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Archive for the ‘Hikes’ Category

You’ll love Cayman Brac — if you love these things

“Walking hiking swimming talking planning working running snork’lin’

playing praying dreaming evermore”

 

Deep sleeps with happy dreams are slept on peaceful beds

And fed by active days with mystery and adventure in ‘em

Good food and drink, pasta, island beer

All to be had on Cayman Brac with a little knowledge

And a map, and a small plan of what to do, but not much of a plan, ’cause

The best thing in the world is idly picking up stones on a beach

Kids are better at it but the rest can do our best

Or turtle patrol in the morning (volunteer!) or count booby birds

Or explore to find a mythic hanging valley

 

Herewith, some tips. Alphabetical order makes little sense, but may help you find what you want

AEROBICS Aerobics is free, it’s outdoors, it’s tops, it’s an hour long, thrice weekly. One of the great rewards of living here.Mon-Wed-Fri from 6 to 7. Ask at Billy’s Store.

BEACH WALK Go anywhere. The beach belongs to all.

BICYCLE Sorry. Don’t do it. Our roads are not bike friendly. Your blogger does it every day but that’s different.

Brac parrot

BIRD WATCH AND BOTANIZE Your blogger’s favorite activities, along with the exploration involved. Birds of the Cayman Islands is all the reference you’ll need. (Treasure Chest shop should have it.)

BREATH THE AIR
If the breeze is off the sea and you’re standing on the beach, it’s pretty clean stuff, like aboriginal air. From one direction the theoretical “fetch” over open sea is almost 20,000 miles, from the southern hemisphere to the northern.

BUSHWHACKING Not many people in the world can step into untouched bush. Try doing 100 yards in a straight line, some day in a bluff forest. Better trail a string behind you. And be careful for Pete’s sake.

DIVE The very best thing. Look for hotel packages, or rent a house and car, buddy up and do your own.

DINE OUT An excellent place for local fish is Star Island Restaurant. There are many other good restaurants, including Asian Taste — healthy and appetizing. Bring a book because they actually prepare the food. Yes, You can ask for chopsticks and tea.

DRIVE AROUND As little as possible — it’s not very safe.  Perhaps rent a car for one day but please practice everything you ever learned about defensive driving. The safest times are Saturday and Sunday mornings, because nobody is on the road until about 11.

FLY TO LITTLE CAYMAN. Like the guy who said his birthplace was the best place to come from, this author says the best thing you can do when you visit Cayman Brac is to spend some time on Little Cayman. It is gorgeous, even with streetlights. (Sorry about the streetlights.) Little Cayman is the antithesis of a theme park. It’s a real place, where a winter visitor can see the sun rise over the sea, and set over the sea, from the same log or rough chair on the beach.

GO TO CHURCH Churches are all over the place.  All start at 11, perhaps to keep the adherents from shopping around.

HIKE Brac traditional trails were once the only “ways” from north side settlements to south side strand, and they remain the best way to appreciate our karst limestone formation. They are rough. Try them. Perhaps the fairest of them all is Old Lighthouse Trail beginning at Peter’s Cave. Two others that are stunning are Bight Road (meaning footpath – cars came much later) and Saltwater Pond Trail. For other hikes and for CAVES, stick with the excellent folding map and combined nature guide available at the tourism office in West End Park. VISIT THAT OFFICE, for more maps. Ask there for a hidden treasure not on the map – the “Turtle Craw” (corral). It’s a 15 minute walk from where you’re standing, through the woods to a mysterious pond.West End Park includes an EXERCISE PATH (20 stations) with a key to the native trees.

HIKES Some are not on the tourist map for the reason that they’re traditional but not maintained, except by volunteers. “The Mountain” for example only needs an hour and a bit, and is well worthwhile. Haymon’s Pond is the same, and you’ll try to figure out how the so-called pond got there. Yet a third attraction on top of the bluff plateau is The Splits. Ask a member of the National Trust (a preservation group with no paid staff) for directions. Here’s another tip — the lovely cave at the end of Charlotte’s Road. That automobile roaddead-ends (for cars) at the base of the cliff, on the north side of the island, near the dock. But that’s where the walking begins. Find Charlotte’s Road on north side near the dock, and commence your walk up the cliff trail. Crawl in the oval opening near the bottom, and use your flashlight to view this charming cave. When you come out the same oval opening, continue walking up the path to the top, and look back to the sea. Lovely. Too bad the rest is blacktop.  Now (or another day)go back and drive across the island to the south end of the same old trail. It is harder to find, but even more exotic. Ask an old-timer how to find it – it’s on the south side road towards the east. Park somewhere safe, push through the bush and climb to the top of thecliff. (Dangerous for kids and some city people.)There’s a great view south. Now climb back down, fetch your packed lunch, cross the road and follow the traditional path to the sea. That was the whole purpose of the old path — to get to the beach on south side from your home on north side, for fishing and collecting valuable items of flotsam and jetsam. Find a rock to sit on and enjoy your sandwich in a place not much frequented by people these days.

IGUANAS, PARROTS … There are about 100  “Sister Islands Rock Iguanas” here, in the wild, and four times that number of Brac Parrots. You can find identification books for trees, plants, butterflies, reef fish … the natural system has been studied and now we’re trying to protect it. Seashells are not very common, and sharks in the water are sadly scarce. The “caiman” has been extirpated.  But we’re trying to hang on to all the species that remainand the habitat we all depend on. Turtles lay their eggs on our beaches in summer and you can help watch for them and protect them.

IRONSHORE BOCK Cayman Islands Brewery produces four or five beers. All are excellent. If you like your beer on tap, your chances may be better on Little Cayman.

RUN Both running and walking are becoming more common lately, and drivers are generally quite sensitive to their needs. Cross-country running would be spectacular — a combination of trails, beach runs (both rocky and sandy) and a few sections of hardtop — but no event isscheduled at the time of writing. (See articles on this and other topics in the present blog. To review it quickly, simply go to the bottom and click on the successive pages, right through the blog. There’s no real index.)

SNORKEL Using Stake Bayas an example you can launch yourself into the water at an old “barcadere” carved out of the rocks by our forebears. There’s a big “stick” (pole) leaning over from the iron shore, a remnant of the davits once used to winch catboats and cargo out of the water. There were two sticks, both made of Bastard mahogany, and at one time there was a stationary engine with a big flywheel. Snorkel east and the easy current will take you back. Snorkel west for new scenery, and snorkel out but not far — the reef drop-off is only a hundred yards from shore in most places and you can’t see bottom out there.

SLEEP There’s only one bed and breakfast – check to ensure it’s open. It’s in a great location — Stake Bay –central to everything. Or rent a house in Stake Bay and save money by not renting a car. On foot you canattain thewater’s edge,then snorkel or dive from shore. You can walk to a food store, also to the public library, the museum and a first-rate gift shop (good prices). You can walk through a “buttonwood swamp” (more fun than you’d think — you might find a Washwood tree). Or hike up the awkward but safe steps to the top of the cliff. Once you’ve reached the top you can keep walking south and go down the cliff on the other side, and right out to water’s edge — you’ve just done a hundred year old walking trail. Try to ignore the fact that it’s now a vehicular road except for the cliff faces, with no provision for walking or bicycling. The south end of the traditional trail has been altered a little, but persevere and walk to the seaside, a jumble of coral rocks thrown up in storms.

STAR GAZE The sky is lovely. You can see the Southern Cross. Our night sky suffers from more light pollution every year but most denizens of cities abroad will still be impressed. If you stay on the south, walk away from a light pole and look to sea. Views in other directions have been compromised, particularly to the east and west. But you can find a few areas with no streetlights and look south.

TAKE A TOUR You may be able to get one free. Dial 948 2222 and ask for Eco-Tourism. Try it!

TREE IDENTIFICATION There are two marked trails, with laminated guides to the great diversity of native species. (There’s a Sister Island endemic tree, by the way — Banaracaymanensis– and other endemics. For trees, Wild Trees of the Cayman Islands is flawless –try Treasure Chest, the small shopin West End.

YOGA, MEDITATION, MASSAGE, HOLISTIC MEDICINE. There are a several fine practitioners. Seek and ye shall find.

There’s more, and all on a ten mile island. Everything needed for a good life. Come, and enjoy.

 

BRAC-BREAKER: PROPOSED ULTRA-MARATHON ROUTE ON CAYMAN BRAC IN THE CAYMAN ISLANDS

Start/Finish at bottom left of map. Instruction #1 is to run the “airport beach loop” in counter-clockwise fashion, using the West End Crossover Road and back along the airport beach (no trespassing on the airstrip) to run through the start line again and on to the following instructions. (see below). First ultra-marathon for the Brac.

Course distance approx. 30 mi. Note: Untested course; no promises or warranty of any kind — you’re on your own. jwp 20140406

1. START/FINISH AND AIRPORT LOOP

  • Brac Reef Beach Resort, run east; Turn Left at cross-over road (Alexander Hotel) to north side
  • Turn Left at the T intersection (CNB bank), follow the paved road virtually to the west end, but a sandy path takes you to the beach which you will follow all the way past the air strip. Rejoin pavement and run through Start again
  • 2. SOUTH SIDE FLATS AND HALF-WAY BACK

    • Run along the south side road to the very end, and turn around there (Great Cave); run back to the mid-island cross-over road (Ashton Reid Drive)

    3. UP AND OVER TO NORTH SIDE, THEN TURN EAST TO END

    • Turn right up the hill and cross the island, then down the hill on the north side.
    • Turn right (east) onto the main road on north side. Follow it to the end including the path to the sea. Loop back several hundred yards to Peter’s Road. At Peter’s Road Turn Left (south).

    4. ALONG PETER’S ROAD, UP THE BLUFF AND RUN ALONG “OLD LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL”

    • Follow Peter’s Road up the high cliff and just after the high parking lot Turn Left onto a marked, grassy footpath.
    • Follow Old Lighthouse Trail (grass and rocks) to the lighthouse. (It’s really a light beacon)

    5. LIGHTHOUSE TO “BIGHT ROAD” (Parrot Reserve)

    • Run west along the spine of the island, (Major Donald Drive) several miles to attain the Bight Road which is a traditional footpath.
    • Turn Left (south) onto the Bight Road into the Parrot Reserve, and Left Again almost immediately onto the Nature Trail which is a grassy, rocky loop. When the loop comes to a T, please Turn Right again, and run north along the Bight Road.

    6. BIGHT ROAD TO THE NORTH SIDE OF THE ISLAND

    • Run north along the grassy and rocky Bight Road (a traditional trail) across the paved road, along the boardwalk and beyond. ….
    • Then down the wooden steps that carry you to the north side main road. Turn Left (west) along the pavement.

    7. WEST ALONG THE MAIN ROAD TO THE MID-ISLAND CROSS-OVER ROAD

    • Run west to the mid-island cross-over road (Ashton Reid Drive). Turn Left (south) up the hill and run to Songbird Drive. Turn right (west) on Songbird Drive.

    8. RUN WEST ALONG SONGBIRD TO HEMMINGTON ROAD

    • Proceed west on Songbird. When you reach a path called Hemmington Road (a rocky, traditional trail) Turn Right (north).
    • Follow Hemmington Road to the wooden steps which carry you down to the main north road; then Turn Left (west).

    9.THROUGH STAKE BAY, TO AND THROUGH ALTA VISTA

    • Run west to Stake Bay. At the Museum Turn Right (Kirkconnell St.) to the sea. Turn Left at the sea and follow Ryan Drive ‘til this road rejoins the main road. Turn Right and continue west. After the S- turn begin to look for Heights Rd. and Turn Left on it; run up the hill (gravel) and Turn Right onto the pavement. Run straight west on the high ground, past a right turn (don’t take it) and take the first Turn Left (south).
    • Come to a T intersection and Turn Left. Follow the corner, climb the rise and Turn Right onto a gravel and rock road. Run west along this high ridge, past a hexagonal house and continue until forced to Turn Right
    • Run downhill until you come to a T intersection. Turn Left at the T (now running west).
    • Pass the first street but Turn Right at the second (now running north).
    • Follow around the empty roundabout and down the hill to the main road. Turn Left . You are now on the main road, north side, running west.

    10. SALTWATER POND TRAIL

    • At the Rubis Station Turn Left up the wooden steps, and follow Saltwater Pond Trail all the way south. It’s very rough but you will come to a boardwalk further on, then a smooth section, then a few steps down to pavement. Follow the paved street to the south side main road.
    • At the T intersection Turn Right (west) onto the main road on the south side of the island.

    11.RUN HOME

    • Run west without deviating, right back to the finish line, which was your starting line quite some time ago. Run a little further to clear the area.

    The Bight Road

    Pavers laid by our forebears on The Bight Road, north section. The term road in English conveys a right-of-way, but unfortunately most of our traditional paths have been changed to vehicular roads, at the very time that walkers/runners might prefer to use them in the old manner.

    Two of the traditional trails remain intact. They served to lead inhabitants up onto their agricultural grounds on top of the bluff plateau, and across and down to the former coconut groves and rocky beaches. Often called “Windward” the south side shore also provided valuable items that floated in from other islands, like bamboo, glass bottles and any useful items that might have been tossed from ships.

    Oops, needs work. This is the south-central part of Saltwater Pond Trail, aka Rebecca’s Cave Trail. This type of karst tends to erode “rough” but can be smoothed by knocking the sharp points into the hollows.

    Viewpoint from Old Lighthouse Trail. In the distance, Long Beach frames a few of the houses of the settlement of Spot Bay

WALKING TRAILS ON CAYMAN BRAC

Traditional trails and other trails up and down the island including the only two remaining cross-island trails

See also Some nature hikes and special places on Cayman Brac in this blog

We have over 15 hikes on Cayman Brac, large and small, plus delightful walks along the beach. The beach and ironshore hikes have been omitted from this article, but two are spectacular: Long Beach past the end of the road at Spot Bay; and First Cay at the east end of the road on south side. For that matter the whole island can be walked along the beach (it’s been done) except for the eastern nose of the island. There, the cliff drops straight into the sea. In addition, if you’re willing to share space with cars, the whole island can be walked tip to tip along the roads (four hours).

Our hiking trails are our special feature. The other two islands have only a few traditional trails. Here, there were at least seven running right across the island, north (where the people lived) to south (past the traditional “grounds” to the windward side). Now only two remain –and we can save them. Remnants of the others are with us too. All of the trails honor those who built and maintained these lifelines, and they keep us in touch with our social and natural history.

The paths that have been lost have suffered the indignity of being converted from pedestrian to vehicular use. There’s not even a sidewalk! But there is the potential for the glory days to return. THE JOYS AND BENEFITS OF FOOT TRAVEL ARE BEING REDISCOVERED EVERYWHERE, FOR HEALTH, HISTORY, APPRECIATION OF NATURE AND A MORE CONTEMPLATIVE AND RESPECTFUL WAY OF LIFE.

Which trail is the most beautiful?
Which trail is most historic?
What is your favorite trail?
What is mine?

The names of our inland trails and walks are listed here. All were in walkable condition in early 2014, but all need work. Carry loppers!

Old Lighthouse Trail, since 1937. Easternmost portion of Cayman Brac, important Brown Booby nesting area and site of a proposed protective national park.

Old Lighthouse Trail, since 1937. Easternmost portion of Cayman Brac, important Brown Booby nesting area and site of a proposed protective national park.

Big Channel Bluff Road, north approach

Big Channel Bluff Road, north approach

Hiking trails on Cayman Brac

(most of the traditional trails and other hikes, listed from west to east)

West End turtle crawl aka Rabe’s trail
West End Community Park an exercise path through the woods
Saltwater Pond Trail one of only two remaining coast-to coast trails
Hayman’s Pond to a geological phenomenon
Mass Grave not a hike but our most important historic site
The Splits to a geological phenomenon
The Mountain to a geological phenomenon
Stake Bay Bluff Road lost to cars except for the cliff approaches
Deadman’s Bluff Road shortened version; mostly given over to vehicles
Hemmington Road from Skull Cave on the north, it goes half-way across
Bight Road our iconic coast-to-coast traditional trail
Parrot Reserve Loop a short trail on one side of The Bight Road south
Ann Tatum Road sorry, cars only; name should come off this list perhaps
Charlotte’s Road cars but for the cliff approaches, with a cave in each
Big Channel Bluff cars except for spectacular northern approach
Lighthouse Trail site of a future wilderness park, or just more houses?
The Bight “Road” (footpath) overlook, south cliff edge. Parrot Reserve (protected land) on both sides. Formerly, the path and railing went down the cliff and the track went straight to the beach.

The Bight “Road” (footpath) overlook, south cliff edge. Parrot Reserve (protected land) on both sides. Formerly, the path and railing went down the cliff and the track went straight to the beach.

Besides preserving the two remaining north-to-south trails and the other trails, there are challenges. We have lost beach access on Cayman Brac. On Grand Cayman, public access paths have been designated and they will always allow Caymanians and visitors to get to the beach. On Cayman Brac this work has been promised but never done. In former days, people could follow the traditional trails right to water’s edge. The Bight Road is an example. Only 30 years ago, facing south, one could walk down with the assistance of a railing, then follow the path to the sea. All of that has been lost. Is there any place today where you can you gaze out to sea from the top of a cliff, then carry your picnic lunch down the cliffside path to the water’s edge and picnic under the sea grapes? You can do it at Charlotte’s Road (south) but the beach property could be sold tomorrow and an imposing wall built to block both view and passage. Lost, for a mess of pottage. Not long ago, volunteers walked and noted all the traditional beach access paths. If government would cooperate with a commission or a committee, they could be saved for all time. If not, we slip further towards “private property, no trespassing”. The beach belongs to us all by law, but what if we can’t get to it?

A fallen cay makes a cave beside what’s left of Big Channel Bluff  Road. Bats and an occasional owl hang out here.

A fallen cay makes a cave beside what’s left of Big Channel Bluff Road. Bats and an occasional owl hang out here.

Pick a trail – walk one every day. And protect the terrain on both sides – a hiking trail would just be a town sidewalk if it weren’t for the forest on both sides. Rediscover an abandoned trail if you wish, and bring it back to use! Rock Road is one example. Enjoy our great outdoors!

SOME NATURE HIKES AND SPECIAL PLACES
on CAYMAN BRAC

  1. Long Beach
  2. Neptune’s Cave
  3. First Cay
  4. Peter Cave
  5. Old Lighthouse Road
  6. Bat Emergence Cave
Read the rest of SOME NATURE HIKES AND SPECIAL PLACES
on CAYMAN BRAC »


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