Fiddler crab poses, albeit a little unhappily) for us on the boardwalk from the beach back into Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, wherein he (that right claw is coming right along, young fella), was pretty much the only wildlife we saw.
"Access to False Cape State Park is only by foot, bicycle or boat," says the ranger at the entrance of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, echoing the words of the state park brochure.
He hands us a map, showing the four-mile distance from You Are Here to the False Cape Visitor Center.
And well, rookie hikers that we are, we don't have any water along, and the visitor center there at the Back Bay entrance has a little hand-written sign up that they'll be back by 2 p.m. So no water there.
It's 11:45, not that hot, and the info says there's water and stuff at the state visitor center, so off we set, joking about proper hydration.
Maybe half mile in on what will turn out to be a gravel road all the way to the state park visitor center door, here comes a big ol' school bus headed right at us. School kids don't have to play by the rules?
Another half mile in, here comes a giant truck, which turns out to be the Blue Goose "Tram," a truck with open sides in the back, carrying people who are not walking, pedaling nor rowing. Just sitting there in the back of the truck headed in the direction of the big-fat-liar National Wildlife ranger.
Meanwhile, now deep into the refuge, we are keenly on the lookout for the wild horses, wild boars and deer that live here, according to our park information. Plus many species of waterfowl.
We do see some insects, and don't even hear birds. Well, one white heron or something over there, showing off her neck.
Then there's a ranger truck, coming toward us on a side road. He drives up pretty near to us, with his binoculars hanging over his neck, and waves a little sheepishly standing there next to his Ford Explorer while we are on foot as per the rules.
Pretty soon, after we cross a few sets of genuine people on bicycles, we're at the border of the state park, with water now only .6 miles away, at the visitor center. We're pretty sure we're going to survive.
The False Cape State Park Visitor Center is a welcoming-looking place. As we come upon it, there are four or six overhead fans spinning above the big wrap-around porch. There's a nice, multiple-color-inks sign there on the bench by the door that says, "Welcome! Open 8:30-4 every day! Come on in!" The window on the door has the Visa and Mastercard logos on it, which is a good thing, because The Day Hiker talked me into us just getting lunch after our hike instead of carrying it along for the midpoint as we usually do, and she is getting pretty hungry by now, plus a candy bar and a co' cola are going to taste good after a four-mile walk, even one that was totally flat, and with no attacking wild boars or anything.
The door just to the right of the welcome sign does not open, and there is no light inside. I pound on the door a time or two and then turn the welcome sign face down on the bench there, while The Day Hiker tells me to calm down. We walk around the wrap-around porch a ways till we come to the water fountain, and we have a good drink of water. She puts the sign back the way it was, perhaps so that others can walk into the State Park Trap. This, of course, is how the park got its name: It used to be False Caper State Park, and they just dropped the r at some point.
Then we visit the little kiosk there off to the side of the main building, all cheery about visitor input and with displays on the wildlife, and I find a piece of blank paper and a pencil, and write up a little note about Where the *&$(#@# are you? to hang on the visitor center door for whenever the visitor center people might actually be there. Gail is dismayed with this behavior, despite the facts that she is hungry and could have used a candy bar, and that I really did say *&$(#@# instead of what it means.
Then a little four-wheeler pulls up with two guys in state park ranger-guy outfits in it, and so I ask them if the visitor center is going to be open and they say this is precisely what they are there to find out. They walk up, try to door, peek inside and start to read the note.
"Some guy was here and got a little hot that nobody was home when the sign says they are," I tell them. The Day Hiker is staying way off to the side, out where the trail leads to the ocean and she could escape in case of a showdown. They laugh a little, perhaps figuring the odds on who the guy was.
"Why have the sign if they're not here?" I follow up.
"Well, you know, after Labor Day . . ." they say. "And it's not the weekend."
They drive off in their little cart and Gail and I start on down the trail to the sea, to begin the second half of our loop hike, walking along the beach back to Refuge HQ and the federal ranger, who as I may have mentioned can be trusted no further than the state people.
It's a good walk out there. The Day Hiker forgets both her hunger pangs and her dismay with me for being a hothead, because she can now look for shells. We talk about the daggone weekday geezer visitors problem at parks – always thinking everything should be there for them, even when no one else on the planet is even thinking about walking into False Cape State Park on a Friday threatening rain.
Then she starts finding some shells and I get to walk in front, for the first hike since . . . well, since whenever the last time was we walked on a beach.
We walk the better part of four miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline in the middle of the seriously populated East Coast and we do not see a single person the whole time. Some beach buggy-type wheel tracks and some footprints, but no people.
Then we see the trail sign to take us back through the dune to the Back Bay Visitor Center. It's open now, but we don't go it. We just have a cup of water there from the little dispenser thing, and then we head out in search of lunch.
From entrance area for Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to visitor center for False Cape State Park; trail to ocean and back along the beach. 8.5 miles
How to get there: Go south from Sandbridge, Va. until you can't go any farther.