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Hiking, Travel, USVI

#TBT: St. John | Salt Pond Bay & Ram Head Trail

I’ve gone on quite a few vacations and hikes that never made it onto the blog. Since our biggest adventures are happening at home these days, I’ve decided to highlight some of those old trips for Throwback Thursday. First up, one of my favorite areas of St. John, USVI – Salt Pond Bay.

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We first read about Salt Pond in St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer – the guidebook for St. John – and it quickly became one of our most cherished snorkeling spots. Places like Waterlemon Cay might have more diverse snorkeling, but Salt Pond has a much better beach on which to relax between underwater explorations, and it also accesses what I think is the best hike on the island.

We stayed in Cruz Bay on our first visit to St. John, so it was a bit of a drive to get to Salt Pond Bay, all the way over on the south end. It’s a beautimous drive, though…

Coral Bay

…with potential donkey delay! (And yes, you drive on the left side of the road.)

Traffic jam

It was raining when we first got there, so after walking the short trail (more like an old dirt road) down to the beach, we kept walking to Drunk Bay to wait for the sun to return. There’s a fairly creepy collection of rock people in Drunk Bay, made even creepier by the gloomy weather we had.

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The sun is never gone for long on St. John, so back we went to Salt Pond Bay.

Salt Pond Bay

Gorgeous white beach and endless Caribbean blue. Heaven.

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As beautiful as the beach is, the really good stuff is underwater. We’ve snorkeled in Salt Pond quite a few times now, and our favorite route is a counter-clockwise loop of the bay. Spend lots and lots of time exploring around the rocks that jut up out of the water in the center of the bay, and when you near the end of the loop, cruise through the deeper center of the bay to look for the turtles and rays that like to hang out in the turtle grass and the sandy areas.

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In addition to turtles, we’ve seen beautiful peacock flounders and spotted eagle rays every time we’ve snorkeled Salt Pond. Very cool.

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Peacock Flounder

On our first trip, we were in for a treat – we found this beautiful octopus! We could have watched it forever, but they’re pretty efficient at hiding when they’re done being social (like me!).

Octopus on the move Caribbean Reef Octopus

There’s some beautiful coral out there too, it makes you feel like you’re hiking through underwater trees.

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Mukmuk snorkeled too!

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On our second trip to St. John, JK and I decided to swim all the way out to Booby Rock to see if there was any decent snorkeling to be had. I don’t recommend this at all, because a) it would be much better for divers, the good stuff is down too deep and b) if you’re anything like me, you’ll start vividly picturing sharks all around you and OHMIGOD I’M IN OPEN WATER AND JAWS IS GOING TO EAT ME AND MY FETUS. So just stick to the closer rocks instead.

Longest snorkel evahs

Totally unrelated shark story I just remembered: I watched Jaws when I was way too young, and when I talked to my preschool teacher about it the next day, she told me, in Scottish-accented Norwegian, that it wasn’t an actual shark, it was a robot. For the longest time, I thought someone was rowing a rowboat inside Jaws and that’s how they made the movie. Heh.

Cool coral So fuzzy

After snorkeling, in the insanely dry midday heat, we decided to hike to Ram Head, the southernmost point of the island. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our SLR with us. Or any water to drink. #experiencedhikers

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I think the trail is only a mile or so each way, but man alive, that heat. I was parched. If you’re made of smarter stuff than we are, you’ll hike to Ram Head first, then cool down with a nice snorkel afterwards.

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Still, this hike is gorgeous, with a sad but powerful history. Definitely a must if you visit St. John. Just remember to bring water, I cannot stress this enough.

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Calm seas to the left, rough to the right. (You can see Booby Rock out there on the left, probably circled by menacing fins.)

Wonky panorama

Legend says that if you throw a stone from Ram Head and shout a wish as loud as you can before the stone hits the water, this wish will come true. It didn’t seem to work for us at first…

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…but by our trip the following year, it had definitely come true. Thank you, wishing stone! Unfortunately, morning sickness kept me from hiking in that heat on that trip, but swimming was just what I needed (even though I puked in the water every time I put my snorkel mask on, but, oddly, not when I put in my snorkel).

Since I couldn’t hike it again, that means I never got any SLR photos from Ram Head…which means I’ll simply have to return to St. John. The horror!

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Goals, Hiking, Issaquah Alps, Running

This Shy Bear is coming out of hibernation

When we took Nora to Cougar Mountain to hike the Shy Bear Loop back in February, I really started feeling the urge to run. That loop is one of my favorite lowland routes to run, and as much as I enjoy walking it, I really, really wanted to just gun it along those rolling hills without a care in the world, fueled on by a manic endorphin rush…and then I immediately felt guilty for longing for something that didn’t involve Nora, like I was cheating on her or something.

I realize how ridiculous that sounds, especially since I spend all day every day with Nora and can probably count on both hands the number of times I’ve left the house without her. I’ve always felt that it’s incredibly important for parents to maintain their own lives and interests outside of the kid realm (mommy martyrs are the worst), but now that I’m the parent* in question, it doesn’t feel right. I think it might have something to do with the fact that we wanted a baby so badly, and now that we have that awesome baby, it feels wrong to want some of the things I associate with my old life, when I was desperate to become pregnant.

Coal Creek Falls

The thing is, I know it’s healthier for all of us if I have a life outside of motherhood – especially when that life makes me all happy and chill and fulfilled – so I am going to work on pursuing some goals of my own, starting with running. I want to run some of my old classics this summer, like the Rattlesnake Traverse and the Melakwa Loop, and I also signed up for Beat the Blerch in September (just the 10k, because it’s flat – that means I won’t have any hills I can use as an excuse to walk).

Now that it’s still light out after Nora goes to bed, I can run in the evenings, and I am also going to take better advantage of weekends when JK is home. Also, the next time we visit Shy Bear, I’ll run while JK hikes with Nora…she deserves some good alone time with her pappa anyway.

I need to remember that I’m still me, I just also happen to be a mother now.

On the Shy Bear Loop

*HOLY SHIT I’M A PARENT

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Hiking, Hiking with baby

Spring fever

Honestly, it’s felt (and looked) like spring since around New Year’s, but now it’s officially here – huzzah!

Every year I get all giddy and excited when I spot my first woodland spring flowers of the season. We found – or, rather, our noses led us to – skunk cabbage on Cougar Mountain in February, and yesterday the Redmond Watershed Preserve was flush with trillium. Aaah! I can feel that spring fever bubbling inside, and I’m getting all excited about the outdoors and mountains again. Hiking! Gardening! Mushrooming!

Skunk Cabbage Watershed
Speaking of fever, our little walk in the woods yesterday was just what the doctor ordered. Nora has a cold and was finally able to take a good, long nap out there on trail, and JK and I are just getting over our colds, so we could sniff in all that fresh air that smelled like spring rain and all things green (and skunk cabbage).

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Poor little Sniffles McGee is still all coughs and sneezes, but hopefully the rain will let up today so I can take her out for a walk. Keeping her upright in a carrier might help drain that little snot faucet, plus I can’t think of a better distraction for her than being outside and inspecting all the new signs of spring on the Powerline Trail.

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Hiking, Hiking with baby

Now I remember…

…why we never hike to Rattlesnake Ledge during the day anymore. TNAB? Yes. Dawn Patrol? Yes. Stopping by on a Rattlesnake Mountain traverse? Yes. In the middle of the day on a sunny weekend? No. No no no. Just no.

All of Puget Sound came out to the Ledge

Even though this was a weekend in February, not July, all of Puget Sound was there to enjoy the weather and the views. That’s the thing, Rattlesnake is popular for a reason – it’s a very easy trail with a huge payoff. And who am I to complain about the fact that this many people are out enjoying the trails? Especially when so many of those hikers are kids.

Baby's first Rattlesnake

It’s a good thing our little kid loves people-watching (and that I don’t mind nursing in public). We ended up having a really great lunch break up there on the ledge, marinating in vitamin D and endorphins.

Happy hiker

I love, love, love this stage of babydom. Gone are the days filled with endless hours of inconsolable crying – now we have a happy, smiling, laughing little nugget who is not yet mobile enough to wreak havoc around the house (or on precipitous mountain ledges).

Family squishy

There’s not much point to this blog post except to say that a) we survived the March of Thousands to Rattlesnake Ledge and b) hell yeah, life is good.

A rare moment of solitude on the trail

Rattlesnake Ledge | 4 miles | 1200 feet elevation gain –

Pappa, this lake smells like goose poop

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Hiking, Hiking with baby, Mount Rainier, Top Trip Reports

She fits right in

One of the good things about being an introverted hermit homebody is that I don’t feel like I had to give up on a lot of stuff when I had a baby. We don’t eat out much (uhm, picking up Qdoba doesn’t count), nor do we like to go out and party. (Okay, so introverted, homebody, and just plain old.)

I was discussing this with JK last weekend and came to the conclusion that the only things I really miss about my old life are: 1) sleeping in when I need to and 2) being able to run the downhills on hikes. Not exactly a huge sacrifice to make in exchange for a life shared with the cutest little Nora in the world, eh?

There are polar bears on Mount Rainier?

Not only that, but most things are just more fun with Nora along. Even little things like going to the grocery store (or Qdoba!) is a little adventure when seen through her eyes.

Where are Nora's snowshoes?

We’re at a stage now where it’s really easy to take Nora hiking, so we’ve been able to keep that important part of our family life going, too. One of our traditions is to go to Paradise at least once every winter, and this year was no exception. There’s hardly any snow at all in Washington this year, but Paradise has a modest cover – enough for lil’ Norbert to go on her first snowshoeing trip.

Nora's first snowshoe trip

After feeling the biting wind in the parking lot, we bundled Nora up in wool jammies, leg warmers, and her polar bear suit. It turned out to be a little too warm – the wind died down quickly and I stripped down to a t-shirt by the end of the day myself. Nora’s layering is the most frustrating part of our baby hikes so far. This time we had the added challenge of sun protection, since we were in high-elevation sunshine with added reflection from the snow. We brought a sun hat, sunglasses, and mineral sunscreen.

JK gets a chance to try out pregnancy

Luckily, she stayed tucked inside the Ergo, happily asnooze and out of the sun, while we hiked. She woke up just as we reached Glacier Vista, where set up a little lunch station in a spot of shade from a swaddle blanket attached to our hiking poles.

Lunch break

We had to take her out for a quick photo shoot though, because ehrmagerd, cute little yeti cub with a majestic backdrop!

*raspberries* Here comes the Noradactyl!

In addition to my Loo with a View: Scenic Shitters of Washington album, which celebrates the many beautiful privies on our hiking trails, I should make a collection of my favorite al fresco nursing spots. This one takes the cake so far.

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We had time for a surprisingly long and luxurious lunch break, enjoying the views, listening to rock fall on the Nisqually, watching skiers zooming down Pan Face and little ant hikers snailing their way up to Camp Muir, and playing airplane and blowing raspberries at Nora. She truly seems to love being outside – I’m sure all babies do – which warms my heart to no end.

Flying yeti cub

After a while, we realized we had to start hiking back in order to make it home before Nora’s bedtime. The timing would be perfect: she could take a peaceful nap in the car, wake up and play for a little while at home, then go to sleep, dreaming of snow and big marshmallow mountains. Well, that nap never happened… Let me add one more point to the list of things I miss: 3) peaceful, non-eardrum shattering car rides. That thing people say about babies magically being soothed in cars? Lies, all lies!! But those car rides are still oh so worth it for a day like this.

Perfect day to blow off work

Glacier Vista | 3 miles | 700 feet elevation gain –

Nora & mamma