Monday, May 28, 2012

The Mystery Place

Where in the world is it that trees,
twisted and turned by nor'easters and hurricanes,
tower over fields of tomatoes, potatoes, and corn?
Where dozens of seagulls circle and unseen songbirds chirp and whistle?
And where is it that nonchalant deer pause at the woodland's edge
 to stare quietly at humans only a few feet away?
Two places actually.

The first on our trip,
 the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge,
offers field, forest, and marsh.
According to the Refuge, this is a select migration byway 
for "millions of songbirds and monarch butterflies
and thousands of raptors" who stop to rest on their way south.
Fisherman's Island holds protected nesting areas
for "brown pelicans and royal terns
as well as American oystercatchers."

Since our visit was late May,
we were too late (or too early)
for the great migration that arrives in autumn.
However, our purpose was to take advantage of the bike trails
 paved over the former Cape Charles Railroad right-of-way.

As soon as we got on the trail, 
a young doe lingered nearby for awhile before fleeing.
Big dark eyes, big ears, and big curiosity on its part--and ours.
I think it's safe to say all three of us--the doe, my husband, and I-- 
shared the same degree of heart-pounding excitement in those few moments.

The bike trail in the Refuge is very scenic.
We saw lots of thistles with fuschia-colored blooms: 

and a mystery plant--a purple flowering vine with fern-like leaves--
that I haven't been able to find any information about. 
It was as prolific as the seagulls,
so I assume it is another unwelcome guest at the party.
It's hard to see the leaves in this photo
because the vine was interwoven
with a profusion of wild fennel. 

We thought at first these delicate green clouds were wild asparagus,
but when we ran our hands over the stems,
there was no mistaking the scent of fennel.

Whatever the purple-flowering vine is,
it blended well with the Queen Anne's Lace to create a lovely picture
of meadow flowers in late spring:

The bike trail in the Refuge is an easy couple of miles over smooth pavement.
Not so our second destination: Kiptopeke State Park
on the Bay side of the lower Delmarva Peninsula.
Pedaling over the grass paths
presented quite a challenge in the noon-day sun,
and I had to rest as soon as we got to the butterfly garden.
That is where we saw more seagulls 
 floating on ponds, cavorting in fields, and resting along roof lines:

We left there and followed the Bayview Trail to the cliffs.
The sky was blue and cloudless,
so the Bay was a deep blue color all the way to the horizon.
In the distance, up the beach a-ways,
 floated a small fleet of retired WWI- and WWII-era concrete ships.
I had read about them last year and was curious about them.
I expected them to be a dazzling white, but they were actually much darker,
more of a brown and gold color.
Here's a link to  photos of what the concrete ships look like:

I wanted to go to the main part of the park to see them,
but the thought of riding my bike over a few more rough miles dissuaded me.
I plan to go back and see the Kiptopeke beach again though.
Maybe I'll return in autumn with millions of songbirds and butterflies.
Now that would be a trip.

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