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 ride 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.
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.
The 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.
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. However, 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 Heron.
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!