster to look more like it did when it was less dead and less red in a feeble attempt to melt my wife’s angry heart by playing the part of the contrite ventriloquist and having Mr. Lobster croon a few bars of Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” Ah-ha, either the brie is giving her gas or it’s working because my wife is smiling again.

Lime Inn Lobster

Lime Inn Lobster

Over ten miles of soul searching hiking, some aesthetically pleasing snorkeling, some conscious-appeasing culturally significant sites, a fantastic dinner for two, and one little brush with death later, some people would call that quite a day. I call it Tuesday.

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