Saturday was a lovely warm day with no sign of rain so I took Big Red, the kayak, out on to the Shenandoah River, putting in at a park not too far from home.
The mountains looked beautiful and I was surprised to get to the river and not find it crowded as I'd assumed. I was the only person around with a boat.
I headed upriver and noticed that in areas there was a solid rock bed which made paddling a little difficult in areas as the water was shallow. There were also quite a few rills across the water that gushed over rocks just under the surface, in some areas I had to battle hard and fast with my paddle to make headway. It was a great workout. After an hour or so of this, I pulled over to a beach area where some butterflies had caught my eye. I also needed a drink and wasn't able to stop paddling to grab a gulp without the boat being pulled back downriver.
Lots of swallowtails and other butterflies were flitting around in circles performing their mating rituals, dancing over the sand and not taking the least bit notice of me.
A little further upriver a gleaming white bank shimmered from the other side of the river and as I got closer I realized the beach was made up entirely of shells.
After a couple of hours I turned the kayak around and enjoyed gliding down with the tide, stopping occasionally to take underwater photos with my iPhone. The next batch of images are all of the river bed.
On Sunday, I drove with Steve and Kelly down to DC to meet up with Richard, our other team member for the Washington Post Hunt. This is an event which I remember starting up 6 years ago and have always wanted to take part. We had our copies of the magazine required but no idea of what to do so over breakfast Richard, who has attended every hunt except one, explained how it worked while us three listened intently.
It sounded quite involved and I knew that with this being our first Hunt we would be hopelessly lost if we had to do this without Richard. But it sounded like great fun and I was itching to get started. We walked over to the stage and waited for the announcement. The Hunt was being hosted by the three guys who'd dreamed up the idea and had made up all of the clues, Dave Berry, Tom Shroder and Gene Weingarten. I am a huge fan of Gene and was excited to see him. All of these men have brilliant and witty senses of humor, this was going to be a fun day.
The crowds waiting for the event to start, the atmosphere was really building up. We kept looking at our maps and wondering where we'd have to go. The idea of the game was to start at noon, solve 5 riddles, the answers of which could be found using the map that covered a few blocks of downtown DC, and use the answers to solve the Endgame question which would be asked at 3pm back at the stage. This would involve more searching and the winner would be the one who solved the final question first.
We were handed out eye patches with a sheet (detailing various uses of the patch) that we had to use to solve the first riddle which was performed on the stage and once we had the answer to that, we raced off to find another clue. The final answers are given on this link, you'll understand the depth of the riddles and the thinking that was involved in solving them. The 5 answers we needed could be obtained in any order so we decided to go to the ones which were the furthest away and work our way back towards the stage.
This was the next riddle, a man in the stocks being raised in the air and then suddenly dropped with an explosion sounding as he hit the ground. So this represented stocks crashing, which they did in 1929 which was the answer.
These guys walked up and down in front of us passing a lady sitting down dressed in yellow. There was a sign saying 'find what's missing'. We ascertained these folks represented the solar system and therefore Earth was missing. We saw on the map that there was an Earth symbol with 24 on it but this wasn't on our list of 15 possible answers so we had to go to that location for another clue. There we saw a sign saying to add 192 which gave us 216, our answer.
We got the other 3 clues and felt really proud of ourselves having got this far, and walked to the stage to await the final clue. But when it was announced nothing happened on stage. We were flummoxed. We thought we had an idea of where we should go so rushed to the location hoping we'd be enlightened upon arriving.
Steve and Richard charging ahead. We got to the location and with many others stood and looked around scratching chins and heads. We were stumped. After a while we admitted defeat and headed back again to the stage where the winner would be announced at 4pm but were delighted to hear that a couple of additional clues would be given because no one had solved the Endgame. Apparently this was the first time this had ever happened so we didn't feel so dim but unfortunately we still failed to move further forward and eventually a winner was announced. Two teams got 2nd and 3rd places but the winner was a one man team, another first.
He deservedly collected his $5000 and the crowd cheered.
We decided to grab beers and food before heading home, not feeling the least bit defeated. If you've read the link to the answers, you'd agree that we did pretty well to get as far as we did. It had been a tremendously fun day, and a hunt that I'd love to take part in again next year. We managed to get to the car before the heavens opened under a black heavy sky that had very conveniently waited for everyone to finish enjoying the afternoon before spilling its load.
Gene Weingarten has written for the Washington Post for years and I've loved everything I've read. This link is a beautifully written account about his dog, Harry. Have tissues handy.
On Saturday I met up with a new friend and we drove up to Slaughter Beach in Delaware where we hoped to witness one of the oldest mating rituals on planet Earth, the spawning of the Horseshoe Crab. We left early so we could stop at interesting places on the way and found a really cool junk place near Bridgeville.
We met our group at a park and went for a very unorganized hike first at which my toe argued against doing but I persevered and actually didn't feel too bad afterwards. But we weren't disappointed with the boring hike, we were all anxious for the sun to drop and the tide to come in so we could witness the amazing crab spectacle. They are seen in bigger numbers at high tides and also with a full moon. we were going to have both this evening.
We saw this poster in the park office and our hopes were high that we'd see as many as shown here.
One poor victim.
Where are they?
We got down on the sand and noticed a few dead crabs upturned along the shore, casualties from the previous high tide's spawning. but as far as live ones were concerned, we couldn't see one. We waited and as the sun went down and the water washed up closer to our feet, they came.
First we noticed bumps in the water, the odd large lump dotted here and there, but as we got closer we saw that they were the first arrivals, gradually grouping together as more arrived, until after about 30 minutes, the shoreline was a mass of moving crabs. It was an amazing sight. The females are larger than the males as they lay thousands of eggs at a time. She lays them in the wet sand while the males work their way back and forth fertilizing them.
The Horseshoe Crab isn't actually a crab but is more closely related to the spider or scorpions. they have eight eyes, 2 of which are on the top of their shells and long tails which they use as rudders or to flip themselves over when they find themselves upside down. They were doing this quite often with so many of them wriggling around and are very vulnerable and likely to die if they are not righted, so we were constantly helping the flipped ones back onto their feet as we walked up and down the beach. Their shells are like armor casings but not as thick as I had assumed.
We had an amazing time watching these wondrous creatures and loved being part of a ritual that has been going on for millions of years, These crabs have been around more than 200 million years more than the dinosaurs and they certainly have a prehistoric look about them. They've hardly changed in appearance at all.
Eventually we left them to other watchers who had arrived and who immediately set about flipping over the upside down crabs, who were wriggling their legs as if to say, "Hurry up! Over here, I need a hand!" It was going to be a long night for these hardy and voracious arthropods, but after 450 millions years they certainly don't need any rehearsals for their moonlight dance.