Posts Tagged ‘waterfront home’

Flowering Space Invaders Discovered On Westerhouse Creek On Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

 My life on the backwaters of  Westerhouse Creek near the southern tip of the Eastern Shore of Virginia is peaceful and bucolic,  coexisiting serenely with the woodland creatures that live among the thousands of acres of open land around my waterfront home.  Often I hike along a narrow and ill-defined deerpath that follows the general lay of the shoreline.  Paddling Westerhouse  Creek,  a colorful saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake  Bay,  in my kayak nearly every day has brought me many close encounters with the native wildlife.  Catching deer swimming across the creek, watching bald eagles snatch fish out of the water  and having a river otter swim right up to my boat,  whining at me to give him space — what other surprises awaited me?  After a few years I felt I had a pretty good handle on the lay of the land and felt that there wasn’t much more to discover in my woods and along the edges of fields.

Then,  lo and behold,  while placing my kayak on the post and beam rack I have  built next to the dock,  I caught sight of a bright pink object in the brown underbrush.  It was tax time,  April 15, and as I approached,  this pink object took on a whole new form,  joined by a couple of other ones sitting high and mighty on the ends of tall green  stalks.  I had never seen anything like it!  

 So,  everyday for the next few weeks,  I studied this peculiar flowering plant,  the only one of its kind anywhere in the forest where I live.  Soon  it lost its luster and the bloom faded away leaving only the stalk and big green leaves laying on the ground.  Having qualified as a Master Gardener with three months of classes and a year and a half of volunteer gardening labor,  I felt I ought to know what this strange plant was.  I asked around but finally I researched orchids and discovered that this is the hard- to- find  Lady Slipper.   Now,  after five years,  I always look for it around tax time when the tall stalks sprouting from big, sturdy, green leaves sprout the oddest and most beautiful pink blooms.   This exotic show lasts for about a month and then fades away over summer,  to return yet again the  next spring with an additional stalk and flower.

My Secret Kayaking Spot On The Eastern Shore Of Virginia

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Kayaking on Virginia’s Eastern Shore  is a well-known  passion of mine.   But I’m not worried about my secret spot becoming overrun by kayakers because it’s getting mighty lonely paddling around out there all by myself.  Save for the bald eagles,  osprey,  great blue heron,  kingfisher, and assorted other shore birds that migrate through the area,  that is,  so actually it’s not lonely at all,  just really wonderfully peaceful and relaxing !   Having paddled Westerhouse Creek almost daily now,  going on 9 years,  the number of times I have encountered another soul I could count on both hands. This small saltwater inlet from the Chesapeake Bay near Machipongo, Virginia in Northampton County  has an absolutely pristine shoreline  and  is edged in the softest way by thick stands of tall green spartina grass.  I have yet to become jaded to the sublime beauty of this  place,  and especially its lack of disturbance by human encroachment.  Although others live along the shores of this beautiful channel,  near  sunset or sunrise it seems to be mine alone.

Launching my 17  foot long sea kayak  into Westerhouse Creek from my backyard finger pier is a breeze.  I climb down a short ladder to balance before scooting  into the cockpit,  sitting as comfortably as if I was lounging in my living room.  All is quiet, the sun is starting to set and shortly a full moon is due to rise in the east.  The beauty of  paddling a kayak lies in its unobtrusiveness in the natural surroundings and ease of movement through the water.  I feel at one with nature as I glide upon the fluid  surface.  This little salt water estuary is really a miniature Eastern Shore creek,  with all the features shrunk down so that an hour’s paddle takes you through the various topographical features that comprise an entire  healthy ecosystem.  The headwaters of the creek are wetlands that capture the drainage of fresh water from as far away as Lankford Highway  (Rt. 13)  which runs along  the spine of the  Delmarva Penninsula.  The marsh soon gives way to open water as the opposite banks of the stream open wider and wider apart.   Behind the spartina grow  thick stands of  long and short needle pines and hardwood trees.  In the fall,  the change of color of  foliage creates a rainbow  along the both shores,  pine greens contrasting with the brilliant  hues of  reds,  orange,  pinks  and yellows of the hardwoods.  In the early spring,  the white dogwood blossoms are the first flowers to appear through the leafless branches,  a welcoming sight.

My goal each trip is to paddle the length of the entire creek,  passing out between the sandy shores of the mouth where the creek empties into the Chesapeake Bay. There,  when the wind is blowing strong from the northwest,  I love to  catch the waves and virtually surf  the kayak back homewards into the mouth of the creek,  almost California style.

One evening in early May,  in a fairly stiff breeze,  I paddled out through the breaking 2-3′ waves and turned to catch one back to shore, but a rogue wave hit me sideways and and for the first time ever,  tumbled my boat upside down so fast I hardly knew which direction was up.  I found myself suddenly immersed in an inverted position and I literally fell out of my kayak and rose to the surface sputtering water from my mouth.  It was cold water, too, and the waves were breaking all over,  and I was a little worried about being slowly pulled out into the Bay by the falling tide.  Luckily, a couple of weeks earlier I had finished a series of  four classes in a YMCA pool in Virginia Beach to train on how to perform a kayak self-rescue and of course,  as always,  I was wearing a life vest.  The cold water was starting to sap my strength but I stripped off my waterlogged sweatpants,  gathered my thoughts and planned my every move.  Relying on an inflated bag fitted over one end of my paddle to steady the tippy craft,  I climbed aboard in the breaking surf and rolled inside the boat.  Using the  bilge pump,  I emptied the water from my kayak and steadily started paddling back towards the mouth of the Creek.  Whew!  What a relief to be afloat again and heading for home!   Maybe,  I thought,  on the next windy day I will just  turn around  in the Creek and not head out into the Bay to surf  back on a wave.   Or……… maybe I’ll just keep on being adventurous !

This evening,  however,  the water was  quite calm  so my paddling  was  as peaceful and easy as could  be,  total relaxation.   The sun began painting the waters in vivid shades of purples and pinks.  And out in the Bay,  I gazed  up and down that  beautiful shoreline,   then turned  my kayak for home,  spotting the white disk of moon peeking above the distant treeline.

My Westerhouse Creek finger pier perfect for launching kayaks.

Sun setting into the Chesapeake Bay

Entrance to Westerhouse Creek from the Chesapeake Bay