Matt Eddy

Ag Ed in the Virgin Islands - Guest Blog - Reprise

Blog Post created by Matt Eddy on Sep 1, 2011

The past three blogs have been from Jenny Lichty, a graduate student at Iowa State University, who along with Dr. Michael Retallick have been working on a project bringing Ag into the classroom in the Virgin Islands.  Some folks just get all the luck. I offered to tote their bags for them, but they weren't in need of my services.  You can follow them @jlichty30 or @msretallick


August 31, 2011 P.M.


I can think of a lot of ‘E’ words right now to define our ‘little’ hike today. It took me a little convincing to even do the hike as I didn’t bring any shoes that I wanted to get wet or dirty. That should have been my first clue. But in the end I was excited and exhausted and definitely entertained on this hike of ours.


St. John’s is approximately 8.5 miles long from east to west. Hills are an understatement for the Virgin Islands. So what we would call a valley is referred to as a ‘gut’ here. Our adventure was a hike through the gut of St. John’s island beginning at the lower campus or elementary of Gifft Hill School. To get to the gut from here, you have to bushwack through about 100 yards of vegetation, including ‘catch and keep’ plants (thorny plant that will get caught in your skin and if you try to remove it in the opposite direction that it entered, be ready for some serious lacerations) and the Christmas bush (another thorny plant that is dark green in color and the tips turn red toward the holidays). We were also warned about some crazy wasp-like insects that will attack if their hive is interrupted at all. After stepping five feet into our ‘path’ I was almost ready to turn around and regret the idea of going but I toughed it out (that and I don’t think Mike would have let me turn around).

After 40 minutes we finally made it to the creek/stream/moving water that runs along the gut (yes, 40 minutes to cover 100 yards).  Along the way we also decided to pick up trash we found. Four trash bags may seem small at the beginning but these bags quickly filled (with either trash or the water I kept dragging mine through). The first half was not bad; shallow stream, little altitude change and few mosquitos. Our guide, Miles, and National Park representative, Laurel were more than helpful to point out different plants and creatures along the way. It was easy going for awhile… until we got to the waterfall. Pretty sight, not so pretty to navigate down.


We were able to take a quick swim in a pond below the waterfall and eventually made it down the rocky structure where we thought ‘oh, tough part is over’. Boy, were we wrong.  The remainder of the hike we did a lot of deciding between two or even three paths and debated (and found out) just how deep some of the areas were. Three and a half hours later, we finally made it to our end point.  Chris, a middle school teacher at Gifft Hill, and I were the first to make it out. Arriving at our destination earlier than everyone else required keeping in motion to prevent more mosquito bites. It also meant staying loose because once we hoped in the truck to return to the school the soreness set it. Let’s just say I probably won’t be moving too much too early tomorrow!



Linley, Karie and I had the opportunity to go to town by ourselves as Jen and Mike went out to eat with one of the major donors of Gifft Hil. This was our first experience without having someone who has been here before chauffeuring us around. Because I volunteered the information that I am directionally inclined, I also volunteered myself to drive. If I haven’t mentioned this, you drive on the left side of the road in the islands. I thought it was a little weird to get used to being a passenger, it’s a completely different story when you have to drive. We made it to town safely and found the public parking lot after taking one wrong turn. A quick walk up the street to the Iguana Bar & Grille where we indulged in very American food… cheeseburgers! After the day we had, I don’t know if anything else would have been so good. And the good news, we made it back safely.


Today’s blog was brought to you by the letter ‘E’ for excited, enthusiasm, and exhausted!  With that I’m heading to bed with hopes to find an ‘I drove on the wrong side of the road – USVI’ sticker tomorrow.