Alice, Arlo, Eziah, and Fiona start their day at the crack of dawn with an early morning snorkel with Mike and Kyle.

Cautiously, we journey into the brisk, early morning waters of Cinnamon Bay. Despite the groggy awakening, our minds are swimming with the fish that we are eagerly anticipating. Caffeinated by the shock of the frigid sea, we stumble upon a stingray early into our expedition. As we gingerly approach the jagged rocks of Cinnamon Cay, the vicious current violently drags us off course. Luckily we are still able to snorkel through schools of glistening bar jacks and sergeant majors. Diverse hidden fish emerge from crevices amongst the shallow reef, wondering what school of fish we are. After an hour of creature-filled snorkeling, we return with stories of astounding marine life and fascinating reef coral. by Alice, Arlo, Eziah, and Fiona.

The rest of us take advantage of another hour of sleep before heading to breakfast where we meet our intrepid snorkelers.

Today we hike the trail to the top of Amerika Hill where the ruins of the Great House overlooking the waters below remain. We imagine living in the cool breezes atop the sugar cane-covered mountain, watching over the sugar factory below, and keeping track of trading ships bringing goods to the island and transporting sugar, rum, and molasses to distant shores.

The climb to the Great House ruins is very difficult for us even with stairs at one point that slaves would not have had. To make it even worse, slaves would be carrying heavy loads, tons of sugar cane, and up to 35  tons of dirt and manure for the plantings each day after day. No trees would shelter them from the angry sun. Our journey is through the shade, but we still suffer from the heat. We imagine how a slave might feel trudging barefoot up the hill, then looking down from the Great House knowing the view is devastating instead of motivating.

Cinnamon Bay’s sugar factory and Bay Rum distillery were the most profitable on the island. We wander through the ruins that once made money for the owners, but now stand in silence a reminder of a distant time. We pause to record the ruins in watercolor in our journals. Maybe understanding and remembering history will help us live a kinder future.

One last snorkel and swim brings us to the close of our last day on St. John. Tomorrow we head home, happy to see our families and live with hot showers, but we take memories with us that will hopefully bring us back to St. John.  Kyle and Ella, who have helped us all week, tell us we will certainly return just as they have done since being a Phoenix traveler to St. John National Park when they were younger.