Walking … or kayaking … on sunshine

St. John is a beautiful island, perfect for the outdoorsman (or woman) in your life.

St. John is a beautiful island, perfect for the outdoorsman (or woman) in your life.

There must be something wrong with my internal temperature gauge. Living in the Midwest, most my friends, co-workers and relatives feel the need to fly south as soon as the first flurry flutters through the “frigid” 30-degree air. Having grown up in Detroit, I know better: That it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Still I don’t tend to yearn for a warmer climate until, strangely, it starts to get warmer.

Take this past weekend: Sunshine and 70 degrees here in Indianapolis. Why would I want to go to a beach and catch some rays, when the rays are on their way to me? Well, whatever the reason, it’s been going on for a while. In May 2011, Caitlyn and I went on a weeklong trip to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands to quench my, um, “slightly-warmer-than-it-is-now” hankering and it was easily one of the best – and furthest away –vacations we’ve taken.

St. John is a little blob of an island located about a 15-20-minute ferry ride east of the St. Thomas town of Red Hook (and about 45 minutes from St. Thomas’s bustling tourist trap, Charlotte Amalie). We chose St. John for its beauty, serenity and the fact that two-thirds of it is preserved as a national park.

Naturally, that kind of environment is perfect for someone like myself, who is always “roving” but also conducive to the “recluse” in your life that just wants to lounge on the beach. Here are three great ways to catch some rays and Vitamin D in St. John:

  1. Take a daylong kayaking and snorkeling trip: Caitlyn and I are horrible at kayaking … and I can’t swim that well, so you would think this would have been a one-way ticket to an early grave. Not so fast, my bloggy friend. We booked an all-day adventure through Arawak Expeditions, located in the island’s main shopping and dining center, Mongoose Junction. Arawak’s guides will take you kayaking to beaches not normally visited by tourists – we went to several beaches, including a small island off the coast that no one was at, making for some of the best snorkeling of our lives. Plus, they bring lunch from a tasty deli in Mongoose Junction and let you go at your own pace. If you’re lucky, you might end up on a private tour: Most tours are group tours but, in our case, we were the only ones.
  2. We walked hours in the humid forest for THIS?

    We walked hours in the humid forest for THIS?

    Get lost in the jungle: If anyone tells you should go find the “petroglyphs” – or ancient rock carvings – make sure you know where you’re going in advance. Caitlyn and I spent hours getting lost in the humid, mosquito-infested forest and even walked by the side road to the petroglyphs multiple times before another more directionally-focused couple spotted them and left us a “sign” (their towel) on a rock near the hidden entryway. That said, there are loads of trails throughout the national forest and it’s amusing watching families of hermit crabs roll tuck into their shells and roll down steep cliffs because your feet pounding the dirt sounds like World War III is about to commence.

  3. Hit the beach: All the tourists go to the picturesque white sand beach of Trunk Bay so, if you can swing it, get there early, as it fills up fast. This beach is also home to underwater snorkeling trail, complete with signs along the coral path. The wildlife, however, is not as diverse as that seen on an all-day snorkeling/kayaking trip. Also, don’t leave food unattended – Caitlyn and I saw some rather aggressive birds nosedive a couple next to us for their burgers and wraps. Honestly, any of the island’s bays are worth visiting, although, the further east and south you go, the rockier the beaches get.

Of course, if you do any of these activities, either lather up frequently with sunscreen or snap yourself a sun-shielding UV shirt at one of the beach shops on St. Thomas.

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