Two weeks ago when I was on the nationwide family graduation tour, I had an opportunity to go take a walking tour of the First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
The original plan for that day was for The Long Suffering Wife and I to go out with The Long Suffering Sister-In-Law for an event with her and her Model-A. She is very proud of her “Lady Lil” (and rightly so!), is a member in a local Model-A club, and was participating in a Saturday event with the club. We were going to go along (in period costume, of course!) and ride in the rumble seat. But rains earlier in the week and on Friday had left the event site unusable and the event cancelled, so we had the morning open.
Fortunately for me, The Long Suffering Sister-In-Law knew that one of her friends, Penny Lazauskas (who runs Nature’s Calling), was leading a nature hike that day. While Ronnie doesn’t do nature hikes, I love doing all sorts of outdoor activities, so I was glad to meet up with Penny and go along.
At First Landings State Park we took the 1.8 mile Bald Cypress trail and I was thrilled and amazed at some of things I saw just a few miles from homes, highways, busy malls, airports, and so on. (Much as in our Los Angeles area with the critters in our back yard, the Santa Monica Mountain parks, and Angeles National Forest, the critters here appear to be doing well.)
The trail is pretty flat, wide, easy to walk, and wanders through heavily wooded areas and swamps. At every swamp area there were walkways that went out over the water, giving you great and unique views of the vegetation and wildlife.
The “black water” here is fresh, not brackish. Even though it’s very near the ocean, the swamps here are not tidal. The water gets its black appearance from the tannin in the water from the rotting vegetation. This means that bacteria won’t grow in the water, which made it perfect for the early settlers and sailors to store in barrels and use for long sea voyages.
About the time we were talking about snakes (Penny’s specialty is herpetology and she was looking for water moccasins or cotton mouths) I spotted this guy next to the trail. Penny identified it as a non-venomous “Redbelly water snake (Nerodia erythrogaster)” and I decided to take her word for it. (Again, snakes and I are not the best of friends. It’s me, not them – nothing personal, snakes!)
This is a leopard frog (if I remember correctly). A little tiny guy, only an inch or so long, but really loud. We also sometimes heard cicadas, but never saw any. (At least I got to hear them.)
Poison ivy. I was wearing shorts and Penny was nice enough to ask me if I’m allergic to poison ivy before I walked (off the trail) into this. I didn’t even know that some people are not allergic, but decided to not test the theory either way.
All in all it was a great way to spend a morning and I highly recommend it. If you’re in the area and get the opportunity, check with Penny to see what tours she might have scheduled, either at First Landing or at the Great Dismal Swamp. Reservations are required for her tours, and she also does tours for private groups. You can reach Penny at (757) 639-8825, by email at email@example.com, or at her web site, http://www.naturescalling.org/