St. Maarten, Sentry Hill
One generally associates shopping, casinos, eating out, and nightlife, with Sint Maarten, rather than hiking. But Sint Maarten does have some good hikes, and I had been eyeing the big ridge between Simpson Bay and Philipsburg for some time.
When I cycle from Simpson Bay to Philipsburg I take a small road that cuts north of Cole Bay Hill because it avoids the long line traffic and fumes on the main road and it is much shorter. It is also more or less straight uphill so I don’t let the fact that it is one way only from Philipsburg put me off, I am going to be on foot pushing anyway. Each time I went over I noticed the small trail leading off towards the ridge, and finally I decided it was time to give it a go.
It takes about one and half hour one way from either Laggonies or Island World. First walk up to the big Ace Hardware store on the main road (from IWW turn right then left, from Lagoonies turn left then right at the T). At the Ace hardware turn right on Union Road and cross to the far side. If you look ahead you will see the small road that cuts up over the hill. About half a mile along, Union Road takes a sharp right turn. At this point the small road you want to be on just keeps going straight ahead. Follow the small road and you will soon be heading sharply uphill. When you reach the top, you will see the path on your left going up the bank, it is just on the Philipsburg side of the apex. Head up the path.
The trail is sometime steep, it has lots of loose stones, and while it is cleared, from time to time pricker bushes will send out tendrils out to trap the unwary hiker. There is a little poison Brazil around, so it would be good to be able to identify and thus avoid it. Good shoes will help with the loose stones and long pants will help with the prickers. A walking stick can be a good friend among the loose rocks. This is not a very easy trail, but with care the average cruiser should have no problem. There is some fair scrambling on the rocks at Sentry Hill.
Much of the time you are hiking in shade in a thick bush. Before long you pass a navigation light on your left hand side with a ladder leading up. If you climb the ladder you will get a glimpse of a good view. This is the last view you will get till you reach your destination, which is surprising for a ridge trail. When there are alternatives, the trail is marked by green blobs and arrows, and if you don’t see these from time to time, you may have left the trail (I did a couple of times, but it was fairly obvious after a few minutes) . You pass a somewhat cleared area with old walls and you have to go over a wall to the trail on the other side. The trail is not that wide so I had to wait for a couple of passing goats. Keep going until you get to Sentry Hill. You will know when you are there it is a massive rocky area with a big navigation light near the top. From the top you look down about a thousand feet and see nearly all Simpson Bay lagoon laid out below you. If you continue along the trial to get round to the north side of the rocks, you see more of the French side beyond the Witches Tit. I think the trail carries on right along the ridge, but to find out was not my plan for the day.
Going back down tends to be a bit harder than going up, but think what it must have been like for the guys carrying up the lights and their frames. I notice that when they replace them, they don’t take back the old ones!