False Cape State Park, Virginia
bike ride by way of
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge


False Cape State Park is a beautiful place with one of the wilder beaches on the East Coast. The park offers history, wildlife, camping, hiking and biking. This ride began at the visitor at the visitor center of Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and continued to and through False Cape State Park.
http://www.fws.gov/backbay/default.htm
http://www.dcr.state.va.us/parks/falscape.htm

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00001sign.jpg

Entrance sign for Back Bay Refuge
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00002BackBayMap.gif

This map shows Back Bay Refuge and the surrounding area
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00003trailmap.jpg

This map shows the trail system around the ponds and south toward False Cape State Park
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00004BackBayOffice.jpg

This building contains the office and a small visitor center for Back Bay Refuge
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00005bayviewparkinglot.jpg

Back Bay from the parking lot of the refuge office and visitor center.
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00006trailbackbay.jpg

This view of the main trail gives a good impression of the solitude of Back Bay Refuge.
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00007duneoceanside.jpg

This shows a dune on the ocean side of the trail. One is never more than 1/2 mile from the ocean or Back Bay anywhere on the trail system.
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00008othercyclists.jpg

During this 20+ mile ride I only saw about 6 other hikers and cyclists. Much later I saw a school bus of kids going to environment center.
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00009emptytrailagain.jpg

An empty trail again.
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00010pondandupperbay.jpg

A different view of Back Bay and a wildlife pond.
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00011flowersbayandpond.jpg

Wild flowers beside one of the wildlife ponds.
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00012pondbayside.jpg

This is another of the wildlife ponds looking toward Back Bay.
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00013rockytrail.jpg

This shows the size of the gravel on the trails of Back Bay Refuge. This gravel has been added since my last visit 5 years ago. In the past the trails in Back Bay Refuge were packed sand. If they need a firmer surface they should have used a type of gravel material called Crusher Run instead of this huge stuff that makes walking and riding difficult. The people in the state park farther south complained bitterly about what the federal wildlife people had done to the trails. The state park employes and volunteers must drive over these trails to get to the state park. They have been having lots of flats on the golf carts they use to get around.
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00014widefalsecapeentrance.jpg

The entrance to False Cape State Park in the distance.
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00015falsecapeentrance.jpg

Entrance to False Cape State Park. Lets see if they have the same big gravel.
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00016rowboat.jpg

This rotting row boat at the entrance to False Cape State Park appears on almost every website about the park... Why should this one be an exception?
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00017egretpond.jpg

An Egret waits patiently for dinner in one of the ponds inside False Cape State Park. Taken from an observation platform.
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00018kidsecocenter.jpg

No privately operated vehicles are allowed in either the refuge or the park. This bus run by the state park has picked up a load of kids at Sandbridge and is taking them to the Environmental Center near Wash Woods.
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00019pondwide.jpg

Another shot of a pond in False Cape State Park. This one had some turtles but they would not pose for me.
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00020giftshop.jpg

This tiny visitor center and gift shop just inside False Cape State Park is manned by volunteers who commute on golf carts from a garage near Sandbridge.
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00021signin.jpg

This little hut is the sign in station for False Cape State Park. It is across the trail from the visitor center and gift shop.
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00022baysidecampgroundshelter.jpg

Whew... I barely made it back to the shelter before the camera timer released the shutter. This is the shelter at the Bayside Campground about two miles inside the park. The shelter sits in a big field which you see in the next image.
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00023baysidecampground.jpg

Bayside Campground is situated in a large field with the shelter in more or less the middle. The sites and picnic tables ring this old farm field. The shelter in the middle is nice during storms when a tent might not stay up. I once spent the night here and was visited by feral pigs who tore the ground up like a bunch of plows.
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00024rangerresidence.jpg

This is one of a couple of ranger residences in the park. They are on the bayside of the park where they are slightly more protected from storms. This and the others have docks associated with the homes. I guess living in such a truly beautiful place makes up for the rotten pay they get.
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00025backbayrangerdock.jpg

The two Ranger Residences I saw have docks. I assume they patrol or at least can come and go by water. Both that I saw were on Back Bay side of the park.
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00026falsecapelanding.jpg

This is False Cape Landing on the ocean side. I am not sure of the history of this landing but today it is a pristine beach with a campground nearby. All camping and for that all visiting is by boat, foot, bicycle. Campers may not use or even haul their gear in the TerraGator that carries less intrepid visitors.
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00027beachfalsecapelandingnorth.jpg

Whoa! Where did all the high rises and beach front clutter go? Seriously, this is why I expend the sweat to visit this place.
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00028beachfalsecapelandingsouth.jpg

North Carolina is about five or six miles in this direction. The only people on this beach were myself and a Ranger's family behind where I stood to take the photo.
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00029pelicansfalsecapelanding.jpg

Pelicans flying over one of the campsites at False Cape Landing Campground.

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00031necessaryfalsecapelandingcampground.jpg

Four or five years ago I visited this campground with my kids. At that time, these outhouses were sitting on level ground between the dunes. Today the sand has drifted to where it is a steep climb up and down the dunes to get to the "necessaries". To see what the place looked like a few years ago visit this URL
Waterlandfarm.com

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00032envirocenternearwashwoods.jpg

This is the Environmental Study Center near Wash Woods. It houses bunk space for students and a nice environmental study lab. They rent this center to appropriate groups. It doesn't come cheap!
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00033backbayenvirocenter.jpg

A view of Back Bay, the corner of the Environmental Center and my bike taken from beside of the environmental center.
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00034envirocenterartifacts.jpg

These artifacts were laying near the bulkhead next to the boathouse at the Environmental Study Center. I assume the students found them either on the beach or in the bay.
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00035envirocenterrangerdock.jpg

There is a ranger residence near the Environmental Center. As you can see this residence includes a dock on Back Bay.
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00036closeupenvirocenterrangerdock.jpg

This is a close up of the ranger dock near the evironmental center. I had to play with my telephoto lens.
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00037washwoodsign.jpg

Sign for Wash Woods Cemetery and church ruins. As you can see I am only a couple of miles from NC so I have put some mileage between myself and Sandbridge Virginia.
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00038washwood.jpg

A small town once existed here. Taking its name from being barely above sea level and regularly flooded by storms about the time of World War II the town was abandoned. Today all that exists is a cemetery and the steeple from the church.
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00039washwoodschurch.jpg

The only remaining sign of any buildings having existed in Wash Woods is this church steeple and bits of the church's foundation.
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00040washwoodcemetery.jpg

Part of Wash Wood Cemetery is enclosed by a fence. The rest of the cemetery stands closer to the church site and is not fenced or at least no fence has survived the ravages of time. Notice the Spanish moss in the trees to the left. In spite of the nearby ocean it is so very quiet in this place.
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00041washwoodtombstones.jpg

The rest of the Wash Wood Cemetery looks like this and is closer to the church ruins. A couple of the surnames I noticed were Bunch and Newbern.
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00042deertrack.jpg

I did not see as much wildlife on this trip to False Cape State Park as I have on previous visits. The park is home to many species including deer, feral pigs probably left by the folk in Wash Wood, some horses though I have never seen any, foxes and lots of birds. Time is short, and the road calls... so its time to head home.

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