Tuckahoe State Park Camping 2017

Last updated June 17, 2017



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Day One | Day Two | Day Three

After serving as the co-chairperson for Savage Fest 2017, Norma was willing and ready to take on leadership responsibilities less than a week later by organizing a family-friendly camping weekend at Tuckahoe State Park for our friends. The last time we did a trip like this was June 17-19, 2016.

Day One, Friday, June 9, 2017

Norma and I left the house around 1430. I was hoping to get across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge before the mad rush to get to the eastern shore but we were not successful. I guess that was not surprising. For many families, this was the first weekend of summer vacation and the first sunny, warm weekend in quite awhile. Just ten days prior, I was still kayaking while wearing a wetsuit but this weekend, none was needed.

The forecast called for lots of sun, warm weather, and no rain. Almost ideal for me though Norma would have preferred it to be a little cooler.

Rather than take highway 50 south, we took highway 301 east followed by back roads that kept us off route 404. These back roads reminded me why I love the eastern shore. There was one house with a flagpole that proudly displayed our national and state flags. On top of this pole was not a ball or an eagle but rather a chicken. I found it funny, lighthearted, but yet sacreligious at the same time. Overall, I liked it though I don't think I would have the guts to do the same.

Upon arriving, we were greeted by Stacy, Jocelyn, Harald, Danny, Julian, Rekha, Mark, Allison, and Viviana.

A park ranger came by to show us one of their raptors in their scales and tales program. It is a screech owl. See photo at left.

After dark, Joyce and Jimmy, Harlem, and Alisha arrived.

We went to bed just a little later. I often sleep with ear plugs to get uninterrupted sleep but I wanted to hear the nature sounds so tonight I did not. We heard owls and what we think was a pack of coyotes.
Click thumbnail to enlarge.

Day Two, Saturday, June 10, 2017

Norma was up early cooking breakfast. The plan was for our group to be at the lake boat house when it opened at 0800 so we could all rent boats. On such a nice weekend, there was a possibility that a large youth group would rent them all. I headed out first with Stacy and Jocelyn right behind me.

The last time we were there on July 11, 2015, the boat house opened about 15 minutes late. This was also the case today. Fortunately, there was no line. Stacy rented a tandem kayak for her and Jocelyn as the others trickled in.

Allison was not feeling well so Mark and Viviana decided to stay behind to be closer to her.

I got a call from Federico who was on his way with his son, Tao't.

We didn't get on the water until 0930, an hour later than I would have preferred. I would have liked to have given an introduction to paddling and the area before we got on the water but folks got on the water at different times and we were all anxious to get going so that didn't work out.

I took the lead while Norma pulled up the rear. I was prepared with my first aid kit, tow ropes, and loppers.

  • First photo, first column: Norma and Alisha on the beach.
  • Second photo, first column: Rekha, Danny, Julian, and Harald.
  • Third photo, first column: Joyce had a tough job paddling her canoe while keeping watch over Alisha. This really wasn't a good trip for young, restless children.
  • Fourth photo, first column: From the lake, we made our way up Tuckahoe Creek which was lush was vegetation.
  • Fifth photo, first column: Norma and some of our group in the back spotted this northern water snake. Unfortunately, I missed it.
  • Sixth photo, first column: The first part of the trip was easy to navigate.
  • Seventh photo, first column: There was never a time when our whole group was together so this is about as close as we got to a group photo.
  • Eighth photo, first column: Jocelyn with her grandmother, Stacy.
  • First photo, second column: The water looked flat but there was a very gentle downstream current to remind us that we were paddling upstream.
  • Second photo, second column: There were more turtles out than I could count. But there was other wildlife too, such as this red-winged blackbird.
  • Third photo, second column: Federico probably had the toughest job paddling his single kayak with his son, Tao't on his lap. This would have been quite a physical challenge for anyone. Yet I never heard any complaint from either of them.
  • Fourth photo, second column: There were a few obstacles to get through. I helped the others when I could though it wasn't always obvious to me that people needed help until I saw the paddlers behind me having difficulty.
  • Fifth photo, second column: Rekha ducks under a log.
  • Sixth photo, second column: There were some shallow parts in the river.
  • Seventh photo, second column: I found some turtle eggs that were not buried and had gone bad. These had imploded. Unlike chicken eggs, the shells on these are more flexible so they bend rather than crack.

  • We reached out destination which was the campground canoe launch. Norma took folks to the bathroom for a break and then checked up on Allison. After about 25 minutes, we headed back downstream. I took a slightly different route to give the group a little more variety. Both the upstream and downstream routes had some obstacles. I've taken beginner kayakers on this route before without any problems but I don't think I would do this again for beginners with families. Things get more difficult when you have two adults and two young kids in a canoe.

    In the eighth photo, second column, Federico paddles while Tao't sits patiently.

    We were out for around three hours. We paddled about four miles.

    As we pulled ashore, I saw Rey, Ester, Joshua, and Ryan launching. I took them to the mouth of the creek and told them they should go until it splits and gets shady. They ended up being out on the water for about 50 minutes until their kids decided they were done.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Later that afternoon, we went to the park office for an owl pellet dissection.
    Owl pellets are slimy pellets formed by the owl's digestion system and then regurgitated. They're composed of hair, bones, teeth, feathers, scales, and insect parts. Since their stomach acid is relatively weak, these hard parts of the prey are relatively intact. So dissection of the pellet easily reveals what they've been eating.
    - from Pellet.com - Owl Pellet Dissection

    The staff at the park office didn't seem to know this event was on their schedule until a large group of us showed up. But it didn't take them long to get set up. They had lots of foil-wrapped, dry owl pellets for folks to open up and dissect. They provided rubber gloves and tools for dissecting.

    We were introduced to the same screech owl we saw yesterday. See first photo. While I'm sure this owl produces pellets, I believe the ones we dissected were from the larger owls. The raptors maintained by the park are deemed non-releaseable because they would not survive in the wild on their own. So instead, they are kept at the park and used to educate the public and enhance our appreciation of wildlife.
  • Second photo: Vivana and Tao't at work.
  • Third photo: Here's what some folks found inside a pellet.

  • We got to go inside and see some of the reptiles. In the fourth photo, Jocelyn pets a corn snake.

    Federico and Tao't left. We wouldn't see them again over the weekend.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    After dinner, Stacy took us to the lake dam where she taught the kids how to fish. She brought a lot of small fishing poles on loan from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

    If you wanted to try fishing, today was the day to do it because June 10th is designated a free fishing day (no license required) in Maryland.

    This was a great place to fish. The only problem was that sometimes turtles would go after the bait.

    There were plenty of blue gills to catch and after about 90 minutes, every kid fishing caught at least one fish. Since we were doing catch-and-release, it is possible that the same fish was caught multiple times.
  • First photo, first column: Fishing at the dam.
  • Second photo, first column: Danny with his catch.
  • Third photo, first column: Harlem catches a big fish with Norma's help.
  • Fourth photo, first column: Harlem proudly displays what she caught.
  • Fifth photo, first column: Me helping Viviana bait a hook. I am a novice when it comes to putting a worm on a hook but with more practice, maybe I will be a master baiter. Ha, ha.
  • First photo, second column: Stacy and Jocelyn.
  • Second photo, second column: Rey helped steady Joshua's fish.
  • Third photo, second column: Jocelyn with a small blue gill.
  • Fourth photo, second column: Vivana with fish.
  • Fifth photo, second column: After fishing, we saw a large turtle by the lake that was laying eggs. Here, it is covering them up.

  • Around the evening campfire, the kids sat around and played their video games.

    That night, we heard more owls.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Day Three, Sunday, June 11, 2017

    On our last day, we met back at the park office and got a private tour of their aviary.
  • First photo, first column: Screech owl.
  • Second photo, first column: Barn owls.
  • First photo, second column: Barred owls.
  • Second photo, second column: A red-shouldered or red-tailed hawk. I can't tell the difference unless they are side by side.
  • Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    After packing up, Norma led us on a walk on the Lore of the Land Nature Trail. Here, we saw some prickly pear cactus in bloom. See photo at left.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.

    On the way home, Harald, Rekha, Danny, Julian, Norma, and I stopped at Red, Hot, and Blue in Annapolis for a late lunch. Not surprisingly, traffic was slow but at least it kept moving.

    Thinking about this trip, I realize how difficult it is to find an activity (e.g. kayaking/canoeing) that is suitable for all ages. Oftentimes, I don't think it can be done. Children of different ages have different abilities and level of interest/attention span. What I think is a suitable route might not be good for families with small children. I think activities such as this might best be left to park staff who have experience dealing with children. They tend to know the cutoff in terms of ages for what is and isn't suitable. If that means splitting up families because some siblings are too young, then so be it. They know what works.