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“R” Vacation (Part I)

Posted by on January 21, 2010

View of Cinnamon Bay from the top of Cinnamon Bay Trail.

Last week we took a vacation.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  We live in a travel trailer and travel the country…aren’t we already on vacation? Technically, I guess I am.  But, not Chris.  And, with a baby on the way, we both wanted to spend a week on a vacation…together…before our lives as we know them are turned upside down.  Further, I wanted a week that didn’t involve Chris having a phone permanently attached to his ear for ten hours a day.  Our ideal vacation involved airplane travel, beaches, sunshine, snorkeling, and a new and unfamiliar region.  After looking at the calendar in December, it appeared that last week was the only week Chris could be completely offline as his work schedule is tight for the next several months.  For our destination, we chose the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. And, since Chris wanted to be completely offline and close to nature, we camped on the beach at Cinnamon Bay.

The majority of the island of St. John is a national park and the snorkeling and beaches are said to be spectacular.  Cinnamon Bay has sites where you can bring your own tent and supplies.  Unfortunately (or, in my opinion, fortunately), these sites were all full.  Instead, we booked 6 nights in one of the campground-supplied canvas tents, which comes with cooking supplies, a lantern, a cooler, a food storage bin, cots, and linens.  It all came together quickly and it sounded perfect.
Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly the perfect vacation we planned for but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a great time.  A description of our vacation can be broken down into a series of Rs:

Our humble abode for the week. Notice it is lucky #13.

REST:  I’m not an expensive resort girl. I don’t need the all-inclusive, fancy dining, no-reason-to-leave-the-resort-grounds, vacation.  But, am I a camping girl? I live in campgrounds but in the comfort of my Airstream.  Sure, I can shower with bugs now, but can I do a full week in a tent? Can I endure a week of cold showers? This was going to be a new adventure for me.  The first few nights were not restful…at all.  Unidentifiable critters were running over the tent or scurrying around the bottom of the tent.  The tree frogs were really loud. (I lived in Boston and slept soundly with loud city streets. But, sirens, traffic and drunk people have nothing on tree frogs.)  The humidity was brutal. And, well…my cot was not the most comfortable.  So, the first two nights were challenging.  I laid there with my eyes wide open, envisioning the unidentifiable critters attacking me in my sleep.

On our second night, after the critter noises grew closer and sounded like they were inside our tent,  we devised a system involving an extra cot mattress and shoes to block the holes in the tents in an effort the keep critters out (more about that later).
By the third night, we were exhausted and we couldn’t figure out where everyone was in the campground.  The rows of tents near ours appeared dark by 7:30pm.  Were the occupants sleeping?  Was that the secret–to go to bed before the critters all come out at night so by the time they come out you are in a deep sleep?  We decided to test that theory.  So, that night, we followed what we thought our neighbors were doing.  We went to sleep at 8pm.  And, sadly, we were awake by 3am…when it was still dark and still creepy.

Entrance to the campground office and pavilion. Highly recommend hanging out here at nights.

On the fourth night, we decided to stop hanging out at our tent at night and head up to the pavilion to play cards.  I was quickly growing tired of bugs and the lantern only attracted more of them.  Upon arrival at the campground pavilion, it was then that we learned that all of the intelligent campers (a group to which, until that night, we did not belong) were there every night, playing cards and socializing.  The bugs were nonexistent there.  Campers stayed in this comfortable environment until around 11pm.  So, we did the same.  That night and for the rest of the nights, I slept soundly…never worrying about the critters or even noticing my somewhat uncomfortable cot.  Perhaps I grew accustomed to the noises and finally found the tree frogs comforting instead of irritatingly loud.  Or, maybe the critters decided to leave me alone.

RELAXATION:  We were completely removed from all things electronic (i.e. computers, phones, televisions, etc.).  We spent a week playing cards, reading, eating, and playing in the ocean…when possible.  It was wonderful.

Sitting at our tent on a rainy day. clothes hanging in the background never did dry...

RAIN:  Our first two days were amazingly beautiful.  On Tuesday, we spent the day on the beach and playing in the massive waves.  On Wednesday, we hiked one of the nearby trails, caught a bus to town, bought our groceries, made our way back to the campground, and mapped out our week as to where we wanted to snorkel and hike.

On Thursday, we woke up to rain.  Lots of rain.  There were moments where it stopped and a glimpse of blue sky was seen.  We immediately rushed out to the beach along with every other camper to have a few moments in the water or on the beach.
My birthday was on Friday.  I was sure the rain would stop so I could enjoy a day on the beach.  Not so.  It rained all day.  There was never even a break.  It was still an excellent birthday that involved delicious food.  And, I do love food!

The beach at Cinnamon Bay

On Saturday, we had our longest break from the rain and were hopeful that the rain had finally stopped.  We ventured into Coral Bay to check out the village and the other side of the island that we had been curious to see all week.  I found a local paper in town that said Sunday’s forecast was only 20% chance of rain.  We celebrated by buying some fruit at the local market and began planning our last full day of the vacation.  It involved a long hike to Waterlemon Cay and snorkeling at what was said to the be the best snorkeling spot on the island. We were hopeful and excited.

On Sunday, it rained.  All day.  Out of desperation, we swam in the ocean while the rain poured down.  The regulars at the campgrounds (those that come every January year after year) informed us that they had NEVER seen this much rain in January.  Figures.
On Monday, our departure day, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  The sun was shining brightly.  Campers were excitedly making their way to the beach as we packed up.  Not wanting to miss the fun, we did go and spent 45 minutes in the water.  It was heavenly.
This isn’t all the Rs.  Nope…there is still more to come! Check back tomorrow for the rest of our adventure that involves our quality time with nature.

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