Trap Pond at dawn


Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River
September 2008

Last updated September 25, 2008



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Day One | Day Two

It used to be (and maybe still is) that every year, Jack LaLanne would do some kind of physically challenging feat. Perhaps this explains why he will be "forever young." One cannot rest on one's laurels (ass) and continue to be strong. When the body stops being pushed, it grows weak.

I didn't plan on the September 20-21, 2008 weekend to be my "challenge weekend." It just turned out that way. I wanted to do some long distance paddling on the eastern shore of Maryland. I sent out invites to some of the faster paddlers I knew. As usual, nobody wanted to join me. Hence, I set out to paddle alone. But unless I wanted to do an out and back trip (and I did not), I would need to do a bicycle shuttle since there was no second vehicle to park at the takeout. This meant long distance kayaking with moderate distance bicycling. Sounds like a challenge weekend to me.

Day One: Saturday, September 20, 2008

When I plan a group outing for an outdoor club, I have things organized to the extreme. My obsessive tendencies really show. When it is a group event not associated with a club, I don't spend as much time planning. When it is just Norma and me, I leave some things until the last minute. But when it is just me, I may not know what I'm doing until the night before or even the day of the activity.

Armed with my S1-A and carbon fiber wing paddle, I set off to the eastern shore a little after 0700. I drove to Cherry Beach Park in Sharptown where I locked my bicycle to a tree. There were some serious bicyclists there probably wondering why I had a slow hybrid bicycle with saddlebags and a fast kayak.

I then drove to Marshyhope Creek Greenway in Federalsburg as I scouted the route I would bike to get back to my car. I then launched on Marshyhope Creek a little before high tide. Marshyhope is a very scenic creek that I've read about but never paddled before. If you don't believe it is scenic, then see the first, second, and third photos at left. This route is a good trip for a fast boat because it is 18 miles between Marshyhope Creek Greenway and the closest takeout downstream, Cherry Beach Park.

The forecast was calling for
     Partly sunny, with a high near 73. North wind between 7 and 11 mph.
When the sun was out and the wind was low, it was fantastic! But when the sun hid behind clouds and the wind picked up, it was a little cold for me.

After the first half hour, I got into a good rhythm and caught the downstream tide. I was often paddling at 7 mph without too much effort.

I saw 3 bald eagles, 2 of which remained perched up in trees only 30 meters away from me as I paddled by. It is unusual to see them stick around with people so close. I also saw about 10 turtles (see fourth photo) and 2 river otters. This was a real treat since I've never seen otters in the wild before. They appeared to be playing. I knew they were too big to be muskrats and not stocky enough to be beavers. Plus I've never seen beavers is always work, work, work for them. The otters looked at me for awhile then dove under.

Once I reached the mouth of Marshyhope Creek, I began paddling upstream on the Nanticoke River. This required some effort as I was now fighting the current. I explored a small tributary off to the north side before the Sharptown Road (route 313) bridge called Mill Creek. It was quite scenic and I wished I had explored other creeks such as the Molly Horn Branch. Maybe next time. With such big distances to cover and limited daylight, I had little time for extensive exploration.

I finished paddling 20 miles in 3 hours and 40 minutes.

I unlocked my bicycle at Cherry Beach Park, locked up my boat, and rode back to my car. The 18 mile route I took is described at Cherry Beach Park, Sharptown to Marshyhope Creek Greenway, Federalsburg. I rode a little extra and got in 19 miles.

Unlike some of my other boats, my surf skis have little storage. Hence, I carry most of my belongings back to the launch site on my bicycle. It looks a little awkward riding a bicycle with a paddle on my back but it really isn't that bad (fifth photo).

Along the way, I saw a strange looking caterpillar. It was about 4 inches long. The unusual thing about it was the red spike that stuck out of its back end. See the sixth photo at left. A co-worker later told me that he thinks it is a hornworm.

I also saw a few fields. Some were growing things I did not recognize. See the seventh and eighth photos at left.

I was now running out of daylight. I picked up my boat then drove to Trap Pond State Park in Delaware. I quickly set up my tent while I still had some daylight. I then ate a meal-ready-to-eat (MRE) military ration, and washed up.

I walked around the campsite area. There was an old time county music band playing. I forget their name but the word "Lacey" was part of their name. It was a 6 or 7 person band and I think their average age was about 65.

No time to sit around a campfire. I was there for a challenge weekend. By 2100, I was in bed.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

Day Two: Sunday, September 21, 2008

I was up before dawn at 0600. It didn't take long for me to pack up and leave my campsite.

I explored a bit of the park but without a good map, I didn't know what to expect. I came to the trailhead of the Cypress Point Nature Trail. I believe this is where the youth group campsite resides. Parking in this area did not open until 0800 so I didn't stick around.

I drove to the Trap Pond Boat Launch and walked around. The sun was starting to come up and there was quite a bit of fog on the water. It was an interesting feel because things in the distance were still silhouettes and things further away or on the water had a grayish glow. See first and second photos at left and the photo at the top left corner of this page.

I found the James Branch Nature Preserve Canoe Trail nearby. I will definitely be back for that as I've found canoe trails to almost always be quite scenic.

I drove to the takeout at Tyaskin Park. To get there, I passed through Salisbury, which was a mistake. I found the area a bit confusing and made a few wrong turns. I navigate much better on water than on land.

At Tyaskin, I read about the oyster garden project:
At this site, several hundred young oysters are suspended in a man made habitat. Local students are learning about the life cycle of oysters and how they are affected by water quality. These shell fish are counted and measured throughout the year so growth rate and disease loss can be charted. This is a joint effort by Friends of the Nanticoke and Chesapeake Bay Foundation, with funding provided by the Chesapeake Bay Trust.
- from sign at Tyaskin

I locked up my bike then drove to Vienna. There, I spoke to a couple of fishermen who were coming in. They said Rewastico Creek is quite scenic. I asked about Quantico Creek and they said that is scenic too. But since they mentioned Rewastico first, I figured I would explore that. I also like the way "Rewastico" reminds me of Elmer Fudd..."That we-wastico wabbit!"

Like the Marshyhope, I chose this route because it is well suited for a fast boat. Between Vienna and Tyaskin, there are no launch sites that I know of. It is 4 miles to Quantico Creek and 6 miles to Rewastico Creek, paddling upstream from Tyaskin. Of course then one must paddle several miles more to explore these creeks. Not a short trip.

I caught the downstream tide from Vienna. My pace was pretty good but not as fast as yesterday.

The weather was ideal. The forecast was
     Mostly sunny, with a high near 79. North wind between 3 and 6 mph.
Less wind than yesterday and warmer. I was one happy camper...literally.

The Nanticoke is a big river and hence, not very interesting to me. But there are plenty of interesting tributaries that connect to it such as Rewastico Creek. From Vienna, it is 9 miles to the mouth of the Rewastico. Then it is another two miles before the creek starts to get interesting. Prior to that, it is mostly just grass without any trees.

Eventually, the Rewastico gets narrower and more scenic. See third photo at left. Though there are lots of trees, it is also developed. I would definitely say Marshyhope is more scenic.

I got about 5 miles up the creek before it started getting shallow. Had it not been dredged prior to that, I don't think I would have gotten far.

I paddled up Little Creek, about 4 miles up the Rewastico on the north side. This was a very scenic little tributary. I saw more turtles than I can remember in this small section of waterway. Even on the Rewastico, I saw numerous turtles. I was a little concerned because this year I hadn't seen as many as in previous years but I think today made up for much of it.

I also saw a frog who wasn't so camera shy (fourth photo) along with two bald eagles.

I made it 5 miles up the Rewastico, about one mile from where it meets Athol Road at Rewastico Mill Pond.

Paddling back downstream, I got stuck on a mudflat. One thing I learned is that I cannot free both myself and my boat at the same time. I have to get off my boat but put my weight on it to keep from sinking. On this mudflat, I sank down to my waist, even with much of my body on the boat. I then shift my body a few inches towards deep water. Then I shift my boat. I shift my body again. Then my boat. I repeat this slow and frustrating process until I an free from the mudflat.

I was looking for a new place to launch on the Rewastico. I might have found it at Camphels Wharf. If so, this was a spectacular find.

By the time I was back at the mouth of the Rewastico, I was getting tired. I paddled 20 miles and still had a ways to go. The worst thing is that now the Nanticoke was really big and not-so-scenic though some areas closer to the shore were nice. See fifth photo at left.

I paddled south and up Quantico Creek for 0.8 miles. Then I cut through Dorman Ditch to get back on the Nanticoke. This saved me about a half mile of paddling and will certainly make for an easier trip if and when I return to launch from Tyaskin to explore Quantico Creek.

A little further and I was at Tyaskin. I unlocked my bicycle, locked up my boat, and rode back to my car. Unfortunately, the Wetipquin Road Bridge was out so I had to take a longer route. The 25 mile path I took is described at Tyaskin Park, Tyaskin to Vienna. I passed a pumpkin patch (see sixth photo) reminding me that autumn is just around the corner.

Much of the bike ride was scenic. I saw a 5 inch long mantis (seventh photo). As I passed over Bridge Street in Mardela Springs, I was reminded of the fantastic time I had with Norma paddling on Barren Creek on May 9, 2008.

I was really fighting the clock as the sun sank lower in the sky. I was hoping to get some nice photos of all the yellow flowers blooming under the Nanticoke Memorial Bridge but there wasn't enough light to get clear shots. Still, I managed to get just a few nice photos from this bridge. See eighth and ninth photos at left.

One valuable lesson I learned is that when biking around dusk, I need to bring clear glasses. I didn't have any glasses and the bugs kept getting in my eyes.

Back in Vienna, I loaded up my bike, filled the car up with gas, and bought lots of food and drink at the nearest convenience store.

I should have planned a better route that would have resulted in less driving because now I had to drive back to Tyaskin which was in the exact opposite way as home. It was a long day. Twenty five miles of paddling and 25 miles of bicycling.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

I set out to complete a challenge weekend. After paddling 45 miles and biking 44 miles, I would say I achieved my goal. I also saw wildlife I hadn't seen before and explored new areas, both for paddling and launching.

Now I need to come up with plans for my next challenge weekend. But maybe not until next year.