Thursday, May 17, 2012

Along the James River: Cypress Knees

Chippokes Plantation lies on a bluff overlooking the James River in Virginia.
Our first full day there, we set out for the River; it didn't take long to find it.
In this photo the white shape on the horizon
is the Jamestown Ferry. It crosses the James
starting from the little settlement of Scotland, outside Surry, to Jamestown:

After we explored along the top of the bluff,
 my husband decided to find a way down to the shoreline.
He found a steep, grassy lane that led to the riverside.
A beautiful vista greeted us at the bottom of the hill:

But as soon as we arrived on the beach, we were greeted with another sight,
which--in sympathy with the hiker who thought the groundhog
 I had spotted at the Dismal Swamp was a cat--
I mistook for a possum carcass:
My husband pointed out to me that it was not a possum,
but a catfish that had been the first course for a seagull or two.
  I resisted the urge to find a stick and flip it over, and we went on.

The James River is a tidal river, so it has a sandy beach, tides, and sea shells.
We found large shell beds:

Tiny shore birds had explored them:

and barnacles that had attached to driftwood at sea
ended up resting there also:

But there is more.
The James also has enchanting cypress groves
that grow from the beach's waterside to its tree side.

Cypress Groves are always mystifying.
Tree roots sometimes continue to grow on top of the sand:

This serpentine root crossed the entire width of the beach.

The cypress trees thrive in water:

The small stump-like projections are called knees.
The cypress knees remind me of tiny sea gnomes:

or tiny forest gnomes:

Here's a cypress knee that has been sculpted by the tide.
It's full of seashell fragments, destined to be grains of sand some day.

I'll close with a short video of the tide 
as it came ashore the morning we were there:

Tomorrow, we will return to the James River
 to see some things I found unusual and beautiful.

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