"This past Saturday members of the Outpost Adventure Club and others loaded up their bikes and set out from the shop to embark on an overnight bike camping trip to Chippokes Plantation State Park."
Under mostly sunny skies our group rolled along the fields and forests of eastern Henrico and Charles City counties. The Capital Trail is always the most pleasant way to head east and this day was no different.
With temperatures climbing, our group made its first stop a Charles City Courthouse for water. For those not in the know, the post office here has an outside water spigot perfect for filling bottles, or in this hot day’s case, splashing off a bit.
Everyone regrouped at Haupt’s Country Store to get a few snacks. While we waited, we saw that the prediction of afternoon rain was likely. Dark clouds were ominously approaching from the west. With the next regrouping point near Jamestown, we continued east in small groups.
Shortly after leaving the store the rain started. At first, it was welcome. With the light, drizzle came a drop in air temperature. That moment passed and soon the sprinkle gave way to steady rain. Thankfully, everyone was prepared and the air stayed warm enough that being soaked on the bike was not an entirely unpleasant experience.
By the time we climbed over the Chickahominy river bridge, I think everyone was either enjoying the rain or at least no longer having their spirits dampened as much as their jerseys.
Shortly before 5 pm the first group reached the Jamestown - Scotland Ferry and rolled aboard with the cars. For those unfamiliar, the ferry runs on regular intervals year round and carries cars and bikes back and forth from Jamestown to Surry. It’s free of charge and by far the most enjoyable way to cross the James River.
The ferry landed on the south bank of the river and after waiting for the cars we were waved on by the crew. From the ferry, it’s a 5-mile ride on nearly empty back roads to the park. All in all, we spent almost zero time riding in actual traffic despite having covered almost 65 miles from Outpost to the campsite.
As we arrived the rain started to slow and while I was still wet and keen to take a shower to wash off the sweat and grime of the day’s ride, I decided to quickly set up my tent instead. Adventure Club member and all-around awesome person, Emily was already there and was prepping dinner under a pop-up tent on her truck bed with the help of Marie.
The rest of our group trickled into the campground and by the time I was showered and in dry clothes everyone had arrived and the rain had essentially stopped.
We stuffed our faces with some incredible vegetarian tacos and homemade pickles courtesy of Emily and enjoyed the cooler air temperature that the rain left us with.
As darkness fell I decided to go for a walk in the cool night air. While I have been to Chippokes many times, it never gets old. A night walk along the sandy river beach then up to the meadow before returning to the campsite was just what I needed to end the day. Frogs song and the soft call of a barred owl seemed to follow me as I wandered.
I returned to the campsite to find a fire had been made and took my place around its flame to talk with my fellow travelers about all manner of things.
By 10-pm I was tired and with even more riding in the cards for Sunday morning I retired to my tent.
While it did rain a bit more overnight, my tent did its job and I emerged shortly after sunrise to Kurt and Miles preparing breakfast for everyone. Scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage and most importantly, coffee. Everyone eventually made it to the breakfast table and loaded up on calories for the day ahead.
After packing up, we got together to discuss the plan for the day. I had a ride planned from the park over to Hog Island wildlife management area. This was going to be an additional 30 miles but was optional as it passed back through the park before heading home. A small group opted for the ride while the rest opted to stay at the park and explore some. Several people had not been to Chippokes before so hanging around to take in the beauty of the park was just as good an idea as going for a ride before the ride.
While those who decided to stay made their way down to the river our diminished group of 7 headed towards the back entrance of the park. We exited the park grounds and wound our way east. To avoid riding on busy Route 10 we crossed a massive soybean field. The storm had blown over and the sun was rapidly drying out the sandy soil of the farm road we were on. Deep sand made for challenging but a somewhat amusing experience before reaching the next paved road near Bacon’s Castle.
Eventually, we arrived at Hog Island and after passing through the Dominion security checkpoint (you have to pass through a nuclear power plant to access the island) and we rolled onto the gravel road of the island proper.
We made a lap of the gravel road loop of the island and took in the scenery. We would have lingered more but we were somewhat pressed for time and back in the more wooded areas the late summer meant the deer flies were out in force. Despite the flies, the ride was fun and if you find yourself in the area Hog Island is always worth a visit. The best time to go is spring or fall when the flies are less prevalent. You’ll likely see all manner of wildlife while you are there and on two wheels or two feet is the way to enjoy things. Cars do not have full access to the island.
After a break at the observation deck (away from the flies), we got back on our bikes and retraced our steps to the park.
We regrouped with the rest of our group that was riding back to Richmond, topped off our bottles and said our goodbyes to everyone that had driven down to hang out. The weather called for sunshine the rest of the day and although I was a bit tired already, I was still looking forward to the ride back.
The ferry ride back across the river was great as always and in no time we were back on the Capitol Trail heading west.
I mentally noted landmarks along the trail as the miles ticked off. Chickahominy, Haupt’s, Charles City Courthouse, Shirley Plantation, Long Bridge road. On any ride on the Capitol Trail arriving at the Four Mile Creek trailhead usually means I’ll be at my destination in around an hour and today was no different.
After about 95 miles of riding, I arrived back at Outpost, checked in with the staff, and headed home.
Even with the rain, it was a really great weekend.
For those of you that missed out, we have one more campout planned for this fall.
Next year there will be even more trips like this so be sure to stay tuned in.