Mount Eagle Hike
Correction: In a recent post, I said you can’t hike up St. Croix’s highest Mountain because a part of the Western Scenic Drive is washed out. The Drive is indeed impassable, but there’s another road up. Also, Ay-Ay Eco Hike & Tours may give tours up Blue Mountain (second highest on St. Croix) and along the ridge to Mount Eagle. I’ll have to check, because that area has the washed out drive.
I hiked up the road, which is dirt and abandoned. It’s on the northeast side of the mountain. I spotted it from the North Shore Road, and a guy at the Cane Bay Dive Shop told me about the access point. It’s about half a mile west of the shop. There’s a sign on the left that says Willie’s Wish.
For a couple hundred feet up, the road is asphalt. Then it becomes dirt and you have to park and hike. And one hell of a hike it is.
There are perhaps two dozen landslides along the way where boulders partly block the road. Most sections are overgrown with thick, six-foot-high guinea grass, tan-tans, and other vegetation. In many places, the grass is so thick you just have to step onto it and hope that your foot lands on something solid. Sometimes, you sink down a foot. Several fallen trees have to be slowly ducked under or climbed over. Often, you can only move forward a few inches at a time.
The guy at Cane Bay told me a contractor created the road several years ago, and the V.I. Government soon closed it. Anyone can see why. The mountain is incredibly steep through there, and major retaining walls would be needed to contain erosion and construct a proper road. The road is now really more of a gut that drains this side of the mountain.
After what can only be called a rather unpleasant one-and-a-half hour hike, the road ends. It was never quite completed to the top. It stops at the base of a very steep, rocky, easterly outcropping that you can see from the beach. It’s perhaps 50 feet from the top.
I was able to climb up some of the outcropping. The base is covered with a thick layer of small, eroded stones that easily give way under your feet. You have to squeeze between the vegetation and cling with your hands to vines, shrubs, tree trunks, and stable rocks so you don’t fall. Ants that cause nasty bites are on some of the plants, so you have to be careful where you put your hands.
Despite the difficulty of maneuvering around, the area has the most incredible, lush vegetation I have seen on St. Croix-even more so than “The Rainforest.” It’s covered with different species of orchids, some indigenous and rare. Some of the tree trunks, branches, and rocks are thick with bromeliads, some with huge arching flower spikes. There are also large-flowering Anthuriums, white frangipani trees (native to the USVI), and dozens of other plants that, unfortunately, I can’t identify, mostly because I hadn’t seen them before.
It is deeply shaded. The air is heavy with the fragrance of something like wintergreen, which I believe is from the many turpentine trees. You can faintly hear the sound of the waves crashing below. Here and there, you get a partial view looking down on the island and sea. The guy at Cane Bay told me there are small pools with fish in the area, but I didn’t find any. He said they were probably made by indigenous people and stocked as a food source, and that the area was probably a sacred ceremonial ground.
In trying to climb back down the outcropping, I got lost, struggling for half an hour to find the route I had taken up. On the branches, I should have left a trail of ribbons that I could have removed as I left.
I finally found the top of the road. As I hiked back down, I could hardly see any evidence that I had just hiked up. In most places, there was no discernable trail that I had made-the vegetation is that thick.
If you’re crazy enough to do this hike, take along lots of water and wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. A first aid kit is probably not a bad idea. There are lots of thorny shrubs along the way.
Hopefully, I can do the Ay-Ay tour soon and report back. It is described as strenuous. I bet it will be a cinch after this hike.
Hello. Your hike sounds awsome. I just can't place where you were. We stayed at the Carambola two years ago, and I first thought you were hiking the road at the top of the "Beast" hill, towards the right, but when we were up there, it was all tall grasses, and not much tropical vegitation. We could drive all the way through to the west end of the island, to a sugar mill (?), and then down the hill, past a great farm ruin, then on into Fredricstead. We also traveled the road at the top of the "Beast" hill to the left, and went up a narrow road, to something I belive may have been a radio tower?, but this road will not put you close to the ocean. We probably were on different trails. Anyway, keep up the great reports. When we get down there again, hopefully we can hook up with you, and hear some more great adventures.
Wow, when I go back to St. Croix, I'll have to do a search on all your adventures to see if I can do them myself. I had a question.. a bit off topic, sorry, but have you ever seen any bodies of fresh water on St. Croix? The only ones I've seen were Creque Dam and that small stream that runs along Mahogany Road in the rainforest. Have you ever seen any small freshwater falls or anything like that? How about saltwater falls? (I don't know if such falls even exist..)
From your description, you first went west on the Western Scenic Drive, probably saw Bodkin Mill and two antennae nearby, and continued down to the West End Road along the beach. The second drive would have been east on the Western Scenic Drive, which does cut across the southwest side of Mount Eagle. However, it is only about half way up. I climbed up a road on the northeast, or opposite, side. You access it from right off the beach just west of Cane Bay. Mount Eagle runs down to the ocean on the North Shore.
The Caledonia Gut is supposed to have pools of fresh water that don't go dry even in a drought. There are reportedly fish and crustacea there. I tried to go in there the other day, but it was too overgrown. I'll have to go back with pruners. It has a 50-foot falls half a mile up. The Butler Bay Gut has a falls one mile up. Mt Stewart Gut has non-native mollies in its pools. I don't know of any salt water falls, but I once tasted some water in a gut emptying near the Carambola Beach Resort, and it was very salty.