Dec 18, 2009
Did you get your tree yet? We're choosing ours this weekend, at Booker Farms in nearby Melfa on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We make an outing of it, taking time to pick out just the right size of a live White or Norfolk Pine, and then Mr. Booker cuts it for us (757-787-9517).
You can even buy the entire live tree! They will dig it up for you, roots and all (you'll probably need a pick-up to get it home!) Then after the holidays you can plant it in your yard. Now that's an eco-friendly Christmas.
But cutting a live tree at a local farm is still a fairly green option. After all, this tree was raised for this purpose, so you're not depleting a forest. No fossil fuels were used transporting it by truck from the north country. After Christmas, be sure to recycle it with green waste or have it chopped for mulch. Many municipalities are doing this now.
You might think an artificial tree used year after year would be the greenest option, but not so according to The Daily Green website:
"Most artificial trees are made in China, typically from oil-derived, pollution-releasing polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A number have been found to contain lead. Once finally disposed of, artificial trees will last for centuries in landfills."
So, if you go artificial, try to get one made in America.
The truest green option would be a potted tree you decorate at Christmas, like the little tabletop guy pictured here. The rest of the year, it will provide beauty and give off oxygen in your home!
If you choose to cut a live tree locally, Virginia Tourism has a listing of Christmas tree farms around the state.
Nov 24, 2009
Thanksgiving lore is all about Pilgrims and Indians, feasting on turkey at
In 1619 the ship Margaret, captained by John Woodleefe, carried 38 men to Berkeley Hundred, a land grant on the James River near present day
On the other hand, Pilgrims were the first folks in the
But in support of
Berkeley Plantation still stakes claim as the site of the first Thanksgiving, with an observance every year in early November. The 1776 mansion and expansive grounds are open to the public year-round for tours.
Click ‘Post a comment’ to weigh in:
Nov 16, 2009
Click for slide show
So what are you going to do to get out and enjoy what's left of fall in the Old Dominion? Here are some of our ideas – feel free to post your own!
-Bike for food: Our friends at Foster Harris House in Little Washington just received a tremendous honor. Their Tour d’Epicure, a gourmet wine bike tour was named number one in the Top Ten Foodie Bike Tours in a new National Geographic book titled “Food Journeys of a Lifetime.” Click here to read our take on the tour.
-If you’re in the
-Love coffee? Head to Colonial Williamsburg, where Richard Charlton’s recreated 1760 coffeehouse is re-opening to the public on Friday at 4 pm, with an open house all weekend long. Later that night, enjoy a celebration of chocolate, cognac and coffee at the Williamsburg Lodge. Also opening this weekend, “Deeply Superficial: Andy Warhol’s Voyeurism” at the
Nov 9, 2009
We're seeing more waterfowl migrating through- ducks, geese, hawks- that we don't see in the heat of summer. Saw two bald eagles perched in some tall trees on Onancock Creek yesterday (perhaps they're scoping out a nesting site!). One swooped down and plucked a fish out of the water with his talons.
Oct 18, 2009
1. The Haunted Hills of Bull Run
2. Run with wild ponies on Mount Rogers, Virginia’s tallest peak
3. Peaks of Otter: Just steps off the Blue Ridge Parkway
4. Overall Run, Shenandoah’s tallest waterfall
5. False Cape State Park: Beach hiking to a remote campsite.
For dozens more hikes in the Old Dominion, check out our award-winning guidebook Hiking Virginia.
Oct 6, 2009
Even though she belongs to travel writers, our mutty-mutt rescued from the local shelter 3 years ago, doesn’t travel much. So she was quite confused when we pulled up to the circular drive of Keswick Hall in central
Miss Coco (as in "Chanel") was even more sedate when we led her into the elegant lobby of the Tuscan-style mansion and the woman behind the desk exclaimed: "This must be Coco!"
On hearing her name, Coco's head cocked as if to inquire, “Do I know you? Do you have something for me? A treat perhaps?”
This elegant, sublime golf resort not only takes pets no matter their breeding, but welcomes them, embraces them, courts them, in fact, with a Pampered Pooch Package.
We posed her for photos on the private terrace with her ‘luggage,’ ordered from the Doggie Menu, delivered by room service, and gave her a rubber duck to play with.
But we know what a dog wants most is exercise, so only after a sunset spin around the golf course did
Read the complete story in November's special pet issue of Hampton Roads Magazine.
Aug 12, 2009
You can launch your own boat, or rent one very inexpensively: the canoes and kayaks are just $5 an hour.
From the dock, head out to the open water, turn right and look for an opening that passes beneath a bridge. From here, follow the left shore closely, turn into an inlet, and scour the banks and shallows.
You’re actually following an ancient ridge called the Yorktown Formation. Look along the base and you’ll begin to see dozens and dozens of
These huge scallop shells, as big as a man’s hand, are actually fossils, more than four million years old when much of the Virginia Piedmont was a vast inland sea. You’ll see them layered in the banks, and strewn about on the lake bottom.
These fossils have been noted in the earliest annals of American history.
For a fun place to stay nearby, check out the Great Wolf Lodge and its huge indoor-outdoor water park.
Jul 22, 2009
There's a new sport on the Eastern Shore of Virginia: Hang gliding! It takes place at Campbell Field, which is on the road to where we launch SouthEast Expeditions' kayak winery tours.
I'm pretty sure Stephanie and Emily from Richmond are the first ones to do both adventures in one weekend. We really should make it a package!
After I took them to historic Chatham Vineyards by kayak, they stopped at nearby Holly Grove Vineyards and met Jonathan's amazing "fainting goats."
The next morning, at the Eastern Shore Hang Gliding Center, a plane towed them in tandem with an instructor to 2,500 feet and then let them go! They spent the next 25 minutes floating silently over the Eastern Shore's farm fields, vineyards and waters.
Their ES adventure weekend also involved biking, visiting Assateague lighthouse and staying at the iconic Rittenhouse Motor Lodge.
Thanks for truly experiencing the Shore, ladies! You are awesome and we'd be honored to have you back. There's still kite-boarding, kayaking to barrier islands and an overnight stay in a watermen's cabin to try! Just give SouthEast a call: 757-331-2680.
Read more and see photos from the kayak winery tour. For more Eastern Shore adventures, visit ESVA Tourism: "You'll love our nature."
Jul 15, 2009
On our 'day off', we launched from Gargatha Landing on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, to paddle to a seaside barrier island for a Sunday of beachcombing and swimming in the
Along the way, we began to see little black and white noses poke out of the water, then pull down on our approach. Bill said they were diamondback terrapins, once endangered due to their tastiness, now a “species of concern” in
Looking ahead along the marshy shore we saw more and more of them, little black dots that disappeared. There were dozens, perhaps hundreds.
Then I looked ahead at the shoreline and saw it shimmering in the sun, then moving! Enmasse the turtles were slipping into the water as we approached. The ground was literally covered with them, all sizes ranging from about the size of a teacup to a dinner plate. There must have been thousands all told.
We landed on the backside of
When you land here this time of year there are signs stating the island is closed due to nesting of least terns, oyster catchers and piping plovers. The signs do allow for a pathway across the island where the wash-out occurred, so us hunmans can get to the beach and take a dip in the
This past weekend we had all kinds and ages of paddlers on SouthEast Expedition tours. On Friday I took a group of Delaware teachers with a day off from teaching summer school on the kayak winery tour. They were delightful!
Then Saturday morning Bill and I may have had SouthEast's most senior customers ever on the Onancock Creek Tour! Connie & Bud Bernton (shown above), ages 82 & 83, came down from Bethesda, MD to celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary in Onancock. They'd never been kayaking before, and they loved it!
On the same tour we had a young family, the youngest 9-year-old Rebecca. The Pullens had come over in their powerboat from the “Western Shore” (what we call the Northern Neck), across the Chesapeake Bay, to stay the night in Onancock.
That afternoon Bill took a Bachelorette party of six on the Chatham Winery Tour. “How did it go?” I asked. “They wore bikinis,” he answered. Tough job, Bill!
That night Chatham was having it’s annual Bluegrass Concert and Low Country Boil on the lawn. There we ran into Connie & Bud, my parents, and other paddling friends for an absolutely splendid Eastern Shore evening.
Sunday we had no paying tours, so Bill & I treated ourselves to a paddle out to one of the barrier islands, from Gargatha Creek to Metompkin Island.
More on that in the next post!
Jun 29, 2009
(click on the image to see my video!)
Last week, I took the ferry from my town of
Turning right, I quickly left behind the small town and the sounds of the crab sheds and boats of Tangier’s main industry. A family of
I soon entered a marsh creek where I could hear
Within 15 minutes a sparkling white sand beach came into view, a perfect spot for a picnic.
There was far more to explore than I had time for. I’d love to see this become a paddling destination. You could start in Onancock with a two-hour historic creek tour, stay the night in a B&B, take the ferry to Tangier in the morning, take a self-guided trip, then stay at one of their B&Bs.
Here’s a link to the Tangier Water Trails .
Learn more in my article on the "A day in the life" of the watermen who live here.
Last week Bill and I traveled on a writing assignment to Wintergreen resort, just south of
We left our home at sea level and within hours were hiking (actually huffing and puffing) on some of the resort’s 30 miles of trails, with GPS in hand for a geo-caching scavenger hunt.
The ridge-top resort has condos and homes for rent, 4 or 5 really great restaurants, tennis, golf, a spa, nature center, and an adventure center with climbing tower, bungee trampoline and indoor arcade. Not to mention skiing in the winter! It’s truly a paradise for active families.
Our piece on this 11,000 acre playground will appear the September issue of the Washingtonian. We’ll let you know when it comes out!
In the meantime, read our article on enjoying the spa after a rigorous backpacking trip.
Ever wonder what it would be like to spend the night among barrier islands? Last weekend Bill helped guide SouthEast Expeditions’ two-night cabin trip. Guests paddle out to a century-old oyster watchhouse on the seaside of the
By day Bill guides you out to barrier island adventures; at night Dave Burden, the owner of SouthEast Expeditions, prepares gourmet meals to wine and dine you before leaving you to your beds. The cabin sleeps 4-6 people and everything is included: kayaks, gear, guide and food.
Read all about it in the June issue of Virginia Living Magazine. It’s the cover story!
For details, go to SouthEast’s website http://www.southeastexpeditions.net/sekayak.com/Cabin.html Call Dave at 757-331-2680 to book this one-of-a-kind adventure.
Jun 24, 2009
One of the more popular kayak tours we've been doing this season
I've been really touched by the number of people choosing to celebrate their special occasions: birthday surprises, family reunions, and wedding anniversaries.
One afternoon around the tasting bar at Chatham Vineyards, all three couples on my tour revealed it was their anniversary week, ranging from 1 year to 21. Coincidentally, it was also mine and Bill’s 15th in a few days. (Seems a lot of people get married around Memorial Day!)
Paddling to a winery is something we believe is unique in
We land at the historic brick
After tasting about 5 wines, each couple gets a bottle of their choice courtesy of SouthEast Expeditions, which they can take home or uncork and enjoy on the patio. Cheese platters are also available, and of course, you can purchase wine by the bottle or the case for your home collection. (It’s a little-known fact that kayaks actually perform better when loaded with some ‘ballast!’)
To book a trip, call the shop at 757-331-2680 or Bill & I at 757-787-2933.
For more on visiting the Eastern Shore:
Jun 23, 2009
If you ever get the chance to ride a Segway, do it! It really is intuitive and easy, once you get the hang of it. There’s no throttle and no brake: you lean where you want to go, or lean back to stop.
(Just don’t do like I did, get cocky and start steering with one hand and taking video with the other.)
A guided tour is the best way to go. A group of travel writers and I took Segway of Richmond’s tour of historic sites in our capital city. We started in Jackson Ward, the historic black neighborhood where Maggie Walker became the first female bank president and went all the way to the Canal Walk, the Museum of the Confederacy, Shockoe Bottom and the
At various stops, our guide Tony pointed out monuments and buildings, like the Egyptian building which has a perfect ‘race track’ for Segway riders. The 10 of us presented quite a spectacle, crossing many streets, racing down old brick sidewalks without a problem. People smiled, waved, or just look incredulous. I’d do it again in a minute!
I have to say one of the best parts was soaking in a Jacuzzi tub at the fabulous historic Jefferson Hotel afterwards. Thanks to Virginia Tourism Corp and Richmond CVB for showing us the treasures in
Jun 11, 2009
Meanwhile, osprey chicks are poking their heads above their fortress-like nests wondering when it's their turn to fly. Every day i s anew day on the water and we're lucky to share a piece of it.
If you'd like to share it with us, here's a sampling of the kayak trips Mary and I lead for SouthEast Expeditions on the Eastern Shore of Virginia:
Kayak Historic Onancock Creek: Tour every Saturday at 10 am, or other times by appointment. This is the best way to see our circa-1680 Colonial port town: from the water. Appropriate for all skill levels, especially beginners. Two hours, $45 per person. Reservations: 757-787-2933
Paddle Your Glass Off: How can you improve a day of kayaking? With a tasting of award-winning Virginia wine, that's how! We'll meet either Jon Wehner of Chatham Vineyards or Jonathan Bess of Holly Grove Vineyards for a tour and tasting. $85 per person (includes a bottle of wine per couple to take home). There's nearly always a Saturday or Sunday afternoon winery trip; other times by appointment.
Chesapeake Bay Eco-Tour: We launch from Schooner Bay, a few miles north of Onancock, to get eye-to-eye with saltmarsh sparrow nests and muskrat houses. Follow the tracks of small animals on lot-tide beaches. Watch blue crab scamper sideways in clear shallow water. The Bay is a national treasure and our eco-tours give you a first-hand look why. 2 or 4 hour trips available.
SouthEast also does seaside barrier island and wildlife refuge trips, rentals and private instruction. To book a trip or for more information, just call Bill in Onancock at 757-787-2933, or SouthEasts' main number at Sunset Beach: 757-331-2680.
Apr 30, 2009
After a year's absence, ferry service from Onancock, VA to Tangier Island has resumed. Tangierman Mark Crockett has outfitted the Joyce Marie to take passengers to and from the tiny watermen's community 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay.
Read our article about a truly authentic adventure, the Tangier Watermen's Tour. On this unique trip visitor get to ride along with crews pulling crab pots, visit a crab shanty where they 'bust' into softshells, then head to a local restaurant to dine on the delicacy the island is famous for.
Consider a trip to this authentic island this summer. It really is like stepping back in time. Board in Onancock, a 1680 Colonial port on Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Watch a video on kayaking around Tangier Island.
Apr 22, 2009
I have to admit I'm just old enough to remember the first Earth Day 39 years ago! Inspired by television coverage of the huge public demonstrations against DDT and industrial pollution, my brother and I rode our bikes around the neighborhood picking up trash!
Thanks to that great public outcry there have been successes, like the return of the bald eagle and the osprey to the Chesapeake Bay. But we still have so far to go. Our bay waters we love to paddle are still imperiled by run-off and over-fishing (Frontline aired in-depth coverage on it just last night, and you can watch it online)
The problem seems daunting, but there are many easy fixes we can all make in our own lives that taken as a whole can make a difference: changing to CFL light bulbs, conserving water, using natural cleaning products, unplugging computers and other appliances at night, and ... TRAVELING GREEN!
Virginia's governor has declared April “Virginia Green Travel Month.” Celebrate with some human-powered recreation and visit green-certified lodgings, restaurants and attractions throughout the Old Dominion. Read our newly posted article for ideas.
Paddle on! (and don't forget to turn off the computer tonight!)
Mary & Bill
Apr 17, 2009
In addition to being travel writers, the other hat we wear is that of kayak guides!
This will be our third season leading trips for SouthEast Expeditions from our home base of Onancock on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and we're looking forward to the best year ever.
Our trips are customized, personal, and 'on demand.' But tomorrow we're adding something new: a set 10 am tour of Historic Onancock Creek every Saturday through the end of summer. This way guests and visitors will always know when they can get a two-hour introduction to our quaint Colonial port by water-- clearly we think it's the best way to see it!
But our lovely creek is but one option on our growing itinerary of cool paddling places close by. We also do:
-a Kayak Winery Tour, includes a tour & tasting at an award-winning winery
-Saxis with a visit to a soft-shell crabbing shed
-the Great Machipongo River out of Quinby
-the marshes of Schooner Bay
-beach-combing and picnicing on a barrier island
Cost is $45 per person for 2-hour tours, $85 for half day, and $125 for full day. The boat, all gear, and instruction are included. Rentals are also available and we deliver!
To book your next adventure, you can call us direct at 757-787-2933 (home); 305-240-3298 (cell), or SouthEast's main number at 757-331-2680. Go to www.sekayak.com for more trips and details.
See you on the water!
Mary & Bill
Apr 2, 2009
Our newest book just came out April 1 and is available on Amazon
"Car Camping for Everyone" is the result of years of trial-and-error, and months on end living out of our car! We're currently working on a Kayaking book in the same series, to be released next spring.
From the Back Cover
No more rummaging through a chaotically packed car and then frantically setting up camp in the dark—not with Knack Car Camping for Everyone, which distills the authors’ years of experience into an idea-packed, picture-driven guide. The first such reference created for visual learners, it gives you the tools you need to make car camping the pleasure it is meant to be. From choosing a sleeping bag and setting up a tent to overcoming challenges like weather, insects, and safety concerns, the answers are all here in this definitive one-volume camping idea book.
Inside you'll find:
460 color photos
What to bring * What not to
Packing * Tents * Sleeping Bags
Outdoor Comfort * Building a Fire
Menus & Meals * Fun * Games
Children * Pets * Safety * First Aid
Mar 22, 2009
Freelance writers, guidebook authors, kayak guides…We can now add another skill to our resumes: wine bottlers!
Along with some other paddlers, we got to help Holly Grove Vineyards, a new Eastern Shore winery, bottle the final batch of 2008 Sunset Rose.
I envisioned pouring wine through funnels and applying labels by hand. Oh no! Owner Jonathan Bess has a shiny new bottling assembly line that fills the bottles, corks them, affixes the foil cap and the labels. All we had to do was load the bottles and box them at the end.
Oh, and quality control tastings. Lots of that!
Like many Virginia wineries, Holly Grove is a small, family-run operation, and each bottle truly gets individual attention. The family built their own house here. When the kids get out of school, they help with chores. A pair of pet goats, geese and couple of dogs roam the vineyards.
But the results are anything but home-grown. Bess’ Chardonnay and Merlot have been winning awards in international blind tastings. The new Rose we bottled is a drier style that is very refreshing for summer porch sitting. The label features sunset at the mouth of Nassawaddox Creek.
Each wine's label features a different waterfront or sunset scene from the cove in back. Another new wine, the 2008 High Tide Traminette, may just become a summer favorite for our wine porch: the label has kayaks on it!
Jonathan welcomes tours and tastings at Holly Grove daily. Pay him a visit, and then proceed on to nearby Chatham Vineyards, another family-run, award-winning winery here on the Eastern Shore Wine Trail!
Bill just did his first wine kayak tour of the season at Chatham for Southeast Expeditions! Check out our story and photos about the trip here.
Mar 8, 2009
Under the category of "Can't Get No Respect," the Eastern box turtle has struck out again. The Virginia House of Delegates recently defeated a bill that would designate the ubiquitous box turtle Virginia's official reptile.
From the Associated Press: “Delegate Frank Hargrove of Hanover asked why Virginia would make an official emblem of an animal that retreats into its shell when frightened and dies by the thousands crawling across roads.”
Poor turtles. They get no respect! Our hikes in Virginia and Maryland for our next book, “Day Hikes Near DC,” have led to a number of encounters with this pretty painted turtle. Here’s a photo of the last time we met, this one on the Seneca River Greenway Trail in Montgomery County, Maryland.
If you want to read the full legislative bill, and reacquaint yourself with other "Official Virginia" designations such as the Bat, Boat, Beverage, Fleet, Flower and Folk Dance, click here.
Mar 2, 2009
Well, we did have a spring story on a wild edibles walk all set to go, then Virginia got hit with a snow storm, so it didn't seem quite appropriate! (we'll send it next week, when it's supposed to get up towards 70).
Meantime, read about Williamsburg's Great Wolf Lodge indoor waterpark, where it's always a tropical 84 degrees.
Feb 22, 2009
Feb 16, 2009
I'm not as big a fan, but the muskrat is also in (2 for $7). Have you ever seen a place where you can get wallpaper, nails and fresh local eggs? House of Deals has it all!
Read more about our unique waterfront town, and if you think we're worthy, vote for us at Budget Travel Magazine's coolest small town contest.