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Jun 29, 2009

Kayaking Tangier Island, Virginia

(click on the image to see my video!)

Last week, I took the ferry from my town of Onancock on the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Tangier Island, 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay. As a kayaker, my goal was to check out the paddling options. I borrowed a boat, life jacket and paddle, which are available free to visitors from the dock of the Tangier History Museum.

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 Canada geese walked along the shore. Osprey nested on a platform and great blue heron waded and fished in the shallows.

I soon entered a marsh creek where I could hear Virginia rails “clapping” in the grass. Occasionally one would flush and fly across my bow, colorful if somewhat awkward in flight. I was completely alone except for the birds.

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.

Wintergreen Resort: Virignia's mountaintop playground

Last week Bill and I traveled on a writing assignment to Wintergreen resort, just south of Charlottesville, VA, and on the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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.

Kayak to a seaside waterman's cabin

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 Eastern Shore. It’s basically a rustic cabin on stilts in the middle of the marsh!

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 Call Dave at 757-331-2680 to book this one-of-a-kind adventure.

Jun 24, 2009

Kayak to a Winery on the Eastern Shore of Virginia

One of the more popular kayak tours we've been doing this season is the Kayak Winery tour. SouthEast Expeditions calls it “Paddle your glass off.”

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 Virginia, if not the country. This time of year, the tour includes a peak at a great blue heron rookery where we’ve been sighting new nests weekly.

We land at the historic brick Chatham mansion, walk through 400-year-old farm fields (often accompanied by Wilbur, the terrier mascot) to the winery and tasting room. There Jon Wehner greets us and explains the nuances and creation of his award-winning European varietals. The Steel Chardonnay is very popular and the Vintner's Blend always sells out. My summer favorite is the Rose, a refreshingly not-to-sweet wine for porch-sitting.

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

Segway Sightseeing in Richmond, VA

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 James River.

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 Virginia's beautiful capital city. Here's a video of us "racing." At the end you can see my fancy camera-work while driving.

Jun 11, 2009

Notes from the Marsh

There's no denying summer heat is settling up on us. Thankfully, there's always a breeze on the water. Great Blue Heron rookeries on Onancock Creek and Church Creek are in high gear, the clucking and cooing as we pass silently in our kayaks is a window into one of nature's marvels.

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.
Paddle on!

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