One of our first excursions in Virginia Beach was to hike one of the trails in First Landing State Park. There are 19 miles of trails in Virginia’s most visited State Park. Our trail took us through a cypress swamp and ended at a viewing platform that overlooked Broad Bay.
An interesting phenomenon caused by decomposing leaves releasing tannins on still or slow moving water results in an oily sheen on the surface that gives the appearance of a rainbow. This doesn’t happen all of the time and only certain times of year but we were lucky enough to see it. The effect is mesmerizing.
The name of the Park was actually changed to First Landing in 1997 to reflect the fact that it is very near the site of the first landing of Virginia Company colonists on April 26, 1607. The colonists moved on to establish the colony at Jamestown. When you visit Virginia, it takes you back to your first lessons in American history. The people and places you read about as a child become more real as you visit the sites where they actually happened.
As we hiked through the park our trail was parallel to the bay and we got to see wildlife tracks and evidence of life in the swamp. We even got to see a tiny jellyfish close to the shore. The combination gave us all a lesson in nature and wildlife as well as the obvious history lesson.
First Landing is a cypress swamp. We live in a very dry area of the country so the experience of exploring a real swamp was pretty fascinating to us. All of the sounds, sights, and smells are very different from what we are familiar with on our mountain hikes. This park is a fun way to experience this environment without the alligators! There is a unique kind of beauty here.
The swamp is a new lesson in photography as we are challenged to capture this beauty. I think we rose to the challenge and I love the photos we were able to get.
Something else we don’t have in Colorado is Spanish moss. Spanish moss is not a moss, it’s a bromeliad. A perennial herb in the pineapple family. Spanish moss grows on other plants and trees but doesn’t rely on them for nutrients. It takes nutrients from the air and debris that collects on the plant. The moss reproduces when it’s tiny green flowers open and release seeds that float on the wind and come to rest on a tree or plant where they find a crevice or branch crotch to lodge in and germinate.
I love the way the plant looks, especially when there is a slight breeze. You know that you’re in the south when you see Spanish moss. It’s northernmost range is Virginia.
First Landing State Park is well worth the visit if you find yourself in Virginia Beach. If we lived here I would probably explore all 19 miles of trails. The area is peaceful and beautiful. I’m very glad we were able to experience it.