April 27, 2014

Big Water Vacations

After our trip to Virginia's Hampton Roads area, the long ride home and unpacking, spending time with our six four-legged friends who missed us terribly, and downloading the last bunch of pictures, I had some time to reflect on why I so enjoy 'big water' vacations.

Before anyone gets angry at me,  I love mountain lakes and rivers and waterfalls; we've spent countless weekends and week-long vacations taking in all that those kinds of places have to offer. 'Little water' has a certain sensibility about it, a finite sensibility if you will, that can't compare the the vastness of pounding surf crashing on the seawall a few yards outside your door. 

Little water changes things slowly, and the changes are noticeable over time. When we were kids, our family used to rent a cottage on Tuscarora Lake, in Madison County.  I remember there was a tree that leaned out over the water at an angle, and there were little pools that would collect in the exposed roots.

Each August when we got there, my oldest brother and I would run over to check out the pools to see if they had gotten any bigger; they were great places to 'store' the turtles we caught, even if only for a short time. By our last year going to the cottage, it had gotten almost dangerously eroded under the tree, to the point where Dad was a little nervous about me getting too close if no one was with me. While we were at our cottage for a couple of weeks, nothing changed in any noticeable way; some 40-odd years later, though, that cottage might not even still be there. 

Now, big water, that's a different story -- the changes Mother Nature brings happen right in front of your eyes. A walk on the beach in one direction shows one thing; the walk back shows something completely different. The wind is different, the sand is different, the sky is different, the sound is different. 

We spent exactly zero minutes engaged in the age-old vacation activity of laying on the beach, but we spent hours on various beaches, bird-watching, shell-collecting, dune-gazing, picture-taking, contemplating. We were in state parks, wildlife refuges, and nature preserves that had seemingly endless (and practically empty) beaches, walking for miles in breezes ranging from sort-of-warm to pretty-darn-cold.

We were up for the sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay every morning, watching for the very second that the sun fully left the water and officially started the day. We managed to be in the right place at the right time to catch a sunset on a very quiet town beach on the Eastern Shore, after a fantastic dinner at an unassuming seafood restaurant. 

We saw  kayaks and canoes, sailboats and crab boats, 'guys hanging out fishing' and big commercial fishing boats, giant shipping boats and US Navy hovercraft.  We didn't see or hear a single jet-ski, and I couldn't have been happier about that. And even better, every beach we were on was 'tampon-free', another thing that made me very happy. (I simply can't get my head around people leaving feminine hygiene products on the beach, sorry).

This summer, we'll make good use of our Empire Passport and visit as many NYS parks as we can fit in. This fall, we'll head to the Adirondacks, and spend time seeking out those little lakes, rivers, streams and waterfalls that we enjoy so much. In the meantime, I'll bask in the new memories we created this past week on big water, hoping they'll stretch as far in my mind as the reaches of the sun over the big water.

(Larger versions of these and other photos from the trip can be found here, in my Chesapeake Bay Vacation album.)