Seashore State Park

23rd June 2001

I'm not normally known for being the sort of person who would go to a place known for its fabulous walking trails, and stride manfully along miles of trails, enjoying the scenery and the exercise and the general communing with Nature experience. Yes, that's not me as a general rule. But sometimes I surprise myself.

Anne and I were recently visited by Saren, and Saren is known for such activities, and when I try to be a good host, I am generally quite happy to accommodate the wishes of my guests even when it takes me far from my usual habits. So one warm and lazy Sunday, Saren and I visited the Seashore State Park.

The Seashore State Park is right up on Virginia Beach, right near the beach. You head for the beach, that classless expanse of commercialism, turn left and keep going till you find a demure sign and then you go inland. It's got 30 miles of walking and riding trails. This was my first experience of sharing a trail with bike riders zipping along, and I found it a bit un-nerving to have a speeding missile soundlessly appear behind me, hear a quiet "Passing on the left" far too late to do anything about it, and then watch them zip past me with the wheels hissing on the sand. Luckily, only some of the trails are for shared walking and riding. Most of the trails Saren and I went on were for walking only.

It's a small state park, only 2770 acres, but it has variety of terrain. There's sand dunes, salt marshes and freshwater cypress ponds. We got to see the salt marsh and the cypress ponds, but left the sand dune side of things for later in the day when we went to Back Bay. We drove in to the middle of the park and started our walk at the Visitors Centre. The Visitors Centre had a few small displays, although I was startled to see so many stuffed birds and animals. That's something I found at Back Bay too - stuffed animals in the Visitors Centre. We didn't want to spend all day at the park, but we did want to cover a reasonable amount of ground, so we got our map and we planned our route so we would cover about 4 or 5 miles and see most of what was on offer.

Virginia State Parks have a Web site, but the Seashore State Park seems to be folded in to the First Landing State Park and the site doesn't show much about the trails. There's lots of links, so check it out anyway.

[Map of Seashore State Park
trails]

We started our walk on a large beaten earth track for riders and walkers - Cape Henry Trail. This went past quite a few of the large cypress ponds. These are dank pools with trees and stumps through them, with trees going way high, covered in Spanish moss. [Cypress pond]

The path we were on continued all the way to the beach and the sand dunes, but we wanted to turn off and head down to the salt marsh area and then loop back to the Visitors Centre. It was about a three quarter mile walk to the turn-off, and although there were plenty of signs around, they didn't seem very clear and they didn't quite tell us exactly what we wanted to know. I suspect that the uncertainty and the prospect of being lost heightens the experience for the intrepid bush-walker. We weren't sure if we were on the right path, and if we were going to hit our turn-off. I had faith that we knew where we going but we continued past more cypress ponds and lots of bush, and my faith started to diminish. I wasn't too worried, because there were people and bikes coming back from where we were headed. We did hit the turn-off at about the right place, so my confidence soared. I was now fairly sure we would not get lost and we would not stagger out onto a road some 200 miles distant in a week's time. [More Cypress pond]

Once we turned off onto the Kingfisher Trail, the trail became narrow and overhung. It was a very peaceful walk, very quiet and lots of bird and insect noise. We passed a medium sized black snake, which we weren't able to identify later at the Visitors Centre. It was sensible and was wary of us but not too concerned. Lots of frogs, lots of insects, none annoying. [Kingfisher Trail]

There were a number of side trails, that appeared to lead places but turned into dead ends. We followed a few of these, one further inland and one closer to the shoreline. The shoreline wasn't the beach that opens on to the Atlantic Ocean, but part of the inland waterways. [Saren rejoins
  Kingfisher Trail]

The shoreline is part of the salt marshland, and this gave me the opportunity to take some very pretty photos. I think this is part of what they call the wetlands. Whatever it's called, it's a very attractive sight.

[Salt marshland]

On the other side of the waterway are the houses of the rich folk. This side is State Park and the other side is for people who can afford to have a State Park as their back view, and very lucky they are too.

[More salt marshland]

So we walked for a few hours and I broke a sweat, and we looped back to the Visitors Centre where Saren asked a few questions about the snake we had seen. We cooled down and rested a bit, then drove home to collect Anne, because we were off to spend the afternoon at Back Bay.