Posts Tagged With: Virginia Beach

First Landing (Seashore) State Park, VA Beach, VA

 

DSCN4598In my humble opinion this is one of Virginia’s Treasures. It was the first “Natural Wonder” of Virginia I declared as a child. The Bald Cypress trail was what led me to declare it a “Natural Wonder.”

In my childhood this park was known as Seashore State Park. It is now known as First Landing State Park as per the Park Ranger, “There are several Seashore Parks up and down the east coast so we changed the name. Also the new name commemorates the 1607 landing at Cape Henry of the settlers that eventually moved west and formed Jamestown which was the first permanent English settlement in North America.”

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I say there are two sides to this park, the beach side and the cypress side. Let’s take a walk on the cypress side first. This is a magical world that for me really confirms that God has a very vivid imagination. The topography changes are so vast and great that you feel like you stepped into another planet. There is the cypress swamp, a salt marsh, dunes, freshwater wetlands, maritime forest and the Chesapeake Bay beach all in a short distance from each other. A topographical buffet for sure!

 

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Sounds quickly change from birds chirping to an occasional scampering of some critter. In our short three hour visit we saw; turtles, lizards, numerous birds, and my favorite an opossum.

The opossum was a rare sighting indeed as I had never seen one in the wild. Fascinating Fact: The Virginia Opossum was the first opossum written about in 1610 – and here I see one in the First Landing Park from 1607, the park not the opossum! You just have to keep your eyes peeled in this unusual habitat as you never know what you might find.  There are dragon-flies a plenty and depending on the time of year some mosquitoes, so be prepared with some bug spray.

The swamp naturallDSCN4522y has murky water in which the Bald Cypress grows. The Bald Cypress is also unique in that the trees have these “knees” that protrude from the water. They are part of the root system to give stability and provide oxygen for the tree. These “knees” are a great place to spot dragon-flies and turtles.DSCN4570

 

 

 

 

My favorite trail at First Landing Park is the Bald Cypress. This trail is really a long board-walk through the swamp. There are times when you are on dirt around the swamp but I really like walking the board-walk through the swamp. It is truly a multisensory experience. You can smell the air is humid and clean as the trees make for a natural air filter. The sights and sounds abound too numerous to detail. The sandy soil is easy to walk on, there are steps in some places but there are some areas of the swamp specifically handicapped accessible as well.DSCN4696

Now you literally cross the street into the campground beach section of the park. Admission to the park is $4 weekday and $5 weekends per car and includes both sides of the park.  On the beach side there is a boardwalk to the beach over the dunes. There is a mile and a half beach on the Chesapeake Bay side of the park. There are no lifeguards and swimming is at your own risk.

There are numerous trails in the park for hiking and some for biking too! There is a 6 mile bike trail but most of the trails are for hiking. I was there DSCN4703before Memorial Day, the traditional opening beach season, so the beach is not crowed in my photos. Come summer there will be many campers enjoying the beach. Camping is available at the park and they have all the necessary amenities for  campers and tents. I spent many a childhood family vacation in this campground. I have continued to come back and visit this “Jan’s First Natural Wonder of Virginia” – albeit my personal declaration and endorsement. I hope you will take the opportunity to visit the area for yourself and enjoy!

 

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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.

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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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