Sunday, November 05, 2006

Gone Bush... To The Maroons

Last night we hiked under a bright moon to the Ham's Bluff Lighthouse on the northwest corner of St. Croix. To get to the lighthouse at an elevation of 394 feet, we had to hike uphill through thick rain forest, all the while hearing the waves crashing below the nearby cliffs. When we finally came out to the clearing where the lighthouse sits, the views were majestic. We could see the rugged, undeveloped hills of Maroon Ridge and the shore line of Annaly Bay, Wills Bay and Davis Bay. And across the silvery expanse of moonlit ocean, we could see the lights of St. Thomas, a 40-mile distance to the north.

As we looked on from Ham's Bluff to Maroon Ridge, our guide Olasee Davis told us of the historic significance of these hills. When Denmark purchased St. Croix in 1733, a community of runaway enslaved Africans known as the Maroons took to these hills and hid in caves, determined not to be under slavery. Many of them jumped over these dramatic cliffs to freedom, either to their death, or to escape routes on stolen vessels to nearby Puerto Rico or other Caribbean islands.

Today, while the local government is entertaining plans to develop this last frontier of St. Croix, there is opposition here to this idea, and our guide Olasee Davis is a leader of the movement to preserve this area for its natural beauty, cultural heritage and ecological significance in the Caribbean.

I am looking forward to enjoying more hikes like this one. Fortunately the St. Croix Hiking Association, which hosted last night's event, is an active group that offers hiking activities at least once a month throughout the year.

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