dharma monkey

embrace the monkey

Is it ‘hiking,’ or are we climbing?


We spent most of the day Saturday and today on Saba’s world-famous hiking trails, though we quickly learned that what we consider hiking is really a sort of 60° to 80° (and sometimes much steeper) vertical rock climb, made accessible to the common man via cement stairs that were put in back in the 1960s.

First on our list was Mt. Scenery, the highest point on the island with its 1,000-plus steps that make the journey sound more like a long walk than a difficult climb. It was the most grueling hike I’ve ever gone on, which is an indication that I should spend a little more time in the gym (I’ll add that by the time we were 75 percent of the way to the summit, even Shawn was hiking at a much slower pace).

The scenery was, of course, incredible – we found the occasional Saban racer snake (non-poisonous and generally unwilling to stick around when a human walks up), perhaps thousands of Saba’s ubiquitous lizards, which seem to consume anything their size or smaller with more than four legs, and spectacular plants.

My description of the scenery is limited to what was within ten or twenty feet of us, because once we reached a certain point on the mountain, we quickly and unexpectedly went from rain forest to cloud forest. Clouds have hovered over the top of Saba, and sometimes in Windwardside, nearly the entire time we’ve been here. While it’s not the best thing for sweeping, scenic views of the island, the sea and Saba’s neighbors (Sint Maarten, St. Barths and Barbuda), the clouds do have a habit of parting briefly and unexpectedly to unveil spectacular vistas. All in all, it’s a good way to keep from taking the island’s beauty for granted.

Today, we hiked through the middle and around two sides of the island. A quick hike across Saba with a steep descent brought us to The Bottom, home of the Saba University School of Medicine. The Bottom was very quiet because it was Sunday, though we could hear and see services at a few small stone churches. After a quick lunch, we walked a paved road up to the top of Troy Hill (it was the steepest road I have ever seen) to catch the Sandy Cruz Trail, or, as I like to call it, the Trail with 1,000 Grueling Switchbacks. I exaggerate of course, but at one point, there are some killer switchbacks that seemed like they would last forever.

We then caught the All Too Far Trail back down to just a few hundred feet above the sea outside of Hell’s Gate. Toward the bottom of a ravine (called a “gut” here), we found a solitary hermit crab on the trail. Silly me – I figured some terrible tourist had brought this crab from home and then abandoned it on the trail. After all, we were 300 feet above sea level, no water or supply of shells in sight.

I briefly debated “saving” the crab before we decided that nature could save it better than I could. So after walking another couple of minutes, we found another one. And then another. And more. I was astonished. I had no idea that we’d find hermit crabs here – and they seem to be doing quite well, despite the lack of easy access to water.

I have since come to find out that crabs don’t necessarily need an ocean to survive, but I’ll write about that later.

Before heading off to dinner last night with Barbara and Janly, the women we met from Staunton, Virginia, we attended a lecture about the snakes of the West Indes, part of the Sea and Saba nature education series that takes place each October on Saba. After eating, we went back to Janly’s cottage that she and her partner are restoring, where Shawn thought it would be interesting to see what was behind a framed two-page spread from an 1862 edition of Harper’s Weekly that someone on Saba found and purchased for Janly. The flip side of the pages included letters to the editor, which Shawn and Janly both read aloud with their own dramatic interpretations.

It was great fun, and a nice way to spend a quiet Sunday night on The Rock.

Author: Sean

I am Sean, a writer/PR guy originally from the Rural South who grew up and settled down in Washington, D.C. My interests include local politics, Eastern philosophy, languages and reality television.

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