Although Wednesday had been a very long travel day, we all awoke Thursday morning, March 7, before the sun rose (about 6:30am). It was due less to the light beginning to filter into the eco-tent than to general excitement.
Phil is generally an early riser, so I suggested to him that the two of us go and check out the beach while the others were still waking up. He agreed, and we slipped into our bathing suits, grabbed our towels, and headed for the Concordia nature trail, which led (after about a 15-minute walk) into the National Park at Salt Pond Bay.
The path was somewhat rugged, descending quickly from the hill Concordia is on down into a valley where it skirts a freshwater pond. It then rises steeply again to the top of another hill, passing the ruins of the Concordia plantation’s buildings, before finally connecting with the path to Salt Pond Bay. The path winds through semi-arid and dry tropical forest, typical of the south side of St. John, which receives less rain than the north side.
We arrived at the beach just ahead of the rising sun. It was tranquil and deserted save for three sailboats who had moored there the night before.
We both remarked that it was spectacular to look at the surrounding hills and see no development since it was all park property. We would later learn that Salt Pond Bay was one of the earliest inhabited sites on St. John some 3,000 years ago.
After a quick swim surrounded by pools of tiny fish, we headed back up the hill, careful not to step on hermit crabs on the trail.
We arrived back at the eco-tent to find coffee percolating and the others exploring our tent and surroundings by daylight. Our tent, E 25, would be our home for the first four nights on St. John. It was at the far western end of the second level of Concordia. We shared a boardwalk with our neighboring tent to the main walkway, but we still felt secluded since there were no tents on the other side of ours, just one up the hill above us.
The tent’s lights were powered by solar panels extending from the front of the deck. There were no electrical outlets, but we were able to charge phones and camera batteries at the registration desk. Solar power also heated the shower water, which we had to pump (really just turn a knob) from a cistern to a tank above the shower. We had our own private shower and compost toilet.
In the video below, Sean walks us from the end of the boardwalk, near where we parked the Jeep, to our eco-tent and out onto its deck:
Video: Sean M. Santos
The eco-tent was made from a termite-resistant timber frame covered with heavy-duty canvas. Flaps could be unzipped to allow in fresh air through screens on almost all sides of the tent.
The main floor had a small living area with a futon (which Bethany slept on), a kitchen area with a small refrigerator, sink, and range, and a bedroom with two twin beds (which Phil and Adam took). A screen door led to a partially shaded deck with a table and chairs. Above the deck area was a loft with two more twin beds. Sean and I slept there.
We breakfasted on yogurt and cereal, and decided which adventures to have on day one.