David was adamant that he wanted to climb Jacob's Ladder. It's a thing tourists do on St. Helena Island ... though the Saints themselves seldom do it any more. I mean, why would you if you don't have to? You can see the ladder from most any point in Jamestown … clinging to the mountainside.
At night, the steps are illuminated and make a wonderful sight from afar.
Originally built in 1829 as a tramway, the “ladder” was initially used to remove manure from cattle and livestock in Jamestown and haul it “up country” to improve soil conditions. Donkeys were hitched to a windlass at the top to haul carts up the steep inclined plane. People traveled in boxes. A trip to the top took 7.5 minutes. Really? I'm thinking this might take me a bit longer. Standing at the bottom, the top looked a long, long way up, up, up as it stretched to the heavens.
We chose mid-morning for this strenuous task while it was still cool. We started at the base of the steps near the Museum. Did I mention Jacob's Ladder has 699 steps? 699 uneven, crumbling, steep, steep steps!
Fairy terns and tropic birds soared gracefully above and below us as we climbed. I found any excuse to stop and take a rest. A few flowers poking up through the volcanic rock along the side? Absolutely a photo opp.
Oh, here's some graffitti that I feel I should photograph.
Ah, more views of the wharf …
And the half way mark (thank goodness!)
and the red-roofed town of Jamestown below.
Finally, we made it to the top. David was barely winded. Me? Well, let's just say I made it and leave it at that. The record for climbing the ladder is 5 minutes and change. Our time? 34 minutes, 20 seconds. The views made the climb worthwhile (really!). Nine of Cups looked so tiny down below as a tropic bird swooped over her.
At the top of Ladder Hill stands the Ladder Hill Fort, one of the first lines of military defense built by the early settlers. It's in pretty sad shape, but still interesting to walk around.
Some of the old buildings are occupied or used for storage, but most are showing the effects of time and weathering.
Now, of course, we needed to get back down. We chose the long, steep, switchbacked road down to town. The ladder would have been quicker, but we'd already seen those sights. The fastest way down? Some of the locals slide down the handrails on their backs, using their arms and legs as brakes. Yikes! We took the the road.
We noticed a plaque on the cliff above the road as we were heading down in memory of nine people who were killed by a massive rockfall in 1890. Massive chain nets and fences now line the faces of the cliffs to prevent such occurrences.
It was a long, steep walk down, but we finally made it to sea level again. We stopped at the Standard Pub for a well-deserved beer and then made our way down Main Street to the ferry dock for a ride back to Cups … exhausted, and just a little bit chuffed! It's going to be an Ibuprofen night!
Want to climb Jacob's Ladder with us? Take a look at this video.