Travel

travel

Railroad Earth Kicks Off Fall Tour 2011

Railroad Earth will hit the ground running this fall with a Southern tour that kicks off right at the turn of October. The six-piece band will start their tour on the Eastern Seaboard, with dates in Delaware and Virginia, before rolling the train Southwest to Tennessee, Ohio, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama, and then turning back East for shows in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina.

Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery Celebrates Stout Month in Feb.

Mountain Sun- for the Grateful Web

Now in its sixteenth year, Stout Month has become a most anticipated event among local beer connoisseurs.  Ten of Mountain Sun's taps will fade to black with local, regional and national versions of the rich, thick and dark ale. For the first time ever, Stout Month will be expanding beyond Boulder as Vine Street Pub in Denver will join in paying homage to the almighty Stout!

Featured Stouts include nitrogen poured Belgian Dip Chocolate Stout and Korova Cream Stout. For the third year in a row, our Old School Irish Stout will also make an appearance on NitroOn CO2, Mountain Sun and Vine Street will be offering perennial favorite Yonder Mountain Stout and the good ol' classic Thunder Head Stout.  Once again we will brew a batch of Cherry Dip Stout  (Chocolate Stout with Sweet Cherry Puree)This decadent elixir should arrive just in time for Valentine's Day. We also found out what happens when you load a stout full of hops.  The answer is " Trickster Stout."  For the first time ever we will be featuring two house-brewed imperial stouts.  To compliment the palette- stomping Usurper, we will be unveiling a brand new Imperial.  Beware The Nihilist!

For the third year in a row, Mountain Sun will be hosting its ever-popular Stout Homebrew Competition.  Our panel of brewers will choose one lucky homebrewer to assist in brewing his or her own winning recipe on Mountain Sun's 6-barrel system. Past years' winners have included some of our tastiest and most popular stouts ever.  Two previous winners, Coconut Cream Stout and Stoaked Oak Stout, will be making yet another encore appearance at both pubs.

As usual, Mountain Sun rounds up a wide variety of local and national guest stouts to compliment the house brewed ales.  Guest stouts are still being finalized; this years line up is likely to include: Stone Imperial Stout (San Marcos, CA). Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout from Anderson Valley (Boonville, CA), Twisted Pine's Big Daddy Espresso Stout (Boulder, CO), Dog Fish Head's Chicory Stout (Milton, DE), Several vintages of Avery Czar Imperial Stout, and Great Divide's Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout (Denver CO).

All the way from England, Young's, Double Chocolate Stout will be tapped for the fifth year in a row. 

This is a once a year opportunity to try some of the regions best stouts, side by side and on tap.  The fun begins on Friday, February 1st, at the Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery, 1535 Pearl Street, and for the first time ever, at Vine Street Pub, 1700 Vine Street Denver.  This mega stout celebration will continue as long as supplies last.

2008 NANTUCKET FILM FESTIVAL

Nantucket Film Festival- for the Grateful Web

The 13th Annual Nantucket Film Festival (NFF) officially announces their full lineup of films and events for the 2008 edition of the festival. Appearing at NFF® will be Academy Award-nominated, double Emmy-and SAG Award-winning actor William H. Macy, known for performances in films such as Bobby, Seabiscuit, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, and Fargo.  Mr. Macy will be participating in the In Their Shoes.. event.  He will have a conversation with renowned Time Magazine critic Richard Corliss on screenwriting and acting.

"While it always has been important to build a solid slate of films, its very exciting when we get to introduce something completely new to the festival's events," said Co-Founder and Executive Director, Jill Burkhart.  "We always strive to pack the schedule with great films, insightful panels and exciting events each year to provide attendees with a rewarding experience."

"We have a diverse lineup spanning both the films and events, but we still focus on the storytelling," said Mystelle Brabbée, Artistic Director.  "With this year's festival we'll learn how much every element in a film, ranging from the acting to the music, contribute to the story at its core."

Adding to the diversity of this year's festival, NFF will have for the first time ever the Music Café and Panel, featuring Aware/Columbia artist Mat Kearny, who released his major label debut "Nothing Left to Lose" in April 2006.  Mr. Kearny will be performing his songs that have found their way into several television shows, including Grey's Anatomy and Friday Night Lights, at the Straight Wharf Restaurant in front of the Nantucket film community.  His set will be followed by a discussion focusing on how songs find their way into films and television alongside East Coast Creative and EMI Publishing Vice President Dan McCarroll and Aware Records/Asquared Management President Gregg Latterman.

In keeping with NFF® mission of spotlighting writers, the Festival will announce the winner of Showtime's annual Tony Cox Award for Screenwriting.  Members of this year's jury include Doug Liman, Chris Eigeman, and Liz Tucillo.

Previously announced was Judd Apatow as recipient of the NBC Universal Screenwriting Award.  Mr. Apatow will be appearing at The NBC Universal Screenwriter's Tribute with various colleagues of Mr. Apatow in attendance including presenter Paul Rudd.

To add further prestige to this year's festival is actress Meg Ryan as the introductory recipient of the Compass Rose Acting Tribute, a unique honor given to an actor that has reached a level in which they inspire writers to frequently create roles especially for them.

Among other awards given at NFF® this year will be The Audience Award for Best Feature & Best Short, SHOWTIME'S TONY COX Awards for Best Screenwriting in a Feature Film and Short Film, Teen View on NFF® Award, Best Storytelling in a Documentary Film, and The Writer/Director Award.

Other special events include the yearly Late Night Storytelling event hosted by Anne Meara and Peter Farrelly.  Participants include five surprise guests as well as audience members.  Past storytellers include Jim Carrey, Tina Fey, Mos Def, Rosie Perez, Laird Hamilton, Olympia Dukakis, Paul Rudd, Alan Cumming, and Brian Williams.

Also returning this year will be annual favorite Morning Coffee With, this year hosted by renowned film critic Leonard Maltin.  The daily panels take place every morning and invite attendees to join filmmaker experts for a lively mix of coffee, conversation, bagels and shoptalk.

NFF's® annual staged screenplay reading returns as well.  This event is designed to emphasize the importance of the script itself by having actors perform it without utilizing locations, costumes, effects, or music.  The chosen script for this year the Billy Wilder classic Some Like It Hot, featuring a cast consisting of member's of Nantucket's own Seaside Shakespeare group.

The opening film of this year's festival is writer/director Brad Anderson's Transsiberian.  The film boasts stars Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley, Kate Mara, and Eduardo Noriega.  The film will be accompanied by a special panel on the making of Transsiberian featuring writer/director Brad Anderson, writer Will Conroy, and producer Michael Williams as well as a special making-of documentary.

Closing the festival will be anticipated comedy The Wackness, written and directed by Jonathan Levine and starring Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby, and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The NFF® was founded in 1996 to spotlight screenwriters, screenwriting and storytelling in today's cinema. The festival takes place over five days in June on the idyllic island of Nantucket, MA.

Now in its thirteenth year, NFF® has become a prestigious annual event within the international film industry.  Screening over 50 feature-length and short films in all genres that highlight the art of storytelling, the NFF® is significant attraction that draws over ten thousand attendees, screenwriters, producers, agents and development executives each year.

Sponsers of this year's festival include NBC Universal, Showtime, CN8 and Comcast, Stella Artois, Merrill Lynch, HP, Tradewind Aviation, American Airlines, Nestle Waters, Inquirer & Mirror, and the Beachside Hotel.

The Films of the 2008 Nantucket Film Festival®:

Feature Films

American Teen

Baghead

Choke

Flow: For Love of Water

Frozen River

Goodbye Baby

Man on Wire

Medicine For Melancholy

Of All the Things

Operation Filmmaker

Secrecy

Sleep Dealer

Stranded: I Have Come from a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains

Transsiberian

Trouble the Water

The Wackness

Wellness

'Vansterdam'

New Amsterdam in Vancouver- for the Grateful Web

There's a lot more to do in Vancouver than sitting around getting stoned, but it's sure nice to know there's some where in North America where an adult can smoke pot in a comfortable, friendly, designated smoke shop.  "Vansterdam," in the northeast part of Vancouver is the closest thing to Amsterdam any where in North America. Though marijuana is not sold there, you can bring in your own stash and smoke up. 

Here's some suggestions if you're visiting Vancouver:

Go bike or walk through Stanley Park:  Stanley Park, Vancouver's first, is an evergreen oasis of 1,000 acres close to the heart of Vancouver's downtown. Its natural west coast atmosphere offering a back drop of majestic cedar, hemlock and fir trees embraces visitors and transports them to an environment rich in tranquility. 

Any point on the perimeter of Stanley Park offers spectacular views. Four points are suited for viewing panoramas of the area. Go check out Hallelujah Point to view Coal Harbour and the downtown. Or visit Brockton Point to view the eastern side of the North Shore and into Burrard Inlet.

The biking in Vancouver, either in the city or just outside of town is as good as gets.  There are three major mountain bike areas on the North Shore: Cypress Mountain, Mt Fromme and Mt Seymour. For a long time the mountain bike trails were kept a secret from outsiders, like myself. However, you can now purchase route maps at local mountain bike shops. They say that many secret trails were intentionally left off the maps, but don't worry; there are more than enough to keep you busy.

Eat some seafood!  There's some of best wild salmon in the world, so make sure you head down to a local seafood place. Grateful Web suggests a new restaurant in 'Yaletown,' called 'Coast'  -  Also, the sushi and Asian food in general is wonderful.

BEER: Smithwick's

Mucky Duck pub offers Guinness and Smithwicks [on left] on tap.- for the Grateful Web

Grateful Web's Beer Column, where we consider beer, one beer at a time, one sip at a beer, one - -aw you get it.

We begin this arduous task with St. Patrick's Day, and the great Irish Beer, Smithwick's.

Rob Pray on Smithwick's:

This fine Irish beer is made by Guinness at the St. Francis Abbey in Kilkenny, Ireland. The Abby, one of the oldest in Ireland, has been producing beer since 1710. The beer itself strikes a great balance of flavors. The hops and malt are not too prominent and the beer itself is not as filling as traditional Irish brews. This copper colored beer has a slight coffee taste with a sweet finish. I highly recommend it for your St. Paddy's day celebrations or anytime. It has only recently been available in the US and is much more refreshing than green dye in an American beer!

Our family loves Kerrygold's Dubliner Irish Cheese. You can find a block of it at Costco for around $5/lb, and just feed the kids that and bread for a month, and let them wash it down with Smithwick's. They will grow strong and hard headed. I am reminded of the finish of Dubliner as I throw back a first gulp of Smithwick's. For beer, Irish do a touch of sweetness best. Not like FAT TIRE, which is nice once a quarter, but its almost syrupy sweetness will choke you in excess. Smithwick's, like Dubliner cheese, does a hint of sweet best, for it appears without any syrupy tightness too much sugar can make. The only domestic beer that manages sweetness I like is Dixie, which I believe uses molasses in the brew.

Smithwick's has a wonderful back of the throat flavorful head, I drank from the bottle and don't have the glass report, but I poured out a bit to see the color, its remarkably darker then its taste impairs. I thought maybe amber, but Smithwick's is dark in color. A very easy drinking beer, the easiest of the dark Irish brews to enjoy. Please keep it far away from me.

Photo Credit: The Mucky Duck Pub, 479 Alvarado Street Old Monterey, California

Related Links

thebackpacker [reviews of Smithwicks]

Grateful Greece

Temple of Hephaistos- for the Grateful Web

Mike from the Grateful Web is currently touring Greece.  He's going to send pictures back when possible.  Here's a few for now, including the Parthenon, Ancient Agora, Temple of Hephaistos, Theater of Dionysus, and some views of Athens from The Acropolis.

The Agora. was the heart of ancient Athens, the focus of political, commercial, administrative and social activity, the religious and cultural centre, and the seat of justice. The site was occupied without interruption in all periods of the city's history. It was used as a residential and burial area as early as the Late Neolithic period (3000 B.C.). Early in the 6th century, in the time of Solon, the Agora became a public area.

Temple of Hephaistos. The temple, known as the "Theseion", is Doric, peripteral, with a pronaos and opisthodomos. It crowns the hill of Kolonos Agoraios and is the most prominent and better preserved monument of the Agora. The temple was dedicated to two gods, Hephaistos and Athena, whose bronze cult statues stood in the interior. The construction of the Hephaisteion started in 449 B.C.

The Parthenon. It is the most important and characteristic monument of the ancient Greek civilization and still remains its international symbol. It was dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of Athens. It was built between 447 and 438 B.C. and its sculptural decoration was completed in 432 B.C. The construction of the monument was initiated by Perikles, the supervisor of the whole work was Pheidias, the famous Athenian sculptor, while Iktinos and Kallikrates were the architects of the building. The temple is built in the Doric order and almost exclusively of Pentelic marble.

The Theater of Dionysus. built into the natural hollow of the south slope of the Acropolis, was the world's first theater built of stone and the birthplace of Greek tragedy. This is where the dramatic contests in the Greater Dionysia were held.  Originally a place to honor the god Dionysus in dance and song, in the fifth century the plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were performed here.

More pictures from the trip. 

thanks,

The Grateful Web

The Road to Maho Bay

Maho Bay by John Souders- for the Grateful Web

The trip along North Shore Road from Cruz Bay on St. John to Maho Bay Camps passes some extraordinary scenery.  The scenery includes views of Cruz Bay and Pillsbury Sound from the top of the first hill, of off-shore cays in the Windward Passage, of Trunk Bay and Trunk Cay from the Trunk Bay overlook, the Danish ruins in the tropical forest by Cinnamon Bay, the views of Maho Bay and the campground on Maho Point from the overlook at America's Point.  You know you are almost there when you see the campground but you still need to go down the hill, go alongside big Maho Bay, back into the forest and up the bumpy road to the campground.
 
But the high point for many of us is when the road runs alongside big Maho Bay, just yards from the beautiful white sand beach. It is the bay and beach and scenery of dreams.  And this incredibly beautiful area alongside big Maho Bay is under threat and at risk.
 
It is a complicated situation with issues and ramifications.  All of us, and that includes Maho Bay Camps, Friends of the Virgin Islands National and the National Parks Conservation Association urge your involvement.  What follows is essentially a cry for help drafted by the Friends of the Virgin Island National Park:
 
"You may already be aware that (big) Maho Bay is being seriously threatened and requires the urgent attention of everyone who enjoys the easy access to the beautiful beach at Maho Bay and values the crystal-clear waters of that bay.   The property bordered by the road at Maho Beach and encompassing virtually the entire basin as one looks inland, right up to Centerline Road, Mamey Peak and Ajax Peak is a beautiful and pristine area, rich in botanical wonders and historic treasures, that appears to be parkland - but is not - and is now facing a significant threat. This land is owned in common by the NPS, Trust for Public Land and seven of the heirs of the original owner.
 
A private individual is now attempting to purchase the seven shares from the heirs to build an "institute", return a few acres to each of these heirs, develop a significant personal compound and possibly develop additional land for residential home sites.  He is insisting that the NPS and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) sell their four shares, as well as other contiguous properties, to him and agree to a number of other conditions.
 
The land transactions in question are between willing sellers and a willing buyer.  They are perfectly legal and, as distressing as the thought may be, they may well be the best current alternative to protecting at least part of Maho Bay and the surrounding lands from rampant development. However, the four conditions he is insisting upon,
 
-NPS and TPL to sell their four shares, as well as other contiguous properties, to him;
-Permission to reroute the road and thereby impede access to Maho beach;
-Permission to build a 120' x 60' dock in the bay; and,
-Permission to drain the wetlands and open a permanent channel to the bay,
 
are egregious and will cause significant environmental damage to the bay and wetlands, as well as hamper the free and easy access to Maho beach that we have always enjoyed.
 
To learn more about the threat to Maho Bay, please go to:http://www.friendsvinp.org/maho_action.htm
 
We encourage you to contact National Park Service Director Fran Mainella and express your concern about Maho Bay.  Specifically, We suggest that you ask her to:
-Protect the integrity of Virgin Islands National Park and the National Park Service by not entering into any agreement that sells NPS land or sells NPS shares in land held in common.
-Protect the fragile marine resources of Maho Bay by not allowing the construction of a dock in the bay or allowing the wetlands to be drained and a permanent channel to be opened into the bay.
-Protect the right of the residents of St. John and the millions of visitors to this island and VI National Park to enjoy, unimpaired, the spectacular natural beauty of, and easy access to, the beach at Maho Bay."
 
So please write to:
Fran Mainella, Director
National Parks Service
1849 C Street
Washington D.C. 20240
Ph: 202-208-6843
 
While you are certainly welcome to write your letter by copying the text provided above, you are encouraged to personalize and customize your letter to best reflect your personal views.  We strongly request a letter, as in this brave new world letters are worth a hundred emails.
 
All the best,
Stanley Selengut
 
Submitted by John Souders, Travel Editor
 
Read about John Souders's Maho Bay experience
 

Sand Sculpture Festival 2005: “Belgium, A Very Different Story”

Toots Thielemans- for the Grateful Web
Belgium- for the Grateful Web

On August 4, my grandmother (who is in her late eighties but still very fit!) and I decided to go and see the sand sculptures in Blankenberge. It was already the fourth time this town at the Belgian coast organized the Sand Sculpture Festival, but we both never managed to go there, until now...

 

In spite of the current uncertain summer, we were very lucky since it was the sunniest day of the week. After a forty-minute-train-ride and a ten-minute-walk, we reached our goal. We wanted to have a drink first because we were quite thirsty, but we were so overwhelmed by the scenes we already saw, we started to walk across the different scenes immediately.

 

Before unveiling what there was to see, I should tell you something about the typical form of art, called carving, used at this festival. A sand sculpture, which is a construction of sand and water, is a form of art that was already known by the ancient Egyptians 4000 years B.C. The sand used for the sculptures on this festival came from a Belgian quarry in Mont-Saint-Guibert, a small village near the Ardennes. About 50 million years ago, the North Sea came as far as this area. Later on, the coastline retreated, by which the sand was no longer subjected to the tides and kept its angular grainy structure. Because of this shape, it is possible to make high, stable constructions: "one can make sculptures with cubes, but not with marbles".

 

Since this year Belgium exists 175 years, it was no surprise Belgium was the theme of the fourth edition of this festival. The themes in the previous years were Egypt, South America, and Italy.

 

Sculptors, also called carvers, from all over the world, arrived on June 3rd in Blankenberge to execute the enormous task to represent Belgium. Supplied with heaps of information and pictures, they spent at least 10 hours a day in the huge "sand-pit" (more than 37 million kilos of sand was used).

 

In the Royal Palace, which was indoors, each Belgian king took you with him through the period he reigned over the country. Outside, all Belgian provinces were represented. The scenes were constructed in pursuance of a story, legend, myth, event or joke. Further on, there were thematic angles of incidence, such as "typical Belgium", "Belgians on the road", "Burgundian Belgium", "Belgium and music", and "Belgium and fashion". The Flemish lion and Walloon cock observed the entire scene.

 

In the "gallery"-part of this website you find some pictures I took that day. At the website of the Sand Sculpture Festival www.sculpta.be you can find pictures of this and previous years, and more information concerning the festival.

 

Those who plan a trip to Belgium before August 28th this year or next summer, should reserve some time for this festival. You won't regret it!

Maho Bay

Maho Sunset- for the Grateful Web
John Souders in paradise!- for the Grateful Web
looks nice to jump in, huh?- for the Grateful Web

In 1917, the United States of America bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark for twenty-five million dollars, acquiring such unique island gems as St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. On May 16, 2005, I arrived at one of the most spectacular vacation spots in the world, Maho Bay Camps, on the island of St. John and lived an enlightening week of low-impact vacationing and high-impact wonder.

For the two previous months, I had lived and worked in Las Vegas, experiencing high-impact wonders of a different kind that ranged anywhere from glamorous casinos to drunken nights of debauchery. And although Vegas is often hailed as one of the ultimate vacation destinations, its in-your-face wonders of gambling, sex, eating, drinking, entertainment, and constant reminders of excess are the exact things from which I desired a vacation. I think the reason that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is mostly because of shame. I needed to clear my conscience and restore my soul.

I learned about Maho from a co-worker in Vegas who grew up on the island of St. Croix and knew of a secret little vacation spot virtually unknown to the rest of world. "You should go to Maho," he said. "They have the most beautiful little tent cottages on the side of a hill overlooking a sparkling blue bay. It's a kind of eco-tourism." Eco-tourism? I had to check this out. I went to their website, www.maho.org, and fell in love. I booked a cottage for one, bought an airline ticket, and could barely contain my excitement.

Because of Maho's relative distance from the common conveniences people experience in the States, I had to pack in all of my own food for a seven-day and six-night excursion in a backpack. But Maho Bay Camps does have its own restaurant, and I intended to take in an evening meal there during my week long stay.

So I departed Denver, Colorado, and after two three-hour-flights, a crazy taxi-ride, and a Dramamine worthy ferry-ride, I made it to St. John. The taxis on the island of St. John are these wonderful open-air contraptions of covered benches welded onto the beds of average pick-up trucks, and it was a line of these vehicles I found myself walking toward when I spotted a sign that said, 'Maho Bay Camps.' Bingo! I approached the taxi driver and told him my destination. "Are you from Colorado?" he asked. "Uh yeah, I am," I said. How did he know that? "Then come with me," he said. I jumped onto a bench in his taxi, joining a group of college-age students I recognized from the flight and the ferry ride.

The drive to camp was refreshingly humid after spending so much time in the dry air of Vegas, and the vistas at every turn set off flashbulbs throughout the riders around me, both literally and figuratively. When the taxi dropped us off at the end of a muddy lane, the wooden boardwalks of the camp stretched around us like a maze through the dense jungle of the hillside. As I walked toward the registration desk, I caught sight of a marker board underneath the awning that read, "Welcome CSU! Go Rams!" I was hornswoggled.  That's why the taxi driver thought I was from Colorado; Colorado State University was holding a class at Maho

Colorado State University holds a class here every summer for twenty-five students, and for a very reasonable fee, they get three credits for a course, attend class five hours a day, and with included breakfasts and dinners and time to chill on the beach, it is an opportunity hard to pass up. Maho is studied as a form of sustainable building. Parts of the camp run on solar energy; wells are used to trap rainwater for camp use; and it has a very low impact on its surroundings. Cheers and hats off to CSU for providing their students with such a suburban-busting experience.

Maho has a general store where you can buy food, drinks, camping essentials, and souvenirs. One of their souvenir t-shirts reads, "I survived the steps of Maho." Don't underestimate the statement of this shirt. Maho Bay Camps is 114 tent-cottages connected by a series of boardwalks and stairways that not only make it easier to traverse the hillside, but it keeps everyone's heavy feet from trampling the wonderful jungle foliage. Next to the registration desk I found one of two potable water sources that provide the entire camp with drinking water, and it was from there that I counted the number of steps to my tent-cottage: 85. It was 85 stair-steps from cottage number D-7 to fresh water. Turning a right at the registration desk, and moving along 23 more steps, led me to the communal restrooms outfitted with cold-water showers and waterless urinals.

So this was how Maho worked. In many places on the boardwalks you find recycling bins and this practice is heavily encouraged since Maho follows the three tenets of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Even the Maho glass blowers use old beer bottles left over by the campers. The environmental friendliness meant no indoor plumbing or running water for the individual cottages, which all hung inside this untouched, extremely dense jungle with a population of geckos and chameleons that ran into the millions.

After lugging my small suitcase and backpack of food down the boardwalk and up the stairs, I found the inside of D-7 happily accommodating. Inside the cottage I discovered: twin beds, a couch, a table, four chairs, shelves, an ice chest (ice available in blocks and bags at the store), Coleman stove, a plastic bin for storage, four electric lights, four 110-volt outlets, a broom and dustpan, a mirror, a patio, and even window treatments, plus a spare bed behind the couch, a fire extinguisher, a small Tupperware tub, a set of silverware, pots and pans, can opener, wine bottle opener, colander, blue jug for drinking water, a book of matches and an ashtray (but you are supposed to smoke in the designated smoking area near the taxi stand), a shelf with a door you can padlock, a 5-gallon bucket for trash, propane tank for the stove, a fan, a reading lamp to clamp above your bed or wherever, two tubs for doing dishes, plus a sponge, dish-towel, dish rack, cutting board, coffee brewing basket with a Ziploc bag of coffee filters, a bottle of bio-degradable dish soap in a reused plastic sports-drink bottle, and a clothesline on the patio-deck.

Things you should bring with you: a flashlight, bug spray, bug spray, bug spray, your own food, sunscreen, quarters for the washing machine and dryer (they provide bio-degradable laundry detergent), and since you can do laundry, pack lightly! (remember: stairs and heavy suitcases don't mix), a water bottle, sandals, hiking shoes, shorts, swim trunks, cash for taxis, shuttles and ferries, beach towel, medication, socks, soap, shampoo, camera, no pets, no stereos and a tremendous sense of adventure. This place was nothing like a Vegas Vacation, and I loved it!


After unpacking everything and settling into these refreshingly simply environs, I traveled along Route 85 (count the steps) with my blue water jug in hand for some refreshing agua, and as I made my way along the steps barefoot, it began to rain. Little placards all over the steps and handrails remind you that walkways are slippery when wet, as I would soon find out. Apparently the island of St. John had been experiencing near drought conditions before I arrived. And what was about to become very apparent to me, over the next few days, was that I would be experiencing the break in that drought.

The first morning I woke up and began exploring the area, barefoot. I walked most of the wooden walkways, which is an experience in itself because all of the geckos scatter in front of you on the walkways and on the handrails. It's like watching horses shoot out of the gate at a thoroughbred race. I stepped down to one of the private beaches. Everyone you see on the beach you have previously seen either on the flight out, on one of the taxi rides or on the ferry. The water is perfectly clear and the sand is brilliant. Lots of people here snorkel and scuba dive, but without any of that gear you can still walk through the water and watch schools of fish break around your knees. When I looked out to sea, I could barely make out Kayak paddles high in the air, reaching toward the clouds around the green mountains in the bay.

One of the things I noticed about the Virgin Islands is that the air doesn't have that briny quality where the smell of fish hangs in the air and you always notice the distinct odor of being near the ocean. The air always smells clean, as if it were new. And the heavy humidity clings to everything and pushes straight through your clothes.

There is a public beach nearby on the other side of an outcropping of volcanic rock. So I went hiking across a quarter-mile stretch of black, crustacean-encrusted, volcanic rock. I was amazed at how bare feet afford great traction on sharp rock. I picked up pieces of old coral and small pieces of volcanic rock that looked like they would be great for polishing. My own island jackpot, so to speak.

On Tuesday night, marine biologist Jeff Miller gave a presentation on the coral reefs that live in the Caribbean and I was excited to see his slideshow. I left my tent and headed toward the restaurant pavilion where all of the evening presentations take place, and being that I was in a nascent vacation mood, I headed down the boardwalk at quite a clip. And then, of course, it started raining. Right at the point where the boardwalk lies twenty-feet below the pavilion before turning up the steps to the restaurant, my bare right-foot hit one of those spots that the "Slippery When Wet" signs warn about, and I shot into the air, feet first. I landed with a wet slap on the exposed wood and my left-leg skidded across, thigh first, underneath the bottom step straight into the muddy ground below. I looked up to see a gathering of on-lookers, jaws wide open in amazement at seeing what potentially could have been one of America's funniest home videos. "Are you alright," they seemed to shout in unison. "Yep, not the first time!" I shouted, and laughed out loud to play it off.

When I woke on Wednesday morning, it was raining and for some reason I let this stop me in my initial quest for adventure. I only trekked out of D-7 to go to the bathroom where I found some wonderfully befitting graffiti inside the stall. A careful artist had sketched a beautiful and well-endowed mermaid looking forlornly at a hook and fishing-line dangling above her head where the caption read: "So many mermaids, so little line."  So true in so many ways, I thought.

My fresh wounds still looked a little red, so I went to the camp store and paid seventy-five cents for a small towlette of iodine to medicate the reddening wound on my thigh and ankle of my left leg. As I wiped the wound and watched the red antiseptic turn yellow on my skin, it brought about a very vivid memory from elementary school. Whenever a kid injured himself on the playground, the teachers would apply this same ointment, but for some unknown reason we called this stuff Monkey's Blood. It somehow lent a magic to the medicine that made it more powerful.


2:30 P.M. rolled around and I couldn't sit inside D-7 anymore, so I decided to take a hike over to the historic Annaberg ruins. The remnants of a once thriving sugar mill, Annaberg looks out over the clear blue waters of Leinster Bay where you can see all the way to the bottom while standing all the way up top.

As I left to walk the Leinster Bay trail, I passed the taxi driver who drove me to camp, and out of a need for conversation, I asked him when he thought it was going to stop raining. He said, "When someone climbs up there and patches up the sky," and he looked up. "That's when it'll stop raining."

The hike started out on a very steep, muddy lane narrow enough for one car to pass. One thing to note here is that driving is done on the left side of the road, as it is in most Caribbean Islands and on Bermuda, but there was no left or right when it came to which side one drove on concerning this particular lane. Sweat quickly flowed as high walls of foliage and strange sounds flanked my path. Not once did I stop to smell the flowers. I instead stopped to check amazing spider webs; creatures I'd never seen before crawling out of holes; dense jungle with thin narrow trees whose tall trunks looked like upside down forks and gnarled bones. I couldn't tell if the trees were growing up or down or even sideways. One of them had a gigantic brown growth in the middle of it.

Then I encountered a striking curiosity: a big red sign on green posts with letters painted in white:

"WARNING! MANCHINEEL TREE

The leaves, bark, and fruits of these trees contain a caustic sap, which may be injurious if touched. Columbus described the small green fruits as 'death apples.' The trees are common along Caribbean shores. Avoid contact with any part of this tree. "

It turns out there are actually only two left on the entire island. No worries.

The ruins came into sight and I explored them to my heart's content, steering clear of the feral donkeys that still hang around, no longer used as beasts of burden. I snapped a few shots of them with a disposable camera and headed back to camp.

As it turns out, the rain had no intention of letting up. For three nights I watched dark storm clouds roll into the bay. They would encircle the smaller, distant islands and cays like some mystical shroud, leaving the green tops exposed as a head above water. And then the rain would come, lightning-fast and hard, beating ceaselessly against the cottage's vinyl roof late into the night.

The clouds could be as blue as the water sometimes, and sometimes the water could look as green as the trees. But it always sounded the same, the waves lapping at the shore again and again, as it was before I got here and as it will be after I leave.

When it grew dark, you could see the lights of boats moored offshore, gently rocking in the surf, safe from the choppy and sometimes high waves of the open Caribbean. I would sit and think to myself. I don't even know the names of most of the trees I see, or even the creatures I don't see. These unnamed natives sound like any other forest creature, but sometimes the cacophony is punctuated by a sound new to my ear, a cooing or a loud shrill, sometimes fearful to behold and other times purely enigmatic. It all comes together to lull one to sleep after a long day in paradise.

This night I watched a gecko run up and down my patio screen, feasting on moths and gnats. One by one, he would take them down and thoughtfully chew until finally full, he lethargically meandered over to the patio railing to rest while his belly worked over the evening spoil. Soon the gecko wasn't alone. Apparently word had spread throughout the gecko-world that D-7 was the place to dine this evening, with an irresistible menu of moth-du-jour as the main course and gnat-brulée for dessert. When the geckos would come around a corner with their tongues flicking out, it looked like they were saying, "Yep, yep." The rain started coming down even harder, and the geckos that had yet to get their fill from the evening hunt on the screen door, scurried off into the surrounding darkness. Part of me wanted to go with them.

The sounds of the nightlife grow louder when it rains. The tree frogs must be singing some sort of praise, thankful for an end to all of those dry days. I am partly thankful for the rain because it momentarily drives all of the biting insects away to give me a break from their constant nagging for John Flesh. Inside the tent, I had to move the evening activities from the table to the bed because sometimes the wind would blow just right, causing all of the rain (not just some - but all) to pour in directly through the screens and onto me. I suppose I could have drawn the shade to solve that problem, but it only went halfway down the door, thus resulting in soaked legs, one of which was still recovering from Tuesday night's 'mishap.'

This hard rain has started exposing the various nefarious leaks of my tent cottage, but it is nothing serious. Upon further inspection, I can see caulking where previous leaks obviously had sprung to life around corners and exposed nails and all along the warped two-by-fours.

After spending the day bathed in bug spray, I hiked down the 108 to the communal showers behind registration. Two things about the showers here at Maho: number one, they are cold, and number two, you don't just turn them on and let the water run. You operate the shower by pulling down on a rope, and to tell you the truth, cold showers aren't bad. Here's the trick: point the shower head away from you. Pull on the rope so the cold water splashes you a bit, so as you and the water get to know each other, then quickly shove your head in and get it all wet. Lather and rinse. Repeat if necessary. Now your head is acclimated. Pull the rope again and slowly introduce each arm and leg, then lather. By now you are covered in soap, and since you are more interested in removing the suds now, the water doesn't feel so cold, and you are clean as a whistle


In 1917, the United States of America bought the Virgin Islands from Denmark for twenty-five million dollars, acquiring such unique island gems as St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John. On May 16, 2005, I arrived at one of the most spectacular vacation spots in the world, Maho Bay Camps, on the island of St. John and lived an enlightening week of low-impact vacationing and high-impact wonder.

For the two previous months, I had lived and worked in Las Vegas, experiencing high-impact wonders of a different kind that ranged anywhere from glamorous casinos to drunken nights of debauchery. And although Vegas is often hailed as one of the ultimate vacation destinations, its in-your-face wonders of gambling, sex, eating, drinking, entertainment, and constant reminders of excess are the exact things from which I desired a vacation. I think the reason that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas is mostly because of shame. I needed to clear my conscience and restore my soul.

I learned about Maho from a co-worker in Vegas who grew up on the island of St. Croix and knew of a secret little vacation spot virtually unknown to the rest of world. "You should go to Maho," he said. "They have the most beautiful little tent cottages on the side of a hill overlooking a sparkling blue bay. It's a kind of eco-tourism." Eco-tourism? I had to check this out. I went to their website, www.maho.org, and fell in love. I booked a cottage for one, bought an airline ticket, and could barely contain my excitement.

Because of Maho's relative distance from the common conveniences people experience in the States, I had to pack in all of my own food for a seven-day and six-night excursion in a backpack. But Maho Bay Camps does have its own restaurant, and I intended to take in an evening meal there during my week long stay.

So I departed Denver, Colorado, and after two three-hour-flights, a crazy taxi-ride, and a Dramamine worthy ferry-ride, I made it to St. John. The taxis on the island of St. John are these wonderful open-air contraptions of covered benches welded onto the beds of average pick-up trucks, and it was a line of these vehicles I found myself walking toward when I spotted a sign that said, 'Maho Bay Camps.' Bingo! I approached the taxi driver and told him my destination. "Are you from Colorado?" he asked. "Uh yeah, I am," I said. How did he know that? "Then come with me," he said. I jumped onto a bench in his taxi, joining a group of college-age students I recognized from the flight and the ferry ride.

The drive to camp was refreshingly humid after spending so much time in the dry air of Vegas, and the vistas at every turn set off flashbulbs throughout the riders around me, both literally and figuratively. When the taxi dropped us off at the end of a muddy lane, the wooden boardwalks of the camp stretched around us like a maze through the dense jungle of the hillside. As I walked toward the registration desk, I caught sight of a marker board underneath the awning that read, "Welcome CSU! Go Rams!" I was hornswoggled.  That's why the taxi driver thought I was from Colorado; Colorado State University was holding a class at Maho

Colorado State University holds a class here every summer for twenty-five students, and for a very reasonable fee, they get three credits for a course, attend class five hours a day, and with included breakfasts and dinners and time to chill on the beach, it is an opportunity hard to pass up. Maho is studied as a form of sustainable building. Parts of the camp run on solar energy; wells are used to trap rainwater for camp use; and it has a very low impact on its surroundings. Cheers and hats off to CSU for providing their students with such a suburban-busting experience.


Maho has a general store where you can buy food, drinks, camping essentials, and souvenirs. One of their souvenir t-shirts reads, "I survived the steps of Maho." Don't underestimate the statement of this shirt. Maho Bay Camps is 114 tent-cottages connected by a series of boardwalks and stairways that not only make it easier to traverse the hillside, but it keeps everyone's heavy feet from trampling the wonderful jungle foliage. Next to the registration desk I found one of two potable water sources that provide the entire camp with drinking water, and it was from there that I counted the number of steps to my tent-cottage: 85. It was 85 stair-steps from cottage number D-7 to fresh water. Turning a right at the registration desk, and moving along 23 more steps, led me to the communal restrooms outfitted with cold-water showers and waterless urinals.

So this was how Maho worked. In many places on the boardwalks you find recycling bins and this practice is heavily encouraged since Maho follows the three tenets of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Even the Maho glass blowers use old beer bottles left over by the campers. The environmental friendliness meant no indoor plumbing or running water for the individual cottages, which all hung inside this untouched, extremely dense jungle with a population of geckos and chameleons that ran into the millions.

After lugging my small suitcase and backpack of food down the boardwalk and up the stairs, I found the inside of D-7 happily accommodating. Inside the cottage I discovered: twin beds, a couch, a table, four chairs, shelves, an ice chest (ice available in blocks and bags at the store), Coleman stove, a plastic bin for storage, four electric lights, four 110-volt outlets, a broom and dustpan, a mirror, a patio, and even window treatments, plus a spare bed behind the couch, a fire extinguisher, a small Tupperware tub, a set of silverware, pots and pans, can opener, wine bottle opener, colander, blue jug for drinking water, a book of matches and an ashtray (but you are supposed to smoke in the designated smoking area near the taxi stand), a shelf with a door you can padlock, a 5-gallon bucket for trash, propane tank for the stove, a fan, a reading lamp to clamp above your bed or wherever, two tubs for doing dishes, plus a sponge, dish-towel, dish rack, cutting board, coffee brewing basket with a Ziploc bag of coffee filters, a bottle of bio-degradable dish soap in a reused plastic sports-drink bottle, and a clothesline on the patio-deck.

Things you should bring with you: a flashlight, bug spray, bug spray, bug spray, your own food, sunscreen, quarters for the washing machine and dryer (they provide bio-degradable laundry detergent), and since you can do laundry, pack lightly! (remember: stairs and heavy suitcases don't mix), a water bottle, sandals, hiking shoes, shorts, swim trunks, cash for taxis, shuttles and ferries, beach towel, medication, socks, soap, shampoo, camera, no pets, no stereos and a tremendous sense of adventure. This place was nothing like a Vegas Vacation, and I loved it!

After unpacking everything and settling into these refreshingly simply environs, I traveled along Route 85 (count the steps) with my blue water jug in hand for some refreshing agua, and as I made my way along the steps barefoot, it began to rain. Little placards all over the steps and handrails remind you that walkways are slippery when wet, as I would soon find out. Apparently the island of St. John had been experiencing near drought conditions before I arrived. And what was about to become very apparent to me, over the next few days, was that I would be experiencing the break in that drought.

The first morning I woke up and began exploring the area, barefoot. I walked most of the wooden walkways, which is an experience in itself because all of the geckos scatter in front of you on the walkways and on the handrails. It's like watching horses shoot out of the gate at a thoroughbred race. I stepped down to one of the private beaches. Everyone you see on the beach you have previously seen either on the flight out, on one of the taxi rides or on the ferry. The water is perfectly clear and the sand is brilliant. Lots of people here snorkel and scuba dive, but without any of that gear you can still walk through the water and watch schools of fish break around your knees. When I looked out to sea, I could barely make out Kayak paddles high in the air, reaching toward the clouds around the green mountains in the bay.

One of the things I noticed about the Virgin Islands is that the air doesn't have that briny quality where the smell of fish hangs in the air and you always notice the distinct odor of being near the ocean. The air always smells clean, as if it were new. And the heavy humidity clings to everything and pushes straight through your clothes.

There is a public beach nearby on the other side of an outcropping of volcanic rock. So I went hiking across a quarter-mile stretch of black, crustacean-encrusted, volcanic rock. I was amazed at how bare feet afford great traction on sharp rock. I picked up pieces of old coral and small pieces of volcanic rock that looked like they would be great for polishing. My own island jackpot, so to speak.

On Tuesday night, marine biologist Jeff Miller gave a presentation on the coral reefs that live in the Caribbean and I was excited to see his slideshow. I left my tent and headed toward the restaurant pavilion where all of the evening presentations take place, and being that I was in a nascent vacation mood, I headed down the boardwalk at quite a clip. And then, of course, it started raining. Right at the point where the boardwalk lies twenty-feet below the pavilion before turning up the steps to the restaurant, my bare right-foot hit one of those spots that the "Slippery When Wet" signs warn about, and I shot into the air, feet first. I landed with a wet slap on the exposed wood and my left-leg skidded across, thigh first, underneath the bottom step straight into the muddy ground below. I looked up to see a gathering of on-lookers, jaws wide open in amazement at seeing what potentially could have been one of America's funniest home videos. "Are you alright," they seemed to shout in unison. "Yep, not the first time!" I shouted, and laughed out loud to play it off.

When I woke on Wednesday morning, it was raining and for some reason I let this stop me in my initial quest for adventure. I only trekked out of D-7 to go to the bathroom where I found some wonderfully befitting graffiti inside the stall. A careful artist had sketched a beautiful and well-endowed mermaid looking forlornly at a hook and fishing-line dangling above her head where the caption read: "So many mermaids, so little line."  So true in so many ways, I thought.

My fresh wounds still looked a little red, so I went to the camp store and paid seventy-five cents for a small towlette of iodine to medicate the reddening wound on my thigh and ankle of my left leg. As I wiped the wound and watched the red antiseptic turn yellow on my skin, it brought about a very vivid memory from elementary school. Whenever a kid injured himself on the playground, the teachers would apply this same ointment, but for some unknown reason we called this stuff Monkey's Blood. It somehow lent a magic to the medicine that made it more powerful.


2:30 P.M. rolled around and I couldn't sit inside D-7 anymore, so I decided to take a hike over to the historic Annaberg ruins. The remnants of a once thriving sugar mill, Annaberg looks out over the clear blue waters of Leinster Bay where you can see all the way to the bottom while standing all the way up top.

As I left to walk the Leinster Bay trail, I passed the taxi driver who drove me to camp, and out of a need for conversation, I asked him when he thought it was going to stop raining. He said, "When someone climbs up there and patches up the sky," and he looked up. "That's when it'll stop raining."

The hike started out on a very steep, muddy lane narrow enough for one car to pass. One thing to note here is that driving is done on the left side of the road, as it is in most Caribbean Islands and on Bermuda, but there was no left or right when it came to which side one drove on concerning this particular lane. Sweat quickly flowed as high walls of foliage and strange sounds flanked my path. Not once did I stop to smell the flowers. I instead stopped to check amazing spider webs; creatures I'd never seen before crawling out of holes; dense jungle with thin narrow trees whose tall trunks looked like upside down forks and gnarled bones. I couldn't tell if the trees were growing up or down or even sideways. One of them had a gigantic brown growth in the middle of it.

Then I encountered a striking curiosity: a big red sign on green posts with letters painted in white:

"WARNING! MANCHINEEL TREE

The leaves, bark, and fruits of these trees contain a caustic sap, which may be injurious if touched. Columbus described the small green fruits as 'death apples.' The trees are common along Caribbean shores. Avoid contact with any part of this tree. "

It turns out there are actually only two left on the entire island. No worries.

The ruins came into sight and I explored them to my heart's content, steering clear of the feral donkeys that still hang around, no longer used as beasts of burden. I snapped a few shots of them with a disposable camera and headed back to camp.

As it turns out, the rain had no intention of letting up. For three nights I watched dark storm clouds roll into the bay. They would encircle the smaller, distant islands and cays like some mystical shroud, leaving the green tops exposed as a head above water. And then the rain would come, lightning-fast and hard, beating ceaselessly against the cottage's vinyl roof late into the night.

The clouds could be as blue as the water sometimes, and sometimes the water could look as green as the trees. But it always sounded the same, the waves lapping at the shore again and again, as it was before I got here and as it will be after I leave.

When it grew dark, you could see the lights of boats moored offshore, gently rocking in the surf, safe from the choppy and sometimes high waves of the open Caribbean. I would sit and think to myself. I don't even know the names of most of the trees I see, or even the creatures I don't see. These unnamed natives sound like any other forest creature, but sometimes the cacophony is punctuated by a sound new to my ear, a cooing or a loud shrill, sometimes fearful to behold and other times purely enigmatic. It all comes together to lull one to sleep after a long day in paradise.

This night I watched a gecko run up and down my patio screen, feasting on moths and gnats. One by one, he would take them down and thoughtfully chew until finally full, he lethargically meandered over to the patio railing to rest while his belly worked over the evening spoil. Soon the gecko wasn't alone. Apparently word had spread throughout the gecko-world that D-7 was the place to dine this evening, with an irresistible menu of moth-du-jour as the main course and gnat-brulée for dessert. When the geckos would come around a corner with their tongues flicking out, it looked like they were saying, "Yep, yep." The rain started coming down even harder, and the geckos that had yet to get their fill from the evening hunt on the screen door, scurried off into the surrounding darkness. Part of me wanted to go with them.

The sounds of the nightlife grow louder when it rains. The tree frogs must be singing some sort of praise, thankful for an end to all of those dry days. I am partly thankful for the rain because it momentarily drives all of the biting insects away to give me a break from their constant nagging for John Flesh. Inside the tent, I had to move the evening activities from the table to the bed because sometimes the wind would blow just right, causing all of the rain (not just some - but all) to pour in directly through the screens and onto me. I suppose I could have drawn the shade to solve that problem, but it only went halfway down the door, thus resulting in soaked legs, one of which was still recovering from Tuesday night's 'mishap.'

This hard rain has started exposing the various nefarious leaks of my tent cottage, but it is nothing serious. Upon further inspection, I can see caulking where previous leaks obviously had sprung to life around corners and exposed nails and all along the warped two-by-fours.

After spending the day bathed in bug spray, I hiked down the 108 to the communal showers behind registration. Two things about the showers here at Maho: number one, they are cold, and number two, you don't just turn them on and let the water run. You operate the shower by pulling down on a rope, and to tell you the truth, cold showers aren't bad. Here's the trick: point the shower head away from you. Pull on the rope so the cold water splashes you a bit, so as you and the water get to know each other, then quickly shove your head in and get it all wet. Lather and rinse. Repeat if necessary. Now your head is acclimated. Pull the rope again and slowly introduce each arm and leg, then lather. By now you are covered in soap, and since you are more interested in removing the suds now, the water doesn't feel so cold, and you are clean as a whistle.

Traveling alone, for business or for pleasure, I will say only one thing: the awkwardness of eating alone has yet to wear off. I have come to terms with it though, like two co-workers who hate each other but must learn to work together. Since most of my meals are taken in the comfort of D-7, where no one other than a gecko or tree frog has ventured to dine, eating alone has not been a big concern on this trip.

I dined in the restaurant on Thursday night: South of the Border night (as the posted menu read). Mexican cuisine is the key to my culinary heart. I planned the night pretty well. I set my sights on enjoying happy hour, which would be followed by dinner and then the evening presentation. After slamming back two New Castles, I bought some fine hand-blown glass crafts from the art gallery and then stepped up to order dinner. I ordered the Grilled Chicken breast. Each entrée comes with cornbread this night, and a trip to the salad bar, and a glass of lemony iced tea. I grabbed my iced tea, filled a bowl with salad piling on the chickpeas and sprouts, and carried my entrée over to the pavilion for a sunset dinner. The meal left absolutely nothing to be desired. It was a veritable taste treat. The chicken breast was topped with thick slices of avocado that were covered with melted jack cheese, all on top of a layer of the most unbelievable cumin-flavored yams I have ever had the privileged pleasure of which to partake. Add on a side of cornbread, and with grilled peppers and onions, how could you go wrong? If enjoying avocado and cheese layered chicken with yams while holding an iced tea in one hand and watching the sunset over the Caribbean blue of Maho Bay isn't heaven, then dear lord, please don't let me die.

I settle in for the evening presentation outside on the Maho dining pavilion, and it was titled, "The Maho Environment" and was presented by Jared Hill – Environmental Resource Manager. This is what I learned:


Maho practices minimal site intrusion, meaning that there was no bulldozing or cutting when it was built. It features114 tent cabins, three miles of boardwalk and two pavilions that are used as dining areas and classrooms. The only way to find out the true number of steps is to go there and count them yourself. There are two water systems, one potable and one non-potable. The non-potable system is a series of cisterns that collect rainwater and is used in the showers and the various water spigots dotting the boardwalk, bearing signs that read, "Boil before drinking." Guests typically use these spigots for dishwater. Waterless urinals and spring loaded faucet-heads cut back on water usage in the restrooms, as water conservation is the number one issue at Maho.

Desalinated ocean water flows to St. John from St. Thomas through an energy rich process which costs six-cents per gallon. Each gallon runs through a three-stage filtration system for drinking water and is regularly tested for purity.

Maho has its own waste treatment plant, and some of the waste is used to fertilize the island's own plantation. This form of recycling complements Harmony Condos, Maho's hotel side. It is constructed of 70% recycled or reclaimed materials and uses solar power. Maho's sister camp on the island, Estate Concordia, operates completely on solar power and features eighteen tents, nine condos, and an independent composting system.

Maho began as a handful of tent cottages, and over the last twenty-nine years has grown into one of the world's greatest examples of sustainable building. Unfortunately, the land that Maho occupies is leased and there is a strong incentive economically to develop the land. Now hear this:  the lease expires January 31, 2012, and Maho could very well lose out to the principles that it does not hold itself up to and could one day become a mega-resort. If you plan on going to Maho, GO NOW.

And time passes.

Saturday was an incredibly peaceful day. A calm settled in on the island unlike anything I had experienced all week, and I just laid back and let it take me with it. The wind calmed to the slightest of cool breezes and except for a few billowing clouds, the sky remained perfectly clear. You could feel it standing on the boardwalks or down on the beach, not a care in the world. The lizards weren't scurrying around and the sounds in the trees were virtually non-existent, like everything had fallen asleep. The entire week felt like it had culminated into this one day, this one moment of peace and clarity that everyone seemed to reverently observe. I just took it all in and spent the day only reading and napping and gazing at the sky wishing that it could all come with me once it came time to leave.

On Sunday I made a second trip to Leinster Bay. It is a hundred times more beautiful on a sunny day like this one. The waters, never ceasing to amaze me, were beautiful once again. I came upon a pelican floating in the water and stopped to watch him. An amazing bird, it sat watching the water and then without warning, it took off, straight up like a harrier jet, and with a great splash it dive-bombed the water, triumphantly emerging with a wriggling fish that he gulped down his gullet. He then flew away out of sight. Seagulls always follow the pelicans like little boys follow their big brothers, hoping to catch some of the tasty leftovers.

I came across the trailhead of Johnny Horn trail, one of over fifty hiking trails that wind through St. John. I had a backpack full of lunch, bottled water, swimming gear, and a camera. I was ready for an adventure.

Johnny Horn Trail is a two-hour, one-and-a-half-mile hike over steep hills from Waterlemon Bay to Coral Bay on the other side of St. John. It ends at Emmaus Moravian Church built in 1726 by the island's first African and European settlers. The cactus growing along this trail has been the best sight so far. The smell of flowers is so strong in the air that it is like breathing honey, and after awhile becomes somewhat intoxicating. I could see a beach down the hill from me as I stopped to smell the flowers and noticed a boat moored out in the water. As I stood up, I heard the sound of a twig snapping and heavy breathing. I sensed someone standing behind me. I quickly turned around and was startled by a tall man with dark skin. He was dressed quite fashionably. He grabbed my arm and twisted it behind my back, grabbing my backpack and throwing it down the hillside.  "You told them about the turtles, didn't you?" he asked in an accent foreign to me. "What? I, I don't know about any…. ahhhh!" He twisted my arm harder.  "Don't play with me you stupid American…"

Sorry, my imagination got the best of me after reading a public notice in the Maho store about turtle poaching.

Back to the Johnny Horn Trail. The initial steep and rocky climb turns into an enchanting level path on a walk through the woods. The trail makes a slight rise and begins a descent through the short growth of a shady, miniature forest. The trail hugs a rock wall at many points, sectioning off private property. At one point, the trail becomes rocky with moss-covered stone and the foliage gets thicker and the trees become taller and the whole idea of this place being an enchanted forest really comes to life. I think I heard the trees talking. There is no sign anywhere that you are on an island

Then at a bend in the trail I noticed my hardest task of this whole trip: a very steep, very rocky incline, the steepest of anything I have done since last hiking in the Rockies. I began the climb, and halfway up I started panting like a dog, grabbing for my water bottle. When I reached the top of the hill, a slight moan escaped my lips. There in front of me was another steep incline, but less steep and slightly more gentle. And then what at the top of that? A third hill, but a less rocky hill than the previous. Overdrive kicked in and I kept moving slow and steady, one foot in front of the other until, at last, I made it to the summit and I could see Coral Harbor below me. I was so excited that I took off running, my water bottle sloshing around in my backpack, already half-empty from the unexpectedly daunting hike. My feet started slipping on the gravel, so I shifted into a lower gear and crept down the trail. My burning legs jumped for joy after such a strenuous work out, and then the church came into view. I was finally down. And with the whole thing behind me, I knew I had to do it again. But first things first. I walked into town.

I passed the Donkey Diner, open for breakfast and serving "kick-ass" food, as the sign states. Further down the road, into the little town of Coral Bay, I passed Skinny Legs Bar and Grill, and made a mental note. I first wanted to go a little further. As the number of roosters and baby chickens increased the further I went, I decided I had gone far enough and headed back to Skinny Legs for a Caribe Lager. After I rested my own skinny legs, I walked back up to the church, and under the protective shade of an old mimosa tree, I ate the food from my backpack and extended my rest before heading back up the arduous trail that would lead me to one final swim at Little Maho Beach.

I spent the remainder of my final day at Maho in rejuvenated reflection. I thought about Barritt's Bermuda stone ginger beer, cold showers, Big Maho and Little Maho Beach, coral, Francis Bay, Annaberg ruins, the beach café, the store, the goat trail, the restaurant and food, the glass blowers, the art classes, the snorkeling, the sailing, the diving, slippery steps, lizards, bugs, Caribbean blue, and of course rum. My thoughts then turned to the volcanic rocks and pieces of coral in my pocket I had found on my first day on the island. They were my island jackpot and I was taking them with me.

But these island souvenirs weren't really mine to take were they? After sweeping the dry wooden floor of my tent-cottage and saying my goodbyes to D-7, I headed down Route 85, past the registration desk and down to the beach where I had found the rocks and pieces of coral. I took off my shoes and socks and once again traveled barefoot across the rough and sharp lava stones that divided the two beaches, and I happily put the jackpot of island souvenirs back where I had found them.

I left for home with a clear conscience and a restored soul. Mission accomplished.

Grateful Web Book Club & Review - 'Ironman op zoek naar een nieuwe uitdaging'

Marc Herremans- for the Grateful Web

Original title:     Ironman op zoek naar een nieuwe uitdaging

Author:             Marc Herremans - met Paul Van Den Bosch

 

Marc Herremans, also known as Mad Max, is born on December 19 in 1973 in Merksem, Belgium-Flanders. He is a well-known triathlon athlete, who unfortunately became disabled after a dramatic fall during one of his training sessions in Lanzarote 2002. More information about Marc can be found on following website: http://www.marcherremans.be.  Don't forget to put on the sound when visiting this site!

 

Short summary:                     

This book is a biography, and was written since Marc experienced that his story was an inspiring message for several people. In this book, he tells us what he did before his triathlon career, why he started practicing triathlon, how his accident in Lanzarote occurred, how he copes with being disabled, and of course he talks about his participation at the Ironman 2002 in Hawaii, and a lot more.

 

Comments on the book:

-         This book excites several feelings: some passages in this book made my flesh creep, others made me laugh, and sometimes I had to brush away a tear. I'm sure this book will leave nobody untouched!

-         The life vision and perseverance of this great athlete are unbelievable. I'm sure this book will support a lot of people!

-         I was happily surprised to read Marc met John Maclean, who is according to me, also a great athlete with an enormous perseverance. This Australian sportsman became disabled after he was hit by a truck. Being disabled, he swum the Chanal. The reporting on "National Geographic" did not leave me untouched either.

-         (For the moment?) the book is only available in Dutch, but for the English-speaking people, a lot of information can be found on following website: http://www.marcherremans.be/intro1_uk.htm