Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hiking the Quill

Beginning of the trail from Lower Town
Today, Ron and I decided to do something land-based, and got a trail map and trail tags from the STENAPA (St. Eustatius National Park) Nature Center so that we could hike “The Quill”, the dormant volcano here on Statia. (Quill comes from the Dutch word ‘kuil’ meaing “pit” – the crater.) The last eruption was estimated to be about 400 AD, so its volcanic cone is now overgrown with a variety of amazing tropical flora and fauna, from elfin forest on the rim to a seasonal rainforest in the interior of the crater. They have endangered Antillean iguana here (not that we saw any) and all sorts of wild orchid, bromeliads, begonias, as well as many acacia and mimosa trees. 
We kept a sharp eye out for these lovely fellows
This is NOT a Lesser Antillean Iguana, but we did find him on the mountain
A "moderate" section of the trail
We had a great hike; the various trails are well marked although it is definitely not just a ‘walk in the park’! The trails along the Quill’s sides are noted to be of “moderate difficulty”, and from there, “difficult”. Yep! After 1500 feet in vertical climbing and over a good 3 miles of hiking, it was a bit of a four-point scramble to scale the rocks and roots leading to the panoramic viewpoint at the crater’s rim, but well worth the climb!!
Looking out over the interior of the crater
We rested and drank in the gorgeous views of crystal blue waters, green foliage around us and white surf along the shoreline with Saba to the north, and St. Martin and St. Barth’s farther east…really unique and oh, so pretty! It was hard to tear ourselves away from the Panorama Point rest stop, especially since we had the arduous climb back down yet to complete! But after enjoying our time at the top, down we scrambled, and eventually ended up walking along the beachfront ruins of the stone warehouses along Oranje Baai to reach Smoke Alley for lunch. What a great day, a good 5 miles of hiking, and as we were ravenous, we enjoyed a well-deserved repast indeed!!
Looking across at the other side of the crater from the top
Looking out over the northern part of Statia. Saba can be seen on the horizon
We had Michele and Glenn over for a couple of sundowners on the back deck of Equinox in the evening; they are a great couple and fun to be with. Hospitable and gracious to a fault, they are truly living the island life of doing what you love in a gorgeous environment. They do it right, as they are huge advocates for Statia as a dive destination. Golden Rock Dive Center has great dive-masters (Matt is from Annapolis – small world!), good equipment, are very safety conscious, and are extremely, extremely knowledgeable about the Statia dive sites and reef life. (Plus, they have fun boats – we love Stumpy!!) Michele and Glenn have been here for over 16 years, and we had a great time talking about their varied experiences diving before they had to head home. All in all, it was a long day, but a good one! 

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