Cabin fever relieved

Published 11:40 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

by Susan and Biff Andrews

It’s been a rough month of March. The temperature has been below normal nearly every day. The wind has been about 10-15 mph above normal except in Nor’easters or Nor’westers when they’ve been 40 mph above normal. We have been having cabin fever, as there’s no fun walking in these conditions.

So, on Palm Sunday we had to get out of the house. A sunny day. Twenty-five mph winds, and a high of 46 degrees, where to go, where to go, where to go?….

There exists a publication — no longer in print — of every wildlife trail, nature area, boardwalk, wildlife management area, state park, etc. in the state of Virginia.

It was published by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and included 380 pages, including illustrations by Virginia artist Spike Knuth.

Fortunately, you can access it online. Its title is “Discover Our Wild Side: Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail.” It can be accessed at There are about 70 sites within 50 miles of beautiful downtown Suffolk.

The “Coastal Area,” which includes Suffolk, is described in the first 100 pages or so, from I-95 to the Eastern Shore and can take you to the ocean, the Peninsula or west to Emporia.

So, we decided to get out of the house, into the nice warm car, and see something new. We chose a small site that we had never visited: Chub Sandhill Natural Area Preserve, between Waverly and Courtland.

It is a two-mile long preserve along the Nottoway River, about a 40-mile drive from Suffolk. The speed limit is mostly 55 mph through the lovely countryside. I’ll bet you’ve never been through Urquartown!

This is Virginia Long Leaf Pine country, with sandy soil and prescribed burning scheduled every year or three. If you reach the Nottoway River you have gone 100 yards too far.

There is parking for about five cars. A helpful sign lists rare plants and animals found in the preserve.

A trail about a half mile long leads past vernal pools down to the river. With 20-knot winds, there weren’t many birds flying free. We noted about five different species of moss, two we had never seen before.

With long leaf pine, there’s very little understory, giving about 100 yards of vision into the woods.

At the river there is a 12-foot by 12-foot wooden overlook about 20 feet above the water. There was also a nearby tree that was being shredded by either birds or bears, and at its base in the sawdust we encountered the find of the day… about 20 blooms of Virginia Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica,) a sweet little early spring flower.

Oh, we were so glad to see any sign of spring. Can’t wait to go back in a month or so. Travel in a warm car on a sunny day to a short walk in a new place … the cure for cabin fever.

Today’s forecast is for 72 degrees. Let’s call it the first day of spring!

SUSAN and BRADFORD “BIFF” ANDREWS are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at