Saturday, November 11, 2006

Urban Hiking

We got up this morning with the Floodwall Walk as our goal. The forecast was for 80 degrees: how could we not get out?

We parked by the Suntrust complex and spent the first 45 minutes at the overlook on top of a trestle that rockclimbers scale, buzzed by zillions of songbirds. We identified: kinglet, chickadee, towhee, white-throated sparrow yellow-rumped warbler, cardinal, red-winged blackbirds and many others, but many went unidentified. I tried to invent an ovenbird on a fallen log far below. . . but I didn't write it on the official list for the day. On the river were double-crested cormorants, geese, a kingfisher, and gulls. We had with us one of the informative pamphlets that the park system prints: urban and industrial history -- plus some nature! Awesome. We considered old railroads, floodwall mechanics, and learned that the Mayo Bridge was completed in 1913 (!!!).

Once we crossed under the bridge, the floodwall loomed up 30 feet and the industrial noise that had followed us for some time was suddenly gone. Small factories proclaiming paper and paint as their business both had Saturday shifts. From that low, shaded walk, we came up those 30 feet into the sunshine and walked towards the end of the trail, at I-95. On the backswing, we sat on a bench looking up at the Southern States building and munching apples, to the annoyance of a woodchuck, who must have wanted to eat its second breakfast in that warm spot.

A little more than three hours later (it was only 3.5 miles, but we were birdwatching!), we were in the car, and Phiance had some notion about a park on the southside of Rockett's Landing. And sure enough, once we skirted the city's water treatment facility, there were signs for a boat landing and the slave trail (skim down at that link). The sign at the beginning of the trail tells of the massiveness of slave trade, of nighttime walks to the market on the other side of the river, and of the profit whites made selling people downriver to the sugar cane plantations of the deep south. Mind-numbing.

From the southside of the James, we could see the Schooner Virginia, our other destination. We got in the car and crossed the Mayo Bridge and a few minutes later were onboard. It's maintained, it seems, as an educational vessel and occasional movie set. One of the sailors said, Yes, they were at the Bay Bridge-Tunnel just before the Fourth of July with another schooner, getting ready for a race. Ha! That's who we saw on our way to Kiptopeke in late June. Richmond is such a small town.

No comments: