CHRISTIANSTED, St. Croix -- The challenge in visiting a destination
that already feels like home is to unearth previously undiscovered
gems. I did just that on St. Croix in December.
In fact, I ran out of time with items still on my checklist to
be seen, sampled and savored. So I'll go back.
St. Croix's list of island attractions is long and varied.
From Point Udall in the east to
Frederiksted on the west coast, the 23-mile-long island (largest of
the U.S. Virgins) offers travelers many choices on land, on and
below the sea and in the air.
This time, I opted for a two-hour kayak tour of Salt River
National Park on St. Croix's north coast.
My adventure began at Columbus Cove, site of the explorer's
landing in 1493, during his second voyage to the New World.
Apparently, Columbus opted to stay aboard his ship while he sent
his men ashore to check out the scene. No fool he. A fight ensued
between his crew and Carib Indians, marking the first skirmish
between European and New World natives.
My peaceful outing was run by Caribbean Adventure Tours, owned
by Andy Wartenberg, assisted by first mate Nancy Finegood. We
boarded our one-person kayaks, and I quickly caught the rhythm.
Kayaking is, as Wartenberg said, " a peaceful way to spend time
on the water, except when you're up against a head wind."
We caught a head wind, and I used arm muscles I hadn't used
since lifting my daughter from her stroller 20 years ago.
We cut close to mangroves rooted in the shoreline. We rested
paddles and drifted. We sighted birds and heard songs. It was
Triton Beach, deserted save for the warped and bleached remnants
of a wooden fishing boat, yielded unusual rocks and red
Wartenberg opened his business in 1997 because he "saw a need
for people to go out in small groups to see what others miss while
on tour buses." He doesn't just offer kayak trips, either.
One of his hiking programs starts at Scenic Drive on the
northwest coast, winds down to the tidepools at Annaly Bay for
brunch, treks along a coastal ridgeline and concludes with a
Another rugged outing begins at Point Udall and meanders down to
Jack's and Isaac's Bay for brunch, swimming and viewing the nesting
sites of endangered sea turtles. The beaches here are accessible
only by foot or boat.
The three-hour hikes and kayak tour are $45 per person. A
four-hour photography tour (limited to three people) is $35, and a
four-hour customized Taste of St. Croix package is $55. Commission
Other new experiences for me on St. Croix follow:I visited the Lawaetz Family Museum near Frederiksted, a 19th
century estate house on the grounds of Little La Grange, itself a
The word "visit" is a stretch. The museum was closed, but I did
peer through a window at heirlooms and furnishings. When the
caretaker suddenly appeared, I beat a hasty retreat, but I'll
return.I actually listened to the narrative delivered by William F.
Cissel, park superintendent at Fort Christiansvaern in
Christiansted. The fort was built in 1749 and now is a National
As Cissel said, his mission is to "preserve the historic
buildings and grounds and interpret the Danish way of life from
1734 [when the Danes colonized St. Croix] to 1917 [when the U.S.
bought the island from Denmark]."
That's a tall order. What impressed me more were the iron
cannons stationed menacingly on the fort's ramparts.
Cissel said a well-trained soldier "could load and fire a cannon
in 60 seconds." I'm glad I wasn't in the military.I devoured several of Agnes Stapleton's homemade johnnycakes at
Estate Whim Plantation Museum near Frederiksted.
Of course, I also toured the great house, ogled the period
furniture and admired the grounds -- but kept returning to that
About then, I ran out of time on this trip, but I'm planning my