August 25, 2008
Jacqueline and I just returned from a brief and pleasant (though sometimes rather intense) weekend at Virginia Beach. The mini-vacation was totally spontaneous, and yet we still managed to find good accommodations*, dining**, and we accomplished most of our unorthodox "tourist" objectives.
* We camped at the North Bay Campground, a nicely maintained facility shaded with tall pine trees and with direct canal access to Back Bay. It's a few miles south of all the hustle and bustle of Virginia Beach proper, and is thus closer to a true outdoors experience than most other campgrounds.
On Saturday morning we hiked along some of the trails at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Almost immediately upon our arrival, we came face to face with the deadly side of Mother Nature, quite literally "under the boardwalk":
I learned from the employee at the visitor center (who identified the snake from the image in my camera) there that this is the 75th anniversary of the first "duck stamp," a program that was originally created as a way to license migratory bird hunters on a nationwide basis, while providing funds to set aside land for the sake of wildlife conservation. She persuaded me to buy a duck stamp (for $15), which also serves as an entry pass for any of the National Wildlife Refuges across the country, run by the Department of the Interior. See www.duckstamp.com.
Then, as we hiked along the marsh trail, we saw several of these colorful and industrious little critters:
Does this remind you of a certain old song by Ray Stevens? "I don't like spiders and snakes, and that ain't what it takes to love me ... like I wanna be loved by you."
In the afternoon, we opted for a safer place to observe God's creatures, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. They have several excellent exhibits with large sea turtles, terrestial reptiles, sharks, smaller fish, and sea mammals. (They are currently undergoing an expansion/renovation, so it's a bit of a mess in some places.) In a separate building they have an aviary with many shorebirds and water birds. We highly recommend it as a place for nature lovers to visit.
** In the evening we dined at Margie and Ray's, a popular local restaurant that serves some of the best, freshest seafood you will ever taste. It is located on Sandbridge Road, on the way to the Back Bay NWR.
On Sunday morning we went for a swim at Little Island beach by the town of Sandbridge (which is part of Virginia Beach), facing another peril of nature known as rip tides. Then we headed home. I cleverly arranged our return trip so that I could see Harbor Park, the baseball stadium in downtown Norfolk. We returned home rather exhausted but feeling good for having had such rewarding experiences.
Additional photos will be posted before long on a new Photo Gallery page. A report on the birds we saw at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and other places in the area, will appear in a separate blog post.