We had scoured the area for launch sites the day before after we checked into our island hotel. I was surprised to find the restaurants still a little crowded although it was a full month after the tourist season had ended and still under COVID restrictions, mild as they were. The hotel was also fairly full. There was only one formal launch site from the island itself and it put us in the backside of the island and into the marsh.
The day we chose for our primary canoe trip, which was the next day, had that perfect temperature in the low 70's F and autumn dry clear air. Fall was truly settling in and chasing summer on its way. We had the Old Town canoe on the top of the old Chevy. The back of our car was loaded with boat cushions, life jackets, paddles, and oddly, for my husband, no fishing gear. There was also a small cooler with cold drinks and crackers and protein bars and fruit for a snack lunch.
It cost a $5 permit for the week to use the public launch site, so hubby got the permit even though we were still looking for other less formal launch sites the next day. We wanted something less busy and more remote.
The next morning we found on the National Park side that there was plenty of accessible interior beach area on the sheltered side of the peninsula and the parking lot was close enough to drag the fiberglass canoe into the water along the flat land access. At first glance at the low tide, we thought we were going to have to walk into squishy mud, but upon checking, we saw that it was just muddy sand and hard-packed and perfect for entering the calm water.
Our canoe is around 80 pounds, but we are slow in coordinating the slide-off and then flipping and each carrying an end to the water's edge. After loading the gear, I usually get in first and hubby gallantly steps into the shallow water after pushing my end towards the deeper part of the water.
There were more people than I expected on the sheltered beachside of the park peninsula as I pushed off and looked back. Almost 80% of the park visitors were fishing, camping, or just sitting in the sun over the rise on the ocean side of the park. The waves on that side were high!
If you look closely above you can see the lifesaver shelters facing that roaring ocean side. They are all empty this time of year. They must have quite a crowd in the summer because even now much of the beach had tents and RV units!
As we floated slowly along the shallow waters we startled large (18-inch) redfish in small schools of 4 or 5. We also scooted over wary blue crabs as they backed into the grasses and raised their claws in defense. The small schools of baitfish flashed silver as they escaped to a safer place. There was even one porcupine fish the size of a baseball that used his tiny little helicopter fins to float in place pretending that we would mistake him for a floating rock. He floated inches above the silty sand as we stopped and watched.
Red tunicates/sponges(?) clung to the substrate and survived.
We paddled along the seagrasses not sure how far we had to go to find a put-in, but not really caring.
Further along, we encountered the oyster farming leased sites which make the island famous for its salty oysters served in local restaurants and shipped further inland.
On the marsh side we saw a duck blind or two that the cormorants had claimed as a hotel.
On the other side, we wound in and out of the wandering edge of the salt grasses and encountered a number of feathered fishermen. Can you just see him standing proud in the direction my canoe bow is pointing?
With a zoom lens, I can pretend I am getting quite close. This one did eventually fly.
Well, I guess I have to break this post into three parts, as this post is getting quite lengthy...so stay tuned for some scenery drama ahead.
While I started writing about our trip on my other blog I think this second post is mostly about the beautiful outdoors that can so easily cleanse the mind and stretch the muscles and if you are smart, stimulate the lungs. With all the stress in the world, there is nothing better than a quiet and steady drift along shallow waters on the protected side of the Eastern Shore.
It is not too difficult to find a place to put in. There are long beaches and even park docks that make it easy. We have packed a light lunch and drinks and cushions...no rain gear as the sky looks kind.
There are others that are out and about in the sheltered marsh. Younger but not necessarily wiser. The nice part is that you can get closer to the wildlife and keep a distance from the tame life.
And you can check out the abstract artwork!
We got to watch a good variety of seabirds. There were even some wild mammals in the marsh.
If as a child, you read the children's book "Misty of Chincoteague" you fell in love with these wild ponies and then read the whole series. Where did they come from? How can they live here? "Several legends are told regarding the origins of the Chincoteague ponies; the most popular holds that they descend from survivors of wrecked Spanish galleons off the Virginia coast. It is more likely that they descend from stock released on the island by 17th-century colonists looking to escape livestock laws and taxes on the mainland." according to Wikipedia. Inbreeding became a problem and humans introduced other genes to assure survival.
OK, put on more sunscreen and in the next post we can glide along the shallows and come to a striking and dramatic private beach that we were able to use for lunch.
It really is time for me to post on my "real life" blog...my other blog for those that read both..., but I just do not have the energy to write about all I have been thinking and all that makes me thoughtful. So today I will share some stuff that makes me serene and safe on my outdoor blog. As an elder who is addicted to photography, I will share that way. The autumn colors are always inviting and/or rustic. Both are so warm and appealing because we know that winter in its monochromatic presentation is blowing its cold misty breath not too far from here. We have a few weeks of perfect weather and that makes photographers, hikers, walkers, walkers with pets, and those walking children to school happy.
These ornamental beans (hyacinth beans) turned yellow the very first night we got into the low 50's F and they are beautifully veined when green and more interesting when yellow. Their summer green and purple are lovely, but they do get your attention before they die.
These brown beech leaves are so full of texture and shadows and require even more study.
The acorns are starting to fall. We have several different species of Quercus and I love them all.
Above I found on my steps as I climbed back up to the back deck after an hour of watching the sun start to set. If you look closely at the leaf you will see a gray-white spider hidden in his web quietly and patiently waiting for dinner after his thrilling ride through the air.
Even the bark of a Quercus (perhaps a black oak) gets a new look as the light from the setting sun comes from the side. I do not notice it when I return from the dock until fall and its hard texture draws my eye.
Time to renew our walk across the flagstone steps to the gravel path to the edge of our finger of the river from my prior post. (Click on photos for a bigger view, of course)
Today is really hot and muggy so I hope you brought your sunhat! Fall is on its way from the angle of the sun in the early morning, but by mid-morning it is once again unbearable unless you are in the shade or sopping wet. Some brave ones are out there in their kayaks this morning. It is now later in the day and the sound of a chain saw cutting down a tree across the river is disturbing the peace, but perhaps these three do not mind.
Below is what the marsh on the left looked like last fall.
And above taken at another time but giving a better shot at low tide. You can see that the rock surf wall is there in the distance but the geese and ducks have cleaned the sand of the planted marsh grasses. We are going to see if that can be resolved as they form an excellent habitat for small creatures and a good buffer for the surf.
There are three boxes planted with grass at different heights of sand. Hubby wants to see which works better. He will put unattractive wooden stakes with flags to hopefully discourage the geese when they return. This is not based on anything he has seen work. Just his crazy project. Although the use of flags on stakes has been done by others.
On the right-hand side of the dock above is our new project of more "living reef" which is a rock wall several feet out from the shoreline and with open spaces for fish and crabs, etc to swim in and out and protect themselves from larger predators. It helps break up boat wake and storm surge while also providing habitat for living things during the rest of the time. The rock wall, which rests on black plastic to prevent it from sinking, will curve around following the yellow tape with two open spaces to allow living things to swim through. You cannot see but the stakes are stuck in reef balls under the water that we hope will encourage the spat to settle from our oyster floats beneath our dock. Our neighbor on this side is quite happy to go along and help pay for half. We will save a lot by doing this ourselves, even hiring help on the weekends.
Below is a photo of what most people do to protect their shoreline because it is cheaper and faster. But not much can live against a wall like that, only snails and silverfish.
And, surprise, who do I see who cannot wait for the helpers that will be coming over the weekend. He is piling rocks to make it easier for them...!! He loves his projects. I think I will go take a nap.....ok, after I exercise.
I will take you this morning on a short walk down to my dock. The back patio is only 150 feet from the water as we walk along a gentle slope of weedy mowed lawn and then across the back lawn under the sprinkled shade from the tulip and oak trees. Then we go down a gravel path under the arching branches of the viburnum that has now formed its seeds. These will be eaten later by cardinals, robins, Eastern bluebirds, and cedar waxwings among others. Now the fruits are too green, but they will become a dark blue and the leaves will become wine red in autumn. Mother nature has planted dozens of them by the river for us to enjoy.
Even before I break into the sunny part of the dock the sharp-eyed osprey across the river has spotted me. How can he see my movement behind the heavy shrubbery? I really think this is the one that I worked so hard years ago to prevent nesting on the roof of our boat. I destroyed the nest every day or so and they have never forgiven me, even though we built them a platform within weeks. He cries and cries to warn others that the bird killer is out and about.
I duck down to take some photos of the grasses. That is when I hear the gagging cry of our resident heron as he leaves one side of the river to fly to the other, perhaps responding to the osprey.
I duck down low to photograph the marsh. You can see above that we have a freshwater seep into the brackish river because the cattails are happy here. In later fall they will burst their seams into an untamed beard of seeds. Also, this flowering shrub below that I think is a type of mallow has really bloomed this year. We have the rose mallow, but the flowers are so much larger and they have stopped blooming, so I am not sure which one this is.
I have to zoom in with my lens so that you can see their real beauty.
The butterflies and bees do love them and stop by often. They are good natural pollinators.
I can hear a woodpecker tapping sharply on a tree in the distance on the other side of the river. I hear his trumpet call. It is the Pileated who commands such a presence that he can echo from across the river. His territorial cry is unmistakable.
As I work my way down the dock I hear a murder of crows in the trees along the neighbor's shoreline. Their call is guttural and angry. I think they have cornered an owl. I look and look, but the trees are too heavy to show me what they have bullied. Even if I saw a shape, owls are impossible to see with their natural camouflage. The call of the crow is really frightening. Glad that the brave owls and eagles ignore this bully. Although they are there to protect their own young crows from these predators.
Well, this morning has been much noisier than I expected. Clearly, I have risen long after the birds have been up. In the next post, I will show you the project(s) my husband has started down at the dock.