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.