Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Great Dismal Swamp

On a recent trip to Virginia Beach, Virginia I was looking for someplace to go for a bike ride. Of course I goggled parks and came up with the Great Dismal Swamp.  So I asked my friend, “How about a bike rDSCN4308ide in the Great Dismal Swamp?”

Oh the reaction, “DISMAL swamp, why would  I want to go to the DISMAL swamp?” To wit I replied, “It is the GREAT dismal SWAMP you are focusing on dismal, focus on GREAT SWAMP. It will be GREAT!”

So we decided to load up and tackle a ride in the Great Dismal Swamp! I have been to First Landing State Park (formerly called Seashore State Park, more on this one in an upcoming post) and so I knew a little about what to expect. I anticipated murky water, mystery and if we were luck unusual wild life.DSCN4344

I was not disappointed. It was as if we biked into another planet. The landscape quickly changed from the gravel parking lot to murky water tree filled expanses. The reflections of the trees in the water was stunning. The forest, thick in some areas, suddenly opened up into water filled areas.

DSCN4333The bike path appeared to be a berm of packed dirt topped with some gravel and grass that had been trucked in. I later learned from my Dad, who grew up in the area, that when he was a teen the Dismal Swamp was off-limits for the most part except some small areas for Scout Troops to visit and camp. They were only able to go on guided tours as there were no roads. He told me a friend of his father had gotten lost and they searched for him for a week before they found him. Thankfully, he was fine as he was a very experienced outdoors man.

Today, the Dismal Swamp has many bike paths, boardwalks and roads all with scenic views of the swamp. There are some areas after heavy rains that can become a bit muddy. They had such a rain two days before our arrival and we were able to bike six miles into the swamp before we were stopped by too much mud. DSCN4452

I was also not disappointed in the wild-life. We saw some unusual birds, I especially liked the blue heron.  I was able to capture photos of several turtle families sunning on logs. We did see one snake while biking, it was as stunned seeing us as we were it and it squirmed away before I could get a photo. I never felt threatened by it.


As always in the woods there are beautiful plants, unbelievable ferns, some wild flowers and unusual trees. There are many wonderful sights to see. HDSCN4358owever, if you are like me you do need to be vigilant to watching for Poison Ivy. For those who do not know what it looks like I took the photo that shows not only the leaves of three but also the hairy vine. The plant can grow in small plants which can be seen growing along the ground; I learned the rhyme “leaves of three leave it be.” For the vine type of poison ivy in the photo I learned, “Hairy vine no friend of mine.” I am highly allergic to poison ivy so I have learned to spot it at a distance in all forms, both plant and vine.

At the end of our bike ride we decided to take one of the roads back to Lake Drummond. This is a 3,100 acre lake with an average dept of 3 feet located in the Dismal Swamp. This was where we saw a large Blue HDSCN4420eron.

All in all we had a great day and a great adventure at the Great Dismal Swamp. It is a unique ecosystem that is located on the Virginia North-Carolina border. We entered in Suffolk Virginia and totally enjoyed our visit. If you are in the area I highly recommenced it!


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Had a Ball Biking in Virginia Beach!

DSCN4167I had a ball biking in Virginia Beach on the Boardwalk!

     I love the separated boardwalk in Virginia Beach, VA.  It is unique in that it has clearly marked individual lanes for walking and biking. They are both excellent surfaces and have an exceptional view of the beach. While the photo here is obviously early in the season before the area becomes filled with beach goers the dual areas make going to the boardwalk all day long a pleasure.

I have been a fan of Virginia BeacDSCN4219h since childhood. Primarily because I had two sets of grandparents that lived at the beach. Many years, as children, we would go for one week with one set of grandparents and the next week with the other set of grandparents. That meant two weeks at the beach! So Virginia Beach holds many special memories for me to begin with.

I recently went for a week back to this childhood treasure. It is still a joy to go to the beach, enjoy the sun and fun. I still love setting on the beach feeling the warmth of the sun while I read and people watch. I know we all do it – see the folks on the beach and make up snippets of stories about those strangers. You know, you see a guy and girl in the water playing in the waves, turn to your friend and say “look at the cute honeymooners.” We see people on vacation and make a momentary connection… the old girl friends, oh maybe sisters who have plastic bags in their hands looking for shells… the father and son digging sand to make a hole to china… we love to catch snippets of their conversations. We find enjoyment in the joy of others having fun! The beach brings this sense of community out in me for sure.



I really like seeing the families having fun! Dad’s and Mom’s playing with their kids, that is joy! I watched this Mom and Dad help their child learn to ride a bike. It was amazing, it has been years since I have seen that simple common act of parents teaching a child to ride a bike. I have always loved to ride a bike and watching this gave me a walk down memory lane. I found myself cheering inside for this boy to succeed in his solo bike ride. It was fun to have time to take joy in the success of others.

I found myself wanting my photo taken at many of the places along the boardwalk. I do not recall the giant beach balls, turtles or fish along the boardwalk for photo shoots as a child. But they sure were fun on this trip! We all need to have fun and call up our inner child from time to time! My family tells me I am the oldest 12 year old they know because I like to have the fun and remember the wonder of childhood.


DSC00053      I saw the fish and I had to have my picture taken just so I could say “fish you were here!” So where is  your favorite beach? Why? What makes it special and fun? Let’s have some fun and share our beach memories!


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“How Did They Do That?” by Deborah Tompkins Johnson


In her book, “How Did They Do That,”  Deborah Tompkins Johnson has interviewed a wide range of very successful people. She pulls inspiration out of each person’s life and shares their stories. We hear from such notables as Actor, Blair Underwood and former Governor of Virginia, Douglas Wilder to name just a few. In their stories of success we can find some common “can do” themes. I found some to be expected, such as having someone early in life that encouraged them to believe they could do anything. Conversely, some were self motivated by being told they could not do something.

Deborah has a wide range of very successful careers in her book which are all named on the cover. I believe this book would make an excellent gift if you know a student that aspires to greatness.  It would be an especially meaningful gift book if they aspire to be in one of the mentioned fields: Songwriter, Actor, Diplomat, Entrepreneur, Politician, Soldier, Teacher, Coach, Corporate Executive, Minister, Dancer, or Fashion Stylist.  For those of us that have been in our careers awhile it is an excellent reminder on finding inspiration in others. Deborah gets some great stories and inspirational moments out of those she interviewed. I totally enjoyed the story telling format of this book and was inspired by those who shared their life successes and inspiration with us. There are many more shared common experiences to success and I would encourage you to read this book to explore these commonalities.

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“Did I Say That Out Loud?” by Kelly McDermott Hartman



In her book, “Did I say that Out Loud?” Kelly McDermott Harmann shares hilarious “conversations about life.” Kelly has a wonderful story telling style that will make you laugh out loud, side splitting, belly laughing out loud! You will feel like you are sitting in your favorite local coffee shop overhearing a hysterical conversation. This book is a great vacation pick me up for your mind. Kelly shares stories about her husband, work and everyday life. You will find yourself laughing about some of these stores long after you read them.

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