The 92-acre Sage Mountain National Park, established in 1964, is the oldest national park in the territory. It includes the highest point in all the British and U.S. Virgin Islands (1716 ft above sea level), and preserves the best remaining examples of native moist forest in the Virgin Islands. Tortola's original vegetation was a mixture of of both moist and dry forest types, depending on elevation, aspect, and position in relation to the mountains and the wind.
The mountain itself creates rain, the result of warm, moist air blowing in from the east and south, rising up the side of the island and quickly cooling as it crosses the mountaintops. The downwind side of the mountain, to the north and west, is the recipient of this often very localized rain. This combines with the protection from drying wind and strong sun on the north side to produce the island's moistest conditions just to the northwest of the summit of Sage Mountain.
Although average annual rainfall is too low here for official "rain forest" to exist, the old growth forest of Sage Mountain has much in common with rain forests found elsewhere in the Caribbean.
Today, the vegetation across the island is the result of centuries of shifting agriculture. Since the end of the plantation era, in the mid 19th century, forests have been gradually returning, but much of the island is still in pasture and early secondary growth. On the drier south side, voracious free-ranging goats and sheep are impeding the return of dry forests, as they are throughout the BVIs.
Pick up a Sage Mountain National Park brochure at a tourist information office or hotel/inn. Be sure to take water with you, and take your choice of paved/dirt roads to parking at N 18° 24.730 / W 064° 39.370. From there, take the clearly indicated trail across private property to the main park gate at N 18° 24.503 / W 064° 39.411.
Staying on marked park trails will get you to the peak of Sage Mountain at N 18° 24.590 / W 064° 39.348 (the listed cache coordinates), but as mentioned earlier, you'll see for yourself that the peak does not provide much of a scenic vista. For a breathtaking view to the east, however, hike just a short distance from the peak to a lookout at N 18° 24.547 / W 064° 39.305.
In order to log this cache, continue your exploration of the park and find as many of the following distinctive sites as you can. All but one are clearly marked by signs describing the locations. Send an e-mail to WascoZooKeeper with the wording found on any three of the signs. At one of the locations, there is no sign, so just describe what you find there.
- N 18° 24.377 / W 064° 39.590
- N 18° 24.242 / W 064° 39.724
- N 18° 24.180 / W 064° 39.749
- N 18° 24.268 / W 064° 39.649
- N 18° 24.328 / W 064° 39.568
- N 18° 24.502 / W 064° 39.359
- N 18° 24.514 / W 064° 39.319
Absolutely no bushwhacking is necessary! Please stick to established trails and respect the pristine condition of this natural forest!
WascoZooKeeper also invites you to submit your own additions to the list. We did not cover all of the trails in the park, so if you find other distinctive sites you think should be added to the list, please include them in addition to the three required finds.
Swimmers RULE! Violas ROCK!
Update 20 January 2017: It's wonderful that there is still so much interest in this virtual cache after so many years, and I offer a hearty "Thank You" to all who visit. I just learned from one of the most recent visitors that there is now a $3 fee to enter the park - I hope that won't deter you, because it is such a place of beauty.