Friday, February 28th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
The last post for February – and soon we’ll be welcoming Spring and then, at last, Summer!!! It’s been a particularly harsh winter for many people so we are fully expecting that Virginia Beach is going to hit record visitor numbers this year. Will you be in our company? We hope so. Our 2014 Travel Planner is available for download right here
This week we have a special treat from blogger Katherine Jackson. She discovered and has written about a little sea treasure she recently happened upon on a beach walk. Her photos of this discovery are amazing so sit back and enjoy!!!
Patience and Persistence Bring Gifts from the Sea
Inspired by walks on the beach, Anne Morrow Lindbergh shared her insights on topics ranging from love and marriage to the benefits of seeking a simpler life in her beloved book titled Gift from the Sea. In one passage she writes, “The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. To dig for treasures shows not only impatience and greed, but lack of faith. Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach—waiting for a gift from the sea.”
A few weeks ago, walking on the beach at low tide, I got a special gift from the sea. At first it looked like a tangle of grass, but as we approached, we saw a handsome seahorse wriggling on the damp sand where a receding wave had stranded him. He was about six inches long and close to the color of the sand. I later learned that seahorses can change color to hide from predators. This is only the third seahorse I have seen in more than thirty years of walking on Virginia Beach.
The first one I found was long-dead, at rest near the foot of a dune. I gave him a prominent place on my shell mirror. The second seahorse I saw was alive and also stranded, so after we admired him, we released him back to the ocean. In writing this post, I learned that seahorses are classified as fish even though they swim upright, propelling and steering themselves with tiny fins – one on their back, one on their belly, and one behind each cheek. They rapidly flutter their fins, but they’re notoriously slow swimmers. They wrap their prehensile tail around a piece of seaweed and hang out for days, eating constantly, sometimes as many as three thousand tiny creatures a day. Seahorses typically mate for life, and they’re one of the few species in which the male bears the offspring. The female places eggs in his roomy front pouch. One source I read described how seahorses dance each day with their partner, entwining their tails and twirling like ice skaters across the ocean floor. Collecting a live seahorse just wouldn’t be right, so we returned this little guy to the ocean. I was happy as I imagined him swimming slowly but eagerly in search of his companion. We were lucky – and he was lucky – that we came upon him before a sea gull gulped down a delicacy. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh, wife of Charles Lindbergh and an aviator herself, advises, “One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can only collect a few.” In Virginia Beach, two low tides each day provide opportunities to look for new gifts from the sea. I agree with Lindbergh that patience and faith reward the persistent beachcomber.
Here is a photo of Katherine’s fabulous shell mirror; the seahorse on this mirror is NOT the seahorse Katherine recently found – he was happily returned to the sea!
Photos courtesy of Katherine Jackson
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
One of the things I love about living where I live – in the oceanfront area of Virginia Beach near Rudee Inlet – is that in addition to biking for exercise, I can use my bike instead of my car for transportation. I bike to dinner at restaurants with ocean views. I bike to concerts at open air stages. I bike to the library and even to the grocery story from time to time.
I also bike to the Old Beach Farmers Market, which takes place in the parking lot of Croc’s Bistro on Nineteenth Street, about three miles from my house. During the winter, the market runs every third Saturday in the month from 9 a.m. until noon (in Feb. it’s this coming Saturday, 2/15); in the summer, it’s open every Saturday. Even during the colder months, locally-grown produce is available. At the market in January, people bought kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes, turnips and squash. In addition to fresh produce, vendors offer organic food items such as crusty bread, artisan cheese, handmade pasta and granola. There are meats and seafood, sauces and salsas. Many vendors offer taste tests. Although some purchases are for later use, others can be consumed on the spot: ham biscuits, sausages, pastries and coffee. Adjacent to the food stalls, artists sell everything from jewelry to cutting boards to knitted hats, all of which are made from natural/recycled/repurposed materials. One of my favorite stalls has used books, and at another stall, I sometimes buy handmade, goat’s milk soap. There’s always a festive air around the market, with neighbors greeting neighbors, and vendors calling out to returning customers. People swap recipes, and cookbook authors sign and sell their books. Naturally, everyone packs purchases in reusable shopping bags. The vendors vary from Saturday to Saturday, depending on the season, and that’s part of what makes the market interesting and fun.
Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
This week in The Beach Report Blogger and Author Katherine Jackson recounts our recent RARE snow fall in Virginia Beach.
Magical Mystery Tour
The author enjoying a rarity in VB - snow!
Virginia Beach usually gets a few inches of snow each winter, but real snow days – with enough snow to close schools and bring out the snow shovels – are few and far between. According to the local newspaper, our most recent snowstorm fell just short of the top ten on the list of snow storms recorded in the area. Although the storm caused problems for lots of folks, I saw it as a gift from nature, and a perfect opportunity to break out my snowshoes. Yes, despite the dearth of snow in Virginia, I own snowshoes and enjoy using them from time to time in the mountains of West Virginia. Red Wing Park in Virginia Beach, with eight to ten inches of snow on the ground (or more in some places!), became an ideal arena for snowshoeing. Midmorning: the bulk of the storm had passed in the night, but the sky was still cloudy and gray, and a few snowflakes were still falling. We bundled up, strapped on snowshoes and headed into the deserted park. How beautiful it was under a thick quilt of snow, how quietly enchanting. The Japanese garden with its stands of bamboo and quaint red bridge seemed mystical and ethereal. Hundreds of bare-limbed cherry trees created a snow-filled promenade, and the broad, snow-covered fields were like pure white canvases, unbroken by man or animal. At the east end of the park, we trekked down a trail that wanders through a copse of tall trees. The snow had obscured the trail, but fortunately, colored slashes on trees marked the way. Deep in the woods, we spotted a red-headed woodpecker and stopped to watch him at work. We saw deer tracks, or so we assumed, the prints enlarged and reshaped in the deep snow. In a garden at the west end of the park, we tramped along the path through a landscape filled with evergreen trees and shrubs, holly bushes and frozen camellias. Red Wing is usually well-traveled, with its dog-park, basketball courts, walking paths and playgrounds. But on this snow-filled morning, we only had to share it with a few other intrepid snowhounds. Snowshoeing through ten inches of unbroken snow on un-cleared trails is a good workout and an awesome adventure. With the solitude and the snow and the sun beginning to peek out from the clouds, it was a magical mystery tour. I won’t go so far as to say it was a once in a lifetime adventure, but in Virginia Beach, it certainly was once in a decade.
Photo credit: Katherine Jackson
Friday, January 17th, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
This week in The Beach Report, local author and walking guide Katherine Jackson takes us to another Virginia Beach gem – City View Park.
City View Park: A Glimpse of How the Locals Live
Like many travelers, I like to visit sites for which a place is well known. In Virginia Beach, that would include places like the Boardwalk, First Landing State Park and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. However, I also like to find places where the locals hang out, to get a sense of what it’s like to live in the locale I’m visiting. In Virginia Beach, that would mean exploring the city’s parks and natural areas where local residents walk, play sports, and enjoy temperate weather year-round. On a mild, fifty-three degree day in January, I visited City View Park in the Kempsville section of Virginia Beach. It’s one of those hidden gems, a place to which people from adjacent neighborhoods walk or bike to enjoy the amenities. The best thing about the park from my perspective is that it has two trails: a one-mile paved path that circles the park and a quarter-mile pine straw path that loops through a wooded area. On the morning I visited, the park was quiet. A few children played on the swing sets and a few people were on the shared-use trail: a dad teaching his son to ride a tiny bike, a mom walking beside her daughter who was on a scooter, and several people walking their dogs. I walked through the woods alone. In addition to the trails, the park has picnic shelters, ball fields and basketball courts. Various pieces of equipment, such as horseshoes and cornhole boards, can be checked out at the park office.
Most importantly, what the park offers is an endless supply of fresh air in an open space surrounded by trees. According to Frederick Law Olmstead, the father of Landscape Architecture and designer of thousands of parks including Central Park in New York, parks should provide places of harmony and a shared sense of community to all citizens, regardless of their station in life. He believed that a well-designed greensward surrounded by trees could relieve stress by producing a sense of tranquility. Subsequent research supported his assertions. In addition, research has shown that people who walk regularly feel better mentally and physically. According to experts such as Dr. Bob Sallis of the “Every Body Walk!” website, just thirty minutes of walking five times a week is enough to produce significant improvements in health.
Virginia Beach visitors and locals can chose from a plethora of tranquil places to walk, including 265 city parks, two state parks, four natural areas and thirty-five miles of coastline. Exploring a city’s parks is an effective and enjoyable way to relieve stress, improve health and get a glimpse of how the locals live.
Friday, January 3rd, 2014 by Katherine Jackson
Editor’s Note: Happy New Year! It’s our pleasure to kick off weekly Beach Report series with a post from VB native, author & walking tour guide Katherine Jackson. Katherine recently commented that it’s amazing to live in a city for where you can always find new ways to enjoy it……..we agree, Katherine! We hope you readers agree as well. Enjoy!!!
Walking with the Trees on the Elizabeth River
In the 1580s, when explorers sailed up the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River in what is now Virginia Beach, Chesapeake Indians had been hunting, fishing and farming in and around the river for many years. In the 1600s, British colonists saw the potential of the tidal waterway and settled in the area. I got a beautiful view of the place these early “locals” called home when I explored for the first time the Elizabeth River Nature and Canoe Trail, which is nestled into the Carolanne Farm neighborhood in the Kempsville section of the city. A paved path leads through a broad meadow, into a fragrant wooded area, and then to the banks of the Elizabeth River. In addition to enjoying magnificent views of the river, with luck, you’ll see some of the flying creatures that frequent these parts: osprey, ducks, egrets, herons, peregrine falcons and hawks, as well as a variety of songbirds. On the day I explored the park, I saw a surprising number of robins. You might also encounter frogs, turtles and snakes (including two poisonous types, so be on the lookout). The paved path ends at a canoe launch where a sunny bench is an inviting place to sit for a few minutes, and soak in the solitude and the sights of the waterway. From there, an unpaved but well-trodden trail loops through the woods around Turtle Lake. With the sun shining and the wind being blocked by the trees, it was an ideal day for a winter walk in the woods. Surely the park is busier in other seasons, but on this day, I encountered only one other walker with his dog. All told, the trail is about one mile roundtrip, but it’s well worth the effort, and a longer walk can extend into the neighborhood. According to a sign at the park entrance, this Nature and Canoe Trail was made available to the public through the efforts of a consortium of government and non-profit organizations. I salute their vision in preserving the area. It’s a natural refuge in the middle of the city, a tranquil retreat where it’s easy to forget the day’s troubles and simply breathe in the fresh air. After exploring these woods, I concur with the poet Karle Wilson Baker who wrote, “Today I have grown taller from walking with the trees.” I imagine those early locals must have felt the same way when they sailed up the Elizabeth River and decided to stay.
Monday, December 23rd, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
December is such a busy time of the year, with all the shopping and baking and party-going. It’s easy to let some things slip, such as exercising on a regular basis. With that in mind, I decided to combine two things on my to-do list and headed to Town Center of Virginia Beach for a brisk walk and a shopping trip. Although Town Center is an urban area, it’s easy to find a place to park in one of the free garages or, if your intention is to take a lengthy walk as mine was, in one of the nearby shopping centers. I parked beside the movie theater at Columbus Station and began my walk in the park on the south side of Town Center. Along with neighborhood residents and their dogs, I walked beside the man-made pond where ducks were swimming, camellia bushes were blooming, and tall trees were still shedding their colorful leaves. In addition to enjoying this natural space, I wanted to check out four pieces of public art in the vicinity. On the north side of the park on Columbus Street, a “Peace Pole” commemorates Virginia Beach’s international Sister Cities with the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth.” Resembling a street sign, the monument is comprised of blades with the name and mileage to each Sister City including Miyazaki, Japan: 7,366 miles; Moss, Norway: 3,972 miles; and Olongapo, Philippines: 8,720 miles. Also on Columbus Street, I stopped to examine “The Kiss,” a bronze sculpture by Gary Alsum of a young couple smooching on a bench. Every time I drive through this area, I’m briefly fooled by the reality of the depiction. After walking around the park, I headed toward the main square, which was ablaze with holiday lights, a star-topped Christmas tree and whimsical reindeer topiaries. Here, I passed a bronze sculpture by David H. Turner of three herons entwined atop a fountain.
Friday, November 29th, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
Editor’s Note: Isn’t it a bit nutty how blogger and outdoor enthusiast Katherine Jackson always knows when we need her inspiration for some serious outdoor fun and exercise? After yesterday’s feast, we are grateful for the timing of this post. Thanks, Katherine!
Bike Shore Drive: The Chesapeake Bay Side
A few years ago, with applause from local cyclists, the City of Virginia Beach paved bike lanes on both sides of the eastern end of Shore Drive where it passes through First Landing State Park. It’s a beautiful place to bike, a four-mile stretch through the maritime forest where Native Americans once lived, and where English sailors once landed before sailing upriver to settle at Jamestown. One way to access this route is to park on Eighty-fourth Street at the North End of Virginia Beach and head west. The scenery changes quickly from beach bungalows to a fragrant forest of pine trees, deciduous trees, and sandy dunes. On a recent Sunday afternoon, this section of Shore Drive was sparkling, with a bright blue sky above and the late fall sunlight reflecting on red and gold leaves. After traversing woods, the scenery changes again, as the road enters the residential and commercial districts that line the Chesapeake Bay. This is a highly desirable place to live in Virginia Beach, with lots of opportunities for recreation on the bay, on the beaches and on the Lynnhaven River. Another asset is a plethora of locally owned restaurants and watering holes, some with views of the river and sunsets on the bay. Cyclists can ride in the travel lane on Shore Drive, where the speed limit is 35 miles per hour, and from here it’s easy to pop down a side street for a peek at the beach. But I recommend accessing instead the Cape Henry Trail.