Our eldest daughter's birthday was last weekend. She turned six and asked that we celebrate by going camping. The TKAA Tournament benefiting Heroes on the Water and Project Healing Waters was the same weekend so we decided to combine the two. Those folks have been doing a great job of documenting the event and we'll share their re-cap soon. Today I want to focus on the beauty of our public places. Every year my wife gets me a Va State Parks pass, so needless to say, we are fans of public lands. For this family adventure we chose Kiptopeke State Park on the Eastern Shore.

The drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was a first for my girls and we spotted a pod of dolphins playing along Fisherman's Island as we crossed over unto the Eastern Shore. For the last few years people on the ES have given us some grief for omitting them on our PaddleVa logo. Check this out y'all!

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After paying the toll, it's not long before you're turning into Kiptopeake State Park. It is a really beautiful place. We chose to camp back in Area F, which is a close walk to the beach. It didn't take long to set up and for the birthday girl to settle in. The new Lamzac lounger proved a good spot to chill.

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That evening we snacked on some leftover pizza stashed in our cooler and then build up a good fire. Since the beginning of mankind, nothing has brought people together like a good fire. Kiptopeke has excellent fire rings, with grills, and the fire wood is $6 a bundle.

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The next morning I was up and headed out to go fishing for the tournament. But my wife kept texting me cute pictures of the kids, so it wasn't long before I rode the high tide right up to my truck and headed back to the park.

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The tournament usually falls around my eldest's birthday and I usually work angles around it, but not this year. She's 6 and starting to really remember and pay attention to her parents behavior. So this year I had to follow my heart and hang with my crew. After loading my Jackson Mayfly Kayak, I sped back to Kiptopeke and hit the beach with my girls. It was a pretty awesome afternoon. The beach at Kiptopeke State Park is very pleasant.

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And you can see the McCloskey ghost ships off the beach in the distance. The Kiptopeke State Park has a small fleet (9) of concrete ghost ships from WWII, half sunk for breakwater purposes, and they are a cool sight just a quarter mile off the beach.

Later that evening we stopped in to the TKAA tournament HQ to see some of the winners announced. Appomattox River Company has long been a big sponsor of this fantastic event and it is always great to see everyone and witness the generosity of the kayak fishing community in support of our veterans.

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As stated earlier, we'll share the TKAA re-cap soon. After attending some of the awards we slipped out for dinner. The girls were getting restless. We stopped at 1608 Crafthouse, an American Gastropub, and it was delicious. Try the bacon encrusted cheeseburger, it was fantastic.

After dinner we slipped back for another night of campfire camaraderie and started planning our next day. We decided to paddle out to the ships and check them out the next day.

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IMG_2682IMG_2685IMG_2674The paddle out to the ships is very casual, and very worth the time. They are an amazing sight out there in the Chesapeake Bay. The girls had a good time watching the pelicans. Soon the wind picked up and the water turned a little rough so we headed back in. I can't wait to go back and fish the ships!

After changing out of our paddling clothes we headed to Kiptopeke's playground and ventured around the park exploring.

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That evening we hit the boardwalk to watch the sunset over the bay. It was a spectacular moment. Nothing sums up the beauty of Kiptopeke or our public lands like an amazing sunset. We are lucky in this country to have access to so much public land. It's there for us to explore, celebrate, and protect. It's there to provide a refuge, a sanctuary, a place to reconnect with ourselves and our families. Let's protect public lands and public waterways. They are our children's inheritance.

IMG_2785Kiptopeke State Park is a true jewel of the Virginia State Parks system and a beautiful spot to visit on the Eastern Shore. Plan your next trip and keep Kiptopeke in mind.

As we packed up on the last day our youngest, at 3 yrs old, asked if we could camp across the world. She wants to travel and explore. I'm down, because it's in the exploration and new experiences of travel, that we grow as people.

IMG_2741We'll see ya out there! If you spot, or more likely hear, our Core 4 family of paddlers at a state or national park near you, come say hi!