|Broad Bay beach hike, First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, VA, March 31|
This spring I was planning to head to Wisconsin and resume hiking where I left off when winter chased me off the trail last November. I was waiting for the weather to break first, and it was taking forever for winter to loose its grip. Snowfall and hard freezes continued through March, then in mid-April a mammoth blizzard rolled through, leaving two feet of snow on the ground. Earth Day came around, and the Ice Age Trail was living up to its name. The snow finally melted by the start of May, but by then I was beginning to be tempted in a different direction.
You see, to stay in shape until the Wisconsin conditions improved, I was doing a lot of hiking locally. I have a place on the beach in North Carolina. Spring arrived there in February, and by early May it was feeling like summer. Beach weather.
|March 21: the beach grasses are sprouting|
My sunrise beach hikes were accompanied by that special briny smell of salt spray, the hypnotic white noise of the surf, chattering shore birds, the warm fuzzy feel of tropical breezes on my face, the glorious explosions of color and form that sunrises provide--a different show every day. Beach hiking fully engages all five senses into a natural experience that is hard to top. I was getting hooked.
|May 21: The sky felt like a gateway to heaven|
Add to that the prospect of World Cup soccer this summer. Four years ago I was hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail when World Cup came around, and I just had to get off the trail. I didn't want to miss the action. Once every four years the best athletes in the world compete for the biggest prize in World Sport. This year the games are being played during prime hiking time. Three games a day, 8AM to 4PM. No chance of getting anything more than a sunrise hike in before the action starts.
Beach sunrise hiking and World Cup. They were beginning to look like an ideal match.
Even when I traveled to visit family for Easter, I managed to fit in two beach hikes. The first was at Virginia Beach and incorporated two very different beaches--the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Henry, here seen from my hotel room,
and the beach along Back Bay, a sheltered tidal wetland protected by First Landing State Park.
The headline photo is another view along that low tide beach walk. Here's the GPS Track of that special day of hiking.
The other hike I fit in was my first official hike of the 'Fifty Trail' after its conception. I've hiked lots of other parts of my Fifty Trail in the past, but that was before it was officially 'a thing'. That hike, also part of the American Discovery Trail, connected the crossing of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Annapolis to Kent Island, with the Cross Island Trail, a bike path. My route included the beach along the bay in Terrapin Nature Park with its perfect bridge view.
On down the trail are some great Chesapeake Bay wetland views--another kind of beach, so to speak.
Here's the GPS Track of that day's seven mile route across Kent Island, which started at the finish line of the "10-K Across the Bay" race, currently the only way to walk across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge:
Beach hiking seems to be my thing. If I had to choose one hike in all the world as the only hike I could do, this would be it.
It's the only hike I never seem to get tired of, because nearly every bit of it is new every day. The sand is refreshed as waves sculpt a new setting.
The changing weather provides as much variety overhead.
The color palate, the wildlife, even the waves themselves seem to offer a new experience every morning.
In the end, I'm grateful that I don't have to choose--that I don't have to limit my hiking to this one place. But for a few weeks, at least, it's not going to suck.