An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

April 18, 2009

Taskinas Creek Spring Break

During the spring, the days I get to spend with my son are too few. He and my school teaching wife were both on spring break this past week. To give her a child care break, I took him to work with me Thursday where he got to get a little dirty, unload some trucks and earn a few dollars. Several weeks ago I declared that the next day would be "nature day" and that we would be having an outdoor adventure of some kind. We decided on a canoe trip at York River State Park. For an extremely reasonable $15 we got the use of a canoe for half a day. The canoes are launched on Taskinas Creek which is part of the Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. The creek begins as a series of freshwater wetlands that gradually turn into a deeper and saltier tidal creek, and at its mouth joins the York River. We had the whole creek to ourselves and it was easy to imagine what this place looked liked prior to the arrival of Europeans.



The woods surrounding the water and wetlands were awakening from their winter dormancy and exhibiting one of my favorite aspects of spring. I love the hazy look at the tree tops of all the little leaves just coming out in a hundred shades of green with a few other hues squeezed onto the palette. The forest is a mix of American Beech, Tulip Poplar, Red Maple, Sweetgum, Loblolly Pine, Eastern Red Cedar, Dogwood, Redbud, and various Oaks that I can never keep straight.

Another sign of spring is the return of the Osprey. There was a pair living in the middle of the marsh, and the one sitting on the nest refused to give up her/his post even with a noisy 11 year old human below in a canoe. Great Blue Herons were also in abundance, but none would pose for a good picture. The marsh itself was coming back to life as well, and I know winter is definitely over when green blades of Spartina are seen pushing up through last years dead brown stalks. One of the nice things about the canoe was being able to get right next to the marsh where it was easy to see just how alive it was. There were Fiddler Crabs, Periwinkle Snails and Mussels all living their lives. What amazed me were all the pops, whistles and gurgles coming from the little creatures, turning the mud into a living thing.


Out at the mouth of the creek, the winds were mild enough to let us paddle into the York River. Much of the river bank is made up of small beaches and cliffs that have been eroded by the water. On one of the beaches I was hoping to find some fossils, especially shark's teeth. The visitor center had a nice collection on display, including a really large tooth from a Megladon, which makes a Great White Shark look like a trout. Most of the fossils were formed 3 to 4 million years ago when this area was under water as part of the Continental Shelf. Unfortunately we found no fossils, but there were other treasures: crab pot buoys, old sea glass, pottery shards and a few Osprey feathers.



Finally my last shots are of another unmistakable sign that spring is here - pollen. There were places where the water was yellow with it.



If any of you find yourselves in Williamsburg and are tired of the crowds at the historic area or wish you were anywhere besides waiting in line at Busch Gardens - York River State Park is only 11 miles from the center of town and a world away.

18 comments:

  1. Enjoyed the outing. The photos really make me feel I was there.

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  2. What a nice outing! You showcased the natural area wonderfully. I am wondering if that osprey thought he or she was bigger than that human and therefore safe enough to stand its ground?:) Great shot. Yuck on the pollen. And I can imagine it prior to the Europeans arriving. One of my favorite series of books is Jean Auel's books and she paints the picture so well of a continent with no humans that I imagine it all the time. Makes me grateful to have modern conveniences like roads! Canoeing would be fun too though.

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  3. If you love sea glass you may be interested in a private online member community dedicated to Sea Glass Lovers around the world.

    Members share tons of photos, craft and display ideas, beach locations, events and much more!

    http://www.seaglasslovers.ning.com

    ENJOY!

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  4. Hi Les.
    Great post, really enjoyed reading about your canoe adventure. The pollen I found very interesting, I have never seen anything like that before. What was the pollen from? and how did it end up in the water like that?
    Curious,
    ESP.

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  5. James,
    I am glad you enjoyed it.

    Tina,
    I think the opsrey may have been sitting on eggs and that is why it would not leave. I too loved reading the Auel series. My favorite was the Mammoth Hunters.

    Linda,
    Thanks for the link.

    East Side,
    Right now the pollen is from Loblolly Pine and the Oaks. Usually the weather forecast will list how bad it will be and from what species. Sometimes there are great yellow-gray clouds of the stuff drifting across the landscape. Fortunately I am not affected by it.

    Les

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  6. Enjoyed the tour! We are not into touristy places like Williamsburg, but would indeed enjoy a canoe trip down Taskinas Creek. Glad you were able to get out there and share it with us.

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  7. Thanks for taking us along on your outing with your son. What a great way to spend some quality time!

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  8. Randy,
    Williamsburg is not so bad if you go at the right time of the year. Avoid summer and right before Christimas, oh and William and Mary home football game weekends.

    Racquel,
    Thanks for stopping by. It was quality time for both of us. My garden is being neglected right now. Once I get my other day off back maybe I can spend some time in it.

    Les

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  9. What a great adventure! I'm betting your son had a blast. My wife is a teacher as well so spring break is always a big deal around my house. I took off a couple days. One of those days was a washout but the other was spent at the VA Zoo. We had a good time there.

    Nice photos as well - really cool to get that close to an osprey without it flying.

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  10. That sounds like a peaceful land! I like the Osprey shot. I like the place even from the photos and I'm sure it's heaven on earth in real!

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  11. Alan,
    Lucky you, getting to go to the zoo. I go for the plants as much as the animals. Marie Butler spoke at our civic league meeting last week, she is one of the horitculturists at the zoo. I hope her wit and information was not lost on the non-gardeners.

    Chandramouli,
    I don't know if it is heaven on earth all the time, but it came close that day.

    Les

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  12. Les, I love when kids and their parents have adventures like this one! Lots of fun and some great learning experiences! beautiful shots...A canoe is my kind of boat. I often wonder what TN would look like without the invasives that have taken over our parks and roadsides..It must have been lovely covered with spring ephemerals...gail

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  13. Great trip Les! Used to be that the schools would take small groups up to the York River State Park for biology canoeing trips. What a wonderful resource. I could do without all the pine pollen! Nothing like a nice yellow haze.

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  14. Gail,
    I often try to imagine or find places that are still in their natural state. It is getting harder to do. I remember going to NYC when I was much younger and seeing a small enclosed green space that had been planted with things native to Manhattan prior to the Europeans. It was a small piece of the wild surrounded by concrete.

    Janet,
    It certainly would be a great field trip opportunity. I don't think kids get to go on field trips much anymore, especially at my son's school. Maybe they are so focused on the SOLs there is no time, or maybe there is no money.

    Les

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  15. I worked at the nursery yesterday and we were packed! I do mean they were hauling out plants in truck loads. It was great but I'm exhausted. I hope your business is doing very well.

    Your son is handsome and lucky to have you as a father. Does he ask a million quesitons about all the shore treasures? Is his imagination huge and full of adventure? You are sure providing the right mix for such a thing. Bravo!

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  16. What a magical day! I have seen great clouds of pollen on the wind. It is an amazing sight and luckily I am generally not bothered by it. Also love your new Penny. I am not really much of a dog person, but you seem to have a great group there.

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  17. Anna,
    Glad to hear the nursery was busy. We have been very busy as well, not making piles of money yet, but busy none-the-less. My son has always asked a lot of questions, but we are entering a more independant stage where the opinions of parents are not always valued or heeded.

    Linda,
    I love to see great clouds of pollen drifting across the landscape like some kind of yellow fog.

    Les

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  18. Hi, Les.

    I was so inspired by this post, that I took my husband and my dog on Saturday. The park was every bit as beautiful as your photos - thanks for inspiring me to make the effort. But a word of warning to anyone thinking about visiting the park in May: it is TICK CENTRAL. I've never seen so many ticks in my life! We took a 3-mile trail around the marsh, and by the time we got back to the car, we had already picked off dozens of ticks and were starting on another round. It made for quite the adventure!

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