Day One | Day Two | Day Three
June is probably my favorite month. It is warm enough to paddle without a wetsuit, the average temperatures haven't reached their peak, and I have plenty of months of good paddling to look forward to. Of course the hiking can be good too but I consider myself a kayaker first and hiker second.
When I saw that Ralph H. was going to lead a Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) trip on Nassawango Creek, I signed up right away. I paddled this tributary of the Pocomoke River on May 20, 2006. I knew it was lovely but my memories of it were starting to get fuzzy. So I decided it was time to paddle it again.
What we would do with our other weekend day wasn't clear early on. The Pocomoke River has many scenic options. Would we paddle from Porter's Crossing down to Snow Hill? If so, I would opt out and do my own thing since I paddled it recently on May 27, 2009. But that's fine. I'm used to paddling alone. In that case, I would do a bicycle shuttle to get in a nice, long, one way trip. Otherwise, I would join the group.
My first memories of the Pocomoke River go back to April 29 to May 1, 2005. It was a plan B option that ended up being one of my favorite kayak trips. It was like going to a rock concert and finding that the no-name opening act is even better than the main act. Ever since then, the Pocomoke River area has had a special place in my heart and mind.
Day One: Friday, June 19, 2009
On June 19, 2009, Suzanne F. and I carpooled to the Milburn Landing Area of Pocomoke River State Park to join Ralph H., Al L., Dave I., Jennifer B., Rich S., Sue B., Kimberly R., Jeff U., Dave G., Marla A., Jill D., Anna M., and Paul F. for a weekend of kayak car camping. Traffic was fairly light and using Suzanne's speaking global positioning system (GPS) saved us even more time on the drive.
It had been about three years since I participated in a CPA trip. It was nice seeing Ralph, Jennifer, Suzanne, Rich, and Sue, veteran members of the club. It was also nice seeing new faces.
I found a Patent-leather Beetle (Odontotaenius disjunctus).
Ralph was told by the park rangers to take down his hammock. Apparently, nobody is supposed to hang things from trees though it seems lightweight items like clotheslines and tarps are o.k. He was forced to sleep in a tent. During all the times I've camped with Ralph, I don't think I've ever seen him sleep in a tent.
We all sat around a covered area that had hanging lights in the shape of sea kayaks and dragonflies. I said that the dragonflies were to scare away the mosquitos since they are natural predators of the flying blood suckers. I put on my permethrin sprayed clothes which worked fairly well. Ralph also put out mosquito coils. It is a shame that so many of the best places to paddle are also loved by biting insects.
Day Two, Saturday, June 20, 2009
We joke around by saying after a trip, "Nobody died." But this trip was extra special because not only did nobody die, but marriage was proposed. Long time paddler Rich proposed to Sue on bent knee (he was on bent knee, not her). She graciously accepted.
After posing for a group photo (see first photo at left), fifteen of us set sail at 0930, launching from the Milburn Landing Area Campground, across from mini-cabin 32.
We kayaked upstream on the Pocomoke River. Ralph planned it so the tide would push us. I estimated the flood tide was giving me about 0.4 mph more speed than normal in my S1-A.
The National Weather Service predicted a high near 88, west wind between 7 and 11 mph, and a chance of precipitation of 40%. Most of the day was hazy and overcast. I think I kept the sun from coming out by putting on a generous and thorough coating of sunscreen.
After 3 miles, we passed Corkers Creek on our right. After 3.6 miles, we were at Shad Landing. Then after 5.5 miles, we were at the mouth of the Nassawango.
Paddling up the Nassawango, we ducked under Nassawango Road at mile 6.6. See Suzanne in her Wilderness Systems Tempest 165, Dave G. in his Shenai, and Kimberly (not sure what kind of boat) in the second, third, and fourth photos, respectively. Just after the bridge, we waited for each other. One person worked on their bracing/rolling skills (fifth photo).
The creek narrowed significantly after a few miles. See sixth photo.
Numerous pretty flowers lined the water.
Seventh photo: Wild rose.
Eighth photo: Swamp azalea.
Ninth photo: Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata).
We passed about 4 kayakers in recreational boats.
Near the northernmost paddleable section, we stopped at Red House Road for lunch at mile 8.8. See tenth photo. The section of land north of this road along the creek is owned by the Nassawango Creek Nature Conservancy.
It began to rain shortly after we began paddling back downstream. After a few minutes, we started hearing thunder. Rich and Sue ducked under the bridge over Nassawango Road while Dr. Paul and I came ashore nearby. The rest of the group pulled ashore at a private residence where they encountered some heavily tattooed men with small children. The men didn't seem too fond of the police.
I made the mistake of taking my camera out in the rain to take photos of the downpour. See Paul in the eleventh photo about to come ashore. Then I put it back in its dry bag. Moisture got inside and made for some fuzzy photos shortly after. I look forward to the day that waterproof cameras with 10x optical zoom are the norm.
I saw a deer swim across a narrow part of the creek.
I got some nice photos of Rich and Sue, the happy couple. We wish you many years together of happy paddling. See twelfth and thirteenth photos.
Fields of spatterdock often covered one side of the Nassawango, making it feel narrower than it actually was (fourteenth photo).
The rest of the group caught up and posed for me. See fifteenth photo and sixteenth photos. Unfortunately, the moisture in my camera was now an issue and my Olympus C-755 Ultra Zoom was not happy. I think my lense was dirty too.
Jennifer, Suzanne, and I swapped paddles. I could not keep myself steady with the Greenland paddle. I have definitely become addicted to the wing.
At the mouth, we heard loud music coming from Shad Landing. A few went to investigate. It was some sort of Christian revival event.
We heard (but didn't see) a barred owl. I saw a bald eagle. But what I really wanted to see was snakes in the trees. That is what I remember about Ralph's last trip on the Nassawango. Unfortunately, I didn't see them because back then I was looking at the water, not the trees.
We arrived back at the campsite after paddling 17.6 miles! I paddled a tiny bit further than the rest of the group.
After getting washed up, we prepared our potluck meals. Ralph likes to organize potlucks and he does so very well. I brought charcoal to heat up my smoked sausages. Ralph told me he doesn't believe in charcoal. After waiting a half hour for mildly warm sausages, I must admit that I now agree. After giving up, Suzanne let me use her propane camping stove which worked just peachy.
Jennifer and Suzanne picked up some champagne so we could toast Sue and Rich's engagement. They found that buying champagne in Pocomoke City was a challenging task.
Ralph announced the plan for tomorrow: to launch from the campground and paddle to Dividing Creek. Having never paddled this creek, I was definitely wanting to join the group. Hence I wouldn't be going off on my own and doing a bicycle shuttle.
That night, we stayed up until about 2230, chatting about various interesting things, none of which I remember. I guess I was tired.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Day Three, Sunday, June 21, 2009
After eating breakfast and breaking camp, we launched from the campground and paddled downstream. Our group was now short two paddlers who left last night: Dave G. and Paul.
On the right, just a little ways downstream of the boat ramp, we saw a yard full of metallic sculptures. See first photo at left for one of them.
In 3.5 miles, we passed Pilchard Creek on the left. I've never paddled it but don't expect one can get more than 0.6 miles on it.
I saw another bald eagle.
At mile 3.9, we came to the mouth of Dividing Creek. This creek was clearly much smaller than the Nassawango.
Paddling up this creek was lots of fun. It was deep, narrow, and totally tree-lined.
Sue spotted a barred owl. See second photo. I worked with great horned owls and a barn owl but never a barred owl. I've only seen one in the wild once before, on the Western Branch of the Patuxent River. Back then, I didn't have a camera and even if I did, it probably wouldn't have posed for me. But this one did. Sometimes it looked away and I had to yell and whistle to get it to look at the camera.
I saw two turtles that were not the least bit shy. At least one was a painted turtle (third photo). Despite the fact that we paddled just a few feet away, they refused to move and held their positions when we returned downstream.
We turned around at Dividing Creek Road (route 364), mile 5.6. There was no place to take out but I managed to climb up on the bridge to take photos (fourth photo). Sit-on-tops are great for stuff like that. It is also good for retrieving an osprey tail feather on the shore, which I did for Sue. See the feather in her hat in the fifth photo. Did she call it "macaroni"?
Heading downstream, I saw three snakes! I saw the first swimming in the water. Then it came ashore. Then it climbed a tree. It was about 3.5 feet long! See sixth photo. Perhaps a black snake? The second one was smaller and also in a tree. See seventh photo. The third was on a log sunning itself (eighth photo). I believe the second and third snakes were northern water snakes but I'm no herpetologist. Seeing all these snakes easily made up for me not seeing any on the Nassawango.
I saw several pretty wild magnolias (ninth photo). Their sweet scent was a pleasure to approach.
We didn't get rained on but once we got back on the Pocomoke, we saw plenty of dark clouds coming in. See tenth photo.
I found an uprooted spatterdock plant. I never saw the part of the plant below the surface. It looked very strange...almost medievally weaponish. See eleventh photo.
Near the metallic sculptures, I saw another snake. This one was out for an afternoon swim.
We finished after paddling 11.2 miles.
Suzanne tried my S1-A. She is the first person to try my boat besides me. She didn't fall out.
The trip home was a bit slow at times but it wasn't all that bad.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Paddling the Nassawango again was fun. Kayaking on Dividing Creek was even better. I'm sure I'll return in October when I camp at Tall Pines Campground. Then I'll bring a boat better suited for tiny creeks along with a saw and loppers. There is definitely much more to explore there.
While the paddling was excellent, it was also nice to see familiar faces and paddle with the club. I forgot how much I miss that.