Georgia Coast

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Eliza Thompson House

April’s cruel gift of snow, cold and Wyoming wind was left behind for a spring getaway to Savannah, Georgia and various coastal destinations in the semi-tropical south. After a full day of changing planes and adjusting to a rental car for the drive in from the airport, we were welcomed in the parlor of this historic bed and breakfast and began to slip into southern hospitality as inviting as your favorite old robe and slippers.  Wine and hors d’oeuvres were awaiting us as we checked in and we enjoyed them in the garden.

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Youthful inspiration . . . .

Sitting outdoors in a serene, restful sculpture garden is not what we encounter in our daily routine at home this time of year. We sighed and settled in.  Nothing to think about but where we would go for dinner.  As we sipped our wine, we studied a three-ring binder of restaurant choices and menus.  Ah, southern cooking!

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Scoop it up, little guy . . . .

Our car was parked on the street out front, and we had no intention of driving anywhere.  We never moved it until we departed Savannah for the outer islands.   One more glass of wine, please.  In the garden of good and evil (ahem!)

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Bare feet, ahhhhh . . . . .

Built in 1847 as a private home, the Eliza Thompson House is in Savannah’s historic district.  This was our first visit to Savannah, and we chose it for the history that is reflected in the beautiful buildings, parks and memorials.  The site of the 13th British colony, Savannah was established in 1733,  long before Wyoming was a glimmer in the eye of expansionist pioneers.

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Garden Girl . . .

Streets are mostly of brick and cobblestone.  The flow of traffic is interrupted at regular intervals to circumnavigate 22 “squares” that encompass roughly the size of a city block. The stately squares are shaded by live oak trees draped with moss, palmettos, and magnolia trees.  Wide sidewalks flow through the middle  and are peopled with grand statues of historic figures — Lafayette, Oglethorpe– and countless others.  The azaleas had finished blooming but some of the trees were sporting pink or white blossoms.

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Heavenly church architecture . . . .

Walking down Bull Street to the river was a visual feast.  We had lots of options for transport: trolley car; horse drawn wagon; festive funeral hearse; segway; and tour bus.  We walked.  And walked.  And walked.

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The Pink House Restaurant . . . .

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Former Masonic Lodge

Buildings in the historic district are carefully preserved and adapted to modern use.  Savannah survived the British occupation during the American Revolutionary War, and was spared General William Sherman’s Civil War March to the Sea by negotiating a peaceful surrender which spared Savannah from destruction.

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Street Scene . . . .

Our march to the Savannah River continues along Bull Street.  Our goal is to tour River Street shops and the market place. We had dinner the night before at 17Hundred90, a restaurant that was established in that year.  Food was delicious and the piano music made the evening special.

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Church Within Church . . . .

Savannah was named for the Savannah River, which may be a variant for Native American people known as the Shawnee who migrated to the river in the 1680’s.

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City Hall . . . .

Savannah’s City Hall (1906) was the first municipal government building.  It’s dome is gilded with 23-karat gold leaf.

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Sea Wall . . . .

A kindly gentleman informed us we could use an elevator to descend down the sea wall to River Street, but we elected to take the stairs.  The stone stairs were worn where countless feet had gone before.

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Talmadge Bridge . . . .

This spectacular span is one of many connecting the Georgia coastline to outer islands.  Savannah is a strategic Atlantic seaport.

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River Street . . . .

Ships in the background, artwork along the sidewalks, and historic naval artifacts interspersed throughout.  The riverfront is a bustling, lively district of restaurants, shops and hotels.

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Westin Savannah Harbor Resort . . . .

Savannah lies approximately 20 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean.  Nearby Hilton Head and many other golf destinations are in “high season.”  We tried to grab a peek on various television screens to follow the Augusta, GA tournament which was underway.

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Keeping us safe . . . .

Rivers in Georgia are wide and deep.  When compared to the streams that flow from the mountains in Wyoming, ours are a mere trickle and few and far between.  I could not help but wonder how Georgians manage to negotiate all the waterways that flow through the state to the sea.  This U. S. Coast Guard ship patrols the waters.

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East Riverfront Park . . . .

I longed for a reference book on Georgia trees to help identify the variety we encountered. This grove resembles human limbs with their smooth, creamy color and I am left wondering what they were.  That goes for the tree laden with blossoms.

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Resident Squirrel . . . .

No park would be complete without a squirrel or two.  This one raced alongside us for a distance and then finally gave up in disgust, retreating empty-handed back to a hollow in the tree where it likely keeps the daily “stash.”

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Flying Ant? . . . .

Returning uptown, we passed this art installation in the foyer of the Savannah Contemporary Museum of Art.  The ant, which I would call the grand-daddy of them all, is nearly as large as a human form attached to the ceiling.

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Autumn colors in spring . . . .

Strikingly pretty foliage on an unidentified tree.  The autumn colors are a contrast to the fluffy, pastel colors of other trees that were in bloom.

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Formal Garden . . . .

A highlight of our Savannah tour was the Owens-Thomas House.  This formal, English inspired garden was designed by Clermont H. Lee, one of Savannah’s foremost landscape designers.

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The Owens-Thomas House was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 and listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.  Today it is one of three museum buildings that comprise the Telfair Museum of Art. The stunning Regency-style architecture, period furnishings and art offer a unique insight into early nineteenth century living.

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Getting goosed . . . .

This fierce looking goose is positioned on an apartment balcony  extending over the sidewalk for all passers-by to see.  He doesn’t look too friendly!

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Horsing Around Town . . . .

The street traffic allows for some of the slower modes of transport.  Downtown Savannah retains most of the original town plan prescribed by founder James Oglethorpe and includes the historic district, Victorian historic district and 22 park-like squares which make it one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the U.S.

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Telfair Mansion and Museum . . . .

The former residence of Revolutionary War patriot and four-time Georgia governor Edward Telfair.  Built in 1819, it is the only historic art museum in Savannah and is home to the “Bird Girl” statue made famous in the book, Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil.

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Classical Church . . . .

It is interesting to note that such magnificent buildings evolved before the modern construction technology we enjoy today.  Our modern-day structures typically lack the craftsmanship, quality materials and enduring design that make them worthy of preservation.  Consequently, many get the wrecking ball before they are 50 years old.

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New and nice . . . .

These two modern government office buildings built for the U.S. Coast Guard actually fit into the neighborhood.  Savannah has restrictive building codes for new construction, and these were obviously met with approval.

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General James Edward Oglethorpe . . . .

Philanthropist, representative of King George II to the American colonies, city planner, and founder of Savannah,  General Oglethorpe was sent to create a military buffer south of the Savannah River to protect the Carolinas from Spanish Florida and French Louisiana.

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Fountain fun . . . .

Forsyth Park was a short distance south of our lodging and made for a lovely walk.  The park is huge, encompassing approximately 14 city blocks and it is filled with statuary, gardens and recreational areas.

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Civil War Memorial . . . .

We missed the showy azalea blooms but a garden of other flowers were just beginning to unfold.

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A rose is a rose . . . .

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Not to be outdone . . . .

Wyoming state flower is the tumbleweed (just kidding), so when I enter a lovely garden with flowers in bloom, I cannot resist trying to capture the beauty.

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Pavilion and pool . . . .

A mother and baby yoga class was about to commence on the grounds.  Other park participants were napping, walking or sitting on benches reading or gossiping.  Nothing like a day in the park!

St. Simon

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St. Simon light house . . . .

On the road to some of Georgia’s coastline, we stopped first at St. Simon.  One of five surviving light towers in Georgia, we decided the only thing to do was climb it.  All 129 steps of it.  Then we toured the two-story museum which was the residence of the light keeper. By then my legs felt like rubber bands.

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Sea breezes up high . . . .

Jekyl Island

The next stop was Jekyl Island and I fell in love. Often referred to as “Georgia’s Jewel,” it is one of the state’s most beautiful coastal barrier islands.  Rich with history as an exclusive retreat for some of the nation’s wealthiest families (J. P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, Vincent Astor,  Marshall Field, Macy, Goodyear and Gould to name a few) the Jekyll Island Club would become a winter social club for the wealthy elite.

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Croquet, anyone? . . . .

Opened in 1887, the clubhouse had indoor plumbing and was illuminated by gas fixtures.  An example of Queen Anne architecture, the design included wrap-around porches, towers and decorative features such as spindles and lattice.  The complex, which includes several cottages, was designated a historic landmark in 1978.  It was restored and reopened as a luxury resort hotel in 1985.

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Sans Souci Apartments . . . .

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DuBignon Cottage . . . .

From 1888 to 1928 club members constructed fourteen “cottages” in addition to the one built by the original family.  Queen Anne and shingle styles were predominant during the early years, while later cottages reflected architectural trends of Italian Renaissance and Spanish eclectic styles.

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Rockefeller Cottage “Indian Mound” . . . .

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Carriage for a princess . . . .

Carriage rides around the historic district are available but we chose to walk.  The grounds were so beautiful it gave us time to appreciate them more.

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Driftwood Beach . . . .

Leaving the lush environs of the historic district, we toured the rest of the island and stopped to photograph the “tree cemetery.”  A major weather event toppled trees along the seashore and they have been gradually eroding over time.

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Driftwood, anyone? . . . .

Next stop was the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where turtles are rescued and cared for until they can be released back into the Atlantic.  Our next stop would be St. Mary.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

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The ferry to Cumberland Island . . . .

A pleasant visit to the St. Mary visitor center was cut short when we learned the ferry was leaving in about 15 minutes for Cumberland Island.  “It won’t wait for you,” was the admonition from a little lady who was trying to convince us to visit the radio museum next door.  We raced to the pier, searched for parking, purchased tickets and made it down the gang plank with no time to spare.  We didn’t consider that we had no lunch or food of any kind and none could be found on this beautiful, carefully preserved, natural environment which is mostly a national park and wilderness area.

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First class float . . . .

It is roughly a 45-minute ferry ride to the island, which crosses the Intracoastal Waterway. A few nice little boats float on the Intracoastal.

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Dungeness . . . .

We set out walking to “the ruins” and came upon a compelling site that was once home to the Carnegie family and before that, the widow of General Nathanael Greene.  Fire destroyed the mansion and it sits abandoned except for the wild horses that wander through the area.  And a few other creatures.

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Waiting for lunch . . . .

The “duck pond” on the estate must have once been lovely, but this day its only occupant was this alligator.  We were astonished to see it, but it’s just one of the “locals.”

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A call to ghosts of the past . . . .

This lovely statue stands alone, protected by a fence, on the spacious grounds.  It appears to be in excellent condition, while the rest of the estate is crumbling ruins.

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Carnegie Mansion . . . .

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Pavilion . . . .

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Green House . . . .

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Cumberland Island horses . . . .

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New friend, Stormy . . . .

Cumberland Island’s feral horses roam the island’s maritime forests, wild beaches and salt water marshes.  I tried photographing a group from  a distance and did not expect to see any up close.  We came upon a mare and her foal, along with one other horse along the road near a park ranger facility and became entranced.

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Hi there . . . .

This foal was friendly and very curious.  He approached me and I kept taking photos of him until he had his nose right near my camera.  Park rangers discourage interaction with the horses, stating they “kick and bite” but this little one didn’t appear to have any aggression in mind.

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Nice to meet you . . . .

There are approximately 150 – 200 wild horses on Cumberland.  They are smaller than standard western horses, and live a challenging existence due to insects, parasites and the terrain. Rumored to have arrived with Spanish explorers in the 16th century, it is more likely they were brought in by the English in the 18th century.  The Park Service makes no mention of them in their standard brochure and they are not viewed as a “unique” species that merit protection.

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Where’s Mom? . . . .

Farewell, Stormy.  I hope you have a happy life on Cumberland Island.  Maybe I will see you again someday.

 

 

 

 

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Yellowstone Forest Fire of 1988 – Today

As far as the eye can see . . . .

As far as the eye can see . . . .

A series of small fires erupted into a catastrophic forest fire in 1988, nearly engulfing Old Faithful Inn and other historic structures.  Nearly 30% of the park was impacted by the fires which burned with such heat and intensity that much of the area remains a dead zone.

Can't see the forest through the trees . . . .

Can’t see the forest through the trees . . . .

Twenty-seven years later, regrowth of the trees has not yet begun.  Volunteers and park personnel have planted thousands of replacement trees but the road leading from the north entrance at Cody, Wyoming to Yellowstone Lake is scarred by fire that burned so hot the seeds for regrowth were destroyed.

Bereft of wildlife . . . .

Bereft of wildlife . . . .

A public policy of suppressing forest fires for the past 100 years has left forests in the western United States thick with undergrowth and trees growing so densely that the fuel build-up is frightening.  Add to that the curtailment of logging and thinning of the forest and you have a prescription for what is happening today in forests in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Miles of dead trees waiting . . . .

Miles of dead trees waiting . . . .

We entered Yellowstone from Jackson through Teton National Park.  The devastation from that entrance is not so evident, however the old growth pines and spruce trees are nowhere to be seen and have been replaced by a furry vista of young trees growing so densely that in a few short years it will become the same potential disaster that Yellowstone strives to recover from.  Is this the right way to preserve the forests in our national parks?

 

Life Is A Beach

Sand, surf, Painkillers . . . .

Escape to the Virgin Islands and discover a truly unique way to leave the snow and cold Wyoming winds behind.  Located about 90 miles east of Puerto Rico, the islands extend into the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.  The Virgins form an archipelago which is divided between the U.S. and  British, and are located in the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles.  This view is from a restaurant at Cruz Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.  The town is so small they don’t name most of the streets.

Roll on, thy deep, dark ocean . . . .

On the U.S. side, there are four main islands: St. Thomas, St. John, St. Croix and Water Island.  St. John is our favorite destination, as the U.S. National Park Service owns more than half of the island and many acres of coral reef.  The Virgin Islands National Park sprawls through the interior and encompasses almost all the coastline.  White sand beaches are unsurpassed and relatively uncrowded, and average temperatures in March range in the 80’s.  Sparkling clear water makes for great sailing, snorkeling, swimming or just listening to the waves splash up on shore.  Cinnamon Bay is featured above.

Sunrise or sunset? . . . .

Taken from the deck of our studio at dawn.  The island in the background is St. Thomas, a twenty minute ferry ride away.  Looking down at Maho Bay.

By the light of day . . . .

Maho Bay is a popular destination for sail boats.  They arrive in droves for the prime rib dinner on Saturday nights at Maho Bay Camp where we rent a studio.

One-Eyed, Pearly-Eyed Thrasher

Dirty Harry was waiting for us to return this year, and was as irascible and impatient as always.   He has had a rough year, and was healing from an injury that left his right eye almost completely destroyed. It didn’t slow him down much, and he was as imperious as we remember him from last year.  He sits on the railing of our balcony and puffs up his feathers, strutting to and fro.  His favorite food is crumbled granola bars and he hops up and down in excitement when we scatter them for him.

Ghostly remains of a once-grand plantation . . . .

The islands are volcanic and most of the early dwellings are stone with decorations of conch and a wide variety of sea shells.  Settled by the Danish West India Co. in 1694, sugar cane drove St. John’s economy during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Hey, wait for me . . . .

Feral chickens abound on the  island, and this little chick is trying to keep up with a hen and three siblings touring along the edge of the beach.  My nap was interrupted by frantic peeping, and I rummaged in my bag for something to feed them, to no avail.

Come up and see me sometime . . . .

This Golden Orb spider has woven a captivating web – I think I’ll pass.  This is a very large spider and has beautiful markings, if you want to see it up close (ooooh!)

Another day in paradise . . . .

Leinster Bay looks across to the British Virgin Islands.  We enjoyed snorkeling here, and on our last visit saw a small grey shark, along with colorful fish and sea turtles.

Catch a ride? . . . .

Feral donkeys roam the island and this fellow didn’t want to surrender the road to passersby.

Have you seen the wind? . . .

This giant tree is quite ancient and grows near the beach at Hansen Bay.  I believe it to be a tamarind, but notes and memory fail me.  We spent the day snorkeling at Haulover Bay and at Hansen Beach.  Lunch at Vi’s roadside stand was quite delicious – BBQ pork  or conch fritters.

Someone came before us . . . .

The Virgin Islands were originally settled by the Ciboney, Carib and Arawaks.  These prehistoric carvings at a sacred waterfall may have been created by the native tribes or may pre-date them.

when sugar was king . . . .

Ruins of Danish sugar plantations and mills developed in the early 1700’s still stand along the Reef Bay Trail and are sprinkled across St. John.  A National Park Service tour guide explains the functions of this well preserved mill.

Lead me to “the baths” . . . .

Virgin Gordo is in the British islands and is world famous for “The Baths,” a unique rock structure that forms natural, partly submerged sea-grottoes that extend along the shoreline.

Ooooh, not for the claustrophobic . . . .

Incredibly beautiful grottoes like this one can be explored until about 4:30 in the afternoon, when the tide comes in and fills the huge rock formations with water.

Splish splash, I was taking a bath . . . .

Interesting vantage for a rest and to escape the crowd from a Club Med cruise ship that arrived shortly after we did.

A picture is worth 1000 words . . . .

The landward view from Top of The Baths restaurant.  A few frozen margaritas later . . .

Did Harry leave me any crumbs?

A bananaquit checks out the lunch counter.  These small yellow birds are ubiquitous and are drawn to feeders like hummingbirds.

All aboard for the high seas . . . .

Dropping anchor in another British island, Jost Van Dyke.

Bloody Mary for breakfast? . . .

It all started at the Soggy Dollar Bar.  Jost Van Dyke consists of beautiful beaches and a string of bars. And very little else.  Our goal was to visit every one (well, almost every one).

Ivan The Terrible presides . . . .

The trip down the hill to reach Ivan’s No Stress Bar should have been a fair warning.  Climbing back up was a killer and definitely not without stress.  St. John is made up of volcanic mountains jutting up out of the sea.  Everywhere you go is either up, or down–steeply!

Who needs Painkillers? . . . .

Foxy’s is the most famous establishment on Jost Van Dyke.  Would not have missed it for anything, and Foxy was actually there holding court.  Lunch was conch fritters and Caribe beer.  We passed on Rudy’s Ala Baba bar and a few others to take in the more respectable haunts.

All the creature comforts of home . . . .

The Methodists are alive and well, doing God’s work around the world!

Not another bar! . . .

An egret had a tussle with a mongoose, and the mongoose got away!

Can you see me now?

Back to Maho Bay, our base on St. John, and our visit to the Francis Bay salt pond.  So many wonderful birds it was impossible to capture them.  This Black-necked Stilt is fishing, or quite possibly enjoys looking at his reflection in the water.

I can see it from here . . . .

Ram Head is on the “dry,” or east end of St. John and this windswept peninsula has beautiful cacti and other arid-lands plants.  The trail leading to this prominent point is rocky, torturous, prickly and steep.  Leaving from Salt Pond Bay, you immediately notice the heat, but as you climb up the ocean breezes are a welcome relief.

did rebellious slaves really get a drink from me? . . . .

wouldn’t want to be blown into one of these . . . .

St. John has some of the best examples of dry tropical forest remaining in the Lesser Antilles on the east end, but the west end is moist forests of West Indian locust, hogplum and yellow prickle trees.  The constant winds on Ram Head would dry out plants that are not adapted to these desert-like conditions.

Maho Bay is calling . . . .

The End, until . . . . .