Ospreys on platform on the Patuxent River

Saki

Kayaking Adventures 2008


Last updated October 7, 2008


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Susquehanna River
For a trip report of a short October 5, 2008 trip on the Susquehanna River and Muddy Creek, see Susquehanna River area hiking and paddling.


Choptank River
With my work schedule, I can get my hours in for the month and if there is time left, I can go do what I want. I worked extra hard early in the month because I thought I was going to go on a group paddling weekend from September 19 to 21 but instead, I did my Challenge Weekend which didn't include Friday. Hence, I had an extra day at the end of September. So what did I do? That's right...kayaking.

On September 30, 2008, I loaded up my car (see first photo), drove out to New Bridge Landing (second photo), and locked up my boat. Then I drove to Windyhill.

From Windyhill, I biked 19 miles to my boat. See Windyhill to New Bridge Landing for the route. Along the way, I passed various farms and other serene views. Not much busy road biking. I biked over Kings Creek. See third photo at left. This reminded me of when Norma and I explored this area back on July 2, 2006. What a fantastic trip!

At New Bridge Landing, I unlocked my boat, locked up my bike, then commenced paddling down Tuckahoe Creek. I don't think I've paddled this creek since July 4, 2006. But this was my first time paddling the downstream section.

Once I reached the mouth, I turned right to paddle down the mighty Choptank River. I had the tide on my side but the wind against me. It was a light wind so I was still keeping a good pace.

The actual distance from lauch to takeout is only a little more than 12 miles so I figured I would get in some extra distance by exploring. My first stop was Turkey Creek and High Banks. I saw 3 river otters. They are curious creatures. While other animals will just run or swim away when they see me, otters will look at me for a few seconds before diving under. I paddled up the east branch of the creek and much of the west branch before I got tired of portaging. My S1-A really isn't well suited for exploring narrow creeks. It has an under-stern rudder which makes me nervous paddling over slightly submerged logs and rocks for fear of it catching. It is also too long, at 18 feet. But at least it is lightweight for when I need to lift it to turn around...which I ended up having to do twice that day. Turkey Creek is small and extremely scenic! See fourth photo at left.

I paddled downstream on the Choptank again. I found that it was often too shallow to paddle near the shore. I think years of dredging have made for a deep center and very mucky edges. This is not particularly enjoyable because on such a large river, the only interesting parts are along the shore and I can't get too close to it.

The next creek was the one just upstream of Hog Creek called Bell Creek. I paddled up this for a good ways, hoping to see more otter. I passed some type of livestock farm that made for an unpleasant smell. I believe the creek was dredged but only one side. As to which side, that was just a matter of trial and error. If my paddle touched bottom, I simply moved to the other side.

Next, I tried to paddle up Hog Creek. This was actually my main goal for the day's exploration. But I didn't even make it past the mouth. It was too shallow. It is actually a pretty good sized side creek for that area and I think if I had made it just a little past the mouth, I could have gone up at least a mile. Again, I think it is because the Choptank is so heavily dredged and people need to put all the mud someplace. If things were kept natural, I probably could have explored quite a bit.

Next, I crossed to the west side of the Choptank and explored the Chesapeake Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. This is a narrow creek that one could easily miss. It lies in the grasses just across the mouth of Hog Creek. I would have missed it except my global positioning system (GPS) told me it was there so I looked for it. It is probably the narrowest creek I've ever paddled for so long. But it wasn't interesting. Just grass and no wildlife.

Lastly, I explored the creek just south of Hog Creek which doesn't even appear on my map or GPS. This was also narrow but the vegetation was more interesting than in the Chesapeake Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary. I could not get as far up this creek. Not because it was too narrow, but rather because it winds around on sharp, hairpin turns. All but the smallest whitewater boat would have had problems on this creek.

After having spent a significant amount of time exploring the small creeks, I was back on the Choptank and the tide was now against me. The wind was still against me too. It made for a long remainder of the trip. The river opened up and started reminding me of the mighty Nanticoke River. Not the most scenic river. A little too big. Animals don't particularly care for these biggers rivers either though I did see a couple of eagles.

The dark skies were looking a little ominous but it didn't rain until I got home. With the wind and the current pushing me, at rest my boat moved 1.6 mph upstream. When I normally would have been moving at 5.8 mph, I was barely making 4.2 mph.

I ended up paddling 22 miles. It took a long and exhausting 6 hours. Seeing the otter was fabulous and some of the smaller creeks were interesting but the last half of the trip was not so great. Still, it beats working.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.


Sheandoah River State Park
For a trip report of my short paddling adventure on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River, check out Shenandoah River State Park.


Challenge Weekend
For a trip report of my paddling adventure on Marshyhope Creek, Nanticoke River, and Rewastico Creek, with a bicycle shuttle and camping at Trap Pond State Park, check out Marshyhope Creek and Nanticoke River, September 2008.


Talking Buoy
I was browsing the Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) website one day and came across the following posting:
The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum would like to get some kayakers to observe the launching of a new talking buoy as part of the John Smith Water Trail. The event will take place at the Maritime Museum on Saturday 13 September starting at 1030AM with some talks by the National Park Service, civic leaders, and maybe Senator Benjamin L. Cardin. After the talks, sometime around 1130, a boat will take the buoy out and launch it somewhere in the Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Perryville. They would like some kayakers and other boaters to accompany the launching. If you are interested in learning about John Smith or taking a nice paddle in a beautiful area, come on up.


Initially, I thought the buoy would have a motion detector in it and as boats approached it, a recorded voice would come on, telling folks about the area. I felt pretty stupid when I later learned that it doesn't really "talk" in the way we think. Rather, it measures and transmits data to a monitoring station. Probably a more important task...but not as entertaining. This Susquehanna Buoy is part of the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System.

I contacted the fellow who posted the message and on September 13, 2008, I drove up to Havre de Grace. There I met Rob and Michael of the Pirates of the North at Jean S. Roberts Memorial Park. We set sail at 1000 and paddled to the Maritime Museum, just a mile away. The water near the mouth of the 444 mile long Susquehanna seemed unusually clear.

Along the way, we saw a very small, two person ultralight plane. The cockpit was open and the propeller was in the back of the plane. It was so small I was skeptical it could even fly and was hoping for a demonstration but none occurred.

As we neared the museum, we saw the Concord Point Lighthouse, built in 1827. See first photo at left.

We pulled ashore on a small sandy area. There were several people in the area, all there for the buoy launching. Several were dressed up and quite a few others had professional-looking cameras. I'm guessing they were politicians and reporters, respectively.

Walking around, we saw several displays and information booths. Of course we saw the buoy (second photo) and a diagram explaining it (third photo). There were also signs mentioning the Chesapeake Bay. A few conveyed some interesting facts:
  • The environmental low for the bay was the 1970s.
  • The bay supports over 2700 plant and animal species.
  • The bay is nearly 200 miles long and 20 miles wide but is only 21 feet deep on the average.
  • A person 6 feet tall could wade over 700,000 acres of the bay without becoming completely submerged.
  • Oysters were once so plentiful, they could filter the entire volume of the bay water in a few days. This process now takes over a year.

  • We saw an old Birch Bark Canoe donated by Theodore R. Carski. See fourth photo at left. This canoe is an example of what the native Susquehannock and Iroquois may have used. Carski purchased this canoe from Native Americans while on a camping trip in Eastern Canada then transported it to Baltimore on the roof of his car. He obviously wasn't using the crappy Thule Set-to-Go kayak saddles I have.

    The ceremony began with talks by various VIPs. In particular, I remember Senator Cardin speaking. See fifth photo. He was really motivated and dynamic. He had a way of making the buoy sound like part of the solution to all the environmental problems in Maryland. In a way, it is. These buoys monitor many things and if you're going to make changes to improve the environment, especially the Chesapeake Bay, then you have to measure your progress. Like I say, you can't make progress if you don't measure it. Havre de Grace is where the Cheseapeake Bay begins so placing a smart buoy there is pretty darn important. To learn more about this buoy, see National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Deploys First Smart Buoy.

    After Senator Cardin spoke, a few others spoke too. We knew this was going to take awhile so we decided to paddle instead.

    There was quite a bit of aquatic vegetation in the area and my rudder was catching quite a bit of it. When I left home, my boat had a kelp cutter but by the time I launched, I had none. It must have fallen off along the way, despite the fact that this was a permanent fixture. It was a bad day to be without a kelp cutter.

    After talking a bit to Rob, I decided to venture off on my own to explore. I paddled southwest, trying to avoid any seaweed but failing miserably. I occassionally pulled over to clear vegetation from my rudder. It was a relatively slow trip.

    I explored Swan Creek. It is a pretty big, open area with lots of trees. I was looking for other launch sites and found one on the southern side of the creek but later found out it was part of Aberdeen Proving Ground.

    I resumed exploring. I passed Woodpecker Point, not seeing any woodpeckers. I came to Spesuite Island, which seems to mark the point at which boaters are not allowed to land due to the presence of unexploded munitions. Though it is called an island, it is not circumnavigable because a permanent road (rather than a bridge) connects the island to the mainland.

    Continuing onward, I paddled past Locust Point then towards Sandy Point, the easternmost point of Aberdeen Proving Ground. This section of the island is not the least bit interesting. There is no place to land and once I got past Locust Point, I saw two buoys that said "keep out." I was on the wrong side of them before I saw them. There were only two such buoys placed about 150 meters from shore and they did a very poor job of communicating their intentions. A couple years ago, I managed to paddle past similar buoys on the Gunpowder River and got stopped and questioned by the police, later to be released with a warning. I did not want to go though that again so I figured it was time to head back, especially since the "keep out" areas were not so clearly marked. I might have proceeded onward if I could have explored the creeks that drain into the south side of the island but Rob told me they were off limits.

    Paddling back, I stayed near (but not in) the channel to avoid catching more seaweed. Aquatic vegetation is REALLY dense in that area north of Aberdeen.

    I stopped at one of about three islands and ate a snack. There were quite a few recreational boaters out there enjoying a swim or picnic on a beach. I saw no other kayakers throughout the day except for Rob and Michael.

    I saw the Susquehanna Buoy right around the Cecil County/Harford County border in the middle of the Susquehanna, near the mouth.

    I paddled over to Perryville then to Garrett Island. Though not as natural, it is more scenic in this area because there are just more interesting things to see, in particular, all the bridges.

    I finished after paddling a relatively slow 20 miles.

    As soon as I got home, I requested another kelp cutter. How I miss mine.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Upper Monocacy
    On March 31, 2006, I paddled the Monocacy River from Pinecliff Park to the Mouth of the Monocacy River. I call this the "lower Monocacy."

    On April 27, 2008, I paddled the Monocacy River from Devilbiss Bridge to Pinecliff Park.

    On September 7, 2008, I planned to paddle part of the "upper Monocacy" which is the area north of Devilbiss Bridge. Keep in mind that this is just my terminology and whether or not anyone would agree with me remains to be seen.

    One can follow the upper Monocacy all the way up into Pennsylvania though I doubt that section is paddleable. I was only interested in the parts comprising the Monocacy River Water Trail. Hence, I would begin my trek at Millers Bridge.

    The Monocacy River is typically low in the summer. It is recommended that kayakers attempt it after a heavy rain. Hence, while many saw the approach of Hurricane Hanna to be bad news for the weekend, I saw it as an opportunity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast on the morning of September 6 called for the following in Frederick, Maryland:
    Periods of rain and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. High near 78. Windy, with a east wind 13 to 16 mph becoming north between 23 and 26 mph. winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts between two and three inches possible.
    But September 6 was not the date I planned to paddle. Instead, I would wait a day later. The forecast for September 7 was
    Mostly sunny, with a high near 86. Northwest wind around 8 mph.
    Ideal!

    It certainly did rain hard on September 6. But it ended sooner than I liked and I knew I would not be on the water until at least 12 hours after the downpour ceased. Would there be enough water to prevent me from hitting rocks? Would I have as fast a journey down the river as I did on April 27? Only time would tell.

    Norma and I left at 0525 on September 7, heading out to Frederick. We parked her car at the takeout then the two of us drove to the put in.

    The water was certainly high. See the area just downstream of Millers Bridge in the first photo at left. It appeared to be moving at about 5 miles per hour...a very good pace though I would have preferred even faster. Notice how brown the water is? This is because a heavy rain flushes lots of sediment into the water.

    At about 0730, we launched my Ocean Kayak Cabo which is by far my slowest boat. Since I had not paddled this section previously, I wanted a boat that could take some abuse. We rigged things up as if we were preparing for a capsize then set sail.

    With such a strong current, the paddling was quite easy. Occassionally, we'd catch a very strong current and then we'd paddle extra hard just to see how fast we could go. My global positioning system (gps) would record our speed.

    Our first bridge was the lovely Le Gore Bridge in the second photo at left. According to Flickr:
    This historic stone bridge spanning the Monocacy River was built privately by James William LeGore, owner of LeGore Lime Company, of the town of LeGore, near Woodsboro. Maryland. The bridge made it easier to transport the lime and gravel products from LeGore quarry north to the Pennsylvania markets. This massive private project was begun about 1898 and opened to the public in 1900. The bridge is 64 ft. high, 27 ft. wide, and 340 ft. long and is still used by traffic.

    There were lots of herons and one osprey on the river. We also saw a bald eagle and a red fox. But the strangest critter was one that fell about 18 feet from a tree into the water. It made a big splash then swam to the shore. We saw its head bob up and down as it got away. We never got a good look at it but think it was a small mammal.

    The upper Monocacy is just as nice as the middle and lower portions. Lots of trees and quite natural. It was a little cold when we started out and cool in the shade but as the sun started to rise, it was comfortable in the sun.

    Toward the end of the paddle, we got pretty good at judging when the fast parts of the river were approaching. This, combined with all-out sprints enabled us to get our boat up to 10.9 miles per hour! Even though this speed was only for a second or two, it nonetheless happened. Pretty good for 76 pound, 30 inch wide boat.

    There were no difficult parts on our trip. Though I planned for the worst, I would be willing to take my Futura C4 surfski on this route if the water was equally high.

    We finished at about 1010 after paddling just over 11.5 miles.

    The rest of the day was just beautiful! Unfortunately, we hit some traffic on the way home. There were about 7 emergency vehicles on route 70 between Frederick and Baltimore. We were up near the front so we saw what all was taking place. A helicopter was called in to carry off a victim of a vehicle crash. See third photo at left. I don't like being stuck in traffic but I was feeling very much at ease, having gotten in a great early morning paddle.

    After I got home, I compared the water flow from my middle Monocacy trip with today's upper Monocacy adventure. According to U.S. Geological Survey Real-Time Water Data (Bridgeport), there was 1500 cubic feet per second (cfs) on April 27 and 316 cfs today. But the Bridgeport reading isn't as accurate for paddling on the water trail as the reading for Monocacy Boulevard. The U.S. Geological Survey Real-Time Water Data (Monocacy Boulevard) chart showed 4710 cfs on April 27 and 3720 cfs today. Hence, my April 27 trip had almost 27% more water flow than today!

    While more water would have certainly been nice, I was quite pleased with what we had. We moved at a good pace, didn't hit any rocks, and had a great time.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Seneca Creek
    In July, I paddled about 85 miles. I knew I wouldn't be able to paddle much while in California on July 26 to August 6, 2008 so I wanted to get lots of time on the water. Now that I'm back in Maryland, I want to make up for lost time. My first S1-A trip since vacation was on August 20 at Pier 7 where I did 10 miles. I was definitely out of practice...feeling slow and a little unstable.

    I wanted to get a longer paddle in on August 23 so I contacted the fast paddlers and invited them to join me. Unfortunately, I had to compete with the 2008 Broadkill Race which a few of them participated in. Fortunately, David T. did not, so he joined me.

    We launched at Wilson Point Park at 0805. The weather was cool and dry. It had been like that for quite awhile now. Not a typical August in Maryland.

    The first thing I noticed was David's pace. Pretty fast. But I usually start out a bit fast too. Still, his starting pace was faster than mine and if he didn't have me to slow him down, I think his cruising pace would have been 0.3 or 0.4 miles per hour faster! He wasn't getting more rotations per minute (rpm) but he was making his strokes count. More force? With longer arms, he definitely had a longer stroke. David was paddling an Epic V10 surf ski.

    David and I paddled downstream from Dark Head Creek to Middle River. We crossed from Wilson Point to Galloway Point then hugged the shoreline until we passed Bowley Point and entered the Chesapeake Bay.

    I haven't been too ambitious to paddle in the big bay but the wind was fairly calm, boat traffic was light, and I had another paddler to help out if any problems arose.

    We stopped at Miami Beach Park for a snack and a break.

    Continuing onward, we explored Seneca Creek. We made stops to remove vegetation from our rudders. I have a kelp cutter on my boat he he doesn't. Not surprisingly, I had almost no plant life slowing me down but David did.

    On the maps, Carroll Island (just east of Seneca Creek) appears to have a small bridge that connects it to the mainland. One would think we could paddle under the bridge to get to Saltpeter Creek but that is not the case. It seems there isn't a bridge but rather a solid piece of land (probably man-made) that one cannot paddle under. I wonder if one can simply carry a boat over the road?

    Carroll Island is part of Aberdeen Proving Ground. Hence, there are unexploded munitions and landing on the island is forbidden. We saw a bald eagle on the island.

    We made it to Lower Island Point, which is the southernmost part of the island, then we made a bee-line back to Middle River.

    Earlier, there were few boats on the water but now there were quite a few. David says the early afternoon is when traffic picks up.

    By the time we got back to the start, we paddled 20 miles. Next, we did some global positioning system (GPS) sprints. In other words, one of us took my GPS on the boat and paddled as fast as possible to see what maximum speed could be reached...even if only for a second. David got it up to 9.9 mph and I got 9.5 mph. See first and second photos at left. It would have been interesting to see how fast we could have gone if we had done sprints before our 20 miler.

    The next day, August 24, 2008, I did 20 miles on the Patuxent River south of the Patuxent River Bridge. I hugged the shoreline on the west side down to Cremora, crossed over, then paddled upstream on the east side. Nothing special though I did see some interesting jellyfish. Mainly just trying to get in more miles to make up for my trip to Cali.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    California
    For a trip report of my California vacation which includes hiking near Lake Tahoe, kayaking in Lake Tahoe, kayaking in the Point Reyes area, and bicycling in Sacramento, check out California, Summer 2008.


    Middle River
    After spending the twilight and early evening hours at a Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary members-only benefit, I was longing to get back on the water. I did just that on the next day, July 19, 2008.

    I began the day by looking for new places to launch. First, I drove to Pottery Farm Park in Essex, Baltimore County. Upon arriving, I realized I deemed it unsuitable for launching back in 2002. But since I was there, I decided to give it a second look. The ADC map shows Pottery Farm Road cutting through the park to the water. Unfortunately, this is a dirt road that is not open to motor vehicles. Even if it were, it would only be suitable for off-road vehicles. I walked this ~0.8 mile road to the water. It led me past a turtle and to a sandy area. Unfortunately, even with a kayak cart, it would be difficult to get a boat to the water.

    Next, I drove to Turkey Point Park which wasn't far away. Again, I realized I explored this place back in 2002 and also deemed it unsuitable for launching. I guess I should write down when a place isn't launch-worthy. The water was much closer to the parking lot but there was absolutely no way to get to the water without a machete.

    I planned to check out Miami Beach Park in Bowley's Quarters, Baltimore County but decided to save that for another time. Not far from Turkey Point Park was the Baltimore Boating Center...a place I also checked out several years ago. But unlike the first two places, this one was launchable. I paid my ten dollar fee and set sail (no sail, just a figure of speech) at their ramp on Sue Creek.

    The first thing I did was explore Sue Creek. The shallow areas were difficult to paddle due to the abundance of vegetation. I also noticed that it seemed like everyone and their dog (another figure of speech) was on the water, either in power boats or from their waterfront property. Unfortunately, I saw very few kayaks. Two had outriggers and sails. The third I'll mention later.

    The mouth of Sue Creek is on the south side of the mouth of Middle River which empties into the Chesapeake Bay. With all the power boats and the south wind, the water was pretty choppy. This was just what I wanted. I was getting pretty comfortable with my Futura/Huki S1-A surf ski and wanting to push myself to handle it on rougher water. I was going to paddle to Bowley Point on the northeast side of the mouth of Middle River but I wasn't quite ready to do that solo.

    I paddled upstream on the Middle River, hugging the shore. I kayaked in Hogpen Creek, Norman Creek, and Hopkins Creek. I made it to the Eastern Boulevard (route 150) bridge over Middle River.

    A little south of the bridge was Hawthorne Park. A few years ago, I launched at the pier in this park. Back then, it was a mucky launch. Today, it would have been twice as bad. I was disappointed because that was the only place I knew of where one could easily gain access to the upstream part of Middle River. I pulled over at a nearby sandy area (about 80 meters south) to stretch my legs. Looking through the trees, I noticed that this sandy beach was also part of the park. I was ecstatic to find this likely unknown launch site...at least I thought it was unknown.

    I paddled downstream. Feeling pretty comfortable, I paddled further away from shore. I drafted some of the power boats and maintained speeds over 7 miles per hour while following them.

    I heard a yell, looked to my right, and saw a white surf ski coming towards me. It was David T., who I first met on September 21, 2007. We chatted awhile. I told him about the sandy launch site I found at Hawthorne Park. He was well aware of it. So much for my original find. He told me about a new park called Wilson Point Park that provided access to the upstream sections of the Middle River. Hearing this put a smile on my face. The area was in desperate need of a public launch site and now there was finally one.

    After saying farewell to David and promising to paddle with him in August, I continued downstream. The boat traffic was pretty heavy and the water was sometimes pretty rough. When waves come from a single direction it isn't so bad (if they aren't too big) but when they reflect off erosion walls then get mixed with boat wakes, they become almost random. It required a good deal of concentration to deal with all this. But I managed to get through it all without falling out though I came close at times. I was quite pleased and my confidence on my surf ski was elevated.

    I paddled a challenging 20 miles then went home and grilled myself a bacon bit double cheeseburger. Well deserved.


    Nanjemoy Creek
    On July 13, 2008, Norma, Stacy, Ed, and I loaded up our boats and headed out to Nanjemoy Creek. Norma and I were there back on September 22, 2007. Then, we did an up and back paddle starting from Friendship Landing. Today, we would do a one way trip launching from a private residence near Port Tobacco Road (route 6). See first photo at left. To get back to the cars, we put our bicycles at Friendship Landing.

    We couldn't get more than a hundred meters upstream of route 6 due to all the downed trees.

    Under the route 6 bridge, there were swallow nests and wasp nests resembling pan flutes.

    The narrow upper Nanjemoy was well shaded and the water was cool and clear. Further downstream, the river opened up a bit and the tree-lined shores were replaced by a mix of tall grasses and trees. See second and third photos at left.

    We saw numerous bald eagles. Too many to count though it is likely many were the same that just flew downstream as we paddled, only to be seen again. Several were juvenile birds that were as big as their elders but without the distinctive white heads and tails.

    Several osprey were also seen. See fourth photo at left.

    Stacy and Ed are bird watchers and able to identify several either by sight or sound. See fifth photo at left. They pointed out indigo buntings to us.

    Unlike last year, there weren't any yellow flowers but there were several purple arrow arum flowers.

    After paddling about 6.5 miles to the takeout, Norma, Stacy, and I biked 5 miles back to the start to retrieve our vehicles while Ed guarded the boats and paddles.

    It got a little hot and humid on the drive home. It was good we started early.

    I grilled well deserved burgers back at my place. We worked up quite an appetite.

    I was grateful to Stacy and Ed for organizing this fine event.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Wye and Skipton
    After doing a fast 10 mile twilight paddle with my friend Neil on the mightly Chesapeake Bay last night, I was still wanting to get on the water. I awoke at 0620 on July 12, 2008 and by 0730, I was crossing the Bay Bridge. I wasn't sure where I was going to launch. I just knew that I wanted to paddle someplace on the eastern shore and the longer I waited, the worse traffic would be. Hence, I just grabbed some snacks, water, sunscreen, and maps then took off. I never unloaded my boat or boating equipment from the night before. While driving, I decided to explore the part of the Wye River I had not yet paddled.

    In 2002, I circumnavigated Wye Island. The only great feat about that was that I didn't make any wrong turns and paddle up one of the many creeks. Places like that are why global positioning systems (GPSs) were invented.

    I launched at Wye Landing, paddling north on the Wye East River. As with last week's paddle, I saw several bald eagles. Some were willing to let me get quite close to them. I started paddling in 1999. Back then, it was rare to see an eagle. Since then, bald eagles have been taken off the endangered species list. They have made quite a comeback and it is now quite common to see them.

    The Wye East was nice but I could not get to the more sheltered areas because the water got too shallow. I don't think I even got upstream of the split.

    Paddling back downstream, I saw 4 deer.

    After paddling with Neil last night, I was really working on my race technique. Making my strokes shorter and faster seems to increase my speed by about 0.3 to 0.4 mph. The feeling of falling into the "catch" seems to help though I need to experiment with that. They say the catch should be more of a "spearing the fish" feeling though I don't know if I like that. I can always go faster if I put more effort into my paddling. My goal is to simply modify my technique, not expend any more energy, and go faster. Falling or spearing requires more energy though maybe the gain is worth the cost.

    Paddling past my launch point, I then headed east on Skipton Creek, passing the Skipton Creek Landing launch. I tried to get to highway 50 but again, the water was too shallow. I saw a red fox.

    I headed back downstream on Skipton Creek then northwest on Wye Narrows to the bridge. This part was nothing new. I just wanted to get in a few more miles and work on my technique.

    I paddled 20 miles.


    The Other Wicomico River
    Where else except Maryland would there be two totally separate rivers with the same name? On May 11, 2008, Norma and I visited the Wicomico River on the eastern shore. On July 6, 2008, I explored the Wicomico River on the western shore.

    I drove to Chaptico Wharf Recreation Area. I used my new 2008 Subaru Impreza 2.5l wagon to transport my Futura/Huki S1-A surf ski.

    I was getting more confident in my boat and wanting to try more open waters. The ~1.5 mile wide Wicomico River seemed like a good place. After lots of padding adjustments, my boat was also considerably more comfortable than when I first bought it. Hence, I was also wanting to paddle further. My goal was to paddle up to Budds Creek Road (route 234) which was 10 miles away.

    I launched at 1035 and paddled north. I did an open water crossing across Chaptico Bay. There was a chance of storms after noon and I was wondering if I might have to brave rough seas on the way back in my unstable boat.

    I reached the most upstream portion of the Wicomico then paddled into Allens Fresh Run. On the map, this area looks like it might have some very scenic paddling but it was mostly just grassland. I saw quite a few bald eagles.

    I entered the southern portion of the Zekiah Swamp Natural Environmental Area. A half mile from Budds Creek Road, the water got very shallow. I decided to head back. Things were pretty...but just moderately so...and I couldn't paddle on the really scenic natural areas without fear of getting stuck in mud.

    Paddling back, I looked for launch sites upstream of where I began. I found none.

    The weather held out. The water was so calm, it was almost boring.

    I finished at 1435 after paddling 20 miles.


    Buttons Creek
    On June 21, 2008, Norma, Mark, Allison, and I met at Golden Hill Road for a paddling adventure in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Back on June 11, 2007, Norma and I kayaked most of the area west of Golden Hill Road in the Refuge but not Buttons Creek. This was my chance to complete the exploration.

    Mark and Allison rented a tandem recreational boat from Blackwater Paddle and Pedal Adventures. See first photo at left. The outfitter met them at the launch site. Norma and I paddled my Ocean Kayak Cabo. See second photo at left. It was unusual that my Cabo would be the faster design.

    We began at 0915, paddling west on the Blackwater River. Within a few minutes, we saw our first bald eagle to the south.

    A little further and we were heading north on Buttons Creek. The river was fairly scenic but unfortunately, we did not see as much wildlife as we had hoped. However, further upstream we saw a godzillion small aquatic plants called duckweed. See third photo at left. Each was comprised of a small half centimeter clover leaf and an inch long assembly of stringy roots that hung into the water. See fourth photo at left for a close-up. They literally covered the river so thickly that certain parts just appeared to be solid green.

    We managed to paddle pretty far up Buttons Creek. It stayed narrow and took us further than I expected. The water got shallow and our paddle pulled up some of the smelliest mud I've ever encountered. Mark said we churned up sulfur bubbles. The stench was incredible. We wonder if the creek is fed by a natural sulfur spring.

    Paddling back downstream, we stopped in a tributary on the west side where 50 or so ducks lived. They seemed quite used to being around humans. See fifth photo at left.

    Returning to Blackwater River, we saw an eagle nest (the same one Norma and I saw last year) and another eagle. See sixth photo at left. I believe we saw 4 eagles while kayaking.

    We were hoping to see some golden eagles. Prior to today, I did not know they lived in Maryland but the tour guide with the outfitter said they did. They are even larger than bald eagles.

    Norma and I went under the Golden Hill Road Bridge to look at the sparrows. If we kept our distance, we could see the mother feed the babies but if we got near the nest, the mother flew away and the babies kept their heads down and remained silent. See seventh photo at left.

    We were done at 1340 after paddling 8.1 miles. We ate lunch, then rode our bicycles around the refuge. See June 21, 2008 bicycling.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Marley Creek
    June 18, 2008 was a full moon. With the warm weather here, I thought it would be a nice time for a twilight/evening paddle...so I organized one. Unfortunately, turnout was small as there was a competing organized paddle going on at Pier 7. But what my event lacked in numbers, it made up for in quality.

    Lisa, Todd, and I arrived at Solleys Cove at 1900. It was very windy. A crabber returned from open water recommending that we don't go out. He found the water quite rough. But I knew we would be in more sheltered areas and hence would be fine.

    We launched at 1930. By then, the winds had slowed a bit but a light rain also started. But the rain ceased quickly and the wind died down a little later.

    There was a rainbow to the east (see Todd in first photo) and sun trying to break through the clouds to our west (see Lisa in second photo).

    We paddled south on Marley Creek. A bald eagle swooped low over the water as if he was trying to catch something. It was probably the same one I saw on June 29, 2007. We passed the power lines and saw what might have been the eagle nest though it looked small. It definitely wasn't the same one I saw a year ago unless it got moved. This one was on a power line tower platform that appears to have been built specifically for the nest. I wonder if someone built the platform and moved the old nest (on a different part of the tower) to the new location since I didn't see the nest in the previous location.

    Continuing south, we passed Brewers Island and saw the boat wrecks. These aren't rustic historic boats. These are just boats from folks who didn't pay their marina fees, so I've been told.

    We paddled under routes 648 and 10 and under a big pipe. I saw a muskrat.

    Heading back downstream, the full moon was mostly hidden behind the clouds.

    We finished paddling at 2145 after completing 6.9 miles.

    The next challenge was to find a place to eat. Unfortunately, we failed in this mission. The Fort Smallwood Road area doesn't offer much in terms of late night eating establishments. So we called it a night.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Horseshoe Crab Watch
    For a trip report of a Delaware kayaking, hiking, and bicycling weekend to see the horseshoe crabs come ashore, check out Horseshoe Crab Watch, 2008.


    Exploring Wicomico County
    For a trip report of a weekend kayaking and bicycling trip, see Wicomico County, Maryland, May 2008.


    Middle Monocacy
    On March 31, 2006, I paddled the Monocacy River from Pinecliff Park to the Mouth of the Monocacy River. I call this the "lower Monocacy." The "middle Monocacy" is from Devilbiss Bridge to Pinecliff Park. The "upper Monocacy" is anything north of Devilbiss Bridge. Keep in mind that this is just my terminology and whether or not anyone would agree with me remains to be seen.

    Timing is often very important when it comes to kayaking and this is especially true with the Monocacy River. From mid-spring through late fall, the river is often very low. I consulted USGS Real-Time Water Data (Bridgeport) which showed me the normal water level for this time of year and the water discharge for the previous days. If I wanted to paddle the middle Monocacy this year, it was essential I do it soon.

    Doing volunteer work all day at Rebuilding Together Baltimore yesterday (April 26, 2008) was pretty tiring but I fueled up that night at Little Spice Thai Restaurant and got more than my fair share of sleep so I was plenty ready to get outside.

    I figured I would all this energy because I didn't have a second vehicle to do a car shuttle, despite my attempt to get another paddler to join me. Instead, I would do a bicycle shuttle. Mapquest helped me plot a course and its "Avoid Road Types: Highways" feature made it easy to select a bikeable route.

    On April 27, 2008, I loaded up my bike and boat then drove to the Devilbiss Bridge launch site. I stowed my wetsuit, personal floatation device (PFD), drinking water, and paddle in my hatches then locked my boat to a sign post. I spoke to some local paddlers about the water conditions. They assured me there was no whitewater between Devilbiss and Pinecliff. Then I drove to the Pinecliff Park takeout, scoping out the bike route along the way.

    The water level at Pinecliff was unusually high. See first and second photos at left. The current was very strong, about 1500 cubic feet per second at Bridgeport and 4710 cubic feet per second at Monocacy Boulevard! I was glad I could talk to the locals before launching since I'm not a whitewater paddler and my boat is hardly suited for such activities even if I was. I was told there was no whitewater in my path.

    I unloaded my bike and put on my neoprene top and gloves since the temperature was only 51 degrees and overcast. Just after noon, I was biking.

    The route was fairly flat. I rode through the heart of Frederick, passing the artsy/tourist area on East Street. The traffic was pretty heavy on route 355, 26, and 194 but after that, I was riding through green, scenic farmland on Fountain Rock Road. I saw horses, cows, chickens, and a donkey. It was very peaceful and I would love to come back just to do some bicycling. I know there are also covered bridges in the area that might be worth scoping out via bicycle.

    By 1320, I was at my destination. I donned my wetsuit and booties, unlocked my boat, and locked up my bicycle. In a few minutes, I was paddling.

    My global positioning system (GPS) told me that the current was moving at about 5 mph. Compared to what I'm used to, this is very fast. But it made for a really fun trip. At times, I got my boat going over 11 mph! Keeping it moving over 8 mph was easy.

    I saw a pair of bald eagles and some herons but otherwise, I saw no interesting wildlife.

    I wasn't expecting the middle Monocacy to be so scenic since it passes through the city of Frederick. But if I didn't know otherwise, I never would have know the city was there. There is very little construction along the sides of the river and for the most part, it is almost entirely wooded. Very green and fairly quiet.

    I paddled under several bridges but the most scenic by far was Old National Pike (route 144). See third photo at left.

    I marked the location of my takeout in my GPS so I didn't have to worry about missing it. This was good as the strong current would have made paddling upstream extremely difficult for more than a short distance.

    By 1535 I was done, having biked 12 miles and paddled 14.3 miles. It only took me 2 hours to finish the kayaking and that includes a stop to walk around and talk to locals. I was expecting a much more strenuous day but it turned out to be fairly easy. I probably should have launched further upstream at Creagerstown Park. I'll save that for when I explore the upper Monocacy.

    I noticed at a bank that the temperature was only 59 degrees when I went to go pick up my bike, despite the predicted high of 65. At least there was no wind. My neoprene layers kept me comfortable.

    I called Cindy after I got done. She told me it rained heavily last night in Frederick. That explains the unusually high water level.

    For directions for my bicycle route, check out Pinecliff to Devilbiss.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Lake Ogleton
    I think I can safely say that April 17, 2008 was the nicest day of the year so far in terms of weather. It was sunny all day with highs in the high 60s or low 70s depending on where you were in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. In Annapolis, the high was about 68 with a 6 mph wind.

    Todd and I launched our boats at his community beach, near the mouth of the Severn River. He paddled his Wilderness Systems Tsunami while I used my new Futura/Huki S1-A surf ski. This was only its second voyage. See first photo at left. The Bay Bridge is behind me.

    The water near his place can get pretty rough but that day it was very calm so I had no problems staying in the boat. However, unless the water is perfectly flat, I don't yet have the confidence to practice proper torso rotation. Hopefully, by the end of the summer, this will be instinctive on moderately choppy water.

    We paddled a short distance to Lake Ogleton, closer to the mouth of the Severn River. There we saw several heron and osprey. Some people worked on their big boats. The houses in the area are quite nice and NOT cookie cutterish.

    After exploring the west end of the lake, we headed back and took more photos. See second photo at left. It was perfect photo taking weather.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Hall Creek
    April 13, 2008 had predicted highs in the mid-50s. Normally, that would be pretty cold for me to go kayaking (even with a wetsuit), but having canceled my previous trip on the Monocacy River because of cold and rain, I was desperate to get out. It wasn't a long trip, it wasn't supposed to rain, and the water was calm so I figured I'd be fine.

    Norma and I made our first stop in southern Anne Arundel County. We checked out Broadwater Creek (see first photo), near Broadwater Road, which is in the Broadwater Farms community, near Broadwater Point. There was supposedly a Broadwater Marina though we never found it. No place to launch though I wasn't expecting to find any. We just wanted to see this area named after some great and famous people.

    High tide at Nottingham was at 1117. My goal was to have us as far up Hall Creek as possible by high tide.

    We drove to Hall Creek Natural Resources Management Area. Once there, we donned our wetsuits, got out the kayak cart, and loaded my Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem sit-on-top plastic kayak. It was a short walk to the launch area. We saw some father/son teams out fishing.

    We paddled south for a mile on the Patuxent River until we reached the mouth of Hall Creek. Then we paddled up Hall Creek.

    It was scenic and serene though after awhile all the tall grasses all started looking the same. I think I like the trees more than the grasses.

    We saw two beaver lodges but no beavers.

    There were more great blue herons than we could count though it might have been only a few since they have a habit of flying off and landing near or on the water just a short distance away in the direction we paddle. See second and third photos at left.

    Several turtles stuck their noses just out of the water. It was often impossible to distinguish them from semi-submerged logs until they went under. There were also about four of them sunning themselves on a log.

    Norma and I saw quite a few duck blinds and a deer stand. Some of the duck blinds were quite elaborate.

    Hall Creek goes from being easily paddle-able to totally unpaddle-able in a very short time. Four and three quarter miles from where we started was all we could go. No time to rest long since sitting around made us cold. Check out the fourth photo at left for Norma at the turnaround point.

    Several red winged blackbirds flew amongst the tall grasses. See fifth photo at left.

    Heading back, we saw a pair of bald eagles. They were flying near what we think was their nest (sixth photo).

    Two muskrats (at least that's what I think they were) played follow-the-leader, chasing each other on the land or swimming in the water. They didn't seem too afraid of us. See seventh photo at left.

    Two osprey were getting their nest started on a platform. Check out the photo at the top of this page in the left corner to see one coming in for a landing. The eighth photo at left shows a single bird.

    Now that it is spring, it seems animal pairs are busy at work. Spring is my favorite time of year. I love the summer too but I really enjoy seeing blooming flowers, sprouting leaves, and active animals. Best of all, I know in the spring that I have many months ahead of fun outdoor activities.

    After 9.5 miles of paddling, we were done. That morning, I wasn't sure if I wanted to get out on a cold, cloudy day or just sleep in. Norma convinced me to seize the day (carpe diem). I'm glad I did.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Patuxent River Canoe Cleanup
    The only thing predictable about weather in Maryland is unpredictability. That's why it pays to be flexible and adaptable to changes.

    Last year, I led five eager volunteers on the Patuxent River (Pax) to pick up trash. See March 31, 2007. We were quite successful and managed to remove about 500 pounds of litter. I decided to organize another event this year with a goal of collecting twice as much trash!

    I contacted Stephanie at Patuxent River Park and Lindsay at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. April 5, 2008 was the scheduled park cleanup date. At Patuxent River Park, volunteers would either walk to various parts of the park to pick up trash or be shuttled via flat-bottomed power boat to places along the shore. At the Sanctuary, people would just travel by foot to various spots to remove litter.

    Experience has shown that the places with the most litter are the ones closest to the water. These are also the places most difficult to reach via land. Using the heavy duty aluminum canoes at Patuxent River Park, I planned to lead my group ashore to remove trash at the two parks. I knew the area very well, both on land and on the water, having spent much time kayaking and hiking nearby. The Pax has brought me years of outdoor enjoyment. This was my chance to give a little something back.

    After posting my event with the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC), I managed to recruit several volunteers. I sent out an initial message to my group six days prior to the event passing along any new information and reminding them of anything worth mentioning twice. Two days prior, I checked the weather report. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the following for April 5:
    Showers likely. Cloudy, with a high near 61. North wind between 7 and 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New rainfall amounts between one and two inches possible.
    This was not good.

    I contacted Stephanie at the Park. They decided to cancel all cleanup boating activities out of safety concerns. I would have done the same. Taking beginning canoeists on a river high from excess rain then asking them to paddle with boats full of heavy trash bags was not wise. But the land-based cleanup would still take place. Hence, I informed the group that I would help with that. Since this wasn't what they signed up for, I assured them they could drop out of the event if they wanted, without penalty from the MOC. A few did but most still showed up.

    On Saturday morning, Norma and I drove to the park, passing two deer crossing the road. Arriving a bit early, we used the park spotting scope to view a nesting osprey on a platform.

    Around 0900, Anne Marie, Brian, Christie, Glenn, Joe, Lucas, Norma, and Ruwan showed up, ready and willing to work.

    The weather turned out to be dry...not a drop of rain. Greg said they would go ahead with their boat cleanup and we could still use their canoes if I so desired. I checked with the group and they were still eager to do the canoe cleanup. Things were originally on, then off, and now on again. This was a good lesson for me in being adaptable.

    Carl and Lisa also showed up to participate in the cleanup using canoes but with a different group. They were with the Appalachian Mountain Club. With only two of them present, Stephanie asked if they could join our group and I gladly accepted them. It turned out that Carl has extensive canoeing and trip leading experience so his assistance was most welcome.

    After distributing personal flotation devices (PFDs), passing out paddles, unloading canoes, filling out park waivers, distributing trash bags and gloves, and relaying any remaining information, we were off at 0950, launching from Jackson's Landing.

    A fairly strong downstream current and headwind made paddling upstream difficult. I have quite a bit of kayaking experience but canoes are a totally different animal for me so I wasn't particularly helpful in offering advice other than "Paddle harder!" One pair had a difficult time overcoming the current and wind. They decided to join the park's group to help pick up trash via flat-bottomed power boat. They would then join us for lunch and work with us for the remainder of the day.

    Carl, Norma, and I cleaned one section on the east side of the river, just north of our launch site. The rest of the group worked on the west side. The ground was extremely muddy. The safest places to step were on spots with significant vegetation. But even then, it wasn't always a guarantee. A few times I stepped and sunk 2.5 feet into soft ground. Though I wore my high rubber boots, a good deal of mud still leaked in. Sometimes it took a great deal of effort to get my boot unstuck.

    The first area Carl, Norma, and I cleaned wasn't very dirty compared to areas I've seen in the past.

    I found a dead muskrat.

    Norma and I paddled to the west side, just across from the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary Pier. We pulled up next to a beaver lodge. Shortly after I pointed it out to Brian, a beaver made a big splash then swam away. I probably should have parked further away from its home so as to not disturb it. We saw it swimming in the river for quite awhile after. Some folks said they saw a second one swimming with it.

    I pulled out an old tire. A crayfish crawled out from the mud that it encased.

    Some broken glass was encountered. I found it best to save a large container (like a bucket) in which to put the glass. Otherwise, it just cuts through the trash bags.

    A little after noon, we all tied our boats to the Sanctuary pier and disembarked. The power boat carrying our two stragglers dropped them off and took away our trash. See first photo at left. It seemed like a good trade.

    We walked about 0.9 miles to the visitor center where we ate and added Laura to our group. See second photo at left with Laura looking at the camera.

    Lindsay came out and spoke to us a bit. She's the park naturalist who led a fantastic guided canoe trip for the Pax Tri-Event 2007 that Norma and I organized.

    At the Sanctuary overlook, we got someone to take a group photo with the beautiful Pax in the background. See third photo at left. From left to right in the back row are Brian, Lisa, Lucas, Anne Marie, Laura, Joe, and Ruwan. From left to right in the front row are Christie, Carl, me, Norma, and Glenn.

    We resumed our cleanup, now with 12 volunteers and 5 boats. Having worked south of the Sanctuary pier in the morning, we now worked the north side, between the pier and Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park.

    Much more trash was found in the afternoon. Amongst the trash we removed were racquet balls, footballs, basketballs, softballs, a child's toy bowling ball, a baby doll, a duck decoy, a motorcycle helmet, a paddle, fishing bobbers, at least 6 tires, buckets, plastic bottles, cans, but mostly glass bottles...some were very old. Our group labored intensely to collect whatever they could.
         Fourth photo: Christie pushes her way through tall reeds to retrieve some litter.
         Fifth photo: Anne Marie paddling.
         Sixth photo: Lucas and Anne Marie come in for an amphibious landing.
         Seventh photo: Anne Marie and Lucas claim victory over the trash.
         Eighth photo: Anne Marie models the latest in canoe cleanup attire.
         Ninth photo: I show the paddle I found amongst the trash.
         Tenth photo: Glenn speaks to some litter, "I'm coming to get you!"
         Eleventh photo: Ruwan wins the award for filthiest trousers.
         Twelfth photo: Norma burdens a heavy load.

    Some unusual vegetation was found. I showed Glenn a root or stem that looked like a medieval weapon or alien device.

    Norma saw two snakes, possibly northern water snakes. Numerous osprey were seen. No herons.

    There was one area just north of the beaver lodge where water flowed into the river. Not much vegetation around it. This was the mother load for trash. It only took about 10 minutes to fill up a large bag with trash. We managed to get most of it but we ended up running out of time. We'll get the rest next year.

    Some bags were so packed that they had to be dragged because they were too heavy to lift. The black bags supplied by the park were amazingly strong.

    We unloaded the trash at the Sanctuary pier then moved it near their canoe stand, where a vehicle could reach it. To accomplish this, we put one of our canoes in their steel canoe cart and used it as a wheelbarrow. See thirteenth photo at left. This took quite a bit of teamwork to get it moving fast enough to go up the pier ramp.

    Our group didn't have any means to weigh what we collected and with the morning trash already gone, we didn't even have a bag count. I asked for estimates. Joe guessed 1880 to 2260 pounds. I guessed 1600 to 2000 pounds. Whatever it was, we clearly exceeded my goal, which was a mere 1000 pounds. See fourteenth photo at left for us with our afternoon collection. Only about half of it is visible.

    We paddled downstream (again into the wind) to get back to Jackson's Landing. Then we put away the boats, paddles, and PFDs. I handed our gloves to Jim (one of the park employees). We were done at 1710.

    Brian and Lisa left. The rest of us changed clothes and went out to eat at Pizza Hut in Upper Marlboro, right off route 301. See fifteenth photo at left.

    It felt great to work hard, get outside, and help clean up the Pax. It felt even better to be part of a hard working, motivated, winning team.

    Special thanks to Joe and Ruwan for providing some of the above photos.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.