Hilltopping

Over the weekend we set out on the Margaret Hill trail in a bid to scale the two tallest peaks in the western part of the island: Caneel Hill and Margaret Hill. Neither is particularly tall by the standards of, say, the Rockies or even the Appalachians. According to our excellent topographical map, available from the National Park Service for only $4.00, Caneel Hill is slightly less than 800 feet above sea level, and Margaret Hill is not quite 100 feet taller. But they certainly feel taller than that, as you scramble dead uphill from the trailhead on the northshore road, and they offer commanding views to the north and west.

To the north, pictured above, you see Whistling Cay to the left and, to the right and in the distance, you see the islands of the British Virgin Islands — or, to use the lingo of the locals, the BVI. Somewhere out there in the water the international boundary lurks, but the locals don’t seem to pay too much attention to it, especially if they are heading to the party beaches of Jost Van Dyke, which offers a kind of continuous spring break atmosphere.

From the lookout point rock atop Margaret Hill, show below, you get a bird’s eye view of the town of Cruz Bay and, off to the right, the island of St. Thomas, which is a part of the USVI. At night, the cruise ships, all lit up like floating Christmas trees steamy by St. John just to the left, south of the island, in a glittering single file parade. Who’d have thought there were so many cruise ships?

The path down Margaret Hill leads to the Caneel Bay resort, still closed in the wake of Hurricane Irma, which pulverized the island some 18 months ago. Watch your step, because the footing on the way down can be treacherous — but the chance to be a hilltopper is worth it.

Truising (Or Craining)

Being aboard the Rocky Mountaineer is a lot like being on a cruise ship.  There’s an overarching emphasis on pampering the travelers.  Each train car has legions of people waiting on you hand and foot and pointing out that osprey nest that is coming up around the corner, or the big horn sheep trotting by.

Oh, yeah — there’s also a lot of focus on food and drink.  

Every car has its own white tablecloth dining room and kitchen.  You get seated with other travelers in your car — so far, we’ve broken bread with a couple from Florida and a couple from Germany — and you order your main course off the menu while they bring you other treats, like the fruit concoction pictured above that we got at breakfast.  It was a kind of delicious combination of orange juice and fruit sections, topped with a plump, juicy, tart gooseberry.  Not a bad way to start your breakfast!

In addition to the two sit-down meals, you’re also plied with snacks and as many drinks as you can inhale, the better to appreciate the scenery rolling by.  It’s a pretty civilized way to travel.  Call it truising — or maybe craining.