I was more than looking forward to going to False Cape State Park yesterday. I had to complete an American Canoe Association (ACA) Flatwater Kayak Safety and Rescue Course for work. The Chief Ranger there, Cameron Swain, was my instructor for the ACA canoe certification that I passed two years ago. She’s serious-minded with a heart of gold. One of their Park Interpreters, Rebecca Martin was also taking the class along with a Kiptopeke State Park employee and False Cape volunteers I haven’t met. But, It was all good because I can get along with just about anything except a Cottonmouth snake (more on that later). And going to False Cape with a group meant a slow, open seated tram ride through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A perfect opportunity to capture images of Great Egrets in their breeding plumage and other birds as well. I also brought the park’s (York River) Olympus waterproof point and shoot camera with me to get some action shots of our training. This trip was going to be epic. Epic with more twist and turns than a King & Queen or Charles City County back road.
The first twist came with my brain-dead decision to bring my own bilge pump rather than take one from the park (YR). When I checked the thing out Sunday night, it had some sort of slight dent in it. I pulled the handle and broke the darn thing. Thinking I could get another one at “Wally World” proved to be fruitless as I also overpaid for a pair of sandals with no back strap. While I didn’t get to Sandbridge in time for a good sunrise shot, I wasn’t too concerned. I knew the tram ride would be productive.
I am always glad to see Cameron. I was not glad to see what she was driving. Oh, I expect her truck to have a few cubic inches of dirt on it. But, she drove the truck, not the tram. As we gathered at the Big Island Park parking lot, she let us know that it wouldn’t have been safe to drive the tram on such an extremely windy day (25mph with gust up to 40 from the west, we trained in a well sheltered lagoon rather than the very choppy Back Bay). So, we drove to the Back Bay NWR shop and carpooled in park vehicles. Because I drove one from York River, I couldn’t take any time to shoot. Ah well, I had the waterproof Olympus. I would make up for it by getting some excellent on the water training shots for my next state parks blog posting.
And I got some good ones! Nearly every image had the water dripping off the paddle of each stroke. Good detail of proper paddling and rescue techniques. I was impressed with what this camera could do and that 15 feet of water could not damage it. What I was horribly disappointed with was the camera pouch. The velcro strap that was supposed to fit securely around my belt didn’t. As I took my turn to capsize, so did the pouch with camera in tow. Julie Barnes, Lord bless her soul, helped me search for it. Losing a camera is one thing. It can be replaced. Good photos can’t. Looking at Cameron’s slight smile at my misfortune, I could tell she wasn’t too disappointed at my loss. Most of my shots were of her in action.
To add insult to insult and injury, I got stuck. False Cape is a sand trap for two-wheel drive vehicles that pull to the side of the main road. This is the second time I have driven to that park and the second time I got stuck. Of course, Cameron pulled me out with her four-wheel drive. I was grateful that I didn’t lose the truck key along with the camera. That would have been even worse.
To further punctuate my misfortunes, three Cottonmouths greeted me as we were leaving the park. I don’t fear non-venomous snakes. I am watchful for Copperheads. But, they tend to shy away from things bigger than themselves. But, the Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin), fears nothing. They were just lying in the dirt road with their white mouths and sharp fangs showing as if to say, “Bring it on” as our trucks rolled past them. That snake is pure evil!
So, what was the “best” about this journey? Any time I can drive through the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel with only one minor slow down going east around the Mallory Street exit before 9 AM is reason to celebrate. Julie is also a volunteer with the Back Bay NWR and let me know of another agency that may be interested in my photography. All of my classmates were very nice and encouraging to one another. Eighty degrees and sunshine at a beach is a recipe for a good day. I got paid to increase and be tested on my kayaking skills. Now, I am certified as an ACA Flatwater Kayak Guide. My victory dinner was a combo platter of Flounder, oysters, and a crab cake from the Seafood Market on Armisted and Bassett in Hampton (I would have hit Margie & Ray’s in Sandbridge, but they are closed on Mondays before Memorial Day).