Janice Lovelace

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Spring 2006 kicks off Virginia’s year-long celebration of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown in May 1607. Jamestown is 400 years old! Festivities throughout the year highlight contributions by Europeans, American Indians and Africans to make the settlement successful. You may have seen Hollywood’s story of this first settlement but this year take time to explore it yourself. Begin with historic Jamestown and nearby Colonial Williamsburg, then head to the European themed Busch Gardens for a change of scene. North is the home of the first President, George Washington, where children will enjoy the mid 1700’s re-enactments and special tours of the plantation.

Jamestown, English house, VirginiaJamestown was settled by 108 Englishmen looking for riches and a water route to the Orient. Four hundred years ago the Europeans had no idea how large North America was, and still thought it might offer a “short cut” to the Orient. The first years were rough and many of the early settlers died of disease, starvation and skirmishes with the existing occupants – the Powhatan tribe.

Today’s visitors to the Jamestown Settlement start at the Visitor’s Center with an exhibit and short film detailing the early 1600s. Learn more about the reasons for the exploration to this new land. After the film make a stop at the restrooms before heading out to the villages, as there aren’t facilities out there.
A short walk from the Visitor’s Center are reconstructions of the settlers’ fort and a Powhatan village. The English compound sits behind a wooden wall fortress. While there chat with interpreters working in the iron forge, or at the church. When children see the housing and straw mattresses, they will appreciate our current “luxuries”! Go on board and explore the replicas of the ships that brought the settlers from England.
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The Powhatan village is a short distance away, but a much different world. There are no fortress walls and housing is more mobile. Walk through the village and watch interpreters tanning leather, or gathering food. The sleeping space consists of skins stretched across wooden stalks. Walk through the housing and compare how the two cultures approached living in this area.

At Jamestown, a little distance from the visitor’s center, there is an on-going archeological dig around the actual fort. The dig is changing researchers’ view of what life was like for those early settlers.

The settlement was right on the James River, where the ships were tied up. It was actually an island. The site that seemed wonderful in May froze in the winter. It was also a swamp, so fresh water had to be hauled in. When the people couldn’t get fresh water, they drank the river water which led to health problems. By 1699, the capitol was moved to Williamsburg about 20 miles inland. Give yourself at least one-half a day to visit. Make time for lunch and wandering through the well-stocked bookstore. Admission is $11.75 adults, $5.75 children 6-12 years. See www.historyisfun.org for more information.
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There are numerous lodging alternatives in the historic triangle area, but my favorite is 20 miles away at the Woodlands Hotel at Colonial Williamsburg. It is right next to the Colonial Williamsburg Visitor’s Center and shuttle stop to take visitors into the village. Add swimming pools and this is the perfect spot to stay. Arrive early enough to eat, buy admission tickets and hop the shuttle for evening activities. There are several choices such as the Tavern ghost walk, where children will thrill to “ghost stories”, or the mock trial at the Courthouse, where you might end up being a juror in a trial similar to ones in the mid-1700s. Both keep children’s attention throughout.

Plan to spend the next day walking around Colonial Williamsburg. Step into the mid-1700s as it would have looked just before the Revolutionary War. No cars, just wagons and carriages. Treat yourself to a carriage ride around the area. Interpreters are dressed in periodic clothing and are engaged in period appropriate activities. They even speak as they would have then! Slaves can be found in the back rooms or kitchens working, while shopkeepers are minding the stores. Tours are offered to many of the 500 reconstructed or restored buildings. Visit some of the ninety acres of award winning gardens. We enjoyed the African American tour, learning about the lives of the slaves and free blacks in Williamsburg. Go to the Governor’s Palace, walk around the commons, and visit the stores. Maybe as you walk the commons you will meet and speak with Thomas Jefferson! There are various packages for admission to Colonial Williamsburg. Consider a Historic Triangle package which includes admission to Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg.
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The next day, children may be ready for theme park entertainment offered at the European themed Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Rollercoasters thrill rides, shows and shops will keep the family enthralled for the day. There is even a beer school for the adults! Admission is $51.95, $44.95 for 3-6 year olds.
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Two hours north, visit Mount Vernon. Interpreters are dressed as they would have been during the lives of President George Washington and his wife Martha. Visit the inside of the 21 room house, the separate kitchen building, and walk through the massive gardens. Sit in a rocker for a few moments on the large piazza (back porch) overlooking the Potomac. Children and adults alike will be fascinated with the rebuilt slave quarters of those slaves who worked in the house. Other slaves lived further away near the fields where they worked. Time your visit to watch enactors show troops preparing for the revolutionary war. Plan to spend at least a half day here. Food is available, and there is a well stocked book and gift store. Open every day, admission is $13.00 adults, $6.00 children 6-11 years of age.
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The Bald Eagle is a majestic bird with a wing span of 6 to 8 feet, who fly at about 20 mph. The females are the larger of the species, weighing an average of 15 pounds. The males average 9 pounds and have a slightly smaller wing span. The pair mate for life, which is about 20 years in the wild. They aren’t really bald – the term “balde” is an old English word for “white”. The young eagle has light brown head feathers which turn white around 3 or 4 years of age.

 

Nooksack River EagleA great place to find Bald Eagles in the winter is to head to northern Washington state, to the Nooksack River valley (near Deming) and the Skagit River valley (near Concrete and Rockport). Searching for spawning chum salmon, this gathering of Bald Eagles is the largest in the lower 48 states of the U.S.. The Chilkat River in Alaska holds the record for the largest gathering, counted at near 750 birds.

 

The best time to find the birds feeding is in the morning, from daybreak until about 11:00 a.m. In the afternoon, you might see them “soaring” – catching updrafts of air, carrying them up and up in wide arches. By dusk, they head into sheltered areas to roost for the night. Scientists estimate that they spend about 65% of their time at the night roost, another 30% perching in trees and only a small percent actually feeding and flying. They are saving energy before flying back north to breed.
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The best time of year to see these transient eagles is mid-December though mid-February. There are two prime areas for spotting eagles on the Nooksack River, just east of Bellingham.

 

 

 

The DEMING HOMESTEAD EAGLE PARK.

This 15 acre park, part of Whatcom County Parks system, is a good place to start your day of eagle watching. The salmon wash up on sandbars out in the river bed. The Parks department has constructed salmon habitat structures which are a great environment for the salmon to spawn and the young to hatch. There is a trail with interpretive signs along the way to give information about the eagles and the salmon. If it is a clear day, bring a picnic and watch the wildlife with your binoculars from the picnic tables. Take I-5 to SR 542 (Mt Baker Highway). Go east to milepost 14, and turn right on Truck Road.
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MOSQUITO LAKE BRIDGE.

From the bridge you should see eagles in the trees lining the river. From SR 542, turn right just before milepost 17 on Mosquito Lake Road (there is a little store here with outdoor restrooms). Go for a mile to the bridge crossing the north fork of the Nooksack River. There is parking on the left side of the road.

 

There are also pullouts along SR 542 paralleling the river. At times you can see eagles perched in the trees.
On the Skagit River, the prime viewing area is between Concrete and Marblemount. On the weekends from mid-December to mid-February, there are volunteers at three Eagle viewing sites to guide visitors:
right off the highway at Steelhead Park in Rockport, the rest area at Milepost 100 at Sutter Creek, and the Salmon Hatchery in Marblemount.

 

For your family’s safety, make sure you use designated parking places and avoid stopping on the highway.
In February, the Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival is held. There are interpreters, walking tours, exhibits and food at the Festival. Check out the website at www.skagiteagle.org. To reach Concrete, drive I-5 to Highway 20 and head east. The Skagit River Eagle Interpretive Center is about 40 miles from I-5 in the town of Rockport.
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One of the best ways to view eagles is on the water. At least 10 companies have Forest Service permits to lead eagle watching trips down the Skagit River between Marblemount and Rockport. A float trip, about 3 hours long, offers a wonderful opportunity to see eagles a bit closer, on both sides of the river in spots where you could not see them from the road. The trips run between December and early February, generally starting around 11 a.m.

 

It is winter, so dress warmly with solid shoes that can get wet and muddy. Even if it’s not raining, the ground is still likely to be damp. Bring your camera and binoculars. Sometimes the eagles are close to the road, other times they are visible only on the other side of the river. Don’t try to get too close to the birds or you will disturb them and they will fly away. If disturbed during feeding, they will fly away and may not come back to the spot until the disturbance has left. All in all, seeing eagles up close is an experience not to be missed.

 

Janice Lovelace has lived in the Seattle WA area for the past 12 years. Previously, she grew up in the Midwest, went to college in Massachusetts, and then moved to California for graduate school. Although trained as a psychologist, she now spends most of her time traveling, photographing and writing.After teaching for 9 years and doing a weekly newspaper column on child development she decided to make the move into travel writing.

 

Now that the children are grown and out on their own, there is more time to spend on traveling and improving her photography. Her articles, with photos, have been published in regional and national magazines. She writes frequently about family travel. Janice has traveled throughout most of the US (including Alaska and Hawai’i), Canada, Mexico, Belize, Honduras, several Caribbean islands, and Japan and loves to write about it.