Cousin Steve's Visit to Maryland 2018

Last updated June 20, 2018



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three | Day Four

Steve is my favorite cousin and the closest things I have to a brother. So I was quite happy when he told me he was coming out to spend time with me in Maryland. I put together various activities that I thought he might enjoy and that would also give him a chance to appreciate the beauty of the mid-Atlantic region.

Norma would not be with us. She was taking care of her mother. But Daphne would join us.

Steve flew in from Sacramento on Saturday, June 9, 2018 and stayed at my house. I was camping with Norma's family at New Germany State Park and wouldn't return with Daphne until the next day.

Day One, Sunday, June 10, 2018
I drove home through some heavy rain. The forecast was for a rainly weekend but it didn't rain at all on Friday or Saturday while we were camping. It only started on Sunday after we packed up the tent. So we were fortunate.

Steve and I greeted each other. It was a long drive and I suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood. We walked north in Savage and then caught the Patuxent Branch Trail where I let Daphne run off leash. She's really good about that. When someone approaches, I call her, she stops, and I put her leash on.

Daphne is a pretty friendly dog but every once in awhile, she meets people that she doesn't like for any particular reason. Unfortunately, Steve was one such person. She growled at him and didn't want to get close.

I showed Steve the Little Patuxent River. Then it started to sprinkle. The clouds were dark and I told Steve we should start heading home. Then it started to pour. It was the same storm that I encountered on the drive home. It didn't take long before there wasn't a dry spot on our bodies. I don't know if Steve has ever encountered such rain. Sacramento rain tends to only occur between late fall and early spring. It may rain for a long time but usually not hard. Sacramento rain is also cold. This was more like the kind of rain I encountered when I was stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

We got cleaned up and dried off at home then ate dinner before calling it a night.

Day Two, Monday, June 11, 2018

I really didn't spend that much time putting together an itinerary for Steve. I know he is a strong kayaker and he can hike. So that gave me a lot to work with. I decided to wait until the last minute and plan things around the weather.
Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Patchy fog before 11am. Otherwise, cloudy, with a high near 68. Northeast wind 7 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New precipitation amounts between a tenth and quarter of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

For our furst full day, I decided to take Steve and Daphne to Maryland Heights. We drove to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

We walked on Virginius Island before stopping briefly in town. Then we crossed the Goodloe Byron Memorial Footbridge over the Potomac River into Maryland. The three of us walked on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath along the C&O Canal near lock 33. After crossing a small footbridge over the canal, we were at the trailhead.

Steve, Daphne, and I walked up the green blazed trail. I warned Steve that it would be an almost constant uphill and he should pace himself. It wasn't hot but it was humid...something he's not used to.

At this point, Daphne was off leash. It was Monday and there were very few people out. She had the time of her life. She chased squirels and sprinted over logs. Her energy seemed infinite but I guess that's typical for a seven month old puppy.

Steve commented how things looked soooooo green. Nothing like Sacramento which tends to be brown and dry.

Eventually, Steve and I took the red blazed Overlook Cliff Trail downhill to the overlook. Here, we rested, rehydrated, and ate snacks. Of course I brought food and water for Daphne too. See photo. Behind us is Harpers Ferry with the Potomac River on the right and the Shenandoah River on the left. On the far left is Virginia and we're standing in Maryland.

Not surprisingly, the trip back to Harpers Ferry went very quickly.

We ate at dog friendly Potomac Grille.

Norma had never been away from Daphne for more than a full day so she was really missing her. We texted her some photos of Daphne.

Our return trip included the entire Appalachian Trail in West Virginia! Not an impressive distance. Probably only a mile. We stopped at the historic Saint Peter's Roman Catholic Church and Jefferson Rock.

Soon, we were back at the car and heading home. Daphne seemed to fall asleep instantly. Steve and I walked about five miles but I reckon Daphne covered about six or seven, and much of that was running.

By the end of the day, Daphne had warmed up quite a bit to Steve.
Click thumbnail to enlarge.

Day Three, Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Would Daphne still feel "warmed up" to Steve in the morning? No. She growled at him again. She must know he's a cat person.

Today's forecast:
A slight chance of showers after 2pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 75. Southeast wind 5 to 7 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Steve and I were up just before dawn. We drove out to Canton Waterfront Park in Baltimore for some paddling.

I showed Steve everything to see from the Northwest Harbor and Inner Harbor in Baltimore.

Steve checked out the solar trash collector which wasn't in motion. Seems like whenever I see it, it is stationary.

Paddling in Baltimore isn't easy for a dog. There is no place to land. I found a small dock in Fells Point where I landed and then climbed ashore with Daphne and took her to a grassy spot. I doubt my landing was legal. I try to be quick about it.

We passed by the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse (first photo) which was completed in 1855.

At the northeast end of the Inner Harbor, we stopped by the USS Constellation (second photo), a museum ship originally built in 1854. There were a few other historic museum ships which Steve got to see up close and personal.

On the south side of the Northwest Harbor, Daphne and I pulled up in front of the USNS Denebola T-AKR-289, a high speed container ship launched in 1973. It dwarfed us. See third photo.

The last thing to show Steve was Fort McHenry. I was going to tell him about it being the War of 1812 inspiration for the Star-Spangled Banner but he already knew that.

We paddled about eight miles.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.

For many people, an eight mile kayak trip would be enough. But Steve is a strong kayaker and our time was limited so I wasn't about to let him rest just yet.

We launched from Jaws Marine which put on Curtis Creek. Here, it was just a stone's throw from some old shipwrecks. You can read about the history of these old boats in my July 4, 2012 blog.

We spent about an hour paddling around the shipwrecks.
  • First photo: Steve inspects a concrete ship.
  • Second photo: Steve paddles my Prijon Catalina past an old shipwreck lined with metal at the bow.
  • Third photo: On the right is a rudder.
  • Fourth photo: Daphne and I in front of what was once a large wooden ship.

  • Steve and I paddled up Curtis Creek and saw a few smaller wrecks along with some shipwrecks that have since been torn down and now looked like a pile of junk. We pulled over for a Daphne break near the swinging train bridge before heading back. Today was by far the most paddling Daphne has ever experienced. I wouldn't have minded taking Steve out further but I didn't want Daphne to hate paddleboarding. So I figured she had enough.

    Like yesterday, we were fortunate with the weather. It didn't rain. In fact, it was quite sunny and comfortable.

    We paddled about four miles for a day's total of twelve.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    At home, I took care of Norma's garden and tended to various chores. We got cleaned up and then headed out to Baltimore again...this time in rush hour traffic.

    Steve, Daphne, and I met up with Carmen for dinner at Barcocina. See first photo. Steve and Carmen last saw each other on our 2017 Apostle Islands adventure.

    After dinner, we walked around Fells Point a little. See second photo. Steve was seeing some of the same places he saw earlier that day...but this time he was seeing it from land.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Day Four, Wednesday, June 13, 2018

    Up until now, we had some flexibility in our schedule so I often planned things around the weather. But today was different because horseshoe crabs wait for no one.

    Timing is key for viewing horseshoe crab spawning. Horseshoe crabs spawn on the high tides, try to arrive within an hour of high tide. They will spawn night and day, EVERYDAY in May and June, and even a little later into summer. But, the very best time to see horseshoe crabs spawning is on the high tides of the full and new moons, when the tides are at their highest.
    - from Celebrate Delaware Bay - When and Where to See Horseshoe Crabs and Shorebirds

    Spawning takes place in spring and summer (peaking in May-June), usually during evening high tides when the moon is full or new. Large numbers of adults crawl up onto sandy, protected beaches to mate and lay eggs. Females lay clusters of about 4000 greenish eggs in the sand around the high-tide mark.
    - from Chespeake Bay Program - Horseshoe Crab, Limulus polyphemus

    Today was a new moon day and high tide at Bowers, Delaware would be at 0931. So we left Savage at 0620. We arrived at Kitts Hummock, Delaware around 0900.

    I expected to see many horseshoe crabs. The last time I was here was May 25, 2009 with my parents. We saw several hundred back then.

    One might think there would be a lot of people out to see this special event but no, it was just us and one woman with a beach house there. She was flipping horseshoe crabs that were on their back. We did the same.

    Steve, Daphne, and I walked south to the Ted Harvey Wildlife Area Logan Tract. At first, we saw small groups of horseshoe crabs. As high tide approached, the groups got bigger. But once we got to the Logan Tract, the numbers got huge. We definitely saw several hundred, though I don't think we saw as many as back in 2009. Next time, I might want to walk further south in the Logan Tract. It is a pretty big area and I'm willing to bet a sandy beach with a more gradual slope at the waterline would be more attractive to spawning horseshoe crabs.

    This was Steve's first time seeing horseshoe crabs. He found them quite fascinating.
    Horseshoe crabs have been around for more than 300 million years, making them even older than dinosaurs. They look like prehistoric crabs, but are actually more closely related to scorpions and spiders. The horseshoe crab has a hard exoskeleton and 10 legs, which it uses for walking along the seafloor.
    - from National Wildlife Federation - Horsesoe Crab

  • First photo: Small, greenish eggs littered the shoreline just above the high tide mark.
  • Second photo: Happy dog on a beach run, ears flopping in the breeze. She kept herself entertained by grabbing things, throwing them into the air, and then retrieving them.
  • Third photo: Daphne and I with the horseshoe crabs.
  • Fourth photo: Like in 2009, I was hoping to find some with tracking tags. Back then, I found two. Today I found none.
  • Fifth photo: Steve with Daphne. Later in the day, she tends to warm up to him.
  • Sixth photo: Steve with the horseshoe crabs.
  • Seventh photo: When you see several around a large horseshoe crabs, the one they are surrounding is a female and the ones around her are male.
  • Eighth photo: We hit the jackpot!
  • Ninth photo: Daphne thinking, "WTF?!" She was a little intimidated by them. She sniffed a few but otherwise left them alone.
  • Tenth photo: Steve flips one that got turned over.

  • Steve and I saw the horseshoe crabs on the new moon but I've read that the full moon is better. Here are some other tips for viewing these magnificent creatures:
    Spring mating season occurs around the full moons of May and June in high tides along the beaches.
    Cape May, New Jersey, at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, attracts the greatest numbers of crabs and birds...
    The best habitat for spawning is a beach with loose sand that allows oxygen between the grains for the eggs and baby horseshoes to absorb as they develop. Ideal beaches are crescent-shaped to damp out wave action.

    - from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation "Save the Bay" magazine, Spring 2018

    Want to know more about these most interesting animals? I suggest reading Horseshoe Crab: Biography of a Survivor. There's also a plethora of information on-line.

    I found the egg case of knobbed whelk which I showed Steve.

    We were still quite fortunate with the weather. Again, it did not rain.
    A chance of showers, with thunderstorms also possible after 8am. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Steve and I drove out to Hillsboro, Maryland for more kayaking. Yesterday's trips were urban, industrial, and historic. Today's trip would be natural.

    We were paddling upstream on the upper part of Tuckahoe Creek. See first photo.

    We saw a few dozen eastern painted turtles (second photo). We also saw a barred owl in flight.

    At one of the old train bridges, someone did some graffiti to ask a girl out to the prom. I wonder if she said yes. See third photo.

    Steve by another old train bridge (fourth photo). Around here, he capsized when he lost his balance pointing to a wild rose. It happens to the best of us. But if he had to flip, this was a great place to do it. Nobody around and the water is pretty clean.

    This is the first time Daphne was relaxed enough on the SUP to lie down. Or maybe she was just worn out. I don't think she's ever had such a busy three days. See fifth photo.

    We paddled downstream past Hillsboro for a bit and then returned.

    I was really hoping to show Steve a bald eagle and a beaver lodge. Unfortunately, we saw neither. It is more common than not that I see at least one bald eagle when I'm on the eastern shore.

    After we landed, Steve tried out my SUP (sixth photo) which he found tippy. He thought it was quite fast.

    Steve said this was his favorite day during his visit with me.

    Driving home, I thought about how fortunate we were to have avoided heavy traffic except when we went to see Carmen.

    I tended to chores at home and then we ate dinner at home. I would be off to work early the next day so we said our final farewells that night.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    Steve flew out on Thursday, June 14 while I returned to work.

    It was a fun but exhausting week for me. Still, I look forward to Steve's next visit.

    I told him to think about how he wants to spend his next decade birthday. I'm not much into celebrating birthdays every year but I feel that every ten years, one should do something special, just as I did for our Apostle Islands trip.