Ascent of Butlers Bluff on 2006-07-30

Climber: Scott Surgent

Others in Party:Beth
Date:Sunday, July 30, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Butlers Bluff
    Elevation:65 ft / 19 m

Ascent Trip Report

Northampton County is one of two counties separated from the rest of Virginia on the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula. The only way to get there directly from Virginia without getting wet is to drive the Chesapeake Bay Bridge over and under seventeen miles of the Chesapeake Bay.

The bridge connects the city of Virginia Beach north to Northampton County, and the two regions couldn't be any more different. Virginia Beach is a major city with all sorts of big buildings, a snarl of streets and freeways, and traffic. Northampton County is a bucolic spread of sleepy homes, large properties, trees and sandy beaches. The highpont was the ostensible reason for coming up this way, but the real reason was for an excuse to drive the bridge itself.

We left Williamsburg and drove fifty miles through Newport News, Hampton and Virginia Beach, following Interstate-64 and eventually onto US-13. Along the way, we got caught up in traffic on a street in Hampton, while a bike race was going on, and they wouldn't let us pass so we had to wait. For us it was no big deal other than being an inconvenience. However, most people in our immediate clump of cars were going to church nearby, and many just got out and walked the rest of the way in their Sunday finest, which was unfortunate given the humidity was oppressive.

Other than that delay, we made good time. We soon found ourselves at the pay kiosk for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We paid and started onto the water. For the first three miles, the bridge is built on cement piles about 20 feet above the water, then it comes to a man-made island composed of massive blocks of rock piled together, with a parking area, visitor center and a maintenance warehouse. There was also a walking pier at this island, and we walked it, visiting the dozens of fisherpeople out hoping for fishies.

We also spent time in the visitor center, but mainly marveled at the overall construction. The large rocks are called rip-rap, I learned. From here, the road descends into a tunnel, burrowing underneath the bay for about a mile before re-emerging up the way. The road stays above water for awhile, then descends underneath again, then comes up above water before emerging over land on the south end of Northampton County. The underneath parts were interesting, and are there, obviously, so that the large ships can make their way into and out of the bay.

Our one-way drive, including stops, took us an hour, and was thoroughly amusing. Once on the other side of the bay, we enjoyed the lazy drive and slower pace of things up here. Thus, although we were now on a mission to seek the county highpoint, we took our sweet time to do it.

We went north about four miles on US-13, then followed local roads to a road called Butlers Bluff Road to a point where it turned from west to south, fronting a lengthy sandy bluff and the waters just beyond. The homes here are very nice. We parked across from house #3061 and walked up an old sandy track about 30 feet to top out on the sandy hilltop. Although basically just a big dune, it is covered in trees, scrub and spotty grass and is pretty solid.

The plant-life was enough to require us to walk around a little bit to ensure we "summitted" correctly. We found the highest point without too much difficulty, spending 10 minutes here. The views into the bay were blocked by trees. For a county where most of the land is lucky to break 10 feet in elevation, a 70-foot high bluff actually had quite a bit of prominence.

Once satisfied, we retraced our route and drove back across the Bay Bridge, eventually working our way toward Hampton and Newport News.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:30 ft / 9 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.1 mi / 0.2 km
    Trailhead:35 ft / 10 m

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