To Cedar Island and...the Atlantic Ocean!

June 18 --  It's hard to believe that this was the last day of my trip.  When you break down a 400-some mile hike into little chunks of eight to fifteen mile walks, some days of paddling, a few lazy days here and there...it's really not bad at all (especially when your shoes fit correctly).  I felt like I could just keep going, if there weren't an ocean ahead of me. 


Greg (left) and Ryan headed down Folly Creek.
My ultimate finish line for this trek across Virginia was to get out to one of the barrier islands that buffer the Shore from the sea and set foot in the open Atlantic. I had originally hoped to end on Hog Island where I spent a summer as a UVA undergraduate helping with salt marsh research. But after a little more asking around, that prospect didn't sound feasible for getting out and back in kayaks within a morning - we would have needed to hire a motorboat to get across the seven miles of open water to the island.

Mom and Dad's first foray in sea kayaking.
So I set my sights on Cedar Island which sits only a three mile kayak trip out from a public pier on Folly Creek near Accomac.  My friend and co-worker, Greg Hoffmann, drove in from his home in Maryland late the night before so that he could be part of the grand finale with us.  He, my parents, Ryan, and I put in at Folly Creek in some really nice rented sea kayaks.  We headed on down the flat water creek with the outgoing tide and just a slight breeze.  Again, couldn't have asked for better weather.

My eyes set on the sliver of Cedar Island ahead of us.

We meet Cedar Island...and the Atlantic!
Landmarks are few and far between in a labyrinth of salt marsh grass and snaking creeks - it would be easy to get lost.  But thanks to numbered navigation markers in the channel and a map that Bill Burnham put together for us, we managed to find our way out to the mainland side of Cedar Island, near its northern tip.  We beached our kayaks and pulled our stiff legs out of the cockpits.  Much of Cedar and thirteen other barrier islands along this side of the Eastern Shore are part of the Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve.  We had read that shore birds would be nesting on the dune portion of the island above the high tide level, and sure enough once I started walking, a pair of terns zoomed at my head, squawking.  We made sure to keep our distance and skirt along the water's edge as we walked around the narrow tip of the island.  And there it was, the foamy surf of the Atlantic lapping up on to the beach.  To the east, not one more speck of Virginia to walk...so the only thing left to do was to jump in.  The water was perfect.



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Hello, Atlantic...The mountains send a message: "Long time no sea."

After a small picnic and watching Ryan kayak in the waves, we decided not to linger too long in the birds' territory.  I'm sure they were happy to see us go. We worked a little harder going back against the tide, but our timing was impeccable.  Just as Ryan and I raced Greg to the boat launch, another CWP co-worker, Lori Lilly, and her family zoomed into the parking lot and spilled out of their car to cheer us on.  We had our very own cheering section at the finish line (nice win, Greg).  And best of all, ladies and gentlemen...a surprise champagne and fried chicken feast awaiting us!

A proper champagne and fried chicken celebration!
Champagne cork fireworks

Cheers Virginia, from your friends at the Center for Watershed Protection!