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St John Trails: Ram Head

St. John USVI Trails: Ram Head Trail

Excerpted from St. John Off The Beaten Track © 2006 Gerald Singer
ram head trail
Ram Head Trail Map

The Ram Head (or Ram's Head) Trail can be particularly sunny and hot, so bring water and sun protection. For this reason, the best time to take this hike is early in the morning when it is still cool, possibly at sunrise.

Visiting Ram Head at sunrise, sunset and full moon can be an impressive experience. Those choosing to undertake this adventure, however, should exercise extreme caution. The steep, narrow and slippery path, which can be tricky enough during the day, is even more perilous during periods of low light. Bring a flashlight and walk slowly and carefully.

The trail to Ram Head Point begins at the eastern end the beach at Salt Pond Bay. Begin by walking along the small rocks and coral rubble along the eastern shore of the bay. Here the West Indian top shell, locally called whelks, can be found adhered to the rocks near the water line. They are an island delicacy and are often prepared during carnival time.

After about 100 yards, a defined trail begins and leads up over a hill. The trail ascends to an elevation of about 100 feet and then descends to sea level. There are great views along the whole length of the Ram Head Trail, however a particularly fine vantage point can be found at the top of this hill.

st john trails: lignum vitae
Lignum Vitae

Lignum Vitae
There are four mature Lignum vitae trees growing right alongside the trail near the top of the first hill. At one time, much of the Ram Head peninsula was covered with Lignum vitaes, but most were cut down by pre-colonial woodcutters. This is one of the few places on the island where you will still find mature Lignum vitae trees in their natural state.

Lignum vitae is the heaviest and densest wood in the world and will rapidly sink to the bottom when placed in water. It resists rot caused by insects and moisture so effectively that remains of Lignum vitae wood used as posts for dwellings by Taino Indians discovered in Tutu, St. Thomas were shown by carbon dating to be more than 800 years old.

When someone's problems were especially severe or when someone was carrying an extremely heavy emotional burden, their troubles were said to be "heavier than a lingy vitae cross.”

st john trails: blue cobblestone beach
Blue Cobblestone Beach

Blue Cobblestone Beach
The path descends to a blue cobblestone beach. This beach may be a destination in itself providing uncrowded swimming conditions and access to excellent snorkeling just north of the beach. Blue Cobblestone Beach is a favorite snorkel.

On to Ram Head Point
The trail to Ram Head continues at the south end of the beach. Walk along the coast until you see the path, which should be marked by a National Park information sign.

This section of trail gains elevation through a series of switchbacks and proceeds up the hill to the saddle area of the peninsula. The predominant plant species here are the barrel or Turk's head cactus, which produces an edible fruit and attractive black caper trees, identified by their dark bark and narrow leaves.

You will often see wild goats grazing along the rocky hillside. These goats have degraded the environment by eating much of the vegetation, resulting in the erosion of the topsoil in times of rain.

ram head trail st. john virgin islands
Ram Head Saddle

At the top of this hill you come to the saddle or low point between two hills. A fault line cuts across the narrow peninsula here. The views are dramatic. You can look down the cliffs on the eastern side and see waves crashing onto the small cobblestone beach between the cliffs. The view to the west is tranquil and serene, in stark contrast to the windy and rugged eastern exposure.

The trail continues up the next cactus-covered hillside via a series of switchbacks leading to the top of Ram Head Point.

Geology
Geologically, the rock that makes up this headland is the oldest rock found on St. John. Evidence supporting this theory was gained when geologists, using diamond tipped drills, bored into the rock at Ram Head. They drilled down more than a half mile before breaking through the last of the rock. The new substance brought up by the drill was examined and shown to be the same material that makes up the ocean floor, indicating that no other rock was there before it.

History of Ram Head
It has been speculated that this remote and inhospitable region provided a hideout for runaway slaves, called maroons, who lived here just before the slave rebellion in 1733.

This was a time of severe drought on St. John. Food could not be easily grown and was in scarce supply. The biggest problem the maroons faced was finding fresh water. The underground springs had dried up along with the freshwater pools of the major guts. On Ram Head, however, the maroons could provide themselves with food and water. Water could be found stored in the cactus that proliferated on the peninsula and the sea around the point provided excellent fishing. Whelks could be picked along the rocky portions of the coast, and conch could be harvested on the grassy seabed of Salt Pond Bay.

For these reasons, Ram Head is thought to have been a stronghold for the Akwamu tribesman who rebelled against slavery in 1733. When the tides of battle turned against the rebels, a group of warriors committed suicide here rather than face capture.

Sunset at Ram Head Point