Yesterday, I had the day off because of my flexible schedule that I finally have that gives me every other Friday off during two week periods where there is not a holiday. It is great leaving work Thursday afternoon realizing that I have a three day weekend ahead.
So given a day off to myself, I decided to go hiking in James River State Park, a place that I have never been before. It seemed appropriate, as 20 years ago on that date I started my job at the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages our wonderful state park system. This park is on a bend of the beautiful James River about 95 miles driving from my house. The James forms in the Appalachian Mountains where the Jackson and Cowpasture Rivers meet, and it is the longest river in the State. It flows only in Virginia, and eventually meets several other rivers to form Hampton Roads, which joins the lower Chesapeake Bay.
The park is on a section of the James which looks fairly shallow under normal conditions. It is not terribly wide there, maybe 100 meters. I walked a loop of these trails: River, Cabell, Branch, and Running Creek. I hiked 8.8 miles but it would have been closer to eight if I hadn't missed a couple spots, one because I went the wrong way for a short distance, the other because the map I used didn't reflect what was on the ground. The trails are very well marked, other than the one intersection, and it was a really nice walk with some up and down, but not with the aerobic workout of Sky Meadows earlier this week.
I walked through a wide variety of habitats and trail conditions - tall, dewy grass that soaked my boots, full son, mixed open areas and forest, and dense forests. There was also a nice nature trail on the way that looped around a small pond that I walked around. I didn't see a lot of wildlife, but did spot a kingfisher, a great blue heron, a cottontail, and a number of gray squirrels. I also heard tree frogs calling but couldn't find the well-disguised little beasts, and I heard a bobwhite quail eastern wood peewee singing out their names.
Here is a map showing my route, starting and ending at the purple arrow in the lower left. I walked clockwise from there. The red arrow shows where I went the wrong way for a short distance, and the red circle shows where I walked back and forth several minutes trying to find the trail I wanted to end up on (Running Creek).
Here are some photos from my hike on what normally would be a work day, but instead was a hot and humid day spent joyfully outdoors.
This section of the River Trail had tall, wet grass but was pleasant to walk through, although the sun was hot.
If there was less haze you would be able to see The Priest, site of my backing trip in 2010 and about 20-25 miles from here as the crow flies, just over the ridge to the right of the Tie River. It was about 70 degrees cooler on the day that I did that hike.
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