It has been a rough two - three weeks, starting with a bad cold and then a calf muscle tear exactly two weeks ago. I have not been doing too much in that time, but was able to start running again earlier this week. After yesterday's six mile run, 5 less than I should have done with the Seattle Half Marathon just two weeks away but coming off that injury, I wanted to get some exercise today but not go crazy. I decided on a short hike around Belle Isle, while testing my DeLorme PN-60 GPS at the same time. I've posted about Belle Isle hikes before, as well as one at nearby Tredegar Iron Works. I've also written about Belle Isle after marathon training workouts, and I've had some views of this point from my Hollywood Cemetery post back in April.
So on this very hot (mid-90's in the shade) afternoon, I threw a bottle of ice water, my GPS, and my camera in my pack, and drove to downtown Richmond. Everyone else had the same idea, and I had to park about a half mile from the trailhead, which is the foot bridge under the Robert E. Lee Bridge. I decided I would test the GPS by capturing a track of the hike, and waypoints. At each waypoint, I took one or more photos. Here is a map of my hike. The starting point is the top with all the squiggles from taking the ramp up to the bridge. A few of the waypoints are missing, because of errors I made in how to capture them. Total distance of the track was two miles, plus another mile getting to and from my car.
My route around the island was counter-clockwise, and my first photo spot was the beautiful Hollywood Rapids. When the water is low as it now is, you can walk all over the rocks and there were dozens and dozens of people sunbathing and swimming. My map clearly marks where I took these photos of the white water rafts shooting the rapids. Man, that looked like such fun on a very hot day! I doubt too many other American cities have white water rafting right in the downtown!
Wishing I'd had the guts to make a flying leap into the raft, I continued walking to my next waypoint, a shear 25 foot high cliff in an old quarry that is used to practice rock climbing.
From here, I went to the other side of the quarry, and took this photo of the pond. The waypoint was recorded properly but on the map, it was overwritten by one called "Big River Rocks." Other than some trash idiots had thrown in the water, it was a pretty spot.
Next, I made the turn around the west end of the island and headed east. I turned to the south for a short diversion to consider crossing the river on these huge rocks, and hiking up the Buttermilk Spring Trail for a while. But I ran into two young bikini-clad women, one of whom was in distress. They had one small water bottle to share, and it was empty. One of the young women, belly-button pierced artistically, was sitting on a big rock in the full sun, and not looking good. Her friend explained that she felt ill and got dizzy every time she stood. I was fearing the start of heat stroke. First thing was to get her in the shade, which we did. I felt her forehead, which was quite warm but not alarmingly so. I gave her most of my remaining ice water, and put the cold bottle on the back of her neck for a while. They said that they had just put in a call for a friend to bring them water, and that she would be OK. I suggested heading for the beach at the end of the island, just a couple of tenths of a mile away, and getting in the water. So I bade them farewell, clambered over some of the big rocks, and snapped a photo. My GPS waypoint was overlayed with the one of the quarry pond because of my mistake, but this spot is the short detour on the southwest side of the map. I could have rock-hopped across the James, but with very little water now and almost a mile back to the car, I decided to save that for a cooler day.
My next photo stop was the old VEPCO (Virginia Electric Power Company) hydro plant. You can see the waypoint on the south side of the map. Must have been something to have a power plant out here.
From there, I went on to this crumbling rolling mill. Belle Isle is now a city park and part of the James River Park system, but at one point, it must have been really industrial. This spot is the red waypoint on the map, and again, the GPS got confused at this point - it is Beta - and overlayed my next waypoint after this one (Civil War Prison Site) on top of it.
Speaking of, this six acre site was the scene of unimaginable suffering and hardship some 150 years ago, as Union Soldiers were imprisoned here during the Civil War. They would be amazed to see all the people having fun out here now. You can actually see where this photo was taken on the map, as it is about 60 feet east of this next waypoint and photo.
This armored shed was used to store explosive materials at some point long ago. The walls are all standing and you can walk inside, but there is no roof.
From here, it was a short walk back to the foot bridge and my final photo and waypoint of the rafters heading down river towards the downtown. A couple of them passed right under me as I stood there. Man, it looks like fun! I have not been white water rafting in a very long time, but it is a blast!
After this point, I headed back to the car, drove home, and drank two big glasses of ice water. I was parched! Note to self - next time on a hot day, take two liters of water, because you never know what will happen, even on a short hike.
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