There is a tale in my family that at least some of my Matthews ancestors are from Mathews County; one of my now deceased cousins who was the family historian had done enough research to be convinced. It was kind of neat to be going some place with ties to my family, even if they were 300 years ago. Mathews County is in the middle peninsula (between the York and Rappahannock Rivers) just below the mouth of the Piankatank River, which is the first river south of the Rappahannock. As a boy, I used to vacation on Tabbs Creek, two rivers to the north of the Rappahannock and just under 12 miles north of where we stayed this time, on Gwynn's Island. A small part of me feels at home in this part of the world.
|We Stayed Near the Southern Tip of Gwynn's Island|
Because we couldn't get in to the rental house until about 4pm, we planned to meet Jeff and Kelly at nearby Merroir, the restaurant attached to the Rappahannock River Oyster Company, for a lingering afternoon lunch. We serve Rappahannock River Oysters at the restaurant and I have met one of the owners at a charity event for which we both supplied food at Patowmack Farm near Leesburg. The idea of oysters and small plates riverside just doesn't suck and I was really looking forward to seeing where at least some of our oysters are born.
Kelly warned us early on in a cryptic text that the Garmin is a lying bitch, but we didn't get the reference until much later. Merroir is situated right on the Rappahannock River just downstream of the Route 3 bridge across to White Stone and the Northern Neck. The Garmin had us turn off route 3 on a horrendous dirt road that was so rough that even in the Jeep with its beefed up suspension, the radio connection shook loose at under 5 mph. As we neared the restaurant, we joined a paved road that is clearly the way we should have come. "I told you the Garmin was a lying bitch," said Kelly just moments later.
We got out of the air-conditioned Jeep into breathtakingly brutal heat and humidity and found her and Jeff under a couple of umbrellas at a picnic table on the north side of the small building, with a view north onto the Rappahannock.
|Rappahannock River at Merroir|
|Most Seating at Merroir is Outdoors|
|A Welcome Respite from the Heat|
|Bearing Up Under Adverse Conditions! Wine Helps!|
|Lots of Growlers of Water|
|Richardson's Also Has Cute Menus|
|Richardson's Clearly Used to Be a Drugstore|
|Jeff and Kelly (note milkshake)|
|And Once Again (another milkshake)|
|Bacon Cheese Fries|
|Looking at Much of Downtown Mathews|
|Mural with Reference to Whitman, Opposite Richardson's|
As we turned into the driveway of the house where we would be staying, the first thing I saw was an osprey nest in a snag in the yard next door and then I saw an osprey in the pine right next to the house where we were staying. We would hear that osprey call pretty much non-stop the whole time we were there, though the calls were less frequent during the night. They have a wide range of vocalizations and get especially animated when a mate approaches, and more animated still when one of the neighboring ospreys encroaches on their turf. From the back deck of the house, I saw three nests in very close proximity. We watched them catch fish, carry sticks to the nest, and perch, perch, perch. Mainly, they perched on dead limbs and watched the rest of the world, calling all the while.
|Osprey in Pine to Left of House Where We Stayed; Nest Far Left|
|This Osprey Called Non-Stop|
|Its Mate on the Nest at Dusk|
|And the Nest in the Moonlight|
|Lots of Ships Headed to and from Baltimore|
As a result of my early bedtime, I was up at 5:30 the next morning, in plenty of time to catch the sunrise about 6:10. Jeff was already outside with his camera when I stepped outside with mine, only to find that I couldn't see through it at all, so dense was the condensation that formed immediately on every surface on moving from the air-conditioned house to the already warm and soupy outdoors. Once my camera warmed up so that there was no more fog on the lens, I got a couple of snaps of the sunrise. Jeff also got some pretty cool ones shooting through the lens of his binoculars, with which we scanned the bay for Bottlenose Dolphins. There was nothing moving in the water, not even any gannets or cormorants diving for fish.
|Monday Morning Sunrise|
|Ten Minutes Later|
The house is situated on the southern point of Gwynn's Island with the Chesapeake Bay due east of the house and Milford Haven just southwest of the house. To the north was a small pond with another house behind it. One of the things that we noticed right away is how many crape myrtles there are in this part of Virginia and how huge they can become. You can see several in the photo below; we saw many that were 30 feet high and higher, trees in their own right, in all shades of crimson, pink, and white. Ann and I marveled at all the crape myrtles on our trip back to Winchester on Tuesday.
|Crape Myrtles; Milford Haven Behind|
|Laurel Oak, Quercus laurifolia, in Front Yard|
|Handsome House Next Door to the North|
|Reeds (Phragmites?) Along the Beach|
|Annie Enjoying the Sun (too much! ouch!)|
|Pond Backed by Loblolly Pines|
|Unusual Beach Pattern by the House|
|The Very Southern Tip of Mathews County is a Preserve|
|Looking Across the Salt Marsh to the New Point Comfort Lighthouse|
|The Boardwalk Gives Great Views of the Marsh and Mobjack Bay|
|Looking out onto Mobjack Bay|
|Looking at Baby Crabs|
|We Saw Hundreds of Small Crabs in the Marsh|
|Hog Peanut, Amphicarpaea bracteata|
|Seaside Oxeye, Less Petals, Borrichia frutescens|
|Crimson-Eyed Rosemallow, Hibiscus moscheutos|
|Raccoons are Nocturnal Visitors to the Beach|
|Angel Wing, Cyrtopleura costata, at Northern End of its Range|
|This Dragonfly was Curious About my Camera|
|Annie Found This Green Tree Frog on the House|
When I was a kid, we used to crab all week and hold the crabs in a pot until Friday night when we had our crab feast. Seldom if ever did we buy crabs, though my mom would buy a bunch of softshells and we would have them in sandwiches for lunches. We kids, being always out on the dock when not swimming or fishing, we always had a string with chicken necks out in the water that we would check every few minutes and often I would walk the salt marshes with a bucket and a dip net, scooping unwary crabs up off the bottom.
The beer of choice for steaming crabs back then was National Bohemian; Kelly used Lite, but I won't hold it against her; cheap beer is the only choice for steaming crabs. I started picking crabs when I was only as tall as the dinner table, but it's been a very, very long time since I had picked crabs, at least 30 years. I have picked a few at the restaurant, but none for myself since I was in my early 20s. Though it's tedious, it's a fun time to sit around the table, swill some beer, and chew the fat. Picking crabs is as much a social gathering as it is dinner. And for Kelly and me, it brings us back to childhood on the Bay.
|Blue Moon at the Beach, Good Living!|
|Kelly Loading the Crab Pot|
|Drinking SB; Waiting on Crabs|
|The Gentlemen of the Hour|
|Post Feast Carnage; I Made Soup from the Shells|
Tuesday morning, I snapped awake at 5:30, glanced out the window through barely opened eyelids, saw a lot of clouds in the still dark sky, and lay there trying to decide if they might yield a good opportunity for some sunrise photography. I finally decided that if I were going to need 20 minutes for my camera to become acclimated to the outdoor heat and humidity, I needed to get moving.
As I emerged, Jeff met me at the door and told me that Kelly was feeling a lot worse and that they were leaving to go to the hospital. While they packed and showered, I sat out on the deck facing the Chesapeake and watched the sunrise unfold. It turned out to be one of the most spectacular that I have ever seen. I took it as a sign that Kelly would be fine.
|Chesapeake Sunrise II|
|Chesapeake Sunrise III|
To Jeff and Kelly, thank you so much for your friendship, your generosity, and a much needed two-day weekend!