A relaxing morning adrift

Published 8:12 pm Saturday, August 18, 2012

It was an unusually mild day for the middle of August in Virginia, but Saturday was the perfect day for a leisurely paddle along one of Suffolk’s waterways.

It’s not often that I’m awake early on a Saturday, but the prospect of dipping an oar into the waters of Chuckatuck Creek for a few hours on a tour with representatives of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance and others was just the motivation I needed to be up and out of the house before 8 a.m. on the weekend.

There was a slight breeze as we meandered upstream, and the paddling was easy, as we’d left in time to take advantage of the incoming tide. There were 17 of us, and the mood was light, but voices were still hushed, perhaps reflecting the near-silent mode of our conveyance.

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As we rallied our canoes beside a dock near Hobson, a bald eagle circled once overhead — perhaps curious about the interlopers intruding on its hunting grounds — before flying off and out of sight. It was one of three different bald eagle sightings we would have before reaching the end of our trip near Lone Star Lakes Park.

As the silty water lapped quietly against the bow of our canoes, I watched among the reeds and marsh grass for signs of wildlife. There were egret, kingfishers and other waterfowl, and I saw plenty of jellyfish, which made me glad I didn’t intend to go swimming. Heading upstream, we began to hear cicadas in the trees. I had the feeling that we might be quiet enough to catch a glimpse of a river otter or a muskrat or some other mammal making its home near the river, but the only mammals to be found were the cows cooling themselves in the river by one of the farms.

It was all so relaxing that I began to think how nice it would be to do this more often, maybe in a kayak at daybreak some weekday morning on the way to an otherwise stressful day at the office.

But for most people in Suffolk, that’s not a simple option. Even those with kayaks or canoes can have a hard time finding a place to put their boats in the water. Anyone with a larger boat is confined to only one or two ramps in the city.

That’s why it’s so nice that Suffolk is working to fund and build a couple of new kayak/canoe launch points — at Constant’s Wharf and at Sleepy Hole Park. One would give access to the upper end of the Nansemond River and serve the population of downtown and southern Suffolk. The other would serve North Suffolk and open the lower Nansemond to folks who want to enjoy the therapy of a day on the water but lack their own river access or that of a friend.

I suspect both launch points will be busy and appreciated whenever they’re finally built. Until then, I’ll have to try to make do with the memory of a quiet, relaxing morning in a beautiful, largely undiscovered part of Suffolk.