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October brings up old regret

I don't know what came over me. Maybe it was the way the maple and oak leaves were parting from their branches and sailing to the ground. All that death floating around.

I don't know what came over me. Maybe it was the way the maple and oak leaves were parting from their branches and sailing to the ground. All that death floating around.

Or maybe it was the way the dark had wrapped itself around our old house on this October night.

Or maybe it was an old Neil Young song playing on the computer.

But without warning, I found myself thinking about a night on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands.

I know. It sounds exotic. But it was a fleeting visit. Too fleeting, I decided on this somber October night.

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We had flown to St. John's in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A 25th wedding anniversary of sorts. But true to our style, we chose a tent over walled accommodations. We camped there for most of a week, swimming and kayaking and snorkeling by day, dining in open-air restaurants by night.

Bliss.

Friends had told us about Jost Van Dyke, another dollop of volcanic rock and palm trees just across the channel from our camp on St. John's. Particularly about White Bay Beach and about a little dinner place called Foxy's.

So we left our camp behind for a day and bought round-trip ferry tickets for Jost Van Dyke. We had arrived in early afternoon. The ferry boat weaved its way among sailboats at anchor in a protected bay. We walked through the tiny village. On a front porch, an older sister put dreadlocks in the hair of a younger sibling.

We hiked over a small hill and down to White Bay Beach. It was nearly deserted, and this was high season. The white sand reflected the Caribbean sun.

We strolled along the beach, past the Soggy Dollar Bar, nearly deserted in early afternoon. The renowned bar takes its name from a tradition on Jost Van Dyke. Because there's no dock on the beach, many guests swim ashore from their boats and purchase drinks with soggy bills. But the sailboaters hadn't come in to anchor yet, and we had the long beach almost to ourselves.

At sunset, we hiked back over the hill and had supper at Foxy's, where Foxy himself regaled us with his guitar and irreverent songs about American politics. It was a perfect night.

"Let's not go back," she said. "Let's sleep on the beach."

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But I balked at the suggestion. Too dangerous, I said. Something might happen. We could get robbed. Or worse.

I don't have many regrets about my life. But I regret that night on Jost Van Dyke.

We should have lain under the stars and sipped a rum concoction from the Soggy Dollar and listened to the waves.

Instead, we caught the ferry and stood on the open deck as it pulled away from Jost Van Dyke. The lights of the little harbor diminished in our wake until finally they were swallowed by the blackness of the ocean.

SAM COOK is a Duluth News Tribune columnist and outdoors writer. Reach him at (218) 723-5332 or scook@duluthnews.com .

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