Bald eagle on the Potomac River flying away


Paw Paw to Pearre
July 2007

Last updated July 31, 2007



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three

The weekend forecast was calling for high humidity. Not the best time to take pretty photos but also not an excuse to sit on my ass indoors either. We were now into the latter half of the summer and I was determined to get outside and enjoy the outdoors as much as I could before it was over. Severe thunderstorms or golfball sized hail might stop us but not a little rain or heat with humidity.

Day One, July 28, 2007

I hate car shuttling. But sometimes it is better than paddling up and back. With a 2 mph current, some type of shuttle is required. On the first day of our trip, Norma and I learned many lessons that we will hopefully remember for future trips.

She was finishing up a multi-day biking trip with her sisters in Pennsylvania. I was heading west from the Baltimore area. The plan was for me to meet at Grandma's Country Kitchen and Inn and await Norma's call. She would phone when she was about a half hour from Bonds Landing. I would leave the boats at the inn and meet Norma at the landing. We would then leave my car at the landing and I would drive with Norma back to the inn. Tomorrow, we would cart the boats to the Paw Paw launch site then paddle to the landing. Then we'd load the boats on my car and retrieve her car. Sounds simple, right?

The first problem was that I got the place we'd be staying mixed up. Too many e-mails circulating about discussing possible options. Rather than re-read them all or at least start from the most recent, I just picked one and printed out the information. In this e-mail, I read that we'd be staying at Heritage Trail Bed and Breakfast, which was right next door to the inn and owned by the same people. But I didn't know the two places were related. So I went to the B&B, dropped off my boats, and knocked on the door. No answer. I tried calling Norma but I had no cell phone reception. So I drove to Bonds Landing.

Along the way, I got cell phone reception for a few minutes. I heard a voice mail left for me by Norma. She mentioned something about not being done until 1800. That was fine. I'd just wait for her. I drove on several miles of dirt roads, each worse than the next. I saw numerous deer along the way. At Bonds Landing, I took a nap. Then I walked around and went for a swim. I swam across the Potomac River and back. I could almost walk across. I waited until 1915 then drove back to the B&B.

I knocked on the door of the B&B. Still no answer. I went to the gas station and used their landline phone. I called Norma but she didn't have cell phone reception either. I spoke to the woman at the gas station and said I was trying to get ahold of someone at the B&B. She called the inn. Someone from there came out and spoke to me. Then Norma drove up. I then realized that our reservations were for the inn, not the B&B.

After assessing the situation, I realized that even if I showed up at the right place or called from the landline phone at the gas station upon arrival, it wouldn't have made any difference. Norma had no cell phone reception and she didn't make it to Bonds Landing until just after I left. She found the on-line directions to Bonds Landing most confusing. The roads for the route she took were terrible. I, however, used my Allegany County ADC map and followed Oldtown Orleans Road, Mertens Road, and Kasecamp Road to get to grid coordinate VV13. There were also some helpful signs along the way. This worked just fine. Some rough roads but nothing my Acura Integra couldn't handle.

We ate some pizza from the gas station then went across the street for some cinamon buns (my family used to call them "snails").

The room at the inn was nice though rather expensive for what we got. Not exactly a great setting for a vacation spot either.

Day Two: July 29, 2007

Norma and I started the day with a hearty breakfast at the inn.

There was a considerable amount of rain during the night which made us glad we didn't decide to camp. Hard to compare an air conditioned dry room with hot, humid weather, no shower, and a downpour. Not sure how much it rained but my boats were totally full of water in the morning.

We drove the boats to the Paw Paw, West Virginia launch site on the southeast side of the route 51/9 bridge over the Potomac River. Parking for about 17 vehicles and no restroom. But plenty of trees. We scouted this area on July 1, 2007.

I chained up the boats to a post then we drove to Bonds Landing. Again, there were numerous deer. A few wild turkeys also. I drove across a couple of small streams, but again, nothing my Acura Integra couldn't handle. We left my car at the landing then drove Norma's car back to Paw Paw.

We had a late start, a big breakfast, a good deal of driving, and loading/unloading of boats. Hence, we didn't actually launch until 1200. See first photo at left. Fortunately, the rain raised the water level about a foot (as compared to yesterday) and also gave us a nice downstream current. I'd say it averaged about 2 mph.

As we launched, a family took out their aluminum framed raft. I asked the son how far they went and he said only about 2 miles.

The water was cool...a little cold in the morning but refreshing by midday. It was also brown. Prior to the rain, it was more clear but the heavy rain obviously washed a good deal of debris into the river.

Norma was still relatively new to paddling a single kayak. Most of our adventures had been on a tandem. While the current would mean less physical work for her, she'd have more mental work: avoiding rock/logs and some small rapids.

Our trip took us north on the Potomac with the Green Ridge State Forest in Maryland to our left and West Virginia to our right. Big, tree covered hills surrounded us (see second photo at left). We saw an occassional fisherman or boater but for the most part, we saw very few people.

A two foot long garter snake swam across the river, moving very quickly. Unlike other animals that swim, it seems like many snakes can only swim on the surface.

We passed several abandoned bridges that once serviced the railroad (see third photo at left). One now served as a perch for a large hawk (see fourth photo at left. Many of the bridges didn't show on my map but a few did such as the endpoints of Kebler Tunnel and Graham Tunnel. Not sure if the tunnels still exist.

Norma and I stopped at an island for lunch. Several small (less than one inch long) frogs hopped all around us. See fifth photo at left. Plants with spikey seed pods flourished (see sixth photo at left). Hundreds of water bugs darted over the water (see seventh photo at left). I taught Norma how to skip rocks across the river. After eating sausage and cheese tortillas, we took a 20 minute nap, then resumed kayaking.

It remained humid and hazy all day. Not a good day to take landscape photos. It would have been a little hot if we were hiking but on the water, the temperature was fine.

I saw more damselflies that day than I'd ever seen in my life. See eighth photo at left. They were hovering and flying all over the water. About half seemed to be flying around attached for mating. What was interesting is the way they were attached. One had its tail attached to the other's neck.

At 1615, we were at Bonds Landing. We paddled an easy 12.6 miles. We discussed how easy it would have been to paddle this distance then bike back to Paw Paw on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath. Making use of the Paw Paw tunnel would have made biking back a much shorter trip than the paddling portion. However, we didn't know the current would be so fast or that Norma would be as strong as she was...especially after having just completed a multi-day biking trip with her sisters. Definitely, the next time we plan such a trip where the towpath connects to or near the launch/takeout site, we'll do a bicycle shuttle.

After loading the boats then driving back to Paw Paw, Norma followed me to Little Orleans, Maryland. By now, I'd seen more wild turkeys than I could remember. I got to see one fly up about 15 feet. I saw another with about 8 juveniles.

We checked in at Little Orleans Lodge Bed and Breakfast. The owner, Steve, greeted us. He had two adorable kittens (see ninth photo for one of them) and the property across from his held several goats. Some of the goats got through a hole in the fence to come over and pay us a visit (see tenth photo at left. Steve also had a bird feeder which attracted quite a few guests (see eleventh photo at left).

That night, we ate at Billís Place at 12716 High Germany Road. It was less than a half mile walk from the lodge. We signed a dollar bill to be put on the old tradition at this motorcycle bar.

Just before turning in for the evening, we watched a DVD called On the Canal: Georgetown to Cumberland. This got me thinking of adventures to plan for 2008.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Day Three, July 30, 2007

Steve prepared a fine breakfast consisting of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausages, potatoes, and coffee. We explained our car shuttling plans and asked for suggestions. He advised that since our 12.6 mile paddle the day prior was so easy, instead of taking out at Little Orleans, we should continue further downstream and take out near lock 56 of the towpath in the town of Pearre, Maryland, just downstream (east) of Sideling Hill Creek. He offered to help us with the shuttling too.

Steve, Norma, and I each drove our own vehicles to the Pearre take out. I took a global positioning system (GPS) reading so I'd know when I was near the take out. Then Steve and Norma got in my car and I drove us to Bonds Landing. But along the way, Steve directed me to Point Lookout, a spectacular overlook where we could see the Potomac River and a couple of bridges. One could only imagine how fabulous it would be on a less humid day. See first and second photos at left.

At the landing, we unloaded the boats. Then I gave Steve my car keys and he drove my car to the take out.

Norma and I launched at 1115. The river was about 6 inches lower than yesterday but still higher than the day before that.

The scenery was mostly similar to yesterday: big tree covered hills on both sides and abandoned railroad bridges. Lots of greenery. See third photo at left.

We stopped near one bridge for lunch and another 20 minute nap.

At Little Orleans, we paddled up Fifteenmile Creek. A father and son retrieved their fishing boat and line with about 7 medium-sized fish.

We paddled under two bridges at the creek. The first was most likely for the C&O Canal (see fourth photo at left). On the other side of this bridge was a scenic, shaded rocky area (see fifth photo at left). The water was clear and deep in some areas. Looks like it would make a fantastic swimming hole.

The second bridge at Fifteenmile Creek was a long, dark tunnel (see sixth photo at left). On the other side was a small gravelly beach with steep rocky walls opposite.

Continuing downstream on the Potomac, we saw a bald eagle. Like most bald eagles I've met, it waited until it was just out of camera range, then it flew downstream and landed in a tree overlooking the water. It kept doing this for the rest of our trip. I managed to snap a mediocre, low resolution photo of it before it flew away. See seventh photo at left and the photo at the top left corner of this page.

Several fish jumped. Though we saw few, we heard their splash, and based on that, some were definitely quite large.

We finished paddling 14.6 miles at 1615. Our take out was just after Sideling Hill Creek in Washington County, Maryland. An orange, metal staircase helped us out of the water. I tied up one boat to a root while we lifted our gear and the other boat out of the water and up about 7 feet of stairs. After removing the second boat, we made a few trips, carrying things down a dirt trail (about a tenth of a mile) to the parking lot (with room for about 5 vehicles) near lock 56. See eighth photo at left.

After securing the boats, we were on the road. Norma and I stopped at her sister and brother-in-law's place in Hagerstown where we ate a crab cornbread dinner and "snails" for dessert.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

I've explored most of the waterways within an hour's drive of where I live in Anne Arundel County. I've since expanded my paddling territory. With the help of Norma and her knowledge of western Maryland, I will surely have many new places to explore in years to come.