Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Staking my Territory

So I'm becoming this great explorer, discovering new things with every new walk.

Today I set my sights on Great Shiplock Park, a chance to see the half bascule bridge and walk the Capital Trail.

Starting out mid-morning, I was walking due east, not the easiest route that time of day.

At 18th Street, I picked up the Capital Trail, thrilled that it wound underneath the train bridge to provide shade.

An Amtrak train rattled by overhead, headed to Newport News. I know this only because of how much I've taken the train this summer.

Given the cloudless blue sky, I wasn't exactly thrilled when the trail moved from under the train bridge to along Dock Street, completely unshaded and more than a little steamy after the comfort of the shaded trail.

I passed two large men out getting their exercise, both sweating profusely, but both taking a moment to smile and say good morning.

Looking both ways - as the sign instructed-  to cross the train tracks, I was suddenly in Great Shiplock Park, which appeared considerably spruced up since I'd last been there maybe six years ago.

New to me were recycling containers and a PortaPotty, both thoughtful additions.

Just then, one train car rattled over the tracks I'd just crossed.

But it was when I crossed the canal that I realized I had new territory to stake.

I was now on Chapel Island, so called because an Episcopal chapel was situated there until 1741 when St. John's was built on Church Hill.

How crazy is that? A church on an island between the canal and river? Who knew about this?

After that, the sign said, it was home to a fishery, Mrs. Jane King's ice house and William Trigg's ship-building business.

Since I'm all about some island trail walking, I set out on the wide, gravel trail only to stop dead in my tracks when I saw a black and gold snake sunning itself in the trail eight feet ahead.

Not that anyone was around to hear me, but I said something along the lines of, "Oh, no, get out of here!" which the snake ignored until I picked up a handful of gravel and tossed it in his direction, causing him to slither into the underbrush.

Bugs I can do (well, squash, and the spiderwebs were rampant - clearly this trail isn't walked often or the spiders are just unusually industrious) but snakes I want no part of.

Once he scrammed, I kept on, amazed at this little island I'd never heard of. There were even a couple of boat ramps.

When I got around to the other side, I could hear the river and it soon appeared through the trees.

I found an overlook, although not very high, with a couple of rustic benches, a marker and a view of a guy in a boat trolling along the shoreline, fishing rod in hand.

Naturally, I did what any explorer would do. I threw my arms in the air and yelled to the river that I was queen of Chapel Island. No, really, I did.

But it was also a learning experience because according to one of the signs I'd read, you can even catch blue crabs in this part of the river, where the river is tidal (although not salty).


Walking back around the trail, I marveled at this brand new-to-me island only 2 1/2 miles from my house. I can't wait to show it some of my favorite walkers.

After retracing my steps on the Capital Trail, more pleasant with the sun on my back, I opted for my favorite way to cover the distance from 14th to 5th Street (despite having to walk further south to catch it): the pipeline walkway.

It's amazing how much shorter those nine blocks seem when walking on a shady trail with the river on both sides of me.

Of course, my first stop was the little sandy beach where I ditched my shoes and socks and waded out into the river up to my shorts, a reward for my feet and legs for the first three miles of the walk.

Heading back up the hills away from the river, I felt pleased as punch with myself for having made a discovery today.

Some queens send out explorers; others do the exploring themselves.

Me and Mrs. Jane King, women for the ages.

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