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.
Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
As autumn wanes and winter approaches, locals and visitors alike can be found enjoying the Boardwalk. It’s a different place when the weather changes (everyone wears a bit more clothing, for sure!), but different in a good way. Regardless of the season, there’s always plenty to see along the oceanfront promenade, but I recommend a detour when walking at the south end. I recently visited the Virginia Legends Walk for the first time, even though it was dedicated in 1999.
Located in a grassy park on 13th Street between Atlantic and Pacific Avenue, it’s a series of monuments to noteworthy people who were born in Virginia or who lived in Virginia during the time of their greatest accomplishments. No surprise to find tributes to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Booker T. Washington. On the other hand, it was interesting to read about musicians Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey and Patsy Cline, entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and tennis champion Arthur Ashe. Writers Edgar Allan Poe and William Styron, explorers Lewis and Clark, and Pocahontas, Chief Powhatan, and Captain John Smith are honored. Newscaster Katie Couric even has her place on the Walk. (I’d be dating myself if I mentioned that she was a year ahead of me at UVA.)
All told, the website for the Virginia Legends Walk lists 37 inductees, including one animal. Can you guess which one? Secretariat, the thoroughbred racehorse who was born in Doswell, Virginia and won the 1973 Triple Crown. Each honoree has a plaque with a description of his or her most significant global or national contributions. For example, Alan B. Shepard was the first American astronaut in space and the first person to play golf on the moon. Walter Reed earned a medical degree at age 18 and conducted research on typhoid and yellow fever, saving millions of lives. In addition to being the “Father of New Journalism,” Tom Wolfe coined the phrases “good ol’ boy” and “The Me Decade.” Who knew? If you aren’t familiar with the tale of Grace Sherwood, you can take to take a stroll on the Virginia Legends Walk to find out who she was. Hint: she was also known as the Witch of Pungo.
Friday, November 8th, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
This week, Shorelines features blogger Katherine Jackson and a perfect “Beach Report.” Enjoy!
Get Away to Sandbridge
People sometimes ask: “Why do you take beach vacations when you live at the beach?” But living at the beach isn’t the same as vacationing at the beach. That’s why I didn’t hesitate when a group of friends asked if I wanted to join them for a weekend getaway at a house on the oceanfront at Sandbridge – Virginia Beach’s southernmost neighborhood. The timing was ideal because fall is such a beautiful season at the beach. The summer crowds are gone, the sun is still warm, and the air is crisp. Perched on the deck of a house called San Se Air II, we watched dolphins swim past and an orange moon rise. We walked on the deserted beach, and biked on Sandfiddler Road, which parallels the ocean for five miles. On Sunday, we rode bikes into False Cape State Park, where I discover something new every time I visit. This time, we explored the mile-long Maple Leaf Trail, which begins at Back Bay. Over the dunes and through the woods, to the Atlantic Ocean we went. Leaves on the trees in the maritime forest had turned yellow and orange, and pine needles carpeted the fragrant trail. I didn’t see any maple trees, so back home and curious, I researched the trail on the know-it-all machine. The name commemorates The Maple Leaf Incident in which Confederate prisoners, who were being taken up the James River for imprisonment at Fort Delaware, commandeered the Army’s steamship USS Maple Leaf and headed south instead. Off the coast of what’s now False Cape State Park, they rowed ashore in the steamer’s small boats and escaped into the marshes of Back Bay. It’s easy to imagine disappearing into the maritime forest preserved by the park today. Several websites describe the four-thousand-acre park as “one of the few remaining undeveloped areas along the Atlantic Coast.” The Virginia Outdoors website provides maps of the trails, videos, and additional resources for exploring False Cape. At this time of year, access to the park is limited because the easiest way to get there is on the gravel roads that run through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is closed until April 1 to protect migrating birds. However, visitors can still access False Cape by walking south on the Refuge’s beach or by paddling a boat into the park via Back Bay. On weekends, visitors can catch a ride on the Terra Gator, a beach transporter that departs from Little Island Park at the south end of Sandbridge. The refuge was still open last Sunday when we visited, but we saw only a handful of people on the trails, and we had the entire beach to ourselves while we walked along the shore. That’s what makes False Cape such a special place. It’s not far from “civilization,” but it feels so remote. On the way home from Sandbridge, we stopped for lunch at Margie and Ray’s, a classic, down-home seafood restaurant. I ordered a supersized basket of hushpuppies, which came out just the way I like ‘em: hot, crusty and sweet. What a perfect way to end a weekend getaway to Virginia Beach.
Monday, October 21st, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
On a recent fall-like Sunday, I wanted to take a walk in the country so I headed for N. Muddy Creek Road in the southern, rural section of Virginia Beach. I scouted this route last fall as a potential place for a walk. I parked just beyond Blue Pete’s Restaurant in a gravel turnout on the side of the road. It’s obviously a popular fishing spot as several fishing lines with bobbers were caught in a power line crossing the creek that flows from here into Muddy Creek and North Bay. Walking west on N. Muddy Creek Road, Back Bay Botanicals soon appeared. On this cut-your-own flower and herb farm, not only could I enjoy walking through a flower field, but I also could select a bouquet of Zinnia, Sweet Pea and Cockscomb in an array of magenta, gold, orange and red. One thing I love about rural Virginia Beach: the honor system is alive and well. I had stopped at an honor-system farm stand earlier in the day, where I purchased tomatoes and zucchini. Here, the flower patch also was unmanned; on a shelf outside a small structure were Mason jars, scissors, and instructions: fill a jar with as many flowers as you want and leave $10 in the box on the porch. Cash or check. It was pleasant to stroll through rows of flowers in the company of butterflies and bees. Muddy Creek Road runs along sun-filled farm fields and curves through cool wooded areas. Noteworthy sights include giant old-growth trees, fat cats, a miniature horse, and several friendly dogs. Purple and yellow wildflowers are in bloom in thickets along the way. Not many cars passed on this Sunday morning, but a number of cyclists zoomed by since this route is part of a popular 50-mile biking loop through rural Virginia Beach. About two miles west of Blue Pete’s, where Muddy Creek intersects Princess Anne Road, a sign promises that a pumpkin patch and corn maze will open soon. When they do, this will be a good place to park for a walk down Muddy Creek Road. Lots of roads crisscross the rural part of Virginia Beach, passing through nearly 30,000 acres of farmland, but not all are conducive for walking. N. Muddy Creek Road, on the other hand, is a place where the sights and smells of the countryside can be enjoyed on foot. With the onset of cooler weather, there’s no better time to get in the habit of walking for pleasure and for health. A stroll down a country road is a good place to start.
Photo credit: Katherine Jackson
Monday, October 14th, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
I enjoy biking in places like First Landing State Park, where trails wind through the woods, or on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk where I don’t have to worry about competing with cars. However, for road cyclists who don’t mind a few cars, Virginia Beach has identified two long cycling routes in the southern, rural section of the city. One route is twenty-five miles and the other is fifty, with markers every five miles. The 25/50 Loops, as they’re called, begin at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex (where parking is available), and pass through several neighborhoods before heading out into the countryside. The twenty-five mile route turns back once it reaches the quaint village of Pungo, while the fifty mile route turns at Creeds, a small crossroads with a flair of its own. For an even longer ride, a seventy-five mile route crosses the North Carolina state line before coming back. Like most of Virginia Beach, the rural part of the city is nearly flat. According to City of Virginia Beach Senior Planner Wayne Wilcox, who manages bikeways and trails, “These routes are very popular with road cyclists. On nice days, I’ve seen a near-constant flow of cyclists stopping at the Exxon at Creeds for water, snacks, etc. One bike shop does a group ride for part of the route, and sometimes has over 100 riders.” Cyclists divide up into groups according to the pace they want to keep. Although some of the roads are narrow, Wilcox reports that the cycle safety record in this part of the city is good. Nonetheless, a helmet is essential, and the rules of the road must be followed at all times. The 25/50 Loops pass wide-open farm fields, horses grazing in green pastures, and farmhouses decorated at this time of year with hay bales, jack-o-lanterns and ornamental corn. Some sections border undeveloped tracts of land that are part of the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Deciduous trees along the Loops are just beginning to put on their fall color show, and the air is laced with the smell of wood smoke and dried leaves. A chipmunk nibbling a nut, a bale of turtles basking on a branch that has fallen into a creek, a deer standing alert at the edge of a field: cycling is a great way to improve physical fitness and see sights that are sometimes invisible when touring by car. As Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “It is by riding a bike that you learn the contours of a country best.”
For more bike loop info, check out http://www.mapmyride.com/us/virginia-beach-va/
Friday, October 4th, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
Did you know Virginia Beach is home to more than 260 parks? Each one is unique and makes a great neighborhood hub. This week in The Beach Report, we’re featuring a post about a perfect fall pasttime, a walk in the park. Join blooger and walking tour guide Katherine Jackson as she takes us walks through one of these outdoor treasures, Providence Park.
Providence Park Offers Multi-use Path
“Divine guidance” may have been at work in the creation of “Providence” Park. Tucked into a busy corner of Virginia Beach, the eighteen-acre park provides a welcome respite from the well-traveled thoroughfares that surround it. It’s a classic All-American park, with baseball diamonds, picnic shelters, a wide-open field, and a playground with swing sets and slides.
What drew me to the park is its walking trail: two paved loops including an outer loop that measures three quarters of a mile. Most of the multi-use path is in full sun, which might be a concern in the middle of the summer, but on a 70-degree fall afternoon, the bright sunshine and light breeze feel just about right. As quitting time comes and goes, neighbors begin to show up with their dogs and strollers and iPods. A couple of runners lace on their shoes, and a boy and his friend toss a football in the open field. Kids play on the swings, while a woman sits in the shade of a giant Beech tree, jotting notes in a notebook. (Oh yeah. Right. That’s me.) Seriously, this Beech tree alone is worth a visit. It must be fifty feet high – maybe more – with limbs stretching just as wide. Nearby, a sign at the park entrance indicates that this area was once the ancestral home of long-time Virginia Assembly Delegate Harry B. Davis, whose family purchased the farmland before the Civil War. It’s easy to imagine this tree, with its silvery bark and massive canopy of leaves, as a valued feature of the homestead, providing much-needed shade on hot afternoons, long before the advent of air conditioning. Another noteworthy feature of Providence Park is its wildflower gardens. Several areas, marked by “Growing, Not Mowing” signs, embody new “meadow management” practices, which convert manicured lawns back to their natural state. In so doing, they enhance wildlife habitat, improve water quality through increased filtration, and conserve labor and fossil fuels. If meadow management means more wildflowers, I’m all for it. The meadows at Providence Park have impressive stands of goldenrod and patches of yellow and orange Gaillardia, a type of sunflower commonly known as blanket flowers. If hoofing around Providence Park a time or two isn’t enough mileage, Woodstock Park is just a quarter mile down Providence Road. Here, a dog park, a skateboard park, and prolific knock-out rose bushes are worth a look. If not divine guidance, then surely the earthly providence of park planners was at work when they developed these two parks in Virginia Beach.
Photo credits: Katherine Jackson
Friday, September 20th, 2013 by Katherine Jackson
Editor’s Note: The air is a bit cooler this week and a perfect time to feature a post from local walking guide Katherine Jackson who takes us with her on a fun fall walk in the country. This post makes me put my sneakers on and get out to the county - now! Enjoy!!
Country Road in Virginia Beach
On a recent fall-like Sunday, I wanted to take a walk in the country so I headed for N. Muddy Creek Road in the southern, rural section of Virginia Beach. I scouted this route last fall as a potential place for a walk. I parked just beyond Blue Pete’s Restaurant in a gravel turnout on the side of the road. It’s obviously a popular fishing spot as several fishing lines with bobbers were caught in a power line crossing the creek that flows from here into Muddy Creek and North Bay.