Circumnavigating Gordon Island

8 paddlers from the Virginia Paddling meet-up group enjoyed a hot day on Gordon Creek. We saw powerboats on the Chickahominy River, a few other paddlers, some heron, geese, and ducks. We were disappointed by no eagle, otter, or turtle sightings, but it was midday and hot, so we were not at all surprised by the lack of critters stirring about.

Sarah’s Creek and Gloucester Point

Fun paddle on Sunday with the Virginia Paddlers kayak group. We put in at Gloucester point, went up and down Sarah’s Creek, then out around the point to the bay. The river was like glass on the way out, and then the wind kicked up, giving is some wave action to ride back to the bridge.

Paddleboarding at Hatteras, NC

We camped at Frisco Campground (NPS) on Hatteras Island. The ocean side was too rough and cold for paddle-boarding, but we enjoyed driving on the beach and flying kites. Luckily, the water in shallower Currituck Sound was much warmer, so we didn’t really need our wetsuits and had fun on our SUPs. We saw some small skates and big turtles swimming below and around us.

Update on 8/19/19: I later learned that the very vocal bird that kept us awake all night was a Whippoorwill. Take earplugs, or this is what you’ll hear all night long – they are relentless: https://youtu.be/jIxfVSS_65o

Diascund Creek Out and Back

This is one of my favorite Williamsburg-area paddles. Putting in at Liberty Baptist Church on Route 60 in Lanexa, VA has to be timed with the tides and respect to water levels. At best you’ll have about 1 foot of water at the launch, but the creek is so beautiful, it’s well worth doing the research.

We put in around 1:15 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019 and were back at the launch site by 4:00 p.m. The route is generally south – north, but it meanders a bit, so GPS is very helpful and I for one won’t do this creek without it. The creek meanders and the directionally challenged (like me) may end up paddling in circles without it.

The route includes paddling under a train trestle and an old pipeline. In Spring, the scenery is a nice blend of cypress swamp, dogwoods, mountain laurel, wide open creek, homes and private docks. We saw several large blooms of Wisteria this trip. From June to September this creek is well known for its stunning patches of American Lotuses. I plan on another trip this summer to see them.

Wildlife we saw this trip included turtles, ducks, geese, osprey, woodpeckers, a dragonfly, and lots of jumping fish.

Cherry Blossoms from the Potomac

The Virginia Paddling Meetup launched from Gravelly Point, Arlington, VA at 10:00 a.m. on April 7, 2019. The famous cherry blossoms were just past their peak, because spring came early and made us scramble to adjust our plans. They were still gorgeous and the warm air temperature made for a fun paddling day. Water temperature was still only 52 degrees, so we were dressed for possible immersion. Thankfully, there were no mishaps.

We paddled up the Potomac, enjoying watching all of the people on shore who were taking group shots and selfies with the cherry trees. We stopped for lunch and a stretch break on Roosevelt island, where we saw the bluebells. Animal sightings included ducks, geese, cormorants, and turtles.

Coming around Roosevelt Island we had excellent views of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. We were off the water by 2:00 and headed back for what was a 2.5 – 3 hour drive for most of us. Well worth the drive to see our nation’s capitol in its springtime glory!

Rens Road Boat Ramp to Poquoson River

After work paddle with Hampton Roads Kayakers meet up group. 4 paddlers dressed for cold water (51 degrees) on this breezy 59-degree evening to enjoy watching the sunset. Saw a few herons and egrets, plus some very large Canadian Geese.

New Year’s Day Paddle

The Virginia Paddlers group launched from the James City County Marina at 10:30 on a cloudy, but unseasonably warm day, with temperatures in the mid-60s. Cold water temps required “dressing for the dunk,” of course. We enjoyed our lunch break at Black’s Point beach, then headed for the “hole in the wall” to return us to Back River, then paddled up Powhatan Creek to the marina.

Lesson learned: circumnavigate the island counterclockwise to go with the current and outgoing tide next time!

Kayaking on Merchants Mill Pond, NC

 

Swamp, Alligators, and Turtles

With some trepidation, I joined a group of friends at the end of October to paddle Merchants Mill Pond in North Carolina. Though it was an easy 2-hour drive to this beautiful state park from Williamsburg, my concern was about the alligators who live there! This pristine park is the northernmost habitat for alligators, which live in only two places in the world: China and the Southeast United States.

Researching extensively before I agreed to go, I was assured that the alligators don’t like people and move away when approached. Since temperatures were getting cooler, they would most likely be hibernating, so I put on a brave face and joined the fun. I’m glad I did—we saw no alligators, but enjoyed lots and lots of turtles sunning themselves.

The visitor center had good exhibits about the history of the Mill Pond and the flora and fauna in the area. The prettiest hiking trail had been damaged by hurricane Matthew and was temporarily closed, so call ahead if you plan to hike. The pond, stream, and swamp felt far removed from civilization for a contemplative wilderness experience.

Paddling Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Women’s Sea Kayaking Retreat, Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, 2016

Only 2 hours from Williamsburg you’ll find pristine wildlife preserves on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I just returned from my longest kayaking expedition yet: 4 days, 3 nights in the Hehl Wildlife preserve near Kiptopeke, VA. Dianne Campbell of Mobjack Kayaking planned and guided 9 of us on this Women’s Paddling Retreat. Our total mileage was almost 36 miles, most of it on days 2 and 3.

Marsh on Magothy Bay, Eastern Shore of Virginia

 

Day 1 – Paddled 1. 2 miles (it felt like 6!)

We met at the Eastern Shore Visitor’s Center, just over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and caravanned to Wise Point Boat Ramp to put in. I had no idea that I’d be launching from a place named after my maternal ancestors, who landed in that area in the late 17th century. I hope their boat was bigger than mine!

We expected a short, 1.2-mile paddle to our retreat house on Holly Bluff Island, but outgoing tide and 25 mph head winds had us paddling very hard for what seemed like an hour—none of us could check our watches for fear of losing ground. I think I raced the same blade of marsh grass for 10 minutes! The effort was well worth it when we got to our quaint guest house. It was the first time I’ve stayed in a house with no electricity and gas lights. Carla and Carl Hehl were gracious hosts in the best Southern style.

Main house on Hehl Wildlife Preserve, Eastern Shore of VA

Day 2 – 12.8 miles

The weather improved dramatically and we set off in calm water. Early in the day we explored a side creek and saw two eagles flying loops and gracefully catching a fish.

We continued on to Mockhorn Island, where we explored the abandoned Cushman Farm and World War II watch towers. All of the scenery was beautiful and we saw many waterfowl, including herons, egrets, and ibis.

Day 3 – 15.7 miles

We headed down the Atlantic Ocean side of the Eastern Shore and paddled under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, braving some 1.5-foot waves and riding some fun currents. I was glad to be in my 16′ Dagger to enjoy the action of the waves. On the way to Cape Charles we were delighted to encounter a pod of dolphins! They swam all around us and we followed them for a couple of miles.

Rounding Cape Charles and heading north up the Chesapeake Bay, our goal was to see the abandoned cement war ships at Kiptopeke State Park. “Cement ships,” you ask? Yes, it’s about water displacement, not the weight of the construction material, my smart friend taught me. They’re falling apart and home to many a pelican. I’m told that the fishing is very good around this sea break. We enjoyed lunch at the park before heading home. It was an action-packed 15 miles and worth every paddle stroke!

Day 4 – 8.2 miles

We loaded up our gear to head home, but got in a few more miles across the bay to Smith Island. We spent a couple hours collecting seashells from the bounty there and enjoying a beautiful, cool morning. I think I caught a glimpse of a loggerhead turtle as it turned abruptly to avoid one of our paddlers, but I wasn’t quick enough with my camera. Something to look for on my next visit to this beautiful area. We paddled back to the takeout at Wise Point, loaded our boats on our cars and headed up the road for a farewell lunch. I miss the ladies already. Can’t wait for our next adventure!

 

Make Your Own Kayak Storm Cag

So many friends ask me where I go kayaking around Williamsburg that I’ve decided to add a kayaking section to Williamsburg Native. Today’s tip is not about where to go, but a way to be ready for bad weather if it comes up while you’re on one of our lakes, creeks, or rivers.

Why spend more than $200 on a Gortex storm cag, when you can adapt a Frogg Toggs $18 poncho to fit your kayak’s cockpit? Lightweight and breathable, your new storm cag will stow away easily in your gear to be ready in a moment’s notice. Just pull it on over your life jacket, place the elastic skirt around the rim of your cockpit, and keep paddling, safe from the rain or wind.

This video shows how I did it: