Searching for the Monk Baths and a Deserted Resort in the Jungles of St. Croix

Searching for the Monk Baths and a Deserted Resort in the Jungles of St. Croix

If you read my fairly comprehensive blog post on my St. Croix trip, you’ve already met the friendly bartender, Jameson, who gave us some great recommendations. One of the places he told us to check out was an abandoned resort called the Clover… something. Clover Crest? Cloverfield? I don’t remember, and I could find no mention of it online, which led us to assume the resort was probably abandoned before the internet became prevalent… I’m guessing the 70s.

“Yeah,” Jameson said. “It’s this old resort with a clover shaped pool out front. I’ve been up there a bunch of times. There’s an epic view from the roof; I’ve watched meteor showers and done all kinds of things from there.”

Ok Jameson, I don’t doubt that.

Really, I don’t.

I just wish you were a little better at giving directions.

“Drive past Estate Mount Washington Plantation until the road splits into a Y, then go left until you see two boulders. At that point, leave your Jeep and walk down the path until you reach the resort.”

To be honest, the directions sounded pretty idiot-proof, so our last morning on the island rolled around, and we headed out to find the resort. We were also hoping to find some large stone Roman style bathtubs that monks had carved down by the sea in the 1600s. A group of American expats told me about the monk baths when I was walking along the beach one day, and they were supposedly in the same area of the island as the deserted resort. (Jameson told us these people were friends of his, so I should’ve known their directions would also suck.)

We drove down the main road through Frederiksted and continued along the shore. When we reached the gravel road that led to Estate Mount Washington, we turned down it, and tried to follow Jameson’s directions. However, we were met by gates, no trespassing signs, steep hills to private homes, and security cameras. There were no boulders in sight.

After talking for awhile, with a few of us pushing to drive past the no trespassing signs and a few wanting to be cautious, we decided to play it safe and go search for the monk baths. These proved to be no easier to find. I had been told to drive down the road, past Estate Mount Washington, until I saw a chain-link fence and barbed wire in front of a Manor on the right. The monk baths would be down a little path to the left of the road.

We stopped a few times and walked down paths to the ocean, and we even thought we found them. I hopped into the water at one point, avoiding sea urchin-covered rocks, thinking I was in a little alcove carved by monks. (At some point during the Monk Bath search, Katey called the resort where we’d met Jameson, to ask him for better directions to the abandoned resort. Neither Katey nor I had quite given up on finding it, and we were getting desperate. Alas, he was not working, and could not be reached, and/or he doesn’t come to the phone when random American girls call.)

Finally, we said “Maybe we found the monk baths,” gave up, and headed back toward Frederiksted. Some of us jumped off the pier, which gave us the little rush we were hoping to get from exploring a spooky, abandoned resort. Then we headed on to the beach at Sandy Point, which is exactly how I imagine Caribbean beaches.

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On the beach near Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge

Soon, Katey and I decided to go back into town to find lunch. After enjoying raspberry mojitos, Red Stripes, ceviche, and crab cakes at Rhythm’s, Katey turned to me. “Wanna go look for the monk baths again?” she asked with a sly smile.

Katey and I were the two from the group who had been pushing to find the resort and monk baths earlier in the day, so maybe it was fate that brought us back into the town for lunch. Or maybe we were just the hungriest. Or maybe we both subconsciously knew, when we drove into town, that it wouldn’t be our only destination.

Soon we were headed back down the bumpy, pot-hole filled road, hoping we were going in the right direction. This time, we went further. The road turned to dirt, getting bumpier and emptier. We drove and drove, finally coming to a Y in the road.

“Wait a second… was that a Y?” Katey asked.

“It can’t be!” I said. “This isn’t the right road.”

Before I even finished speaking, we rounded a corner and were confronted with *wait for it* two boulders.

We both lost it. A fork in the road… two boulders… this sounded strangely familiar.

We had found what we’d given up looking for!

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Two boulders!

We parked the Jeep and rushed along the path through the boulders. Pushing our way through hanging vines and some unfortunate burn hazel-like plants that had both our legs burning and itching, we followed the path out into a clearing.

There were the buildings.

There was the clover-shaped pool!

We rushed around, as excited as two 5-year-olds on Christmas morning. The place was also spooky, and we were a little freaked out a time or two, especially when we saw unhinged jail doors at the end of long hallways, and as we took the path up behind the buildings to climb out onto the roof.

The rooms lie empty. The countless memories and events they once held are now forgotten.

I’d love to know the history of the resort, or even the full name. Who owned it? What kinds of people stayed there? Worked there? Were there honeymoons and weddings and bachelorette weekends held between these walls? When they built the clover-shaped pool, did they imagine it would one day be filled with muck, trees, and algae?

Perhaps a hurricane came along and did irreparable damage to the resort, or maybe it was just too far out in the wilderness for the leisure traveler.

It’s spine-tingling to see the bones, but only have the ability to guess at the life the bones once held.

The view from the roof was worth the creepiness.

Before we left, Katey bravely ventured into one of the out-buildings. I was on the porch outside, peering down into a random hole that seemed to lead to a dark abyss. (If it was a horror movie, I would’ve fallen into the hole and hurt my ankle, then, one of the jail doors would have clanged shut, trapping Katey. I would have tried to hobble to the Jeep to get help, but when I’d arrive, the tires would have been slashed. Lucky for us, life isn’t a horror movie.)

Suddenly, as Katey was exploring the interior, she started screaming. I peeked in the window to see her running for shelter. She had disturbed a nest of birds or bats (her worst fear), and they weren’t happy about it. We left without further ado, and went a little further down the road in search of the monk baths before giving up and going back to the others.

That evening, we came back with Lindsay and Jess. After we reached the Y and turned left, we saw something on the side of the road. Something big. Something gross. Something that could probably squish a grown woman to death. Something that supposedly did not live on this island.

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A massive boa constrictor!!!!!!! (Or similar snake. I think it looks like a boa constrictor but I’m not a Herpetologist.)

I googled it. St. Croix (supposedly) only has two kinds of snakes, and they’re both tiny and harmless.

This? Less so.

Luckily, he was dead. We told ourselves perhaps it was someone’s escaped pet, but what are the chances we would find the one escaped enormous snake on the island? We moved onward into the jungle, a little more cautious and nervous than before.

Without a doubt, the resort was creepier this time, as the light of day was beginning to wane. (Also, the snake was fresh on our minds as we ventured onward.)

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There were plenty of beer cans strewn about, and graffiti and zombie apocalypse warnings covered the walls. We were clearly not the first people to discover the abandoned resort.

On our way out to the resort for the second time, I’d noticed a tree with an orange “M” and an arrow. “Could that be pointing to the monk baths?” I wondered.

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Great signage, St. Croix. There’s no way anyone would miss this.

As we drove back to town, I kept a lookout for the M, and when I finally saw it again, we stopped, climbed down onto the beach, and finally saw long rectangular baths carved into the stone, complete with steps leading down into them. There were also some other ruins and what we’re fairly sure was an ocean toilet.

Finally, as the sun sunk down beneath the waves, we found everything we set out to find that morning.

We went to bed on our last night in St. Croix feeling content that we had seen as much of the island as we could. We explored, we jumped off piers, we swam, we hiked, we kayaked, we found some wildlife, we danced to Despacito in the Jeep, and we truly lived.

Thanks for the tips, Jameson. We owe you one.

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 xoxo,

Carrie

 

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rivers in the wasteland

rivers in the wasteland

It’s been a long and hard few months.

This whole winter felt like I was paddling against the current, and also didn’t know which river I wanted to be paddling down, or if I even wanted to fight the current or just let it take me.

So that’s what I did. I let the current take me. This way, then that way. Further from who I know I am. Further from the kind of person I want to be.

Meanwhile, Jesus was rowing beside me in a little canoe, offering me a hand up.

But I decided I’d rather let the current take me.

I have my life laid out in milestones. When I get to this place, I won’t have more problems. Then I get to that place, and I realize no person or relationship or job or level of responsibility will ever make everything okay or bring me to some level of completion. Stretching myself to my breaking point isn’t somehow going to turn me into a better or stronger person. Taking care of myself is going to turn me into a stronger and healthier person. Giving myself the same level of care I give the people around me, is going to turn me into a whole person.

I woke up on Monday morning in my friend Ruth’s bed, with this overwhelming feeling that I couldn’t do it anymore. The first thought I had, even before I opened my eyes, was, “I can’t let the current take me anymore because if I don’t stop now I’m going to drown.” So I got out of bed, took a shower with boy shampoo (thanks, Paul), and did the dishes from the night before. And I talked to Jesus and told Him I’m sorry and I’m going to try harder. But rather than telling Him I’m going to be better, like I have been telling Him for awhile, I told Him “Jesus, I can’t do better. I need you to come in and purify me again.” I said, “Jesus, I’m ready to get back into the canoe with You.”

And He said to me, “Carrie, you don’t have to climb back in; let me pull you into the boat. I want you here. I’m already doing a work in you. Just because you can’t see or understand what I’m doing, doesn’t mean I’m not working.”

This scripture from Isaiah popped into my head as I was doing the dishes. And then I came to work and opened Pinterest (as you do) and it was literally the first thing at the top of the page:

“I am about to do something new. See? I have already begun. Do you not see it? I will make a pathway in the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

That’s me. I’ve been that wasteland for too long. God’s created a river, a pathway out, and I honestly think what He wants to do for me is simply show me how to find Joy in Him again.

The thing is, I haven’t been. I’ve been trying to find joy in other things for the past few months, and that’s what’s bugging me, in the back of my mind. Carrie, you were just doing this last weekend, and you think you can just leave that behind and make Jesus your focus again? Pretty sure it’s going to take a little longer than that.

I’ve always been my own worst critic. Disappointment in myself is the hardest to overcome. I’m upset with myself. Not because I did anything “that bad,” but because I know Jesus. I’ve known Him for years. I know He is the only way. Yet, I still choose to walk away. Some days I still choose to ignore Him. That’s why I’m disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed not because I did anything “that bad” but because I’ve been putting other things over Him. Satan would love to catch me up in that. In the shame. He would love to catch me up in guilt. He would love to convince me I’ve used up Jesus’s grace. He’d love to convince me I’ve used up all my chances. Satan would love if I believed him.

You know what? No. (#nottodaySatan) I’m done believing the lie that shame always takes a long time to overcome. I believe my God is active. I believe He runs on His own timeline. And when I turn to Him and tell Him I’m ready to let Him do a new thing in me, I believe He will do it.

He’s always done it before, and I believe He’ll do it again.

If you’re in the wasteland today, keep believing for Him to bring you through it. Keep asking for Him to bring you through it. And please don’t believe the lie that you are the only one struggling. If you are struggling and think you’re worse than anyone around you, reach out to someone you trust. Reach out to me if you need to, even if we don’t know each other well. You’re not the only one with “real struggles,” although sometimes when you’re surrounded by “church people” and “church talk” it can feel that way. But guess what? We all struggle. Every single one of us.

That’s why we need Jesus.

xoxo,

Carrie

Lanc Love

Springtime is coming, and I’m overwhelmed with a love for this place I live. One of my favorite things about Lancaster is it’s proximity to so many wonderful places. The past few weekends I’ve done little road trips. A spontaneous trip to Baltimore and spontaneous afternoons roaming the countryside, a day in Washington DC exploring the Mall and checking out the cherry blossoms. Philly and New York are both close, too, and the beach is as well.

But as great as it is to have so much, so near, the city itself charms me continually. One of my recent favorite spots in Lancaster is Horse Inn. After countless reccommendations, I finally went for the first time a few weeks ago (and then for a second time a few days later). I was smitten by the speakeasy vibes, jazz band, killer cocktails (the Hemingway is my favorite) by Ben, the award winning bartender who looks straight out of the Roaring Twenties, and the FOOD. So far I’ve tried the burger, the burrata, and the wedge salad – all good. My favorites so far are the horse fries (think parmesan and HEAVY CREAM) and the Nashville hot chicken sandwich which actually had me crying from the spiciness (to me, this is a good thing).

Other recent loves in Lancaster: hiking at Landis Woods, chocolate croissants at Lancaster Central Market, and the new Copper Cup Coffee shop that just opened in the city (I’ve only gone through the drive thru, so no cool interior pictures from me).

Here’s a few photos of what I’ve been doing in Lanc lately:

 

xoxo,

Carrie

 

“So what’s going on in your life lately, Carrie?”

Great question. Thanks for asking.

Hawaii

I just returned from a 2 week mission trip to the YWAM base in Kona, Hawaii. Highlights included late night biking to see ACTUAL BURNING LAVA flowing into the ocean, cliff jumping, and working in an aquaponic garden with some of the most wise and kind people I’ve ever met. I might write a post on the aquaponic garden later because I learned a lot there.

 

Ukulele

What else? Well, I’m learning to play the ukulele. This is related to the Hawaii trip, because ukuleles are a big deal there. Hawaiian kids actually learn to play them all through their school years. (Meanwhile, I learned to play Hot Cross Buns on the recorder for two weeks in 4th grade.)

I’ve wanted to learn to play uke since 2 years ago in Belgium, when I found myself lost in a park, looking for a World War 1 museum. I saw some dude sitting on a bench playing his ukulele, and upon asking him for directions, realized he was about as lost as I was, as he’d just landed in Brussels from Australia the day before. We talked for awhile and he told me why the uke is his favorite instrument (portable + conversation starter). 20 minutes later, I realized we were sitting directly in front of the WW1 museum. Ha. Awkward. Anyway, ever since then I’ve wanted to pick up ukulele.

So far I’ve found it fun, but challenging. It’s definitely not a violin, and that’s the instrument I have the most experience with. The thing is, I took violin lessons for 10 years. I’d like to teach myself to play the uke in… a few days? So far, I’ve pretty much learned one song and a bunch of chords. The other day I watched a YouTube video that says you can become proficient in any skill with about 20 hours of focused practice. Only 15 more hours to go!

 

Dreams

I’ve been having a recurring dream lately, for maybe the first time in my life? I rarely have clear memories of dreams. But, twice in the last 3 weeks I’ve dreamt of my 2 front teeth crumbling and just falling right out of my mouth.

It’s literally the scariest nightmare I’ve ever had, and I always wake up freaked out, checking my mouth to make sure all my teeth are still there.

“So, what could this mean?” I wondered. After dreaming said dream a second time, I Googled it (as any good millennial would).

The answers varied. I have insecurities, or I’m afraid of aging, or my teeth are going to fall out, or there’s something unsettled/uncertain in my life.

Um. Ok. All of the above, please.

I’m pretty sure the actual reason is, I need to go to the dentist, and I’m terrified of the dentist.

 

Reading

I only took two books to Hawaii.

One: The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson, which I read most of. Reading books like this in public is always interesting because people take note and ask questions. One day I was laying in my hammock at the beach, reading this book, and my friend overheard people talking about how the person in the hammock is a Christian, and then launching into a discussion on prayer. Books have power, friends.

Two: my own personal white whale: Moby Dick. It’s been following me around since high school, and I have the first 3 chapters memorized at this point. One day, friends, one day I will finish this book.

 

Spontaneity

I used to be a very spontaneous person. Some might say reckless, others might say irresponsible, but I prefer spontaneous. Life happens, and I grow older, and the more responsibility I take on, the easier it is to forget this side of myself. Recently I’ve been making an effort to be that person again. A spontaneous long weekend in New York and Philly, a spontaneous day hike on the Appalachian Trail (SO FUN).

On Wednesday, I decided I was going to go to Canada to visit my friend Robin this weekend. But, by Thursday, I had to give it up for various reasons.

I’m a little disappointed that I’m here in Lanc when I was supposed to be north of the border by now. But I’m also learning (continually, as in, ever since I started this blog, I know, I know) to be content in the being here. I love Lancaster, and I love my life here. So why is it that as soon as I return from a trip, I feel the need to immediately leave again?

I want to be spontaneous, wild, and free, but I also realize those are selfish traits. I want to be spontaneous, wild, and free, but I also want to learn to be more reliable, more steady… to be someone everyone knows they can count on.

 

Well, that’s my current status, and that was a much cheesier “life update” blog than I’m used to. What are you up to these days?

 

xoxo,

Carrie

 

 

 

My Identity

(Note: Most of this was written in early summer, back around the time of my graduation, but I never published it.)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about my identity. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a true identity crisis. Because I’m  rooted in my faith, “follower of Jesus” is my biggest identifier and something I can cling to even when I have no idea what or who else I am. I hope that’s the way other people see me, too.

For most of my life, I’ve been an adventurer-an explorer. I have always been a reader. I’ve been a cook and a baker. I’ve been an ice cream scooper and a barista. A student. A daughter. A friend. A nerd. An artist. A wanderer. I was a film buff. A coffee drinker. I tried my hand at being a hipster. Then I was hip for awhile. I even took a brief foray into being a hippy. Sometimes I think I’m becoming more of a hippy every day without even trying.

These are all identifiers. Jobs I’ve had, ways I see myself, ways other people see me…

I’ve been a student since I was 5 years old, when I entered 1st grade. Over the past 16-17 years, I’ve gone back to school every single autumn, and rejoiced every May.

For the past 4 years, I’ve had another identifier: English Major.

Since May 7, I’m no longer an English Major.

THAT IS CRAZY.

And it scares me.

For a long time, that’s been my go-to identifier. I use “I’m an English major” as an excuse, at times.

As an English major, people assume I will correct their grammar errors. (I won’t. On the inside? Yes. On the outside, no. Rest easy.) Another fun part of being an English major is everyone automatically assuming I’m going to be a teacher.

I tell them, no, I want to write. I want to publish novels. And they give me what I call the “English-major-pity-smile.” Most of you have probably given me that smile at one time or another, but that’s okay. To me, it became a joke. Every time I explained my desire to be a writer, I was being serious. I know it’s a big dream, but after four years, I’m still serious. After four years, I still believe we’re called to big dreams!

In Mere Christianity, my man C.S. Lewis wrote one of my all time favorite passages. It begins,

“Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him.”

When I give up all the terms and identifiers to Him, I have the freedom to pursue Him fully. When I stop pursuing other things and focus on Him, the rest of my life seems to fall into place. If I stop worrying about how other people see me, or whether I am successful in the world’s eyes, I can shift my focus to Him.

A few months ago, I was meeting with a couple friends at Panera Bread, and someone asked the question, “How do you think God sees you?” That’s a hard question to answer at a moment’s notice, but it is also the identifier I care about most.

He loves me. He loved me before I loved Him.

He sees the good things about me. He sees that I am merciful. He sees that I am discerning. He sees that I am good at teaching and leading. He sees that I am a communicator. He sees that I work hard to maintain my relationships.

He loves me, not because of what I’m becoming, but because of who I am.

Even if you try to hide things from God, He knows. To me, that gives me license to be completely open and authentic with Him! He sees that I sometimes don’t allow myself to be real because I am afraid of being hurt. He sees that sometimes I tell people I’m so busy, but I’m really wasting valuable time. He sees that I sometimes go past boundaries I’ve set for myself.

And He loves me.

Because I know I’m loved by Him, I don’t have to become depressed over not being a student anymore. Because I have a beautiful community surrounding me, where I am given opportunities to use the gifts God’s given me… losing a part of my identity isn’t so bad. I don’t have to be afraid about the future, about stepping out into the real world, like so many of my classmates are.

I may not be a student or an English Major anymore, but I am still loved by God. That’s a constant, no matter what else I choose to be… no matter what other labels people give to me. Moving on from college after just four years is a reason to be joyful, because I’m moving toward something.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say,

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day, and death of your whole body. In the end, submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

I admit that passage is confusing. It’s paradoxical. It doesn’t make sense. Looking for someone else shouldn’t bring you to the center of yourself.

But hey, Jesus doesn’t always make sense. It doesn’t make sense that we have more freedom when we submit to Him. It doesn’t make sense that I find myself when I seek Him with everything in me. Grace doesn’t make sense. Self-sacrifice doesn’t make sense.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits[a] of the world, and not according to Christ, for in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Colossians 2:9-10

There is no place I want to find my identity other than the heart of Jesus.

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Thanks for reading,

Carrie