Let the hiking begin. Last fall we decided that it would be fun to see as many national parks as we can. The Virgin Islands, being the furthest away, seemed, at the time, very unlikely to be checked off of our list, so in the morning we eagerly headed to the national park headquarters, got our passport book stamped, and picked up a map and junior ranger programs. After grabbing a quick bite for lunch, we followed the trail out of Cruz Bay, enjoying the lusher, more tropical, less deserty vegetation of St. John's Island, to the tops of Margaret and Caneel Hills for gorgeous views across the islands all the way to Puerto Rico. We then worked our way downhill on a trail that took us through the Caneel Bay Resort and its beautifully manicured grounds dotted with old ruins of sugar mills blooming with flowers both inside and out. We knew Pika was not welcome here so we had stuffed her into my pack. The resort authorities immediately noticed her and came to make sure that the crusty, chihuahua-toting family was just passing through. We informed them that, indeed, we were heading to the trail that would take us to Honeymoon Beach. When we reached the beach, the boys all hopped into the water to swim and wash off the loads of sweat that we had accumulated on our hike. With illegal chihuahua in arm, I waded in the warm water and suffered from an inability to control my photo-taking-trigger finger, shooting way too many photos of all of my smiling, wet boys playing in beautiful, clear water. Satisfied with our play time at the beach, we drippily headed back to the trail that would take us back to Cruz Bay. The trail wound up the west side of Caneel Hill and was noticeably drier, with crazy cactus vines carpeting the ground as well anything else they could climb up along the edge of the trail. As we walked back into Cruz Bay we were almost dry and in need of a cool treat. After sampling smoothies from a couple of different smoothie shacks, the boys finished their junior ranger books and it was a mad dash to turn them in before closing time. Out of breath upon arrival, we caught the last ranger just as she was locking up and she kindly agreed to let us in so the boys could get their badges. Whew! After a long day of hike and play we settled down for dinner at a down-home, outdoor BBQ shack, where we all, especially chihuahua, who was noticeably heavier when we left, consumed too much protein and fat. On the way back to the hotel, we bought cold treats to enjoy on the lawn as we watched the sun set and, in disbelief, talked over our new, crazy, unbelievable adventures. We heart freedom.
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