Our final night at Kiptopeke Saturday, April 22) was quite a bit different from what we had expected. For one thing, most everyone in the park quickly broke camp and left. It was windy and the night was supposed to be rainy, but what did they know that we didn’t?
So I think I mentioned that Jack spent a lot of the day packing up things we knew we would not need. Due to the wind, we elected to pack up the awning, too, leaving no where to grill our pork chops for a final-night-at-a-site dinner. So we put together some sandwiches and ate indoors, listening to more of the Jussi Adler-Olsen book we’ve been listening to in the car since we left Meadows of Dan.
Due to this fact, the packup to leave for Belle Isle State park near Kilmarnock, VA was quick and easy on the morning of Sunday, April 23. Also of note, is that the Kiptopeke State Park campground does NOT have a dish-washing station at the bathhouse, but a big bonus is that they DO HAVE sewer at every electric site in the park. Very nice feature. We only had to back up a couple of feet to dump our gray tank, and we were away (after waving goodbye to our killdeer neighbors, steadfastly sitting the nest in the rain, but the wind had died down and there was nothing near flooding levels of precip).
I mention all this because there is absolutely nothing to say about our transfer to the new campground, since travel went perfectly, and the wind was not scary at all as we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Once we arrived, however, our reserved site (#3, which we highly recommend) was occupied. My only complaint about anything about Virginia State Parks is that sometimes we find that the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. The Ranger where we checked in said #3 was still occupied, as the folks there had not yet checked out. The Camp Host, however, came by and assured us #3 didn’t have anyone there, and we could drive right in, even though it was a little after noon. Secondly, on one piece of paper it says check out is 3PM, where another (and the internet) says it’s 1PM. No wonder staff and volunteers are confused (not to mention campers).
The folks already there in site #3 showed exactly zero signs of moving out, and in fact were nowhere to be seen when we set up shop to sit a while and “encourage” them to get on the stick (by parking nearby and glaring at them — naw, just kidding on the glaring part. We did, park nearby and watch, though). Luckily, it was a pop-up, thus a relatively simple break-down process, and once they began, it was only about an hour before they pulled out.
Speaking of the internet, the reservation system is rather Byzantine, too, when we come to niggly complaints. All we wanted to do was to change up our reservations for the upcoming weekend. For example, what we intended to do was to grab 3 extra days at park Y by transferring our current PAID days (the SAME DAYS mind you) at park Z over to park Y, and basically, cancelling our stay at park Z. But the sequence in which you reserve and cancel is critical to the SYSTEM. If you feel like, logically you want to secure the site you’ve already got a couple of days reserved at park Y by adding the extra days onto that site-specific reservation (before someone might take it and you end up having to break camp and move to a different site during your stay), and you enter the reservation system to do so—but the helpful person on the other end (all of whom are invariably nice and quite helpful) neglects to understand the full scope of your needs—and you begin by reserving more time at park Y BEFORE you cancel the time at park Z . . . . well, let’s just say those days won’t transfer in that order. You MUST do it in the reverse order to save a buck or two.
We did secure the extra time, and did manage to cancel the days at the park we didn’t want, but we had to pay both a NEW registration fee AND the cancellation fee; instead of making it a seamless transfer of the same paid days to a different location. **sigh**
Belle Isle is a lovely State Park, with big, flat, roomy sites with plenty of brush between sites. There are some really pristine pull-through sites, although they’re not as shady as the others (not an issue during our stay, but in the summer? Might be a factor). Another really nice, deep-set back-in site is #25. That one might be a good grab next time we come. The bathhouse is modern and clean with both a laundry and a dish-cleaning station; and the showers are each private rooms off the back. The fire pits are well-positioned far from where you might want to stake a guy line or erect a screen house.
And we took advantage of just such a fire on our opening day, once we finally managed to get in. The rain held off until we were set up, which was wonderful. But then began just after our Billy-Boil cooked Lebanese Chicken Stew dinner, enjoyed by the fire (the temperatures were chilly, too), and as the firewood was no longer in need of constant attention to stay lit. We watched it turn to embers from the screen house until it got too cold to sit outside, and then we retreated to our heated Roomba.
It’s been raining ever since.
We believe we would really love to explore this park, because, near as we can tell through the rain and fog, there are tons of bicycle-friendly trails out and about, some even heading down to the Rappahannock River. But at this point, we have not off-loaded our bikes from their rack and waterproof cover.
Instead, we went exploring by car on Monday, April 24. Driving in with Roomba on set-up day, we had seen exactly one grocery store. On Monday, we figured we’d make that our last stop before heading back with the hope of clearing weather. We first drove to Kilmarnock (the locals call it “Kill-mar-nogh” in which the final “ock” is sort of swallowed at the end). That was where the grocery store and a likely lunch place was. Since it was still early when we passed through on Monday, and we’d had good hearty steel-cut oatmeal breakfast and weren’t hungry yet, we drove through and down by back roads to Irvington, where the Tides Inn Yacht resort is.
We noted some damage to numerous trees in that neck of the Neck, guessing that the recent “Snowmageddon” storm might have been the culprit. But the yachts all seem to be fine.
From there we ventured out to where the mouth of the Rappahannock River meets the Chesapeake Bay, at a place called Windmill Point. Here’s what the historic marker says about Windmill Point:
During the War of 1812, the British blockaded the Chesapeake Bay and sent raiding vessels up the rivers and creeks to plunder and destroy property. The lookout at Windmill Point (about a mile east [of this marker]) on Fleet’s Island reported that on 23 April 1814, the enemy “landed near Windmill (Point) or North Point (about 2 miles northwest) and plundered a poor man . . . of a boat, everything he was worth.” A detachment of the 92nd Regiment of Lancaster Militia posted in the vicinity fired across a creek nearby and drove the British back to their ship. This was the final raid of the War of 1812 in Lancaster County.
And here’s the one about Fleete’s Island:
Henry Fleete was born about 1602 in Kent, England and moved to Jamestown, VA, in 1621 Fleete was seized by the Anacostan Indians during a trading expedition and held for five years. He learned their language and after his release in 1627, became a negotiator for the Virginia and Maryland colonies. Fleete helped establish Maryland in 1634 and served in its General Assembly from 1635 to 1638, and in the Virginia House of Burgesses from 1652 to 1661. He established the boundaries of Lancaster County when it was created in 1651. In May 1661, Fleete died and was buried at his home here on Fleete’s Island.
Not too far from these two markers, where the road ended, I hopped out and grabbed a couple of photos of the Mouth of the Rappahannock on one side of me, and the Chesapeake Bay on the other.
The return drive held a few photograph-able views, but the rain was like a spigot that a 2-year-old was playing with: sometimes heavy, sometimes light, sometimes just barely sprinkling. The sky was uniformly gray, however.
In the biggest, first photo above, you can see two blue herons that startled near the road as we drove past, one lower left and one high middle-right.
Headed back to Kilmarnock and drove around a while to find the local hang-out: Lee’s Restaurant (how wrong could be be?).
I’d already thought that a warming lunch of soup and a sandwich would be just the ticket, and Lee’s is where we found it.
By the time we’d returned to camp, the rain was worse than ever, so again we retreated to listen to our book for a while, and later, prepped, cooked, and ate the long-delayed grilled pork chops and grilled corn on the cob, accompanied by wild rice. As you’ve probably noticed, eating is a mainstay of our travel experience, and we usually do it up right.
Hoping for a bit of clearing tomorrow, although the prospect is not great, but better for Wednesday, when we move on to Powhatan State Park near Richmond. Maybe if we, like our predecessors in site #3 observe a 3PM checkout, we might get a cycling tour in before we leave. Otherwise, we’ll just have to return to explore further.