Monday, February 20, 2017

Great Dismal Swamp

The name alone stimulates the imagination – Great Dismal Swamp. What turned out to be the last stop in our coastal Virginia exploration, the National Wildlife Refuge attracted my attention due to the proximity to Norfolk as well as the reputed abundance of wildlife within its confines.


Straddling the border between North Carolina and Virginia, the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge contains over 112,000 acres of forested wetlands and the 31,000 acre Lake Drummond at its center. It is the largest intact remnant of the habitat that once covered more than a million acres in this region, and with 200 species of birds, 100 species of butterflies and one of the largest black bear populations on the east coast, the area has significant ecological importance.


Evidence of human presence in the Dismal Swamp dates to some 13,000 years ago. The name Great Dismal is thought to come from Colonel William Byrd II’s expeditions into the swamp in the early 1700s to draw the state line between Virginia and North Carolina. George Washington visited the swamp in 1763, and having organized the Dismal Swamp Company, he proceeded to drain, farm, and log large portions of the swamp. Then with the approach of the Civil War the swamp gained a new significance: as a stop on the Underground Railroad on the way to the port of Norfolk, and of home to ‘the maroons,’ those choosing to remain in the relative safety of the swamp. The Union Camp Corporation donated 49,100 acres of the swamp to The Nature Conservancy in 1973 (who passed it on to the Department of the Interior), and the following year the refuge was established and the site officially designated as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.


It would be hard to cover more than a portion of this immense area in a day (especially without a boat!), and with this knowledge in the forefront of our minds we chose to concentrate on the area around the Refuge Office. The office itself was closed on what was a federal holiday, but nearby are a few hiking trails and the only road leading to Lake Drummond that allows vehicle traffic. We started at the Washington Ditch parking area and set off on the ¾ mile boardwalk trail to get a feel for the swamp. The elevated wooden Dismal Town Boardwalk Trail meanders through a representative portion of swamp habitats before emerging out on the Washington Ditch to return to the parking area. This was the spot used by Washington and company as their Dismal Swamp headquarters.

setting off on the Dismal Town Boardwalk trail

The five-mile Washington Ditch leads from the western boundary of the refuge to the north end of Lake Drummond, and was dug by hand by slaves for the purpose of transportation. The hike from the parking area to the lake is 4.5 miles, the main reason why we elected to skip it in favor of the auto tour route a little further south; we wanted to see the lake, but with cloudy skies and tired boys a 9-mile hike wasn’t an option.

Washington Ditch

The auto tour route begins just south of the Refuge Office. For rules and regulations (as well as to print out a permit) please visit the FWS website, although that information is also available on site. The road heads east along Railroad Ditch, then south along the West Ditch and finally west along Interior Ditch until it reaches the southwest shore of Lake Drummond. Along the six mile route there are several trails that take visitors out into the marsh and to several other interesting points, including a bald cypress that may be up to 800 years old.


The enormous lake in the center of the swamp was only ‘discovered’ in 1665 by colonial NC governor William Drummond. The largest natural lake in Virginia was formed about 4,000 years ago after a wildfire burned away several feet of peat soil. The peat is also the reason behind the lake’s dark brown color; it is stained dark as tea as it seeps through the peat, and this extended filtering also renders it incredibly pure.

foam stained brown

Although there are no alligators in the lake, it is home to many species of fish. In the winter the lake provides a resting area for thousands of migratory birds including Tundra Swans and Snow Geese, and during the summer visitors will see Great Blue Herons and egrets. On our January visit we spotted at least one Bald Eagle soaring overhead.

Tundra swans?


I had certainly expected a damp, ‘dismal’ visit on this rainy winter day, however our tour was anything but… On a hot, muggy summer’s day the swamp will provide a completely different experience (bug spray!), but this winter morning was a perfect time to explore a small portion of this amazing ecosystem, even with a slight drizzle. As we navigated the ditch roads back to civilization at least one boy drifted off to sleep before we even hit the pavement; I imagine his dreams to have been about the bears and eagles getting back to the business of the swamp upon our departure…

Friday, February 17, 2017

Where Neptune greets the sea

It’s the most populous city in the state, but covering a total of almost 500 square miles Virginia Beach feels like more of a suburb than a city. Together with the nearby towns of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News (where we visited the Mariners’ Museum), Norfolk, Portsmouth and Suffolk, the area is known as "America's First Region.”


Within Virginia Beach boundaries are First Landing State Park, Fort Story and the Cape Henry Lighthouse, and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. However, the city may be most famous for its 3-mile boardwalk that stretches along the oceanfront and is lined with hotels, condos and boutiques. There are separate paths for inline skating and biking along the ocean, and the wide beach offers plenty of space for sunbathing and barefoot walks in the surf.



Here, where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic, it is only appropriate to find a statue of Neptune. A counterpart to the Greek god Poseidon, Neptune is the Roman god of the sea and freshwater.  The bronze Neptune of Virginia Beach stands 34 feet tall at the entrance of Neptune Park on 31st Street.


please caption this photo

The 12-ton statue has a 12-foot tall rock base which is surrounded by octopus, fish, dolphins, lobsters, and other sea creatures. Neptune rises over visitors, a trident in one hand and a loggerhead turtle in the other. The mighty god was attracting a fair share of curious visitors, even on a windy, overcast January afternoon – I can only imagine the crowds on a sunny summer day.


The Virginia Beach boardwalk was not a planned stop on our itinerary, and so it was a short stop – only long enough to admire the god of the sea and enjoy an ocean-side walk before warming up with some hot chocolate and coffee. A real exploration will have to wait for another time, possibly during a warmer season… Any suggestions on places we ought to see?



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

First Landing State Park

(Continued from this post on the Site of the first landing and Cape Henry Lighthouse...)

West of the Little Creek/Fort Story base is First Landing State Park, the name a little misleading as the actual site of the ‘first landing’ was within boundaries of the military base. The 2,888 acre park was originally called Seashore State Park, but later was renamed to reflect the historical significance of Cape Henry. In 1607 the Virginia Company made landfall on the Cape, the group of settlers eventually moving west to form Jamestown – the first permanent English settlement in North America. It is possible to visit the actual ‘first landing’ site within Fort Story (see my post on our visit) as well as to climb the historic Cape Henry lighthouse, but the boys wanted to explore, something that is strongly discouraged within military base boundaries. We drove the short distance back to the State Park, paid a small fee to enter, and followed signs to the Visitor Center.


The story of the ‘first landing’ is covered in a series of exhibits that also includes the Powhatans, the actual ‘first’ settlers of the region. This wasn’t the natives’ first contact with Europeans; around 1570 Spain had tried to establish a colony there and had sent missionaries to convert the natives to Christianity. However, it was the arrival of the English colonists in April 1607 that the name of the park refers to. Something to think about in relation to our American history... It was a dozen years later when the Mayflower Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, but it is that ‘second landing’ that is associated with the holiday (Thanksgiving) and receives far more coverage in the history books. It has been implied that after the Civil War the northern ‘story’ replaced the southern ‘story'; could this explain the extra importance accorded the 'second landing'? These questions were not to be resolved on our visit, however the exhibits offer an in-depth look at the lives of the settlers and natives through more recent times.


The Visitor Center is on the ocean-side of the highway along with the campgrounds and boardwalks for beach access. After our stop to view the exhibits we headed out to the beach, slightly discouraged by strong winds as we crossed the dunes. However, our perseverance was rewarded with having the 1.5 mile beach almost entirely to ourselves, and as we walked up and down the shore and searched for treasure from the ocean, my initial misgivings about spending time on the water in January slightly faded. Today the dunes are much smaller than they would have been when the settlers walked these parts, as are the forests and marshes; still, the imagination runs wild with what it must have been like to first step foot on these shores 400 years ago.


In the early 1600s Captain John Smith explored the Chesapeake Bay seeking precious metals and passage to Asia. He traveled the James, Chickahominy and York rivers, and led two major expeditions from Jamestown in 1608. Today his travels are honored with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, a portion of which passes right along Cape Henry. As we searched for shells and interesting rocks the wind continued its relentless push; I found it hard to imagine Smith’s crew sailing/rowing almost 3,000 miles in such conditions.

sanderlings looking for a meal in the surf

Finally we left the beach to the mercy of the wind, and headed back to the car. Across highway 60 is the second portion of the park that includes the State Park cabins/lodges, but also the Trail Center and 20 miles of trail. This was our next stop, as in addition to the historical significance of the park, First Landing also has the distinction of being the northernmost east coast location where subtropical and temperate plants can be found growing together. We wanted to take a short hike to experience the botanical aspect of the area, and after a consult with the ranger at the Trail Center we set off on the Bald Cypress Nature Trail.


The 1.8 mile trail travels over bald cypress swamps on boardwalks, across dunes and swales, and through the dune forest. For 50 cents visitors can buy a self-guided tour booklet at the Trail Center, its numbered stops corresponding to trail markers along the way. We made a game out of finding the markers and in the process learned fascinating things about the history of the region, the cycles and changes of the natural area, and the animals and plants that call the park their home.



We emerged from the forest just as daylight began to fade. Although we were only a short distance from Virginia Beach, we found a restaurant in the other direction on the way back to Norfolk, to fuel up after a long day outside. The highlight of the day happened that evening when Lauris lost his first tooth; even though we never recovered it, the Tooth Fairy still found Lauris to leave him a little something! An eventful trip, and only one day left in coastal Virginia... On our last day we were planning to visit the enormous wetlands area that straddles the North Carolina/Virginia border. Stay tuned for a tour of Dismal Swamp...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Your guide to Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11

A view of Table Rock from the State Park visitor center

South Carolina’s Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway 11 stretches from Gaffney near the NC border, to Lake Hartwell at Fairplay on the Georgia line. This alternate route to I-85 allows travelers to cross the Upstate in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Blue Ridge Escarpment rising sharply from the low hills of the Piedmont for a large portion of the drive.

In addition to the natural splendor, there are dozens of other attractions along the 112-mile stretch: historical parks, shopping, recreation and lodging topping the list. With access points along the entire stretch, Highway 11 is an easy destination from most of the Upstate. I’ve put together this guide of some of the most popular spots along the way, for an easy reference to planning your spring day-trips to some of the most scenic areas of Upstate, South Carolina!

The Peachoid water tower, source here

Our journey starts in Gaffney, Peach Capital of SC and home to the giant “Peachoid” water tower and the Gaffney outlet malls. Cherokee county has 24 sites on the National Register of Historic Places, among them the Gaffney Commercial and Residential Historic Districts. Cherokee County History & Arts Museum in the historic Central Elementary School building has permanent exhibits on the history that shaped the region, and is a great place to start your trip; the exhibit “Land of Revolutions” includes the origins of Scenic Highway 11, recounting the days the route was used by the Cherokee Indians and the first English and French fur traders.

After crossing Interstate 85 you will soon approach another place on the National Register of Historic Places, one of the nine National Park Service sites in South Carolina: Cowpens National Battlefield in Chesnee. This Revolutionary War site commemorates the area where Daniel Morgan and his army won the decisive battle against Banastre Tarleton's British troops.


After passing Lake Bowen and crossing Interstate 26 you’ll reach the intersection with Highway 14 in Gowensville. A short distance south is Highway 414, Beaverdam Creek and Campbell’s Covered Bridge. The only remaining covered bridge in the State of South Carolina, the bridge and surrounding acreage are owned by Greenville County, and also contain the foundations of a grist mill and a short trail.

Further along Highway 11 is Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area, one of the many parks managed by the SC Department of Natural Resources along Highway 11. The spring wildflowers and several waterfalls on the South Pacolet River are accessible by a 2.75 mile trail, and the views of Hogback Mountain make this an appealing destination any time of year. 



To reach Poinsett Bridge you will have to once more leave Hwy 11, traveling halfway to the North Saluda Reservoir to the oldest bridge in South Carolina. Built in 1820 as part of a road from Columbia to Saluda Mountain, it was named for Joel Roberts Poinsett and is currently managed by Greenville County. (The North Saluda Reservoir supplies Greenville with its water, and the reservoir and surrounding area are closed to the public.)

Shortly after crossing I-25 and passing The Cliffs and Perdeaux Fruit Farm, you will reach the historic Pleasant Ridge County Park, established in the 1940s for the African American community during segregation. The trail system is open to hikers and bicyclists, and features a lake and Pleasant Ridge Falls.

Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park

Soon after in Cleveland, Highway 11 makes a sharp turn to follow 276 (Geer Highway). To reach Jones Gap, one of the most popular SC State Parks, you would turn north on Highway 97 about a mile after making the turn onto 276. Jones Gap is the location of favorite waterfalls such as Rainbow, Falls Creek and Jones Gap Falls, and connects with Caesars Head State Park with a network of trails.

Right before Hwy 11 splits off again from Geer Highway is Wildcat Wayside, part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. In addition to the waterfall that is visible from the road (Wildcat Branch Falls), the park also features several miles of trail that lead to Upper Wildcat Branch Falls and past a few smaller cascades.

View from Bald Rock looking out over the Upstate

At the intersection where Hwy 11 separates from 276 is a pull-off. Intended as a carpool lot, it can also serve as a parking area to visit Sweet Thing and Last Falls on Slickum Creek. On hot days when Wildcat Wayside is full these comparatively-unknown waterfalls can serve as a welcome diversion. 276 also makes a great side-trip from your Highway 11 excursion, leading to Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, Caesars Head State Park, Pretty Place and Raven Cliff Falls, the highest waterfall in South Carolina.

By this time you’ll be in the mood for a coffee, ice cream or a snack, and the Pumpkintown Opry is just the place to stop and refuel. The lodge was built in 1986, and contains a restaurant and “Southern Mountain Theater” that performs most Saturday nights. Nearby Pumpkintown was settled in the 18th century and thought to have been named for the pumpkins growing along the Oolenoy River. Less than 3 miles further down the road is Aunt Sue’s County Corner, with several old-timey stores and a restaurant/ice cream shop offering another respite from the road.

View of Table Rock Reservoir from summit of Table Rock

Next on your Hwy 11 tour you will reach Table Rock State Park. If you have the whole day to spend here, make the challenging hike up to the summit of Table Rock for the panoramic views of the Upstate and the Table Rock Reservoir, or the less-challenging but no-less-scenic Carrick Creek trail hike. If you only have 30 minutes, turn south from Hwy 11 and stop at the Park’s Visitor Center, taking in the view of Table Rock from the pier on Lake Oolenoy or from one of the rocking chairs on the porch.

Reaching the intersection with Hwy 178 signals the proximity to the Jocassee Gorges Wilderness Area and the dozens of waterfalls, parks and attractions within. Turning north here will take you to Sassafras Mountain (the highest point in the state), Twin Falls, Jumping Off Rock and the Narrows. An infamous local spot is Bob’s Place – let me know if you stop there, I’ve never worked up the nerve! Meanwhile, driving south from Hwy 11 will bring you to the historic Hagood Mill and Pickens.

Fall color at Nine Times Preserve

Just to the east of the 178/11 intersection is the town of Sunset, SC; you’ll know you’re there when you see the Post Office. A little further is East Preston McDaniels Rd. on which you’ll find Nine Times Preserve on Nine Times Creek, named for the nine bridges built across the small, trout-filled creek to gain access to the property. The 560-acre nature preserve is one of the most biologically significant properties in the southeast, and while a spring visit will coincide with a plethora of wildflowers, the autumn foliage is quite spectacular.

Little Eastatoe Creek flows parallel to Hwy 11 for a half-dozen miles, and provides the main attraction in Long Shoals Wayside Park, about 4 miles west of Sunset’s Post Office. The 10-acre park contains a sliding rock perfect for some summer water fun!


After crossing Poe Creek you’ll reach the entrance to Keowee-Toxaway State Park. Known for the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 1,000 acre park is considered a gateway to the Jocassee Gorges. The Natural Bridge Trail leads past a dozen small waterfalls to a natural rock bridge. This is an ideal destination on a hot summer’s day; bring your bathing suits!

Another three miles down the road you’ll pass the road that leads to Devils Fork State Park, another popular summer spot with its swimming area on Lake Jocassee. The park is home to the rare Oconee Bell wildflower, which draws hundreds of visitors from mid-March to early April to hike the Oconee Bell Nature trail.



In the stretch of Sumter National Forest between Devils Fork and Oconee State Parks you’ll find a slew of waterfalls: Bee Cove, Miuka, Secret, Lee and Hidden Falls along the escarpment, others such as Spoonauger, King Creek, Big Bend and Pigpen closer to the Georgia border. Reaching most of these remote waterfalls requires a significant hike in addition to additional drive time from Hwy 11. However, the 60-ft Station Cove Falls is an easy 30 minute hike only about 2 ½ miles from the Cherokee Scenic Highway; the trailhead is located in Oconee Station State Historic Site, what used to be a military compound and later a trading post.

Although Oconee State Park is not much further north from the State Historic Site, to reach it visitors must circle around by way of Hwy 28 and 107. The park offers amenities such as cabins, canoe rental and paddleboats, and features fishing, swimming and hiking. Oconee State Park is the southern trailhead for the Foothills Trail, South Carolina’s 80-mile wilderness hike on the Blue Ridge Escarpment that ends at Table Rock State Park.

Exploring Stumphouse Tunnel

Most of the attractions seem to be on the north side of the highway, although with Lake Keowee (and later Lake Hartwell) to the southeast for the last ¼, there are some cool places to explore to the south as well; two examples are High Falls County Park and South Cove County Park. However, the lure of Sumter National Forest and the Chattooga National Wild and Scenic River to the north is quite strong, offering exciting destinations such as Fall Creek Falls and Bull Sluice & Long Creek Falls on the Chattooga. Closer to Highway 11 (but still about 7 miles away) are the Stumphouse Tunnel Park and Issaqueena Falls. Yellow Branch Falls, a 60-ft waterfall that cascades over a series of rock ledges is one of my favorites, and is a 3-mile round trip hike that departs from a trailhead not far from Stumphouse.

In Westminster, Highway 11 crosses US-123, which connects Greenville with Toccoa, GA, passing through Easley and Clemson on the way. From the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway it is just 6-7 miles to Chau Ram County Park, home to Chau Ram falls, camping and kayaking.

Yellow Branch Falls

Less than 10 miles from the endpoint at Lake Hartwell State Park is the intersection with Highway 24, the Savannah River Scenic Biway. This 100-mile scenic trip parallels the Savannah River and the Georgia State line all the way to Augusta, and is characterized by farms, forests, lakes, small towns and numerous historical sites along the way.

The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway ends at Lake Hartwell State Park, renown fishing destination on the 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell. Returning to Gaffney from this point via I-85 is a round-trip journey of over 200 miles, requiring more than 4 hours of driving (and that’s without stops or traffic). I like to remind people that once you’re off Hwy 11 roads tend to be steep and winding, with speed limits sometimes decreasing to 30, even 15 miles an hour. Budget additional time to reach your destination in case you get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle, or have the occasional minor navigational hiccup (as some trailheads are marked better than others).

View of the Upstate from Pretty Place

There are companies that offer tours of the area, including Dark Corner Tours, Jocassee Lake Tours and Horseback Waterfall Tours of the Upstate, although in my opinion the best way to see the area is to do a little research and start driving. You will not be able to visit all the mentioned locations in one trip; in fact, you might be hard pressed to drive the entire 112-mile scenic route in one go, unless you really enforce a no-stops mentality. However you will find it hard to stop exploring once you have started – the lure of this corner of the state is near-impossible to resist.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Site of the first landing and Cape Henry Lighthouse


“You haven’t been here before.” It was a statement more than a question, the park ranger at First Landing State Park responding to our inquiry of where in the park the landing actually occurred. “You want to go back out to Shore Drive, hang a left, go about 4 miles to Atlantic Ave, then make another left. Good luck!”


We pulled back onto US 60 and headed east, and as I looked at a map I commented that from this end we would also be able to see the Cape Henry lighthouse – bonus! But immediately after making the turn onto Atlantic we got our first inkling that this wouldn’t be just a casual tourist experience; a uniformed officer stepped out of his guard booth, leaned down to see the boys in the backseat, and then asked us for license and registration.


Turns out the actual site of the “first landing” (and the Cape Henry lighthouse) is within the Little Creek/Fort Story Joint Expeditionary Base, a military installation. We were asked if we had any weapons/alcohol/other stuff we thankfully didn’t have in the car, after which we were directed to pull forward for a ‘secondary search.’ At this point I was ready to turn around – I didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into! – but Roberts said we might as well see what happens.


Well, what happened was we were told we can’t visit the base, as we had expired car tags! Luckily it was just a misunderstanding, and after we had shown proof that everything was in order we stepped out of the car, popped the hood and the trunk, stepped aside as two armed officers examined our papers and the scandalous mess in the trunk that comes with four days on the road, and probably got a more intense background check done than we would get if buying a firearm in South Carolina. The kids were instructed to stay in the car, allowing the stale cheerios littering their car seats to go undetected.


Once our visit had been approved we were handed an access pass and given over a dozen instructions on what we were/were not allowed to do in the 4 hours on Atlantic Avenue until our pass expired. Basically, we could visit the lighthouses and the first landing site – do anything else and I had no doubt we would be in trouble! It’s all very reasonable as they don’t want civilians taking pictures of the installation or poking around a sensitive area; however it is intimidating, especially if you haven’t done your research before visiting and don’t know what you’re in for! Expert tip: make sure your license plate tags are up to date and leave the wine coolers at home.


The Cape Henry Lighthouse is managed by Preservation Virginia, and the little Visitor Center at the base next to the parking lot is also the entrance to the lighthouse. There is a fee of $8/adult and $6/student to climb to the top, and all visitors must be 42” or taller and able to climb the steps without assistance. Roberts volunteered to wait with Vilis while the boys and I started our ascent.


Registered as a National Historic Landmark, the lighthouse was the first construction project authorized by the very first Congress, and cost a total of $17,700. President George Washington personally reviewed bids and selected John McCombs, a NY bricklayer, as contractor. The location at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay had been strategically important to the British for many years as a trade route and military site, and although there had been talk of constructing a lighthouse on Cape Henry, it wasn’t until 1792 that the project was finally completed. Although damaged in the Civil War, service was eventually restored and continued until 1881 when it was replaced by the modern lighthouse which is still in use today.


Preservation Virginia acquired the Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1930 when Congress deeded them the house and 1.77 acres of surrounding land to preserve it and make it accessible to the public. Over the years the lighthouse and its surroundings have undergone multiple restorations including repairing the lantern after damage from Hurricane Barbara in 1953, repairing the original Aquia sandstone, and restoring the surrounding dunes. The Aquia sandstone that was used in the construction had special significance, as it came from the same Virginia quarries  that provided stone for Mount Vernon, the U.S. Capitol and the White House.


A few facts… The lighthouse has thicker walls at the bottom than at the top, and is octagonal, which makes it strong enough to withstand the elements. When lit, the beacon could be seen 15 miles away; it was fueled by whale oil and later kerosene. The lighthouse weighs about 6,000 tons. When it was originally constructed it was about 500 yards from the shore; today it is only about 250.


Across the street is the New Cape Henry lighthouse, currently undergoing some preservation work. It is also octagonal, and stands 164 feet tall.


So far our Virginia trip had been all about Revolutionary War, but the lighthouse introduced us to the War of 1812. A British naval blockade along much of the US coast had disrupted trade and interfered with commerce, and on February 4, 1813 the blockade was extended to the Chesapeake Bay. To prevent British ships from using it to aid navigation, the light was extinguished. Soon after, the British attacked the lighthouse, and British scouting parties often visited the area for fresh water. On July 14th Capt. Richard Lawson captured 20 British marines nearby.

Commemorating French/British naval engagement

Of course, as the mouth to the Chesapeake, the shores were also the scene of noteworthy events during the Revolutionary War. Here French Navy Admiral de Grasse first engaged the British navy, and when Admiral Graves chose to head back to NY for repairs instead of following De Grasse to the Chesapeake, he left Cornwallis with no option but to surrender at Yorktown.

Admiral de Grasse

However, Cape Henry’s main significance in history might be as the site of the ‘first landing’. On April 26, 1607 three small ships approached the Chesapeake Bay from the southeast and made their landfall on Cape Henry. The Virginia Company Expedition had set sail from England in December of the previous year, and upon reaching this very spot in what is present day Virginia they planted a cross and named the spot Cape Henry, in honor of the oldest son of King James 1. After a few more days of exploration they anchored at Cape Comfort, moving up the James River until settling at Jamestown on May 13, 1607. In 1935 the Daughters of the American Colonists erected a memorial cross here.


Our visit to Cape Henry luckily came to a close without any more surprises; we were able to visit all the sites in the allotted time and left the military base without further excitement. Now to visit the other ‘First Landing’!

Egg casings of the lightning whelk had washed ashore
To be continued….




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