Two people who set out to “hike St. John” last week ended up being rescued by St. John Rescue and V.I. National Park officials on the Reef Bay Trail.
A man and a woman, both in their 20s, called 911 around 8:30 p.m. from the Reef Bay Trail complaining of exhaustion and dehydration, explained VINP Deputy Superintendent Mike Anderson.
“We had two visitors who were trying to hike most of St. John all in one day,” said Anderson. “They called 911 around 8:30 p.m. from the Reef Bay Trail because they were out of water and exhausted.”
At least one of the two hikers had lived on St. Thomas for several months and had visited St. John before, explained Anderson.
After taking the ferry from Red Hook to Cruz Bay, the two walked a few miles and eventually hitched a ride to Coral Bay, according to information from the VINP.
Once in Coral Bay, the two people hiked out to Lameshur Bay and were apparently told by someone that hiking up the Reef Bay Trail would leave them a short walk from Cruz Bay, according Anderson.
“They either got wrong information or didn’t understand the information as far as getting back to Cruz Bay,” said the VINP Deputy Superintendent. “They were supposedly told that if they hiked up Reef Bay to Centerline Road, it was only a short walk to Cruz Bay.”
The two hikers set out around 6 p.m. from Lameshur and didn’t make it to Centerline Road before calling 911 from Reef Bay Trail.
“They didn’t need medical attention, but they were exhausted and needed water,” said Anderson. “A VINP ranger and St. John Rescue officials walked down the trail and met the hikers about half way down. We assisted with getting them back to Cruz Bay to catch the ferry back to St. Thomas.”
The hikers were lucky that they had cell phone service and were able to call for help, Anderson added.
“We’re certainly glad that their cell phone worked in that location,” he said. “That is not always the case. Sometimes you have reception in one area and then you might not get reception at all.”
“You really need reliable information about trails before you set out and having a cell phone does not replace that,” said Anderson. “It’s not like in the states where there is cell service everywhere. You can’t rely on it.”
Anderson advised hikers to stop by the VINP Visitors’ Center in Cruz Bay to share their plans and get feedback on trail conditions.
“It’s important to have a trail map and it’s always good to come by the visitors center and share your plans to get feedback on time frames and abilities,” said the VINP Deputy Superintendent.
It’s not unusual for hikers to over estimate how much distance they can cover, Anderson added.
“A lot of people, even avid hikers, until you have hiked in the Virgin Islands on steep, rocky trails, probably think they can cover a lot more distance than it turns out,” he said. “It’s not so much ability as trail conditions and not everyone is used to the tropical environment.”
Experienced and novice hikers should always bring plenty of drinking water when setting out on trails, according to Anderson.
“Everyone should have plenty of drinking water and have a trail map,” he said. “It’s also a good idea to get with a VINP ranger or someone who has accurate knowledge of the local trail system before setting out.”