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Taking my First Steps in the Great Outdoors, Part II

Walking in the Footsteps of History  

As a soon-to-be college graduate, it is hard to fathom the depths of world history and world events.  Sure, I took the requisite history classes in college, but nothing brings the past to life like walking in the footsteps of those who have come before. While standing on the beach at First Landing State Park, I could imagine three small ships, having braved the waves and wind from England, sighting land in the New World for the first time. 

Intern Olivia Richarson learns more about the Virginia Company and the explorers in the New World

Intern Olivia Richards learns more about the Virginia Company and Captain John's Smith exploration of the area.

The overwhelming feeling of being in the epicenter of colonial American history brought me to the First Landing museum in the Chesapeake Bay Center at First Landing State Park. I wanted to learn more about the history of this remarkable place. Going into the First Landing Museum was like going back in time; composed of six panels detailing the events from the actual first landing of the English settlers from December 1606 to April in 1607, the First Landing Museum allowed me to walk through American history itself. 

There were large, life sized models of settlers and Virginia Indians trading goods with each other, and even a small model of a Virginia Indian town depicting what life was like before colonial times.  Starting from the display called ‘The Voyage.’ I read through all of the information and traced the maps trying to comprehend the amazing voyage that the colonial explorers fearlessly endured. And as I walked to Panels 2 through 6, I followed the map printed on the carpet; the river was like a highway leading me to my next destination--just like the settlers did; plying the waters of Virginia seeking trade, homesteads, and new knowledge.

In 2007, for America's 400th Anniversary, First Landing re-enacted the arrival of the Virginia Company

In 2007, in commemoration of the 400th Anniversary, First Landing re-enacted the arrival of the Virginia Company in 1607.

Walking the shoreline of First Landing State Park and walking through history at the museum wasn’t enough for me; I had to see more of the history my home state has to offer. My adventures lead me to the Cape Henry Lighthouse, an 18th century brick lighthouse at Cape Henry in Virginia Beach at Fort Story next to First Landing State Park.

The old Cape Henry Lighthouse is over 220 years old; built in 1792

The old Cape Henry Lighthouse is over 220 years old; built in 1792.

I’ve always had a fascination with lighthouses, so seeing an actual lighthouse, right in front of my eyes, brought me back to my childhood. When I was a kid, I used to flip through the pages of old boring history books, just to get a glimpse at one. I couldn’t believe that I lived so close to the Cape Henry Lighthouse for years, without ever knowing it was there!

However, seeing the beauty of the Cape Henry Lighthouse is quite an arduous experience; first, there is a long flight of stairs, heading upwards through wild berries and twisted trees to get to the lighthouse. Then, there are winding stairs inside of the lighthouse that seemed to lead all the way into the clouds. But all of it, all of the walking and climbing in the muggy heat was totally worth it when I reached the top. The top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse was surreal; with windows on each side, the lighthouse gave me a 360 degree view of world around me. Looking out, I was imagining how the world must’ve actually looked back in the 1700s.

The new Cape Henry Lighthouse is still in operation guiding our ships through the maritime highway.

The new Cape Henry Lighthouse is still in operation guiding our ships through the maritime highway.

I wanted to stay in the lighthouse forever, but my throbbing leg muscles and the swarming bugs reminded me that it was time to go. While leaving the Cape Henry Lighthouse, my only thought was coming back to visit, someday.  To visit the lighthouse, you must enter the Fort Story military installation.  Be prepared to have your official government-issued I.D. or passport and to have your car searched.  Click here for admission fees and more information about the lighthouse.

All in all, I am having an amazing time in my internship with Staci Martin and Virginia State Parks; I seem to discover new things about Virginia every other day, despite having lived here for 15 years.  Making the connections between history, culture, and natural resources is really enlightening!  I’ve never been interested in history prior to my internship and now I’m seeing the connections between marketing, history, tourism and stewardship ethics.  I'm really starting to understand the importance of special places like parks and historic sites from this internship!

 After visiting these historic sites like First Landing State Park and the Cape Henry Lighthouse, I am very eager to continue working to share my adventures and try to motivate other people to get outdoors and get to know these great state parks and historic sites.  Do you have any marketing ideas for me?  Look for my new blogs coming in July about my trip to Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore, what I've been learning about tourism marketing, and about my very first night hike on the Bald Cypress Trail. 

The Bald Cypress swamps were very important to the early settlers--a source of fresh water!

The Bald Cypress swamps in the park's maritime forest was an important source of fresh water for early settlers.

First Landing State Park is located in Virginia Beach, Virginia and has 20 cabins; over 200 campsites, many with electric and water hook ups; two visitor center with museum quality exhibits, 1.5 miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline, and over 19 miles of trails through the maritime forest. To make a reservation, please call the Virginia State Parks Customer Service Center at 1-800-933-PARK.  The park is also open for day visitors; the parking fee is $4 weekdays and $5 weekends.

Published: 07/02/2014

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