Day One: Saturday, March 15, 2008
In late 2007, I read an article about Chestertown, Maryland. It sounded like a quaint, small town, rich in history. Though there are many things I like about living near a big city, places like Chestertown have a certain charm and a slower pace that I find appealing. Hence, I planned for Norma and I to visit Chestertown, Rock Hall, and Eastern Neck Island. I planned several activities...more than we could possibly fit in a single weekend.
On March 15, 2008, we drove to Chestertown and located the place we would stay, the April Inn Bed and Breakfast near Washington College. The drive was a fast 70 miles from Hanover. Much to our advantage, there was little traffic since the tourist season hadn't yet started. But was this really an advantage? We would soon find out.
I mapped out a 45.4 mile bike route that would take us from Chestertown to Rock Hall, then to Eastern Neck Island, and back to Chestertown. It was physically possible we could bike this route but with Norma recovering from a cold and me recovering from a knee injury, we decided this would not be wise. With this distance, we wouldn't have much time to explore Rock Hall or the island either. My primary choice was to ride 31.7 miles from Chestertown to Rock Hall, then to Eastern Neck Island and then take the Rock Hall Trolley back to Chestertown. Unfortunately, I could not find out the trolley schedule despite my e-mails and phone calls to the company. I later found out the trolley only runs during tourist season. With our first two options a no-go, we opted for plan C, which was a much shorter route from Rock Hall to the island and back. But unlike the first two plans, we decided to bike every open road on the island, which would give us a few extra miles.
On our way to Rock Hall, we drove the first part of the route I mapped out for biking to verify my directions in case we wanted to do this longer ride on some later date. Then in Rock Hall, we parked at the old volunteer fire department parking lot on Sharp Street, just east of Main Street (route 445).
From here, we rode south on Main Street then Eastern Neck Road (also route 445). The first part of the ride was through a quaint section of town. After that, it was on a tree-lined, well paved, slightly downhill road that took us to Eastern Neck Island.
The weather was sunny and in the mid-50s. Very comfortable.
Along the way, we stopped at Bay Shore Campground. I've known quite a few folks who've stayed there and come back but I'd never been there myself. We checked the place out and spoke to a fellow that worked there. They were closed for the season but promised to re-open on May 1. They have group tent sites which is a great treasure to find. The Maryland state campgrounds don't offer such a luxury except to youth groups.
I've been to Eastern Neck Island three times before but this was the first time I arrived by car. The other times, I paddled there from Kent Island or Queenstown. It is a very long drive from the western shore so paddling there from someplace south doesn't take much longer than it does to drive the extra roundabout way.
After crossing the bridge over Eastern Neck Narrows, we were on the island, home to the Eastern Neck Island National Wildlife Refuge. Our first sight was about 50 tundra swans near Tundra Swan Boardwalk. See first photo at left. Yes, I know there aren't 50 in the photo but they were all spread out and I wanted a close-up. These majestic birds are not to be confused with the invasive mute swans. We later found out that several hundred tundra swans are seen on or near the island regularly.
We biked as far south as we could, stopping at Wickers Historic Site. From here, we biked north along the same road, making sure to explore all the side roads.
The first side road took us to the visitor center and gift shop, where we spoke to a volunteer and bought the Eastern Neck Island Water Trail map. I saw an old map of the island (see photo at the top left corner of this page).
Norma and I explored the short Tidal Marsh Overlook Trail behind the visitor center.
We saw what we think was a red fox running across the road.
Next, we biked to the Butterfly Bayview Trail which borders the western side of the island and the Chesapeake Bay. We didn't see any butterflies but we did see some plants with swollen stems. See second photo at left. After watching some bug videos, we're thinking some insect might have laid its egg in the plant. Norma and I also saw a wind turbine and solar panels near this loop trail. See third photo at left.
Our next stop was the Wildlife Trail, another loop.
Continuing north, we saw 4 deer and a bald eagle. There were also numerous osprey, many nesting on platforms built especially for them. Some appeared to be mating pairs. I keep looking, hoping to see some babies sticking their heads out of theirs nests, trying to get a view of the world...and me to get a view of them.
Bogles Wharf Road took us to the Bogles boat ramp, a place I've landed at twice. We saw a horseshoe crab skeleton. On the way back, we walked the Duck Inn Trail which took us to the east side of the island and the Chester River. See fourth photo at left. Several small fish swam in the shallow water along the side of Bogles Wharf Road. I wanted to see some polliwogs (tadpoles to you east coast people) but there were none. We did, however, see our first turtle of the year.
Still further north, we walked along a boardwalk to an observation tower overlooking Calfpasture Cove.
Our last trail on the island was Boxes Point Trail. Here we caught a microsecond glimpse of a small snake entering the water. I remembered landing at Boxes Point on July 22, 2006 and taking photos of the other kayakers in my group.
Riding off the island, we expected our northward ride to be difficult because it seemed so downhill riding south. Fortunately, this was not the case. The ride north was easy...just not quite as easy. Did I mention the road was very smooth?
There were about 10 turkey vultures resting on one of the side roads just north of the island. See fifth photo at left. I didn't see anything dead. The gathering seemed to be more social than meal-oriented.
After having biked 22.4 miles and walked only about 4 miles, Norma and I drove back to Chestertown along the long bike route I planned. The return trip was much more scenic.
We spoke to Maria at the April Inn who recommended some restaurants. We chose Luisa's Cafe only 1.5 miles away on the north side of town in the Washington Square Shopping Center. Good food at reasonable prices.
It was still early but we were tired so we called it a night.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.