First Landing State Park

This was our second outting to First Landing and a spur-of-the-moment trip. Our first time at the park was spent kayaking and camping in the southern and northeastern parts of the park. This time we hiked through the marshes in the northwestern section; specifically the Osmanthus trail. The hike got off to an excellent start. We weren’t five steps into the trail when Stephanie looked down and saw a bullfrog just hanging out. As we were looking at him, we heard some birds and snapped a couple of shots of a Great Crested Flycatcher; got some nice shots of his yellow belly. The terrain was mostly flat making for an easy hike that was short enough that we could stroll through and take our time. Another highlight was tracking down and photographing a couple of Little Brown Skinks. I had that guy on my wishlist for awhile and finally got to cross him off. It took awhile to get a nice shot of one as they were very small and quick to run away. But patience paid off and Stephanie was able to spot and coax a couple of them out. The hike, with our leisurly pace and frequent stops, lasted a few hours.

After heading out of the park for a quick bite at a near-by Japanese reasturant, we drove down the the southern section of the park where we kayaked during our first visit. We didn’t spend too much time here as it was getting late, cold, and windy. Thankfully we found a couple of gems right out of the gate. Before we even made it to the parking lot, I noticed a white bird perched on a tree. I pulled over onto the side of the road and whipped out my camera thinking it was saegul or an ordinary egret. As it turned out, it was Snowy Egret! I hadn’t seen one of these before and we don’t have any back home. We continued down the road and proceeded to head out on a short hike. Again, just a few feet into our hike, I noticed something from the corner of my eye. I turned and saw an Osprey taking off from his nest. I was able to get off a couple of quick shots before he was gone and his mate recessed into their nest. We were hoping to find another Green Heron, but no luck; just a Black Vulture. That said, it was overall a very productive and enjoyable time.

Complete Gallery

Sunshine Smoothie

Ingredients

  • One half a Granny Smith Apple
  • One half to a whole orange
  • One to two handfulls of frozen cherries
  • A handfull of spinich
  • Baby carrots to taste
  • Water to consistency
  • Flax (optional)

Directions

  • Add all ingredients to blender
  • Blend until smooth
  • Optionally add chia seeds after blending (best without flax)

Chocolate Shake

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients

  • 1 banana, peeled and frozen
  • 1 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 3-4 cups of almond milk

Sweet Potato Fries

One large sweet potato will make enough fries for 2-3 people if used as a side dish

NOTE: The secret to crunchy fries is the cold-water soak. If you want crisp fries, don’t skip this step.

Seasoning (for each large sweet potato)

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • Olive oil for coating Large sweet potato

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Cut off any pointy tips at the ends of the potato (skinny tips on the fries will burn)
  • If desired, peel sweet potato ** You may wish to leave the skin on for additional nutrients
  • Cut the sweet potato into fries approximately 3⁄4 inch in width
  • Soak freshly cut fries in cold water for 20 to 30 minutes, then drain
  • Combine seasoning ingredients in a small bowl
  • Toss fries in olive oil (just enough to lightly coat the fries)
  • I like to use a mister to spray the fries, then toss. I have more control over the amount of oil used that way
  • Sprinkle fries with seasoning and toss to coat
  • Spread fries in a single layer on prepared baking sheet
  • Bake until fries are tender and golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring after about 10 minutes.
  • Cool slightly before serving.

Recipe courtesy of The Prudent Pantry

Sunny Bean Burgers

Serves: 2

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups cooked kidney or pinto beans or canned no-salt-added or low- sodium kidney beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ or old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet with a little olive oil on a paper towel.

Chop the sunflower seeds in a food processor or with a hand chopper. Mash the beans in the food processor or with a potato masher and mix with the sunflower seeds. Mix in the remaining ingredients and form into six patties.

Place the patties on the baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly, until you can pick up each patty and compress it firmly in your hands to re-form the burger. Return the patties to the baking sheet, bottom side up, and bake for another 10 minutes.

Note: If desired, these may be done on a grill.

Try hand mashing the beans. I follow the Jeff Novick’s recipe. 1 can kidney beans, 1 can other bean of your choice, 4 T of a tomato based product like salsa or tomato sauce or diced canned tomato, 1 cup rolled oats, 1 cup cooked brown rice or quinoa and 3-4 T of Salt free seasoning if your choice. Mix, make into patties (about 6-8) and cook for 2 min on each side Ina hot dry skillet. You can cover with a lid to help the burgers cook faster. I froze 2 batches for quick meals later.

My buns are mini Chickpea flatbreads. 1 cup ground chickpeas, 2T nutritional yeast, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1tsp Cajun spice (or other…such as a Italian if u use as pizza crust) 1 cup water.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Mom's Steak Sandwiches

  • Serves 4 per 1 lb of meat
  • Serve with corn on the cob or frozen mixed veggies

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp margarine
  • 1/2 Lg spanish/yellow/vidalia or other sweet onion
  • 1 can 6oz tomato paste
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • water to consistency (I usually used about 2/3 can)
  • 1 package veggie beef strips (about 12 oz)
  • Sub rolls

Directions

  1. Slice onion, separate rings, and saute until soft.
  2. Add sugar, tomato paste, vinegar and soy sauce.
  3. Stir to mix then add water to preferred consistency.
  4. Simmer on low for 20 minutes (I usually add the frozen “beef” at this point and cook it until it’s warmed all the way through).

Black Bean Brownies

Preheat oven to 200° F

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked black beans or canned no-salt-added or low-sodium black beans, drained
  • 10 Medjool dates
  • 2 tbsp raw almond or peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1/2 cup natural, non-alkalized cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp ground chia

Directions

  1. Blend the black beans, dates, almond/peanut butter, and vanilla in a food processor or high powered blender until smooth
  2. Add cocoa powder and chia
  3. Blend again
  4. Pour into a very lightly oiled 8 x 8 inch baking pan and bake at 200° F for 1 1/2 hours

Cool completely before cutting into small squares.

Recipe courtesy of Dr. Joel Fuhrman

Banana Ice Cream

Makes 2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 bananas, peeled and frozen
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 - 2 cups of almond milk

Toppings

cherries, sprinkles, chocolate chips, red hots

Weekend Outings

We headed out to Joseph Bryan, James River, and Echo Lake parks this weekend. It was apparently a good weekend for birding as there were a bunch of us enthusiasts out, especially at James River Park. New Birds for our list this week include a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a juvenile Double Crested Cormorant, a mother and juvenile Wood Duck, and a pair of adult Barn Swallows. You can find their links on the Wildlife page.

As for snakes and reptiles, we hit up Echo Lake, which is usually a safe bet if you want to find snakes. We saw a couple of Garter snakes this time out.

Virginia State Parks

Bear Creek Lake State Park

  • Visited: One Time
  • Camped: Yes
  • Notes: Of the state parks we’ve visited, Bear Creek was the most like the national forests and parks near where I grew up; which was a good thing. A lot of Virginia’s state parks have a managed, utilitarian feel about them which can detract from the experiance of “getting away from it all”. Bear creek, on the other hand, was a little less Disney and a little more nature.
  • Highlights: Scenic, easy hikes through the woods; relatively small size
  • Pictures

Belle Isle State Park

  • Visited: One Time
  • Camped: No
  • Notes: I went to Belle Isle with a co-worker friend who was not much of a nature lover, and this park didn’t help turn him. During the time of year we went, the insects were in full force and wouldn’t leave us alone. Having bug spray and/or coming at a different time of year may have helped. I saw my first wild Bald Eagle here, so that was a plus. I’ll probably want to come back here with Stephanie in the autumn for some bird watching and maybe some kayaking along the shore of the Rappahannock.
  • Highlights: Scenic marshes; likely a good bird watching area
  • Bummers: The “trails” were just shadeless gravel roads; pesky insects
  • Pictures

Breaks Interstate Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Caledon Natural Area

  • Visited: Two Times
  • Camped: No Camping
  • Notes: We’ve accidentally been here twice. One of the newer state parks, Calendon is hopefully still growning into itself. There seem to me to be three distinct areas of the park. The first is the area between the visitor’s center and the water. The trails here are just gravel roads and aren’t much to look at; they’re mostly just a means to an end. The second area starts just as you get near the water and the landscape turns into a marshy bed of life. Here is where the park starts to come alive and offers a chance to see the nesting Bald Eagles do their thing. The third area is the more natural and scenic trail system. Pro: one could come back many times and still hike a different part of the trail system. Con: the maps and trail markers are utterly confusing! Caledon is the first park where I felt lost most of the time. We finally emerged from the woods in someone’s back yard. We quickly skipped through their yard and across to the park’s parking area. I’d like to hike these trails again, but next time with a little more thought.
  • Highlights: some trails are great hikes; coast line offers many great photo ops
  • Bummers: a third of the park feels like a waste; confusing trail system
  • Pictures, Pictures

Chippokes Plantation State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Claytor Lake State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Douthat State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Fairy Stone State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

False Cape State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

First Landing State Park

  • Visited: One Time
  • Camped: Yes
  • Notes: This is Virginia’s most visited state park, and likely by a very large margin. Since part of it is on the ocean, it draws huge crowds. Stephanie and I camped here and it was one of the most miserable experiences we’ve had. The camground was packed, full of inconsiderate jerks. Don’t come here if you’re wanting to get away from the noice of the big city, at least not while the schools are out for holiday. Fortunantly, what the park lacks in privacy and quietness, it more than makes up in its beauty. The section along the beach is as close to peaceful and natural as you’ll get from a public beach on Virginia’s Atlantis coast short of the Eastern Shore. The more inland areas have some beautiful trails and the kayacking was a nice change of scenery from what we’re used to. I’d like to come back here someday, but definitely off-season.
  • Highlights: Beautiful scenery; distinct among the state park system
  • Bummers: Time your visit wisely or you’ll be bumping elbows
  • Pictures

Grayson Highlands State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

High Bridge Trail State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Holliday Lake State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Hungry Mother State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

James River State Park

  • Visited: One Time
  • Camped: Yes
  • Notes: James River left me with the feeling of, heh. What this park has going for it is probably the best camping experience we’ve had. There are about half a donzen or so sites, and those sites are nicely spaced. The sites are also far removed from the rest of the park so it was a nice, quiet evening. There’s a shuttle service for kayakers and canoers that will shuttle you and your boat upstream so that you can paddle back down to the park. This section of the river looked to be rather calm.
  • Highlights: Excellent “primative” camping; easy group paddling
  • Bummers: Hikes were a bit boring
  • Pictures

Kiptopeke State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Lake Anna State Park

  • Visited: Two Times
  • Camped: No
  • Notes: The biggest draw here is to the man-made lake after which this park is named. This is a popular destination for power water craft and is likely quite busy during the warmer months. While I’d like to make use of Lake Anna for sailing, the word around the ‘Net is that 1) the wind isn’t great, and only gets better after a stretch below the park and 2) it’s overrun with the motor boats and jet skies. The trail system here is decent especially if you like a leisurely stroll through the woods. We haven’t camped here but durning our last visit, we drove through the camp ground which looked to pack the sites on top of each other. We’ll probably skip camping here unless we reserve one of the cabins they have on the grounds.
  • Highlights: decent trails not far from Richmond
  • Bummers: Busy and noisy waterways; sad camping
  • Pictures, Pictures

Leesylvania State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Mason Neck State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Middle Peninsula State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Natural Tunnel State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

New River Trail State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Occoneechee State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Pocahontas State Park

  • Visited: Four Times
  • Camped: No
  • Notes: This is probably my favorite all-around park in the system. We visited Pocahontas twice in 2010 and twice in 2012. It’s maybe not at as intimate as Bear Creek Lake or as picturesque as First Landing, but it’s a good middle-of-the-road park. The management of this park has led to a little something for everyone whether you’re camping, hiking, canoeing, horse riding, mountain biking, swimming or enjoying a show at the ampitheater. Its relatively large size is well utilized and never feels crowded, even when it is. We’ve never camped here; something we’ll have to rectify soon!
  • Hightlights: Nice, plentiful trails; easy kayaking
  • Pictures, Pictures, Pictures

Powhatan State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Seven Bends State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Shenandoah River Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Shot Tower Historical State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Sky Meadows State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Smith Mountain Lake State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Staunton River State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Staunton River Battlefield State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Tabb Monument

  • Visited: Not Yet

Twin Lakes State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Widewater State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet

Wilderness Road State Park

  • Visited: Not Yet