At the top of our wish list for the River House trip was hiking with the family. Dale and Ginny are avid “nature people” and we wanted to trek a trail with them since we had never before explored the natural environment of Eastern Virginia. With much consideration for the hiking possibilities in the coastal area, Dale and Ginny selected a moderately challenging hike at Beaverdam Park in Gloucester County, VA. We set out for an early morning hike, happy to have an open window for an outdoor activity after a very rainy day.
The park has over nine miles of trails that surround Beaverdam Reservoir including multi-use trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian riding. There is a 5K trail marked for the home course of the local cross country team from Gloucester High School. People also come to Beaverdam Park for freshwater fishing and kayaking. When we arrived, there weren’t many others at the park as we signed into the trail log. With the possibility of rain, Derek and I layered up with long pants and rain jackets in the breezy 72° weather with overcast skies.
The blue-blazed multi-use trail at Beaverdam in mid-July was like entering a beautifully overgrown forest from Jurassic Park in a sea of green. I imagined what this trail might look like with its stunning fall colors. We enjoyed a peaceful hike in quiet solitude without no one else in sight while listening for bird sounds and stopping to notice multiple beaver attempts to fell trees.
The shady forest floor was covered by the treetops allowing for many varieties of mushrooms and ferns to develop. Derek took on the role of a naturalist by documenting each unique species that he spotted along the way and asking Dale if he knew what they were. He also kept the Merlin Birding app running on sound identification throughout the hike to let us know which bird calls we were hearing. Besides the flight of a Great Blue Heron from the reservoir, we didn’t see the birds on our hike since the trees were so tall.
Ginny carried her trusty hiking pole along as we maneuvered over roots and rocks as the elevation transitioned from the edge of the water to small inclines in the forest. She kept a good pace going with minimal breaks which was impressive after months of physical therapy from a break in her foot this year. I could feel the Virginia humidity like a damp blanket coating my skin as I kept up with Ginny leading the pack. The long layers started to peel away and tuck around our waists.
There were many loops and splits in the multi-use trail that needed consulting with the map but the trail was marked well enough with signs directing to side trails by nearby roads that we were able to make an out-and-back route of 5.5 miles. On our return route, we had to watch our footing with fresh horse droppings left behind that dotted the multi-use trail. While the trail included 5K markers for the cross country course, it was more of an intermediate level of hiking difficulty that I would find very challenging to race with the elevation and roots. Gloucester must have some talented runners on their team!
We completed the hike invigorated from our time in nature but also a little drained from the journey. Dale and Ginny took us out for lunch to Bangkok Noi Thai Cuisine in Gloucester where we sampled spring rolls with chicken, vegetables, and chopped rice noodles tightly wrapped in rice paper. Dale ordered sushi and Ginny had the green curry. Derek savored his red curry with a little heat and I ate my favorite dish of Pad Thai noodles. The meal was both flavorful and delicious!
It had been a day well spent and we took some time that afternoon to unwind with our books and refresh before a few rounds of card games. Hiking was a great way for us to all spend time together and explore a Virginia forest. As the film director Werner Herzog once said: “The world reveals itself to those who travel on foot.”
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