Distance to a Road: 8.3 miles
Cell Phone Coverage: Yes
Conservation Land: Yes, Virginia Coast Reserve owned by The Nature Conservancy
Travel Method: motorboat
Travel Time One-Way: 2 hours
Something We Learned:Mylar balloons wash up on the shores of beaches everywhere, even along remote barrier islands.
Click on the ‘Play’ button below to view our panoramic video of the Remote Spot.
The remotest location in the entire state of Virginia happens to be 9 miles off the mainland on a distant barrier island. Spirits are high with the prospects of a marine and beach adventure. As we embark to the Virginia Remote Spot, We wonder, ”Will there be big waves? Can our flat-bottomed, low-sided aluminum jon boat make it all the way there and back?”
We enter a large roadless expanse of water and marsh owned and protected by The Nature Conservancy since 1969–called the Virginia Coast Reserve (VCR). There are 14 islands and associated marshlands within the VCR. It is a dynamic ecoscape of barrier islands, lagoons, and salt marsh. It comprises the longest expanse of coastal wilderness remaining on the East Coast. It also serves as one of the most critical migratory bird habitats on Earth.
It is near low tide…we position ourselves to have high tide at day’s end to ensure we will not be tidally stranded while returning to port. Oyster bars are present. We did not observe oysters at other more northerly coastal Remote Spots in the Mid-Atlantic. This may present a hazard for the propeller. We motor slowly for a while.
There is precious cargo aboard the USS Remote Spotter today. We are accompanied by Rebecca’s parents, Mike and Tina, who are eager Remote Spotting companions. Their knowledge of watercraft navigation is indispensable on this expedition.
Today is the only day that we have available to make our documentary expedition to the Virginia Remote Spot. Otherwise, we would have to can the trip until much later. And it is not that simple to pull an 18-foot motorboat all the way back to Virginia from Florida. So we proceed into the horizon.
We have calm water conditions in our travel window between frontal systems. We feel a little queasy about the rolling cloud cover, but, in spite of a turbulent atmosphere, the water was glassy. So we push the throttle forward and go planar due east. We can just make out the remote island on the horizon.
Our first close view of the island containing the Remote Spot reveals human structures present on the south end. Those better be abandoned structures and NOT ROADS! If we find a road or a permanent human habitation, we will have to recalculate a new remote spot and plan another trip. Bummer.
We temporarily run aground. Mike and Ryan try to get internet reception to review an online marine chart to help find deeper waters. But water depths and tidal ranges can be dynamic variables. Sometimes you just have to ascertain conditions as you go…and go with your best gut instincts.
Our second approach to the southwest edge of the island brings us a beach near the human habitation we spotted. It appears to be in ruins and abandoned. That’s good news. I believe that this is the remains of an old, abandoned US Coast Guard station. Seeing all these human structures, although abandoned, takes its toll on our feeling of remoteness.
We anchor at low tide. Knowing that the tide will come in while we are traveling by foot to the actual Remote Spot, we give the anchor plenty of line to accomodate rising waters. You always feel queasy leaving your boat all alone in a remote place and wonder about the severity of tides.
Now, we must get our hiking on…we walk across the island from the protected western side where we anchored our boat to the eastern side pounded by heavy surf.
As we cross the island, we experience another disappointment…concentrated human garbage near the old abandoned habitation. What the heck do you have to do to get away from it all anymore? (We hope to have an answer for that at the conclusion of Project Remote).
We reach the Atlantic side and find a spectacular, uninhabited beach. We begin our walk northward up the Atlantic coastline of the remote island en route to the Virginia Remote Spot. We have a 2.2 mile hike up the beach to get to the Remote Spot (4.4 miles round trip).
Once we get out of sight of the human ruins, we are pleased by the outstanding feeling of remoteness. The huge, wide open beach is a fantastic place to hike. Rebecca and I discuss our feelings and thoughts about Virginia remoteness as we walk. Skyla rides in her backpack and takes it all in. She frequently interjects our conversation with thoughts of her own.
Juvenile horseshoe crabs are a common sight on the beach. Most are deceased. Evidence of a much higher tidal surge exists up into the vegetation past the normal high tide line–courtesy of the recent Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
Mike navigates to the exact coordinates of the Virginia Remote Spot using his hand held GPS unit (because we lost ours in the New Jersey surf). The Virginia Remote Spot sits right out on the beach of the farthest barrier island within the VCR.
Ryan relishes the feeling of remoteness in Virginia. There is nothing greater than being immersed in a wild and natural landscape. Having your knowledge-thirsty little girl and family with you only multiply those feelings.
Mike frolicks on the huge beach.
Dad and daughter enjoy some outstanding time together.
Mike and Tina are both longtime Chesapeake Bay explorers, and can be found out on the Bay or in a secluded cove in their sailboat nearly every weekend of sailing season. We are so happy to have them on this expedition. Their infectiously positive attitudes and ever-smiling faces brighten the whole trip.
The remotest helium balloon in Virginia. Darn it, you can’t go anywhere anymore and not see some kind of human trash. Our feeling of remoteness takes another hit.
At last…We reach the remotest location in the entire state of Virginia. It is located 8.3 straight line miles from the nearest road. This is the first time a human being ever stood here with the knowledge of this being the Remote Spot. Of course, 5 years ago, the Remote Spot may have been located elsewhere because the road system of the United States is constantly expanding and, consequently, shifting Remote Spots. As roads expand, remoteness contracts. State Remote Spots also can change location as the road system expands. We have been losing remoteness rapidly in this country since the Industrial Revolution.
Rebecca conducts our 10-minute Remote Spot Assessment. We measure certain aspects of the surrounding ecology, and we photo and video document the location. We are trying to document maximum remoteness as it currently exists in each state to provide a remote areas baseline. With an established baseline, future conservation efforts will be aided and can be better measured. Without a baseline, conservation efforts are more likely to suffer the effects of the shifting baseline syndrome, and be less successful. We also are raising awareness about the importance of preserving the remote and roadless areas we have left in our great country. Remote Footprints believes it is time to draw a line in the sand as a nation and say: “No more roads,” Roadless areas protection is crucial to preserve the diversity of life, not to mention fostering a human spiritual well-being and connection to things that are natural, wild, and free. We want our daughter, Skyla, to be able to experience remoteness and wilderness immersion as we were able to do so in our lifetime (and why not even to a greater extent?). This may be the most important reason for us to conduct Project Remote…
Skyla is happiest when she is exploring (I mean, eating). She merrily travels into the wild with us wherever we go. She doesn’t mind the outdoors–she loves it– because it is all she has known. When you don’t give children boob-tube, video games, and junk food, but offer the outdoors to them instead, what you get is a Skyla. (Either that, or we just got lucky).
The hike back to the boat.
It is a great feeling to see the boat still where we anchored it…although floating now because of rising tide. Our expedition had taken approximately 6 hours to accomplish.
We initially intended to camp out on every Remote Spot. We also wanted to travel to Remote Spots without the use of any motorized means. But we quickly learned that different land management agencies had differing policies on access. The Nature Conservancy is preserving the outstanding wilderness character and important bird habitat of the VCR by only permitting low-impact, non-commercial, recreational day use only. Permitted activities include hiking, bird watching, surf fishing, and photography. Camping or paddling was not possible because of the long distance and prohibition of camping. We are delighted that the Virginia Remote Spot has the best possible prospects for continued preservation because of being owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy.
–The Remote Spotters