Working on a Book.

Well it’s been a busy year so far and I can’t believe almost 6 weeks have passed since since my excessive New Year’s Celebration. So far this year, I have averaged about 3.5 miles per day and covered 144 miles as of February 10th. I plan to make sure that I walk a minimum of 100 miles each month which really isn’t very hard at 3.5 miles a day.

While researching the history of St. Croix in my spare time, I discovered two interesting facts which will end up as two separate books.

From the island of St. Croix, the  Caribs fought a 55 year war with the Spanish Conquistadors which delayed the settlement of  Puerto Rico. In the condensed version, they taught the corsairs and Buccaneers how to survive in the tropics, their tactics for raiding the Spanish with minimum loss of life and their principles of universal male democracy which never existed anywhere else in the world. These principles of Male suffrage were adapted by the Pirates and influenced the American System of government as the pirate contracts were prominently displayed in very popular books published during the Golden Age of Piracy and prior to the American Revolution.

My First book was relatively easy to research as the British and French Pirates worked side by side with the Caribs and other Amerindians to attack the Spanish. The first book is entitled:

Caribs:The First Caribbean Pirates


Founding Fathers of American Democracy

The second book is specific to the Pirates of St. Croix. Seems with all the Captain Morgan Money and the fact that the Distillery is on St. Croix, you would think the topic is well researched. St. Croix does make almost every top ten Pirate island list but local historians keep saying the Pirates worked from St. Thomas which is simply not true and St. Thomas never makes a top ten list by any global researchers.

Unfortunately pirates were a secretive bunch and so this topic is slightly tougher to research. If I don’t get caught up in other topics, I hope to have the book of St. Croix pirates done by 2014. Meanwhile when hiking in Judith’s hill, I discuss the St. Croix connection to Treasure Island, the youngest pirate (age 11), the connection  to Pirate Jean Lafitte, hero of the Battle of New Orleans, and many other St. Croix pirate stories. And yes, their probably was buried treasure on the island.

Posted in 2012 Season, Judith (Soldier) Hill, Judith's Hill, Salt River | 1 Comment

Beautiful and Deadly

In antiquity, poisons were valued for their utilitarian value in hunting fishing and even for preserving life. Just as many of our modern drugs will kill from an overdose, plants the we recognize as poisons were probably used, in greatly diluted form, to treat various diseases. What is amazing to me and many other people is that some of these deadly plants are extremely beautiful. They have achieved widespread global distribution based on their beauty with very few recognizing their deadly nature.
Adenium obesum

Desert Rose

Desert Rose makes the ASPCA Toxic Plant List of household plants that are dangerous to animals. Even though it is beautiful and popular, it is hard to establish it’s global distribution but is probably on five or six continents. Desert Rose is a popular houseplant and bonsai in America and other temperate regions and is originally from Africa. It is not on Eggers inventory of the plants of St. Croix prepared around 1900 under the Danish , so it was probably brought to St. Croix during the American Era as a decorative plant. The toxic sap of its roots and stems is used as arrow poison for hunting large game throughout much of Africa and as a fish poison for harvesting fish.
Nerium oleander


Oleander is also on the ASPCA Toxic Plant List and is extremely poisonous to the degree that eating honey from the flowers or being exposed to the burning brush can cause a toxic reaction. It is so deadly and available that oleander was used as the cause of death in an NCIS TV script. Even though oleander is poisonous, heavily diluted oleander preparations have been promoted to treat a variety of conditions including muscle cramps, asthma, menstrual pain, epilepsy, paralysis, and cancer. It is carried on the American Cancer Society web site as an item of research interest although it appears to be not very effective and yet deadly. It has also been used in folk remedies as an insecticide and to kill rats and while it is toxic to horses, dogs, adults and children, it has not been effective in killing rats or birds in the laboratory. Because of it’s beauty it is extremely widespread on all of the six inhabited continents and because it is so widespread, no precise region of origin has been identified for it. A city in Morocco is named after it and both the Greeks and Romans knew the plant. Oleander is the official flower of the city of Hiroshima, having been the first flower to bloom following the atomic bombing of the city in 1945.

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On Judith’s Hill, A Backyard Cure for Diabetes

The biodiversity of plants on St. Croix are a record of all of the various groups who have occupied the island. There are plants from the Mayan Peninsula of Central America, the Orinoco river of South America, the European Colonizers, the enslaved Africans and the Americans who are now in charge. All of our plants were brought here for a reason and it is fun to see where they came here from and why some groups of people would have gone to the trouble to do it.

When I refer to the plants of Judith’s Hill, I mean everything within a radius of one mile from the peak of the hill and my current focus is those plants mostly withing 1/2 mile of the hill top. Even in such a small area the topology goes from a drier barren hilltop of tuffaceous rock (compressed volcanic ash) to fertile plain which gets more rainfall. Both the hill and the plain are bordered by a shoreline. These diverse micro environments and soil types allow for a greater diversity of plants. Withing a mile of the top of the hill, there are also bays, lagoons and mangrove swamps. Some plants grow everywhere and others have a very small environmental niche.

Judiths Hill, half mile radius

The two plants below are from the fertile plains at the base of the hill but during rainy season they will move up the hill, particularly on the leeward side.

Skin ointment

Anyone living in the tropics will sooner or later get skin problems. We have skin cancer, fungus, bug bites allergic reactions. A few of these can be avoided but when mosquito season comes, it is impossible to avoid bites which get infected. After awhile, none of the issues hurt adults on a regular basis but for young children they will scratch until they damage their skin unless treated.

Cuscuta americana

Love Vine, Devils Guts, Strangle Vine or Dodder

Love vine, Devils Guts, Strangle vine or Dodder is a yellow vines on tree tops and shrubs. It was used locally as a powerful skin ointment which heals skin rashes, bug bites and itches. It grows on two Continents and is widely dispersed from Mexico and Florida to Argentina. From personal experience, this is one of the few herbal remedies that appears to be superior to the modern counterparts as it really dose stop itching and promote healing of oozing bug bites.


It is also unlikely that Paleolithic hunter-gatherers were affected by modern diseases of like diabetes and coronary heart disease, because they ate mostly lean meats and plants and frequently engaged in intense physical activity. As man discovered agriculture,in the Neolithic surpluses led to a need for more agricultural labor to increase wealth and power, soldiers and wars to gather that labor and enforce a class system, and a privileged class of nobles and artisans. This transition brought with it the rise of modern diseases. (Cancer predates the Neolithic). It would appear that as subsistence people moved to agriculture, they needed to develop drugs to fight that disease.

Momordica charantia

Bitter Melon, Lizard Food, Jumbie Pumpkin or Cerasee

Bitter Melon, Lizard Food, Jumbie Pumpkin or Cerasee is one of the miracle foods of Herbal Medicine. It is eaten as a side dish because it is know to prevent and treat Malaria but hidden in that meal is a strong treatment for diabetes.

It appears the vegetable attacks diabetes in several ways. Compounds in bitter melon have been found to activate the protein that regulates glucose uptake which is a process which is impaired in diabetics. Bitter melon also contains a lectin that has insulin-like activity This lectin lowers blood glucose concentrations similar to insulin’s effects in the brain, suppressing appetite.

In 2007, a study by the Philippine Department of Health determined a daily dose bitter melon is comparable to the antidiabetes drug glibenclamide taken twice per day. Tablets of bitter melon extract are sold in the Philippines as a food supplement and exported to many countries. In this case, the bitter pill is probably easier to take than to eat the food.

Widespread use of the food probably developed with the agricultural revolution when diabetes became a health issue. The food, also has antiviral, anticancer, antibacterial and anti-inflamatory properties. 

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Flowers for Sailors

When humans started sailing the seven seas 50,000 years ago, a raft was probably the only flotation they had at their disposal, yet they made it from Africa to Australia probably by island hopping. Still, the unique mode of transportation led to a need for some standard and some unique medicines. One of the more unique ones would be to cure seasickness. Not so obvious is that dysentery can be deadly if there is no ability to rehydrate with plenty of water. Finally, after sitting on a cramped raft, painkillers and substances to desensitize the the body to pain would be valuable.

Dysentery is an intestinal inflammation that can lead to severe diarrhea. Patients typically experience mild to severe abdominal pain or stomach cramps. In some cases, untreated dysentery can be life-threatening, especially if the infected person cannot replace lost fluids fast enough and there is not much fresh water on sea voyages. Amoebic dysentery is caused by a type of amoeba, and is more common in the tropics.

Ruellia tuberosa

Ruellia tuberosa

In Asian traditional medicine, Ruellia tuberosa is used to prevent stomach problems and also as a painkiller and fever reducer like aspirin. The plant can also be used to reduce sensitivity to painful stimulus like sun and salt spray and as an anti-inflammatory for any skin problems. Animal studies confirm in technical terms that the plant has analgesic, antipyretic, gastroprotective, antinociceptive, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has been used to counteract the effect of poisons.

This plaint is a native of North and South America but has been carried to Africa, Australia, and Indonesia.

Ixora coccinea

Ixora coccinea

In folkloric medicinal uses, Ixora has been used for treating dysenteric diarrhea and associated colic pains. A decoration of leaves for wounds and skin ulcers. Powdered roots moistened with a little water on a piece of lint is also applied to sores and chronic ulcers. This plant is one of the oldest it Asian Folk medicine and has been spread to five continents.

Research studies provide a strong backup for the wisdom of the Ancient people with regard to Ixora coccinea. Study of a root extract showed pronounced wound healing and antibacterial activity. It is proposed the external application of the extract prevented microbes from invading the wound. An aqueous extract showed moderate inhibition against all bacterial strains tested. Like Ruellia The extract was antiinflammatory and  antinociceptive. It was also fond to be a strong anti-ulcer compound like Tagamet. Results obtained in another study substantiate the antidiarrheal effect of the aqueous extract and its use by traditional practitioners in the treatment of diarrhea. The list of therapist benefits seems to go on as it protects against chemical contamination of the body, acts as an anti-asthmatic agent and protects the heart. This is truly the wonder drug of ancient man and it is everywhere in St. Croix.

Desmodium incanum

Desmodium incanum

This plant has been used as a diuretic and is good to settle the stomach including during seasickness. In Cuban folk medicine,it was considered an excellent hemostat, and was used in hospitals to heal wounds. It has been used as an analgesic and for fever reduction. Desmodium is a native of North and South America but now also grows in Africa, Australia and Indonesia.

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A Backyard Cure for Cancer

Catharanthus roseus – Periwinkle

Catharanthus roseus

Periwinkle grows on all six inhabited continents. It has been cultivated for herbal medicine and as an ornamental plant all around the world. In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) the extracts of its roots and shoots, though poisonous, are used against several diseases. In traditional Chinese medicine, extracts from it have been used against numerous diseases, including diabetes, malaria, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Humans have know about cancer for thousands of years, and excavation of ancient burials prove the presence of cancerous tumors on all continents in prehistoric times. Amerindians of North America had treatments for cancer hundreds of years before the arrival of Europeans who had no cure or effective treatments.  In 1955 the United States government established the Cancer Chemotherapy National Service Center, whose job it was to screen natural and synthetic substances for anticancer activity. Plants from around the world were tested, and hundreds of plants are now known to have some slowing  effect on cancer growth.

At the same time these tests were being conducted by the government, other researchers were drawn to Catharanthus roseus (periwinkle) as a cure for diabetics and more. Independent workers at Lilly injected a crude extract of the whole periwinkle plant into mice that were infected with P-1534 leukemia. Amazingly, 60-80% of the mice experienced prolonged life. Lilly produced VLB as the drug Velban and synthesized another alkaloid, vincristine (VCR), as the drug Oncovin.

The substances vinblastine and vincristine extracted from the plant are still used in the treatment of leukemia and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. This conflict between historical herbal use for treating the same disorders, and recent patents by Lilly on drugs derived from Periwinkle without compensation, has led to accusations of biopiracy.

Periwinkle – A beautiful Invasive Plant

The periwinkle in my yard showed up uninvited and comes and goes, mostly in the same area of my yard. I love it for it’s beauty and contibution to mankind. This post will be mostly duplicated in The Plants of Judith’s Hill. I will also copy the post on Datura and move it with the other plants.

Herbalists are now constantly warned about the use of periwinkle tea for any reason because it is potentially poisonous. Meanwhile Lilly continues selling their periwinkle medicines whose side effects potentially include death. However,  the medicines usually appear to provide miraculous cures in many situations, so people take the risk.

In  Voodoo, it is used as an incense and to promote love. It is banned by the state of Louisiana as a hallucinogenic although I found no other citations on this effect. Perhaps the Legislators of Louisiana believe love is a hallucinogenic experience which should be banned for everyone.

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The Hike at Judith’s Hill

Sunrise from Judith’s Hill

I started hiking on Judith’s Hill almost as soon as I purchased my house in 2000. The whole family would join me on these hikes and our prime purpose was recreational during family vacations. 

View to Salt River National Park

View to Salt River National Park

The principle attraction to this barren windswept hill was the spectacular views of the east end where you could see Buck Island Green Key, Sugarloaf Hill and the Goat Hills range (top). These hikes only occurred about once or twice a year and I really didn’t concern myself with the history or botany of the area. 

The path under the Canopy

A couple of years ago when I started walking for my health, I was committed to walking everyday and was bored to tears. I varied my hikes on a regular basis and started to walk Judith’s hill on a more regular basis. Eventually, to cure my boredom with walking, I started noticing the plants and tried to learn all about them.

Termite nest on a Tan Tan Tree

The more I discovered the value of these plants and their global biodiversity, the more I became interested in the people who carried them to my island home. It seems that St. Croix has always been an island of Cultural Conflict beginning with the development of the Tiano Culture. The Tianos who were adept at making pottery, carving stone, farming  and herbal medicine either drove out or assimilated the more primitive Amerindians who had originally settled the islands. A couple of hundred years before Columbus, the Caribs moved onto the island and began to displace the Tiano.

The Back Yard Plants

When Columbus arrived on St. Croix on November 14, 1493, he sent a crew to land at Salt River Bay where the second armed conflict between Amerindians and Europeans occurred. This is about one mile west of Judith’s Hill and within easy walking distance as an extension of the regularly scheduled hike.  There is a rich written legacy of the Carib Resistance to the Spanish occupation of St. Croix and Puerto Rico and the Spanish were never able to gain control of the island except for a brief period in 1650.

The side yard at Boyd’s Botanica

Prior to that year, the most frequent occupants of the Salt River area were the pirates who came there to careen their boats. The Spanish were displaced by the Knights of Malta for a brief period before the French abandoned the island and the pirates and smugglers returned. The Danish took over in 1744, but the last case of documented Piracy was around 1757 and of Colonial smuggling in 1780.

The biodiversity of plants on St. Croix are a record of all of the various groups who have occupied the island. There are plants from the Mayan Peninsula of Central  America, the Orinoco river of South America, the European Colonizers, the enslaved Africans and the Americans who are now in charge. All of our plants were brought here for a reason and it is fun to see where they came here from and why some group of people would have gone to the trouble to do it.

I have just started posting pictures and information on the Plants of Judith’s Hill but it will take quit awhile for me to post all the pictures and information I have gathered over the past 3 years. Meanwhile you can give me a call and take the hike.

I added five more plants to the Plants of Judit Hill so there are now a total of seven. I plan to add a few more plants each day but it will take awhile as their are probably a few hundred species on this hill and all of them had value to some group or another or they wouldn’t have made it thi far from their original home. You can follow the addition of the pictures alone on my Facebook Page where the newest ones will be at the front of the album instead of added to th end.


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Sugarloaf Hill, Goat Hills and St. Croix’s East End Park System.

Never to young to reach the Top

Never to young to reach the Top

The only thing rarer than meeting other hikers in this area of St. Croix is getting rain on a hike. This rugged area is generally avoided by most visitors and locals except for a quick ride up the hill to the Millennium Monument which has no real Cultural or Historical significance to locals. For the slightly more adventuresome, there is a parking area just to the west of the monument which is adjacent to the start of a well marked trail that leads to Issac’s Bay Beach. This is a pristine beach, remarkable for it’s clear water, sandy bottom and snorkeling and well worth the trip, still very few walk to that beach.

Some Regular Snowbirds do it Every Year!

I doubt that one in 100 locals has ever done the complete walk from the Deep Space Radio Telescope up to the top of Sugarloaf Hill, back down to the Goat Hills Saddle, then down the hill to explore Jack’s Bay, Horseshoe Bay, Issac’s Bay, across East Bay, and uphill to the monument before strolling down the paved road to the starting point. This area has some of the most pristine beauty of any Island in the Caribbean and you don’t have to take my word for it you can visit my Facebook album with pictures of the beauty.

Fun at the Top

This part of the island can even be explored when the island is overcast and rain is threatening elsewhere. The standard weather forecast for St. Croix is 30% chance of rain almost everyday. Now to the unknowing, that sounds like a grim forecast so I had to find out from a retired US Weatherman what that exactly means. His answer was that there will be a roughly one in three chance that somewhere near the weather station, there will be a hundredth of an inch of rain in the next 24 hours.

Cait Loves to Have Fun!

For those that don’t know one hundredth of an inch of rain is not enough to soak your t-shirt beyond normal sweat which occurs when walking. It is more like a refreshing gentle mist. Since the East End of St. Croix is the desert end of the island, the chances of getting rain at that level is much lower. On only one occasion in the past two years of walking in this area did I actually get wet and it came at the end of the hike near Point Udall and was actually quite refreshing.

Beaches are for Lovers!

Because of the beauty, peace, tranquility and lack or others walking and littering in this area, this is one of my favorite places to walk. Unfortunately, I don’t do it often enough. In order to help encourage visitors to take this tour, I am taking it off my schedule for 2013 and immediately making this an on demand hike which means that I will take you and your family any day of the week that you would like including Sunday because it is a in my mind a very spiritual area.

Start Early and Take Time for a Swim

The first part of the walk is along an abandoned road so it can even be [carefully] walked in time to catch the sunrise. Starting early is far preferable to starting late. The whole 6 mile hike takes four to five hours which means if you start at 10 am, you will not finish until after 2 pm. For those who may struggle but still want tho take the hike, it is possible to shorten it to four miles and cut the walking time to 3 to 4 hours. Of course stopping for a swim along the way will add to the time.

Fascinated by an Amerindian Medicinal Plant [aphrodisiac]

For those who don’t know, St. Croix has no dangerous wild animals or poisonous snakes of any kind. We have insects but there are fewer in the desert area then there are in the wetter areas of the island. The cost for the hike is $50.00 and there is a preferred two people minimum. However, if you are traveling alone or with a non-athletic spouse, give a call. I may be able to add you to another group or if I haven’t walked in the area in the past month, I just might want to go anyway.

Just Like Everyone Else, I Love Being at the Top

You can find more information about the east end of St. Croix Here

Posted in 2012 Season, Cotten Garden, Cramer's Park, Et. Stykke Land, Issacs Bay, Jacks Bay, St. Croix Plants, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Walking with Wonder & A Long Healthy Life Free of Alzheimer’s

Mystery Fruit

After my first three years of marriage (1969), I started gaining weight and my children pretty much loved me the way I was, which was somewhere around 235 pounds. At 5 foot 8 inches that gives a Body Mass Index of 35.7 which is more than half way between simply obese and life threatening morbid obesity. With a lifetime of over over eating I finally reached morbid obesity in 2004 and I developed sleep apnea which is where you stop breathing in your sleep. Since my Father had died from obesity induced sleep apnea, my wife got worried and convinced me to diet.

I dieted on and off for the next five years and managed to hover in the obese range between 220 pounds and 240 pounds. After one of life’s stressful crises, my weight started drifting up to 245 pounds. Then my daughter and niece intervened with tough love and suggested (demanded) a lifestyle change of less food and more structured exercise.

Less food turned out to be easier than I thought as I used all my mental energy to be creative and scale down meals to just enough for one hungry person and figured out how to cook gourmet meals in my coffeepot. Reducing my food consumption turned out to be a lot easier than developing an exercise program that I could adapt with the passion I had for potion controlled meals in my coffeepot.

In my other blog,, I document the past two years of steady progress as I dropped 101 pounds and I have now compiled that journey into a Kindle ebook entitled “An Introduction to Coffeepot Cooking: How I Lost 101 Pounds with Portion Controlled Meals.” The book is also available in other ebook formats but I highly recommend downloading the free Kindle Reader and getting the Kindle book from Amazon even though I make less money on that purchase.

When I started exercising, I was ashamed to be seen in public so I started at home with the gym equipment that I have purchased in support of other failed diets. Frankly I was bored by it and don’t have all of the proper equipment. After losing 15 pounds, I was starting to get encouragement from supportive friends and was no longer ashamed to join a gym.

The Gym was only slightly better because of all the equipment and the coach who gives you constant attention when you first join, but like most people I eventually began to get bored with the concept of doing the same thing over and over and I began to feel like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill for eternity. When my doctor discoverer a degenerated disc in my neck which needed to be replaced, he warned against all impact exercises including the treadmill at high speeds. We compromised that I could walk as much as I wanted so I quit the gym and started walking.

I always enjoyed walking and when I was a young engineer, I learned the concept of “Managing by Walking Around.” As I adapted this to my personality, I began to use all of my senses to watch, listen, feel and even smell problems as they started and before they became catastrophic. I made my walking around very social and listened carefully to workers and their concerns. It seemed that no one else had taken the time to ask for solutions and once I gave the workers credit, they were coming to me with improvements to process that I thought were running well. I even got raises and got bonuses for essentially waking around and talking to people even though I gave all the credit to the originator of the idea and was having fun doing my job.

When I started walking on the roads and paths of St. Croix, I wasn’t looking for problems and I wasn’t getting paid. My natural curiosity just kicked in and I started wondering about all the ruins, who built them and why were they abandoned and destroyed. I started looking at the abandoned vehicles and equipment and having the same questions. When brand new all of this was somebody’s dreams and aspirations. I searched the human history of each area I walked and talked to people to find out what they knew.

I also started looking at the flowers and fruits on all the vines, shrubs, plants and trees. St. Croix is an isolated island with thousands of plant species. The closest major land mass with rivers is about 700 miles away and we only have a few migratory bird species. It is highly improbable that more than a hundred plant species would have survived a journey of 700 miles at sea and there is less than a hundred seeds that are important as bird food that could have been brought here as undigested waste.

Pretty much there are thousands of plants on St. Croix that did not evolve here or come naturally by sea or air and most likely were brought here by the human inhabitants to fill some need. I recognized that developers had brought in Florida tropical flowers to beautify their projects and that farmers had brought in agricultural plants for animal feed and for cash crops. The is also an extensive local lore of medicinal and spiritual plants that the enslaved Africans brought along to bind them to their homeland.

St. Croix lacks a direct connection to the Caribs and Tiano as the island was abandoned by all Amerindian groups around 1600. However, in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the arrival of West Indians from Jamaica to Trinidad, the knowledge of the Carib and Tiano medicinal plants was reintroduced to St. Croix. When I asked Olassie Davis, from the University of the Virgin Islands, what percentage of our plants are biologically active and important to the people who had historically occupied the Islands, his simple answer was “all of them”. My research shows that for plants that are widely distributed around the globe, he is absolutely correct.

Dhatur, Angle Trumpet or Joy Juice

The plant shown at the top of the page just appeared to me for the first time on a walk this year and the first thing I noticed was the green of the leaves was much darker than the rest of the vegetation in the area. It was hard to miss the flower pods which were vertical and similar to what I knew to be Angle Trumpet. I lacked the time to research this further so took the easy way to knowledge.

I found a man picking it one morning and he said he liked it because it was beautiful and a deadly poison. I asked the name and he could only tell me in Hindi that it was Dhatur. That was more than enough to find out that this plant was a hallucinogen with spiritual and recreational uses in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia with no one quite sure where it originated. It’s use has been documented for hundreds of years but because of the dangerous side effects, it is illegal to own, grow or use it in many countries. It was used in Animal Transformation rituals in Africa, Central America and even Europe up until the 1600’s when they tried 50,000 people in Europe and burned them at the stake for being Werewolves.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to learn about that plant but it is fun to know. I share this type of knowledge with the visitors to St. Croix who use my hiking services on my scheduled hikes. I share our history of all that I have researched including our Amerindians, the Pirates who make St. Croix among the top most important Pirate Islands in History, the Europeans and Africans. I describe them all in terms of the ruins, archaeological sites and the plants the left behind. I also share this new information with my regular walking companions on the days I am not scheduled to walk with visitors.

So for me the elements of Walking With Wonder started with a good diet and walking as an exercise. This tied directly into using computer research to find new recipes, then calculating smaller portion controlled meals and cooking them in my coffeepot. Since I was already on the computer, it was only natural that I started learning answers to ever question that I was asked on my walks. The funny thing is every person I walked with had a different focus. Some only wanted to rear about geology, some wanted pirates, some wanted Amerindians, some wanted knowledge of the Plantation era and Slavery and some wanted to know about flowers. I wanted to know it all. The only area I never got interested in was birds except for some of our really spectacular ones.

The more I was asked, the more I researched and the more I shared with my friends. This evolved into Hike St. Croix with Poppa John so I now share my love of my island with friends, family and visitors and I keep learning more from every hike because there always seem to be new questions.

My initial lifestyle changes were focused on eating less, exercising more and losing weight which were all excellent goals because morbid obesity is associated with a substantially increased risk of chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In effect I have reduced the chances of a slow, lingering and painful death.

Along the way, I find that I am doing more social walking with others, so unlike the Gym, I am always interacting with people and have less chance of getting bored and look forward to my next hike with visitors. I also talk to the people I meet along the way. Some ignore you and some develop into friends but you can’t tell which is which until you say that first hello. When I walk alone, I walk slower and try to be a stronger observer of things I may have missed in the past. If I have a hike with out of shape people, I walk slowly, talk more and hope that everybody has a good time. Afterwards, I burn energy with yard work or another long walk.

I walk every day , and every week I walk a minimum of 16 miles and it is usually closer to 25 miles. Four times a year, I walk between 15 and 26 miles on a single day in addition to my regular walking. I also do heavy yard work and home repairs. I have regular heart checks and an annual physical. So my healthy lifestyle is leading to a longer life and a higher quality of life except for fear of Alzheimer’s. It is bad enough that I have ADHD and that forgetfulness increases with age as a symptom of that disease but I observed the deterioration in my Mother-in-law as she lived to be 103 and not remembering a day in the last twenty years of her life. There is a huge difference between a long life and a long desirable life.

A little research shows that the top lifestyle changes that you can make to minimize Alzheimer’s are;

1. Engage in Regular exercise
2. Eat a healthy diet
3. Engage in mentally stimulating activities
4. Maintain your proper weight
5. Have an active social life
6. Enjoy quality sleep
7. Attempt stress management

It would appear that my diet and “Walking with Wonder” insure that I comply with the first 5 items on the list. I sleep very soundly eight hours a day and have almost all my life. Part of it is the wine I drink every night and part of it is my high energy burn as long as I weigh less than 235 pounds.

As to stress management, I take my blood pressure medicine and a combination of factors seem to have reduced my worry and anxiety levels, probably not the least of which is the intense focus on research which prevents me from dwelling on problems. The end result is that I am taking one quarter of the level of blood pressure medicine that I did two years ago and I have much lower blood pressures. I would have to consider reduced stress as a side benefit of “Walking with Wonder” without a real direct connection.

Join me on your next trip to St. Croix or start “Walking with Wonder” in your own neighborhood.

Copyright 2012, John A. Boyd

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My portrait by David Berg in the National Park Service Art Show at Salt River

My portrait by David Berg in the National Park Service Art Show at Salt River

Poppa John at Salt River Bay

My family was out for a walk and we met and merged groups with David Berg and his cousin and had fun.  I guess he took the picture while I wasn’t paying attention.  It’s in the Visitor Center at Salt River where they are currently holding an art show.  If I go back, I’ll take some pictures of a couple of others that I liked a lot.

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Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge

What Actor? What Movie? What Beach?

Sandy Point is one of five pristine beaches I have walked in the past year and it is one of the most accessible ones. I am not sure why St. Croix is not famous for our beaches because I have rarely seen anyplace that can match us among the smaller islands. The two beaches which can only be reached by hiking are part of my Goat Hills Hike on the Nature Conservancy property. The three accessible beaches by car that are spectacular are Cramer’s Park in the East End, Ha’Penny Beach on the South Shore and Sandy Point which dominates the west end of St. Croix.

The entire west end of the St. Croix is now managed as the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge which was established in 1984 on 340 acres purchased from the West Indies Investment Company for the protection of nesting leatherback sea turtles. An additional 43 acres have been acquired since that time to protect the Aklis neo-Indian archaeological site and the endangered Vahl’s boxwood tree.

As described in the US National Wildlife Refuges Comprehensive Conservation Plan, September 2010: “This is what makes Sandy Point geologically unique…. It contains the longest beach in the Virgin Islands because the beach is essentially an enormous sandy peninsula that wraps around the West End Salt Pond (and the western end of St. Croix). No other site like it exists on the island and its geologic formation is unique in the [Caribbean] region….Maps dating back more than three centuries to 1667 show Sandy Point essentially the same as it is today.”

Because of the unique combination of environmental features including access to fertile farmlands, forests, and food from the sea and salt pond, Sandy Point was home to the prehistoric Aklis site with continuous occupation by neo-Indians at this location. Excavation at the site yielded a a mix of Virgin Islands ceramic styles dated to a calibrated age range of A.D. 600-900. The village combined cultivated foods resources and naturally occurring foods. Manioc (also known as cassava or yuca) is likely to have been cultivated and the prehistoric environment on St. Croix contained forests which would have furnished fruits, seeds, and wood for fuel and building supplies. The sea would have yielded fish, conch and mollusks. Fishing strategies probably included fish poisons like South American tribes use, woven fish nets and free diving.

The refuge was originally established to protect important nesting habitat for endangered leatherback turtles, as well as threatened green and hawksbill turtles. This protected nesting habitat has allowed these species to make a dramatic local recovery.

Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge now has the largest nesting population of leatherbacks in the United States and boasts that it is also the best studied. From a very humble starting point in 1982 of 20 nesting females a year coming to St. Croix and producing 2000 hatchlings, the numbers have now grown more than tenfold with some annual variation. This has been a direct result of conservation and protection from man and mother nature.

The two biggest threats had been poachers taking the eggs and selling them for a profit and the natural coming and going of the beach which caused destruction of nests laid in the wrong place. By eliminating poachers and relocating potentially threatened nests as soon as they were laid, the number of surviving hatchlings doubled almost immediately and 15 years later, the number of adult females returning to build nests increased dramatically.

In addition to the efforts with leatherback turtles, there have been similar successes with the less threatened Green and Hawksbill turtles. In addition, the Refuge is home to over 100 species of birds including some environmentally threatened species.

The Visitors Center

There are two ways into the Sandy Point National Refuge and the more traditional one is to start at the Visitors Center beyond the end of the Route 66.

The New Road

You then enter along a road that goes to the point and driving in is permitted and a parking area is provided at the end of the road.

Looking North Across the Saltpond

Along the road you will see the salt pond which is rich in marine life and the birds who are fishing for dinner.

Entering from Frederiksted Pool

Since beaches cannot be blocked, the other way in is to park at the end of the Fredeiksted Pool parking lot and walk along the beach.

Sandy Point Beach

Traditionally the beach at the end of the Northern part of this coastline and adjacent to the parking lot has been the party area and called Sandy Point Beach by many locals.

The Real Sandy Point

Actually, the true point is further west and to the south of the beach on the northern shore.

As to the introductory picture, The actor is Morgan Freeman in the Shawshank Redemption and it was filmed at the place locals call Sandy Point Beach. It was just part of the story that it was Baja California, but in reality, it was filmed in St. Croix. Truly a place worth visiting.

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