My First Visit to Sage Mountain
by Martina Jackson
I parked my car, in the parking area, at the top of the hill near the foot of the dirt road leading to the National Park at Sage Mountain. Although I am a resident of the BVI, it was my first trip to this popular park and I was eager to finally see it. From my car, I proceeded on foot, following the sign that directed me to the Park. To the left of this path, there is another that leads to a residence.
At 1,716ft Sage Mountain is the highest point in the Virgin Islands, US and British. Declared a National Park in 1964, it encompasses the highest point of a ridge running east/west along the spine of Tortola. Most of the Park is above 1,000 feet, and at this elevation precipitation and cloud cover increase sufficiently to support some species typical of a tropical rainforest. Seven trails crisscross the 92-acre surrounding park, and several rare and endangered plant species grow within it. A small area of about 29 and half acres retains much of the character of the original forests that were found at this elevation and in ghuts in Tortola.
As I walked along the route leading to the park entrance, I noticed that there were tire impressions on the dirt, which suggests that vehicles pass on this route regularly. The ground was a bit muddy in some areas and I had to take careful steps so I would not slip and fall. There were some areas where there were small pools of water, apparently it rained a few days ago and as the area is shaded with a lot of trees, the moisture on the soil takes a little longer to evaporate.
After a short while I approached a paved road on the left, leading to a residential two-storey building, with a sign labeled – "KEEP OUT!" To the right the area looked a bit dark and it looked like a dead end, and I said to myself, "this can't be the end of the trail". I could have turned back but out of curiosity, I approached the area and realized that this very shady pathway with huge trees leads to the park (no vehicles can pass at this point). After a few steps, I saw some visitors leaving the trail and I knew that I was on the right path. I spoke to a young lady who directed me to the National Park office, and gave me a piece of paper (that she got from the restaurant and bar – opposite the parking lot) that had directions to the different trails in the park. She informed me that the office was closed (public holiday – Good Friday) or so I thought, apparently the "office" is not in operation. Feeling more at ease, I proceeded on my walk, pleasantly entertained by the sounds of the birds chirping.
After about five minutes, I arrived at the National Park office, a small green building with a fence around it. The gate was closed (not locked) and beyond the gate there was a sign labeled "To North Trail." Opening the gate, I proceeded on the North Trail. There is also a Central Trail that looks like it leads to higher ground, but I decided to stay on the North Trail. I did not venture very far because at this time I saw no one around and was hesitant to go too far on my own.
Outside the gate there is another trail on the left with a wooden sign, stuck in the ground, labeled "To South Trail." I started to follow it but it soon began to narrow, so I turned around and headed towards the beginning of the path.
It was on my way back down that I actually began to appreciate the beauty of my surroundings. When I first started on the trail I was mainly focusing on where I was going and carefully making my steps forward. Many of the trees are very old on the North Trail, and the roots of some of them grow across the pathway. I was intrigued with the type of moss that I saw on many of the tree trunks. There are some plants with huge leaves with a name that speaks for itself – elephant ears. At the beginning of the North Trail, there are a few benches and tables where you can sit, take a break, have a beverage and snack while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The path was layered with a bed of red and orange leaves, it looked beautiful. There were also quite a few beautiful yellow balisiers, also known as haliconias – the flowers are flawless. Close to this plant I saw some snails under a banana leaf.
I love photography, it is my passion, so of course, I had my camera with me and I was able to take some great pictures! I don't like to put my camera strap around my neck, and now have a camera bag which works like a backpack. I can easily bring this bag to the front of my body and quickly and safely remove my camera.
I work at a villa resort and my colleagues and I encourage each other to experience the different services and activities that are offered to our guests, that way we can better "sell" the product. I have a few guests who had asked me about the trail on Sage Mountain or other hiking trails and without having been there, I had never really recommended it before. Now experiencing this trip first hand, I would definitely recommend a trip to anyone interested.
At the car park you can just sit and enjoy the breeze, it is just magnificent, you can see both the Atlantic Ocean on one side and on the other you will see the Caribbean Sea. At the time of my visit, the gift shop, restaurant and bar by the parking lot was open for business, so I stopped and had an awesome banana smoothie and entertaining conversation with the owner, Jim.
I really enjoyed my trip, not to mention, it was a good workout. The trip allowed me the opportunity to write this article and take great pictures for my websites and blogs.
The road leading to the parking lot at the top of Sage Mountain is relatively narrow and there are coco plum trees locally known as fat pork on both sides of the road closer to the top of the hill. On many occasions my husband and I would come to this area and pick some of the fat pork. We would just pick them and eat them. No cooking required.
Sage Mountain is a special part of the BVI for both visitors and residents. Travelers from all over the world come here to appreciate what "Nature's Little Secrets" have to offer. I think as residents, we should all take the time to appreciate what our visitors pay to come and enjoy. The Virgin Islands is a beautiful place, let's enjoy it together!
For visitors to the Virgin Islands: If you are interested in hiking/nature trails/photography, be sure to include a trip to the National Park at Sage Mountain. For directions, contact the National Parks Trust office in Road Town or the office at your villa/hotel, I am sure they will be happy to assist you.