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.

May 3, 2011

Scenes from Chippokes

After my early morning Earth Day ride to the Pagoda, I came home to find my son and his buddy awake from a late night sleepover (wife still soundly snoozing her spring break away).  Surprise, surprise, the boys were busy playing video games.  In an effort to peel their eyes away from electronic screens, I suggested a trip to Chippokes Plantation State Park for a hike.  I am not sure why, but they easily said yes, and I did not linger long enough for them to change their minds.

Spring Path 2

Choked Garden

Spring Path

Lunaria annua
Lunaria annua

Aquilegia canadensis
Aquilegia canadensis

Front Lawn

I try, as often as possible, to get my son outside, to the country, the beach, the woods or anywhere out of the house and indoor activities.  When I was growing up, you could not keep me inside.  We spent entire days on our bikes, playing in the woods, building forts, tromping through streams, playing various pick-up games, and more often than not, we had to be called in at night.  The world my son lives in is one of more organized activities, play dates, parental permissions and indoor amusements.  There is no such thing as being able to roam at will, exploring without supervision until dark.  Some other things that disturb me about children of my son's generation is that they seem to expect (and sometimes demand) constant entertainment, and for the most part find it difficult to enjoy the quieter times or to make up their own fun.  The picture is not completely bleak - I think he and his peers are better educated than I was at his age; are ready to live in a multicultural world without the amount of prejudice that was present in mine; and are capable of easily navigating an increasingly technical world.

Chippokes Field (2)

Green Corral

Each time I have visited the beach at Chippokes, I have found a string of beads.  This time was no exception.

Taxodium distichum behind the beach.
Behind the Beach

Taxodium distichum on the beach.
Cypress Knees

I am not sure how much fun the boys had at Chippokes, but at least they had a change in scenery, and I know the hike and the fresh air did them some good.  Whether they enjoyed the trip or not, I did. 

(This blog's previous trips to Chippokes are here and here.)


  1. I haven't been there in years. Obviously need to go back.

  2. So what's the story behind the beads?

  3. Great pictures! Glad you and the boys had a good time. After seeing your pictures, I just had to Google Taxodium distichum. What an interesting tree.

  4. Great photos, wonderful narrative. I agree that the parameters of childhood are very different these days. I appreciate that you find so many positives that counterbalance some of the changes.

  5. Les,

    Your things you did while growing up were exactly the same as I did growing up. Funny huh. Nice park.

  6. childhood has changed, no doubt about it. i am glad you noted some of the positives. it helps to remember there are a few. but good for you for taking your son to beautiful outdoor places like this.

  7. As many times as I hike the back trials at Chippokes, I never find any mysterious beads, but I agree with the comments about kids of today and of earlier generations! I was one of those kids that was always wanting to be outdoors! Even as an adult I still prefer the outdoors! Thanks for the enjoyable blogs!

  8. It's memories the boys will remember for always-though they may not appreciate it for a while.

  9. We used to have to come in when the street lights came on. Oh the forts we made, the games we played, the places we explored!! My mother would cringe if she knew where we were some of the time. (up the face of a cliff over looking the river!)
    The photos of the Bald Cypress are great, especially on the beach. I love springtime meadows with the buttercups and various other spring bloomers.
    Nice outing!

  10. My boys went through the same processed (technology) and I to tried to get them out as much as possible. A pastor told me one time that you are who you hang out with (in reference to the boys). Thats why its so important to stay in touch with them and their friends. Nice post with photos, the cypress remind me of my times in the Hill Country of Texas. Many Baldies.

  11. The photo of the beach is beautiful! Well, they all are, but I especially like that one.

    My husband and I grew up much the way you descibed your childhood as. Luckily we are secluded enough so that I fell comfortable letting my (future) children roam around without worrying too much. I may send them off with a good walkie talkie, thoug ;)

  12. I have a 13 year old son, and I worry about all the things you mentioned. You are so lucky to have such spectacular natural areas so close to you that you can go there on a whim.

  13. P.S. Have read all the books on your nightstand except the squirrel one. The Road is one of the best books I have ever read. I am building up my strength to read it again.

  14. Ah yes, things are so different...then again, I grew up in the country...and we spent the entire summer outside!

  15. Good for you making them get some fresh air, kids today spend way too much time indoors. :)

  16. Looks like we may have to take 64 on the way home next month instead of 460. Chippokes Plantation looks like a nice place to take a break.

  17. That looks like the perfect antidote to computer games. So sad how little freedom to roam - and how little inclination to do so - this generation seem to have. It is the same here in the UK, so different from my own childhood. I agree about the education and probably less prejudice, but it worries me that whole generations are growing up without a love and appreciation of "outdoors" and all the fun you can create in it. They are, after all, the future custodians.

  18. I grew up as you did, and I'm convinced it created my love of nature. My 15-year-old son lives as yours does: indoors, on-screen. It troubles me too. I dragged him and his buddy down to the Wildflower Center just last weekend to see the owls. One day I hope that love of nature will kick in for him and he won't have to be dragged out to see it.

    By the way, your image of Lunaria annua is stunning.

  19. If the next generation is to become the guardian of our nature reserves, we have to instill a love for what they will be in charge of.
    [whether they like it or not :-)]
    The foresty beach scene looks inviting.

  20. I too remember playing outdoors until evening and dinner time. I now live in a city but provide plenty of outdoor activities for my young son who enjoys being outside. I hope this love of being outdoors lasts his lifetime.

  21. I don't think there's much more important activity then being able to play by yourself, to imagine and make up worlds, to pretend. So many of my college students think in boxes, I wonder if they ever dream or wander aimlessly. We are teaching our kids--and I say this not being a father and scared of the prospect--to think through things given to them, like media. A generation without independent creativity means a generation that can easily turn on itself and its world without a second thought, because there's no connection, no symbol, no metaphor that binds physical self to metaphysical self. Boy I'm wordy.

  22. Chris,
    I try to get there at least twice a year.

    I am not sure what they are from, perhaps fishing has something to do with them, but I always find a string. Last time I was there the beads were stars.

    The tree is quite common here, both in wet areas and otherwise.

    I try to see both sides of coin, and sometimes a coin has several sides.

    That seems to be a common way of growing up after reading the other comments in this post.

    Childhood and adulthood have changed in many ways, but some things remain.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I do not find the beads on the trails, but always on the beach.

    I am doing my best to create memories, even if it means putting up with some moaning and groaning when I take him places.

    We were gone all the time too. Our neighborhood growing up was on the outer fringes of Richmond, and even though we lived in the suburbs, there were still lots of woods and fields to explore.

    That is sound advice.

    Jenna Gayle,
    I wish we could live somewhere like that, but then I am also glad we live near so many opportunities to enjoy what a city has to offer.

    Isn't 13 quite the age. One foot in childhood and one in adulthood. Even though I read The Road a while ago, it still stick with me.

    I have fond memories of those kind of summers.

    I couldn't agree more.

    Chippokes is just off of Rte. 10 on the south side of the James.

    I try to do what I can to change things and get him out as often as possible, and for the most part he enjoys it.

    Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    I know that some of the things I was forced to do when I was a child, I now am really glad to have experienced. So hopefully this will be the same with my son.

    ... into the woods now, whether you like it or not!

    There are indeed many outdoor opportunities in NYC, which may explain why the people who live there tend to be more fit than in many parts of the country.

    You might be wordy, but what you say is worth listening to. I spent a lot of time in my childhood wandering about, just enjoying the moment. My son and his friends always seem to expect a destination or a goal of some kind, and feel a need to get from A to B in the quickest way possible. When I tell him that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, his eys glaze over.


  23. Les, such wonderful photos. My husband grew up in South Carolina, spent all day in the woods, napping under trees when he grew tired, filling his pockets with Indian arrowheads. Maybe that childhood of the '50s is the aberration? Who can say, but there's no question the machines we invent are changing us, and at what seems like such an accelerated pace. oy...

  24. It's great to see your hiking adventures and to hear that you were able to get the boys outside. I think our culture spends way too much time in front of screens and inside buildings these days. Good to at least get out and get some vitamin D.