Janie visiting a wreck in the ship graveyard of Mallows Bay


Kayaking Adventures 2011

Last updated January 12, 2011


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Kayaking in California
For a trip report that includes one day of paddling in California at the W.R. Hearst Memorial State Beach, see December 30, 2011.

Scouting in Garrett County
For a trip report that includes two days of scouting for launch sites in Garrett County, Maryland over the Thanksgiving break, see November 24-27, 2011.

Deer Isle, Maine
For a trip report of a scenic week on some islands in Maine, including three fun-filled days of kayaking, see August 29 to September 3, 2011.

Lotus Paddle
If I was really ambitious, I could have stayed up late after a fun evening at the 66th annual Howard County Fair to see the Perseid meteor shower.
In 2011, the legendary Perseid meteor shower – the northern hemisphere’s best summertime meteor shower – is expected to peak between midnight and dawn on Saturday, August 13. That night, however, the full moon will be shining brightly in the sky from dusk until dawn, obliterating all but the brightest Perseid meteors.
- from How to minimize moon and optimize 2011 Perseid meteor shower

But seeing meteors several miles away for split seconds was of much lower priority to me as compared to the kayak trip and post-paddle dinner that was planned on August 13. Thus, I got to bed at a reasonable hour and missed the falling stars...maybe I'll see them next year.

Most of my most scenic kayak trips are best suited for the spring, when the fresh water levels are higher in the creeks, the aquatic vegetation is less dense, visibility is clearer, and the jellyfish haven't yet come out. The exception to this rule is when it comes to seeing lotus flowers. Norma, a few friends, and I saw some on Mattawoman Creek on September 21, 2007. Later, Norma, a few of our friends, and I saw several more on August 22, 2010 at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. These flowers are truly impressive, to say the least.

The American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea), a relative of the water lily and the largest wildflower in the United States, is rare in Maryland and neighboring states but abundant at Mount Harmon with its peak flowering in August.
- from Mount Harmon Plantation flyer

Norma and I contacted several kayakers to see if they wanted to join me for some scenic paddling. Most were off doing other things but Vince, Suzanne, and Jen B. were available. Unfortunately, Norma had another commitment and couldn't join us.

I learned about the area from the Chesapeake Paddlers Association - Forums - August Chester River Paddle and Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group - Lotus Bloom. I shamelessly plagarized from these sources to put my trip together. I would have loved to join Ralph on his August 28, 2011 trip which might be to Turner's Creek, but I won't be in town on that date.

High tide at Betterton (a town about 5 miles downstream on the Sassafras River) was at 0942. Hence, I figured at 0900 would be a good launch time. This would enable us to get further upstream on the creeks to see the flowers.

I checked the forecast that morning. We should have 7-12 mph wind from the south by southeast and mostly sunny skies with temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees. Storms wouldn't start until 1600 and we would be off the water by then. With such a small group of experienced kayakers and a good weather, I didn't bother to bring my very high frequency (VHF) radio. But I did bring maps, a global positioning system (GPS), and a tow rope. I also studied satellite photos for possible beach landings halfway through our trip.

Suzanne picked me up and the two of us carpooled to the launch site, Turner's Creek County Park. There was a big bicycle event going on. See first photo. The launch area was pretty nice with room for a few non-trailered vehicles near the boat ramp and additional parking up the hill. There was a porta-john near the ramp and a regular restroom just a very short distance up the hill in the bottom floor of an old house (second photo).

By some strange and fortunate coincidence, Greg and Jenny showed up, intending to paddle the same general area. Neither of us expected to see each other. Our group of 4 grew to 6.

I found a few insects that were cooperative in posing for my camera (actually Norma's camera). See some interesting grasshopper-like bug with two spikes sticking out of its ass in the third photo along with a more familiar dragonfly in the fourth photo.

From the boat ramp we could see hundreds of lotus flowers in full bloom to our left, many within a stone's throw. If I had a tail, it would have been wagging.

This trip report continues in the next four sections below.

Turners Creek
We launched around 0930 (just a wee bit behind schedule), first exploring the few acres of flowers nearest us. See Suzanne in the first photo.

I saw a bald eagle.

Next, we paddled upstream (south) on Turners Creek. In the shallower sections, there were thousands of flowers. See second photo.
The plant can be found in muddy, shallow waters such as lake margins, or in water as deep as six feet.
- from Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

Greg pointed out that it might be the case that these are really just a few separate plants.
The American lotus’ reproductive characteristics present a particular challenge to conservation efforts. Its hardy seeds may remain dormant for a century or more before they receive the disturbance required for germination. Once a seed does germinate, however, the plant grows and expands, sending out underground stems called rhizomes that produce new, genetically identical plants. Consequently, a population of the American lotus can consist of only one single – yet extensive – plant. This “clonal” characteristic concerns conservation biologists, who maintain that limited genetic diversity in the American lotus may lessen its chances for survival.
- from Rare, Threatened & Endangered Plants of Maryland

While seeing the lotuses at Kenilworth last year was impressive, I've never had a chance to actually paddle amongst the flowers when they were at the peak of bloom. See third, fourth, and fifth photos. For years, I thought these flowers only grew naturally in some far off exotic land. But many grow close to home (assuming you live in Maryland):
The American lotus, imperiled due to its rarity in Maryland, occurs in protected coves of only four creeks and rivers in the State: Mattawoman Creek on the Western Shore, and Great Bohemia Creek, Little Blackwater River and the Sassafras River on the Eastern Shore.
- from Rare, Threatened & Endangered Plants of Maryland

An untethered ball used for docking was found within the lotus grove. Greg retrieved it (sixth photo) and returned it to the launch area after a brief game of kayak polo.

Not only were the flowers impressive but so were the leaves. Many were 2.5 feet in diameter. See seventh photo. They were strong and buoyant enough for small seagulls to stand on. One very unusual characteristic of the leaves was how the water beaded up on them like a freshly waxed car or mercury on a sidewalk. See eighth photo.
The leaves of nelumbo are highly water repellent (superhydrophobic). They have given the name to what is called the lotus effect.
- from Wikipedia - Nelumbo

Microscopic grooves all over the [lotus] leaf trap air bubbles, so water and dirt that land on the leaf sit mostly on the bubbles, never touching the leaf. A light rain washes everything off. A company called Sto Corp. created a paint that dries with this same surface structure. Dirt won't stick to it, so buildings painted with it stay clean.
- from "Nature Inspires Advances in Technology" in the July 31, 2011 KidsPost

Tidal Pond in Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area
Our next stop was Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area (NRMA). At the north end was a tidal pond, accessible near high tide. Greg and Jenny had paddled this area previously and knew where to find the lotus. They recommended we visit there. Check out the Sassafras NRMA map.

At about 1030, the entrance to the pond was about 18 inches deep as was much of the pond. Here, we found what I considered to be some of the nicest lotuses during our trip. Perhaps it is because they were more sheltered from the waves and wind.

Many of the flowers were in different stages of development. Some hadn't yet opened (see the teardrop shaped things in the first photo). Others appeared only as large white flowers (second photo). The best (in my opinion) displayed white petals spread widely to display a yellow cone (third photo). This yellow cone would eventually grow and turn green after the petals fell. At this stage, they would resemble shower heads if viewed from the side. See the fourth photo. Then, holes in these "shower heads" would open wider to expose seeds. In the autumn, these shower heads would turn woody (the lower left corner of the fourth photo shows a woody shower head). Not too many were at the woody stage but there were a multitude of examples of all the other stages.
  • Fifth photo: Suzanne surrounded by lotuses.
  • Sixth photo: Lotuses at the water edge.
  • Seventh photo: Jenny makes her way along the lotus line.
  • Eighth photo: Shower heads smile for the camera.
  • Ninth photo: This flower is bigger than the kayak!

  • North Sassafras Creeks
    The 6 of us paddled across the Sassafras. There was a significant amount of boat traffic. Many of the larger boats kicked up some pretty good sized waves. As we rounded Ordinary Point (couldn't they think of a better name?), we saw more lotuses in Money Creek (but no money).
  • First photo: Mature plant with visible seeds.
  • Second photo: Suzanne hiding in the lotuses.
  • Third photo: Lotus leaves out of the water.
  • Fourth photo: Photographer Vince.
  • Fifth photo: Another fine example.

  • As we left Money Creek and headed east, I saw several (maybe 20) red wing blackbirds in a tree. See sixth photo. That is the first time I've seen so many clustered together.

    I saw another bald eagle.

    We passed some big, steep cliffs about 40 feet high on the Cecil County side of the Sassafras (north side).

    What appeared to be missile heads from a distance were actually some type of large bird feeders (so I was told) on someone's lawn. See seventh photo.

    Our mostly sunny skies became very hazy. But this wasn't just humidity...it was smoke. It smelt like someone was burning plastic.
    A strong burning smell from smoke wafting through Maryland is from an unprecedented wildfire raging 200 miles away through the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and North Carolina, authorities said Saturday.
    The smell prompted multiple calls to local departments in Maryland from citizens concerned about fire. But officials say the smell is from the blazes smoldering in thick, organic soil or peat in the largest fire in the history of the federal refuge, destroying an estimated 5,600 acres of land in Virginia and North Carolina as of Saturday.
    Capt. James Rostek, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department, told Edgewater-Davidsonville Patch that a change in wind direction had brought smoke back to Maryland regions, sparking numerous calls to authorities asking about fire.
    The Maryland Emergency Management Agency issued a release saying the fire was causing an unpleasant smell and haze to spread across portions of the state, reported Perry Hall Patch.
    There were calls as far north in Maryland as Aberdeen in Harford County and people in Pennsylvania were smelling smoke as well.

    - from Laurel Patch - Smoke From Great Dismal Swamp Fire Reaches Maryland, link broken as of 2014

    I'm really glad Norma and I got to visit Great Dismal Swamp when we did on April 22-25, 2011. Had we waited a few months, we may have been too late.

    Continuing east, we passed Cox Creek and Foreman Creek. At least one of these tributaries was home to more lotuses. I found some that were a little further along in terms of maturity. I was able to pick woody seeds, about the size of large blueberries, out of the shower heads.
    Lotus seeds or lotus nuts are the seeds of plants in the genus Nelumbo, particularly the species Nelumbo nucifera. The seeds are of great importance to East Asian cuisine and are used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine and in Chinese desserts. The seeds are most commonly sold in the shelled and dried form. Fresh lotus seeds are relatively uncommon in the market except in areas of lotus root and seed production, where they are sometimes sold as a raw snack.
    - from Wikipedia - Lotus Seed

    Mount Harmon
    As we paddled into Back Creek, I knew we were getting near Mount Harmon. I expected to see the historic building, a sign, or a marker to indicate that I was near this 200 acre estate and 18th century mansion. But I saw none. I was also finding the creeks to look too much alike. While my GPS showed me where I was and the shape of the nearby creeks, it failed to show the names of the creeks. I could have pulled over, gotten out my maps and determined where to land but instead, I just asked Greg, who had been there. He led us to a tiny little tree-covered beach landing about 50 meters to the right of an old wooden building in the first photo (called the Prize House). Here, a Maryland flag marked the landing but since there was no wind in this sheltered location, the flag was not very visble. Best to just look for the Prize House and land to the right of it. Or, if you have a GPS, set it for coordinates 39.381628, -75.941892. This is what Google Maps said was the location of the landing. Greg's GPS said it was N39°22.892' W75°56.507' which will probably be more accurate. You can check out the Mount Harmon Plantation Site Map (if you can find it) and shoot for landing just east of the pond (which you won't see from shore). Or, check out the route map that Google Maps and I created and look to land at the "Beach Landing."

    We carried our kayaks ashore and left them on a grassy area above the small beach. Then we ate lunch at a nearby picnic table in a grassy clearing just east of a large pond. A few people thought they heard thunder but they weren't sure if it was that or explosives testing at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

    We walked on a trail (second photo) to the 18th century brick Manor House (third house). On the east side of this house, near the Colonial Kitchen (fourth photo) were restrooms along with an outdoor spigot for rinsing off our dirty feet and shoes.

    We entered the manor house through the south entrance then received a $10 per person tour. It started with a video. Then, our tour guide, Katie, ran through a timeline listing the various owners of this tobacco plantation, starting with the
    land grant of 350 acres to Godfrey Harmon by Caecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, in 1651.
    - from Mount Harmon Plantation flyer

    Overall, I would say the tour was interesting and worth the money. It was also a nice break from paddling.

    We walked over to the east side of the manor to get a view of McGill Creek. This creek was full of several acres of lotuses. Unlike previously, where I only saw the flowers from my boat, I was now able to see them from a higher vantage point. See fifth photo.

    By 1400 (two hours earlier than predicted), it started raining cats and dogs. We quickly made our way back to the boats and by the time we were ready to launch, the rain stopped.

    Greg led us across Back Creek and the Sassafras River back into Kent County. We didn't have far to go.

    We saw lightning and heard thunder in the distance as it started to rain again. We pulled ashore at a beach. With so much rip rap, there weren't too many suitable landings. A few minutes later, a woman by the name of Silver, came out. We expected her to tell us that we were trespassing but instead, she asked if we were o.k. and if we needed anything. We explained that we only planned to wait until the storm passed. She went in and spoke to her husband, Bill. He checked the weather radar report then came out to tell us that the storm was big and wouldn't be passing soon. He offered to drive us to our cars so we could come pick up our boats. We gladly took him up on his offer. He drove the 4 wet drivers in his nice luxury car back to the launch site while Jenny and I waited with Silver and her son (Bill Jr.) on the screened porch of the house. In terms of paddling distance, we were only about 1.5 miles away but it was 9 miles back by car. Bill Jr. told me about a heron rookery in the shallow section of one of the creeks on the Cecil Couty side. I'm thinking it was either Cox Creek or Foreman Creek.

    Our drivers returned. We loaded up the boats, thanked Bill, Silver, and Bill Jr., then left. We were most appreciative of their kind hospitality. I think one reason they were so good to us is because they are kayakers themselves. So if you ever have to pull over during a storm, go ashore at a property where there are kayaks or canoes and there is a very good chance you will be treated well.

    We only paddled about 8.25 miles that day.

    Greg and Jenny headed off while the rest of us went back to my house for dinner. I grilled burgers while Norma made pie, vegetables, and an assortment of other dishes. It was a fun and memorable day.

    I would like to return to that area and look for the rookery. I'd also like to walk on the trails of the Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area, do some bicycling, and visit the Knock's Folly Visitors Center (scroll down in this link) and the Kent County Museum. There is so much to see and do in that area.

    I had a really great day. I paddled with friends in a new area, saw lots of pretty flowers, and met some very kind people. Then it ended with a good meal and a fruit pie dessert with ice cream. The only thing that could have made things better is if I saw Chessie.

    Kayak Cartoon
    Here is a little something kayak-related drawn by Bishop, one of my talented co-workers.

    On July 24, 2011, I tried to organize a few of my kayaking buddies to join Norma and me for some early morning kayaking in Annapolis. Maybe it was too early because nobody else showed up.

    We launched at 0615 at Jonas Green Park. Despite the fact that it was so early, the temperature was already in the high 80s and was expecting to peak in the high 90s. That was just one reason we wanted to get out early. The other reasons were to avoid the boat traffic, see the town awaken, and paddle on flat water with the hope of seeing a ray.

    From Brice Point we made out way across the Severn River to Meadow Point. Here we saw what looked like the type of Zodiac Boats that the Navy SEALs use. They appeared to be left unguarded on a beach at the Naval Academy.

    Norma and I watched the sun rise over the horizon. See first photo. I was on my S1-A (second photo) and she was on my Cobra Expedition.

    As we paddled east along the north side of the Academy, we saw a few runners though not as many as I would have expected. I guess the midshipmen train hard all week long and rest on Sunday...or at least sleep in a bit.

    We made out way into College Creek. Normally, this could be a dangerous place to paddle with all the midshipmen practicing their rowing. Those shells are super fast, quiet, and not the least bit maneuverable. But like I said, this was Sunday.

    Not much to see in terms of wildlife. Just the usual ospreys and herons (third photo). By comparison, after seeing so many dolphin on our July 17, 2011 trip, this one sucked.

    The water in the Severn and the Bay was calm. I scanned the horizon looking for telltale fins flipping up and down in unison...the sure sign of a ray. Unfortunately, I saw none.

    We continued east then south up Spa Creek. I think we saw more kayakers than power boaters...at least in the early morning.

    At Truxton Park, we stopped for a short break. A black vulture let us get remarkably close to it. See fourth photo.

    We continued paddling upstream until we ran out of water. Then we paddled along the opposite side (northwest) on the return trip. It was interesting how some folk did their waterfront landscaping. There were lots of beautiful flowers (fifth and sixth photos), including some that attracted swallowtail butterflies (seventh photo). One house, (which surprisingly did not have many flowers) had two large bee hives. See eighth photo.

    Norma and I meandered up and down the historic waterfront area than stopped at a floating pier for a short rest. It was good to get out of the sun but hard to stay awake once we got comfortable on one of the city benches.

    On the return trip, the Severn was much rougher with some wind and lots of boat traffic.

    We finished kayaking at 1045, having put in 10.75 miles.

    Pocomoke Challenge and Chincoteague
    For a trip report of a fantastic weekend on the eastern shore with Norma and Carmen, see July 16-17, 2011. Expect to see photos and video of dolphin!

    Patuxent River Park
    After Norma and I spent a fun June 17 and June 18 with her intern, Kina, we thought it would be good to show her some of the more remote sections outside of Washington D.C. Hence, on June 25, 2011, we took her kayaking at Patuxent River Park. This is one area that I know extremely well and have grown to love. So I was eager to share it with a far-away visitor (from Germany) who might appreciate the beauty of the natural wetlands.

    Kina used to compete in rowing in Germany when she was in high school. So being on the water was not new to her...but kayaking was. What better place to introduce her to the sport than on the Patuxent (Pax) River and its tributaries. The route I picked out was of moderate length, easy, flat, and scenic. She would be able to paddle in a tandem or a single boat, since I would bring one of each. To make things festive, I brought a few fun people: Catriona, her boyfriend Reggie, Janie, and her husband Mark.

    The Patuxent River is a fascinating area full history and pre-history.
    Indians have lived along the Patuxent River since at least 6500 BC. An archaeological dig at Pig Point (just north of Jug Bay at the end of Wrighton Road) uncovered the oldest known artifacts in the Mid Atlantic states, including pottery, arrow and spear points and remnants of wigwams, fires and foodways. The site was probably a center of trade in the region and has one of the best unbroken archaeological records on the East Coast. The Pig Point site includes the oldest structures ever found in Maryland, wigwam post holes dating to the 3rd century.
    - from Wikipedia - Patuxent River

    The seven of us launched at Selby's Landing just after 1000. While this site looks like a pretty typical modern Maryland launch site, boats have actually been launching from here for well over 200 years.
    On March 1, 1774, the Peggy Stuart set off from here [Selbys Landing] on its last voyage, bound straight for London with Southern Maryland tobacco. Upon returning to Maryland, the ship was burned in the Annapolis version of the Boston Tea Party for violation of the colonists non-imortation boycott of certain British goods in protest of King George's taxes.
    - from the Mid-Patuxent Estuarine Ecosystem Map by David Linthicum and Peggy Dickison

    High tide would be at 1225. My goal was to be on the water about 2 hours prior and 2 hours after, so that we could more easily maneuver upstream on the tributaries we would be exploring. Our first tributary was Mataponi Creek.
    During colonial times, this creek was called Brookes Creek.
    - from the Mid-Patuxent Estuarine Ecosystem Map by David Linthicum and Peggy Dickison

    We meandered our way up the winding creek, passing lots of bay grasses, spatterdock, wild roses, and arrow arum. Catriona and Reggie were in Vela kayaks, Janie and Mark were in a wide plastic tandem sit-on-top, Norma and Kina paddled my Ocean Kayak Cabo, and I was in my Prijon Catalina. Reggie used a kevlar wing paddle...something I had never seen before. It lacked the rigidity of a carbon fiber paddle.

    At the wooden Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Driving Tour (CADT) bridge, I climbed out and took some photos. See first and second photos.

    I was hoping to see aquatic mammals and snakes but we saw none. I did see one turtle, a red wing blackbird (third photo), and of course several osprey and blue herons.

    We didn't make it much further before things got too narrow to continue.

    We weren't the only ones out enjoying the day. We saw other kayakers and some bicyclists passing over the CADT bridge shortly before we paddled under it. See fourth photo.

    On our way back, we stopped at the paddle-in campsite on the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary side for a bite to eat. Janie reported that not too far away was a porta-john.

    Kina and I switched positions. She drove my Prijon (fifth photo) and I paddled with Norma in the tandem.

    At the mouth of the creek, Janie and Mark (sixth photo) decided to head back while the rest of us left Prince George's County and kayaked across the Pax to the Anne Arundel County side. Here we found Lyons Creek.

    The Patuxent River was first named ("Pawtuxunt") on the detailed map resulting from the 1608 voyage upriver by Jamestown, Virginia settler John Smith. Captain Smith got as far as the rough vicinity of the present-day Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary (Lyons Creek) area.
    - from Wikipedia - Patuxent River

    Who was John Smith? Today his name goes hand in hand with the Chesapeake Bay. Our nation's first national historic water trail was even named in his honor (the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail).
    Captain John Smith (c. January 1580 – June 21, 1631) Admiral of New England was an English soldier, explorer, and author. He was knighted for his services to Sigismund Bathory, Prince of Transylvania and friend Mózes Székely. He is remembered for his role in establishing the first permanent English settlement in North America at Jamestown, Virginia, and his brief association with the Virginia Indian girl Pocahontas during an altercation with the Powhatan Confederacy and her father, Chief Powhatan. He was a leader of the Virginia Colony (based at Jamestown) between September 1608 and August 1609, and led an exploration along the rivers of Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay. His books and maps may have been as important as his deeds, as they encouraged more Englishmen and women to follow the trail he had blazed and to colonize the New World. He gave the name New England to that region, and encouraged people with the comment, "Here every man may be master and owner of his owne labour and land...If he have nothing but his hands, he may...by industrie quickly grow rich."
    - from Wikipedia - John Smith (explorer)

    Lyons Creek is much different that Mataponi Creek in that it is much more wooded and less natural. Private homes and lots dot the south side of the creek. Fortunately, they do so quite tastefully, leaving some sense of solitude for the kayaker who is out to get away from it all (seventh photo). Ironically, Lyons Creek is better than the Mataponi if one wants to get away from other kayakers.

    Like the Mataponi, we didn't see any interesting animal life. But we did see some pretty floral scenes. Originally, I thought the plant producing several purple flowers was arrow arum but it turns out it was actually pickerelweed. See eighth photo.

    Much of the creek is narrow and the opening is somewhat hidden. One would hardly expect to find a historic wreck on the creek but if one looks very hard at low tide, one might just find it.
    On Lyons Creek is America's oldest known small boat wreck. Discovered accidentally in 1974 on this stretch of Lyons Creek...The 17 to 25 foot "clinker" rests in five feet of water but under six to ten feet further of sediment. Sunk in all likelihood between 1680 and 1720, the ship carried at least 40 cannonballs weighing over 600 pounds and other munitions, perhaps in response to calls for such supplies that went out during the warfare of the 1689 Protestant Revolution in Maryland.
    - from the Mid-Patuxent Estuarine Ecosystem Map by David Linthicum and Peggy Dickison

    We continued upstream until we came to fallen logs that would have required portage. By that time, it was quite narrow and I don't think we could have gotten much further without a subsequent portage so instead, we took a short break (ninth photo), then turned around and started heading back (tenth photo).

    It was a warm day and it felt good to cool off. These conditions led to an inevitable "splash fight." In a tandem, it seems nobody wins a splash fight since you can't run or hide from your opponent. Still, sitting in front has its advantages...and that is where I sat. But eventually, Kina and I switched positions again so I was back in the Prijon. Now I could splash and run. I managed to soak Kina with my bilge pump. She wasn't quite sure what it was until a wall of water came flying at her. I wish I had that on film.

    Reggie and Catriona took a much more serious approach to getting each other soaked. They were flipping each other's boats. But being the pros that they are with their good kayaking skills and spray skirts, they simply rolled back upright after flipping.

    Soon we were back near the mouth of the creek (eleventh photo) then back on the Pax. It seemed the time flew by quickly.

    We finished paddling about 8.7 miles by 1415.

    After loading up the boats, we took a short drive to the visitor center. Here we had a bite to eat at the picnic tables that overlook Jug Bay.

    Next, we took a walk, stopping at the following places:
  • Rural Life Museum: We saw some old homes (twelfth photo), a pretty garden (thirteenth photo), and a Sears catalog house (fourteenth photo).
  • W. Henry Duvall Tool Museum: This building displayed local tools from the 1800s.
  • Black Walnut Creek Nature Study Area: Perhaps the most popular trails in the park, this scenic, mostly boardwalk-covered area took us through marshlands. See fifteenth photo.

  • We also hiked on parts of a few other trails in the park. I think we only walked about 1.7 miles. At the observation platform, we stopped for a group photo with Jug Bay in the background. See sixteenth photo.

    By 1715, we were done for the day. It felt good to return to one of my favorite places and even better to share it with others, including someone from WAAAAY out of town.

    Mallows Bay
    The last time I visited the "ghost fleet" at Mallows Bay was September 23, 2007. Back then, I had a great time and took some terrific photos...one of which appeared on the cover of the Volume 13, Number 2, Spring 2010 Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) magazine (see Yvonne in Mallows Bay). For years after, I told many people about this place and a few expressed interest in seeing it. In 2007, there wasn't a convenient launch site near Mallows Bay. Such a place wasn't built and open to the public until September 29, 2010. Hence, with sufficient interest and a launch area close enough for beginners, I set my second Mallows Bay trip for June 12, 2011.

    What is the "ghost fleet"? Put simply, it is a ship graveyard...but Mallows Bay isn't just any ship graveyard. It holds
    ...the largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere -- and possibly the world.
    - from Maryland DNR - Ghost Fleet at Mallows Bay

    The ship graveyard at Mallows Bay
    ...is what remains of over ~150 wooden steamers that were built during World War I. These ships were built entirely of wood in an effort to replace cargo ships lost to the German U-boats. They were in a sense the "Liberty Ships" of WW I. However, this is not the success story of the WW II "Liberty Ships". These wooden vessels were made from the wrong lumber, they leaked, and were delivered after the war's end. They were burnt to the waterline, salvaged of all metal and left in Mallows Bay to rot.
    - from Wikimapia - Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

    Why did I choose to visit on this date? Well, according to Salt Water Tides, one of the lowest tides for the summer of 2011 on a weekend morning would be on Sunday, June 12 at 1040. Mallows Bay isn't explicitly listed on this tide table so instead I used Liverpool Point. At 1046, the tide height would be 0.1 feet (very low).

    It was also a good time to see what my fairly new Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 camera could do.

    During the spring, the water can be pretty high and in the latter part of the summer and early fall, the vegetation on the Potomac River can get thick enough to make paddling difficult in the shallow areas. Thus, early summer seemed like a good time to visit.

    The forecast for June 12 was not ideal though it wasn't bad either. As of 0431 that morning, the National Weather Service forecast read as follows:
    Showers and thunderstorms likely, mainly after 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 91. Calm wind becoming west around 6 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
    This was considerably better than the forecast from the night before which included a small craft advisory and warnings of hail. But by 1600, we would surely be done with paddling so we had nothing to fear...right?

    Janie, her husband Mark, and her son John Mac showed up at my place bright and early. I let Mark and John Mac use my Ocean Kayak Cabo. I would use my Cobra Expedition. I couldn't carry them both with my car so they carried the latter.

    The four of us drove out to Sweden Point in Smallwood State Park where we dropped off our bicycles. There we saw Chip and his friend Kara. Kara was planning on leading a kayak trip at Mallows Bay for the Greater Baltimore Canoe Club (GBCC) and this was a good opportunity for her to become familiar with the area.

    As we left the park, I found a five inch long box turtle in the road. I stopped my car, picked it up, and moved it to the side so it woudn't get run over.

    We drove to the Mallows Bay Launch site. Here, we met up with Stacy, who dropped off her bike at Sweden Point a little after us. She saw the same turtle back in the road and stopped to move it too. Great minds think alike.

    After a brief introduction about the area, what to expect, the route, etc., we were on the water by 1000. Within two minutes, Janie saw a muskrat swimming.

    We paddled into the little cove just northeast of the launch site (first photo). Here we saw two wrecks. See the first wreck in the second and third photos. Just outside the cove, a not-so-shy heron watched us (fourth and fifth photos).

    Heading west, we went out to explore amongst the heart of the ship graveyard. I climbed up on a big steel wreck (sixth photo). The area where I landed was slippery. There was a stairwell that led up to the top but the bottom 4 feet of it was broken off so I had to climb up, making sure not to cut myself on the sharp, rusty metal. Up top, there were lots of wasps and more sharp metal. I walked very carefully, knowing that some parts of the deck had rusted through. Opposite from where I landed was a big osprey nest with its owner defending its position. I made sure not to get too close. There were spectacular views from this high vantage point.
  • Seventh photo: Osprey nest at the bow of the ship.
  • Eighth photo: John Mac and Mark on the aft side.
  • Ninth photo: Janie on the port side.
  • Tenth photo: My kayak.

  • I kayaked to another wreck that was more easily accessible. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite so high up. Kara joined me. There were hundreds of metal bolts and screws sitting loosely on the deck (eleventh photo). At the front of this wreck was another big nest but this one was unguarded. Even though this one wasn't quite so high, the views were better because it was closer to more sunken ships. This is the location where I took my magazine worthy photo.
  • Twelfth photo: Chip off the port side.
  • Thirteenth photo: Looking north.
  • Fourteenth photo: Kayaker to the northeast.
  • Fifteenth photo: Chip on the south side taking a drink. Notice the previous wreck behind him.
  • Sixteenth photo: The outline of the bow of sunken ships poke their heads out of the water to the north.
  • Seventeenth photo: The stern of the ship gradually sank into the water, making for a gentle landing (if you could avoid the metal obstacles). Notice the previous wreck in the upper right.
  • Eighteenth photo: A snake swims in front of Chip.
  • Nineteenth photo: I'm thinking this photo might give Yvonne some competition.
  • Twentieth photo: A photo of the photographer by Chip.
  • Twenty-first photo: Kara atop the bow.
  • Twenty-second photo: The wreck as seen from the water.

  • If you're expecting to go out there and see hundreds of wrecks that are several feet above the waterline, you'll be sadly disappointed. Many of these ships are just inches above the water at low tide. From a distance, they don't really look like much. But as you get closer, there will be much to see. There used to be an awesome satellite photo on the Internet of the area taken at low tide but I haven't been able to find it.

    I pulled over at a wreck that protruded out of the water by only a foot or so.
  • Twenty-third photo: Chip found a single blade paddle easier to maneuver through the wreckage.
  • Twenty-fourth photo: Kayakers (not part of our group) explore the northern part of the bay.
  • Twenty-fifth photo: John Mac, Mark, and Janie pull ashore.

  • We stopped on a beach at the north end of the bay and had a snack. Janie cleaned out her boat which had taken on some unwanted passengers before she launched. John Mac showed me how a real pro skips rocks. Stacey explored the northwest side of the bay before joining us (twenty-sixth photo). Kara came in from the south (twenty-seventh photo).

    After our break, Kara headed back and the rest of us continued onward, paddling upstream with the tide giving us a push. I'm estimating we were going about 0.8 mph faster than if we had no help. See Janie cruising along in the twenty-eighth photo.

    We stayed relatively close to the shore. There was a good deal of boat traffic so we didn't want to get too far out in the middle of the Potomac but getting too close to the shore wasn't always best either since there was so much aquatic vegetation in the shallower areas. This would only get worse in the summer.

    We saw numerous eagles though we might have just been seeing the same two or three as they usually didn't sit still. There were also some turkey vultures (see the twenty-ninth and thirtieth photos).

    As the 6 of us crossed the 0.9 mile mouth of Chicamuxen Creek (the only real open water crossing during the trip), we saw dark clouds rolling in. After about another half mile, we saw thunder and lightning so we pulled ashore at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center. No, we weren't supposed to be there but we really didn't have any choice. See Mark waiting for the storm in the thirty-first photo. In the thirty-second photo, Chip pulls his Azul kayak ashore. Doesn't azul mean blue...and not yellow? Notice the upcoming wreck between the tree limbs in that photo.

    What had been a very calm day turned ugly within seconds. Our 4 mph wind picked up to about 25 mph and our non-existent rain turned into a downpour. I wish I had some photos of this but my camera isn't waterproof. The prediction for thunderstorms after 1600 was 2 hours early. There was a significant amount of thunder and lightning. But after about 10 minutes, the rain died down and after another 15, the thunder and lightning moved on and we were back on the water.

    We came to another steel wreck that I climbed aboard to explore. Like the others, this too had an osprey next.
  • Thirty-third photo: John Mac and Mark on the aft starboard side.
  • Thirty-fourth photo: View from the aft side looking to the bow.
  • Thirty-fifth photo: Janie, John Mac, Mark, and Chip. Notice that Chip is now using his Greenland paddle.
  • Thirty-sixth photo: The ship doesn't look too bad on this side...
  • Thirty-seventh photo: ...but it most certainly looks bad from this view.

  • After leaving the last wreck of the day, I finally found a bald eagle that would pose for me (thirty-eighth photo).

    We turned east onto Mattawoman Creek which I explored on September 21, 2007. A few miles later, we rounded Rum Point and saw our take out. See Stacy and Janie at the landing in the thirty-ninth photo. By 1500, we were done, having paddled 10.6 miles.

    I walked out on the foot bridge that connects the launch area with the campground.
  • Fourtieth photo: Foot bridge.
  • Forty-first photo: Lily pads.
  • Forty-second photo: Dragonfly on lily pad.
  • Forty-third photo: Purple flowers.

  • We were finished with kayaking but we still weren't really done. After a quick bite to eat, John Mac, Janie, Stacy, and I started biking back. Mark stayed with the boats while Kara picked up Chip. The 4 of us used my Smallwood to Mallows Bay route which I really enjoyed. There wasn't any shoulder on the roads but these streets didn't have much traffic and if the sun wasn't directly overhead, you might get a little shade. It was mostly rural. We saw chickens and goats. We also saw a nutria swimming. Our average pace (not moving average) for this 13.2 mile route was 14 mph...not bad, in my opinion though I'm not sure if John Mac even broke a sweat.

    After loading the bikes, we went to get the boats. As we loaded them, another storm moved in. Again, it was dark clouds followed by a strong wind. My Cobra was being loaded on J-Stacker racks. One problem with this style rack, which I failed to foresee, was that with the boats turned sideways, they will catch wind more easily than if they are lying flat. A big gust caught it before it could be secured and it fell, cracking the plastic rudder assembly.

    But despite my boat damage, I had a great time and I think others did too. I got some good photos, I met 3 new nice people, and I introduced a few people to an area that I really enjoy. So overall, it was a day well spent.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Inner Harbor
    In the 5 years that I've known Norma, I've never taken her paddling in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. It is just one of those places that is so close to home that I just kept putting it off because I figured we could do it anytime.

    June 4, 2011 was as good a time as any to take her out there. Since it didn't take much planning, we took care of stuff at home first: mowing, fixing the rudder on one of my kayaks, cleaning out the French drain, picking vegetables from the garden, and removing fence posts. By the time we launched in Broening Park, it was already 1600.
    I was on my S1-A and she was on my Cobra Expedition (the boat whose rudder I replaced). I'm not used to paddling my S1-A slowly but that's exactly what I did and I got a different kind of workout in doing so. I really worked my stabilizers since I had to make a conscious effort to keep from falling out. That boat just isn't stable when it is slow.

    We paddled over to Fort McHenry. In previous years, I've landed on the small beach just to the southwest of it to stretch my legs (and pee) but this time, there was a sign saying "No Trespassing - Nature Research Area." That was a shame as there is a wooden foot bridge one can climb up on to get a better view of the marshy area below. But no more. We just have to view it from the water now. But there was an area between the second foot bridge and the fort on the fort-side of a narrow waterway where one could pull over and take care of business in the tall reeds.

    To our east, we saw the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

    We crossed over to the South Clinton Street (east) side directly east of the fort. Here, we saw a small lighthouse that looked more like a New England style lighthouse than a mid-Atlantic style one.

    Norma and I passed a couple of Navy ships that looked like they might be used for resupply.

    Then we saw a small helicopter. In previous years, I've seen this helicopter land.

    Next was a Mississippi River boat. It looks so out-of-place here.

    After passing the Canton Waterfront Park next to the Korean War Memorial, we saw a miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty at a marina.

    There were some mosques, churches, or temples off in the distance with distinctive golden onion domes.

    A small trash skimmer boat passed by.

    We stopped in Fells Point where we saw Urban Pirates. Here, Norma climbed out of the boat, scurried her way up a ladder, and up into Fells Point proper where she walked into Bonaparte Breads for some coffee and dessert, the latter which she shared with me. While I waited for her, holding the boats, I heard the tourists on the Urban Pirates boat. The person in charge did an excellent job of getting everyone motivated and excited about their pending harbor cruise.

    We passed the Seven Foot Knoll Light and the Pier Six Pavillion, where I saw "Weird Al" Yankovic in concert back around 1999-ish.

    We kayaked under some low foot bridges near the National Aquarium. Here, we saw a couple of floating wetlands.

    Just west of the aquarium, we saw the World War II submarine called the USS Torsk. The front of it strongly resembled my Cobra Expedition (i.e. it had teeth).

    In the most northwestern corner of the Inner Harbor, we saw the USS Constellation.

    Heading south from the Constellation, we saw the SeaDog boats. This fast-looking boat was like a Ferrari compared to the slow-looking water taxis, of which we saw many.

    In front of the Maryland Science Center, Norma got out of the boat again to find a restroom. The Visitor Center was closed so instead she walked to the building that houses Hooters and several other restaurants which of course did have a public restroom. Again, I stayed with the boats.

    Paddling back, we passed the Baltimore Museum of Industry, the Domino Sugar Plant, a Navy hospital ship, and several tugboats. We also saw dozens of cormorants on the ropes that secured a couple of Navy ships to the pier. Norma was impressed at the size of these boats, even though they were small in comparison to the ship on which I was stationed.

    The Inner Harbor area really just has too much stuff to mention. It is totally different from the kind of paddling that Norma typically enjoys but she found it fascinating because there is just SOOOO much to see. It is anything but boring.

    As the sun set, we turned on our personal floatation device (PFD) lights. We finished at about 2030. Had we taken photos, we would have gotten back much later. I got in 12.5 miles of paddling...Norma a little less.

    Stand-up Paddling
    Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is a relatively new sport in Maryland. It is already quite popular in Hawaii and parts of California but most folk in Maryland have never heard of it or seen it. Will it catch on out here? I think so. We have quite a bit of water and while we don't have much surf or clear water, the simple fact that we have a lot stands greatly to our benefit in promoting the sport.

    The popularity of the modern sport of SUP has its origin in the Hawaiian Islands. In the early 1960s, the Beach Boys of Waikiki would stand on their long boards, and paddle out with outrigger paddles to take pictures of the tourists learning to surf. This is where the term "Beach Boy Surfing", another name for Stand Up Paddle Surfing originates.
    - from Wikipedia - Stand Up Paddling

    Janie has an SUP and she was gracious enough to let me try it on June 3, 2011. So after work, we went to Southwest Area Park and launched on what I call the Little Patapsco River. This is the section of the Patapsco River where it is narrow (west of the Harbor Hospital) and upstream of Hanover Street.

    She was on her SUP (first photo) and I was on my Prijon Catalina by 1740. After maybe a mile, we pulled over in the pond area, worked on some kayak skills, then swapped boats (I'm guessing an SUP is considered a boat?). I loved being on the SUP (second photo). The first and previous time I was on one was about 4 years ago. That one belonged to Neil. I'm comfortable with kayaking and really know how to exert myself physically in one to go fast. Not true with the SUP. I felt rather awkward and am almost clueless when it comes to proper paddling technique on that animal. But I am sure that if I got comfortable with it and developed a good rhythm, I could get a good workout in one. I've been told that it is a better core workout than kayaking and I believe it.

    Low tide was around 1600 so we were making pretty good time moving upstream. After the second bridge, the water started getting clearer and more shallow. Standing up on the SUP, I really saw a lot of things in the water. Lots of fish and crabs. Janie didn't see nearly as many crabs in my Prijon but she did manage to see a snake that I missed.

    After about the third bridge, it started getting too shallow so we turned around. At high tide, we should have been able to make it to highway 695 (the fifth bridge).

    We paddled back down past the launch site and to Potee Street before returning.

    Janie and I loaded up the boats and were out of the park just a few minutes before 2000, when the park closes in June through August.

    We got in 4.7 miles of paddling. I had a good time and got to try out a fun toy. I believe her SUP is 9 or 10 feet long. It is stable and maneuverable. I think if I were to get one, I would get a longer, faster one that tracks better. I would like to be able to use it to keep up with the sea kayakers. Will I eventually get one? Probably...but not until I buy more solar panels.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Trap Pond
    For a trip report of a weekend long Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) kayak car camping trip at Trap Pond State Park led by Suzanne and I, see May 20-22, 2011.

    Tuckahoe Creek
    In my opinion, May is the best time in Maryland to go kayaking. Things are starting to warm up, the days are getting longer, the animals are active, and the vegetation is lush. On April 28, the forecast was for the first few days of May to be sunny and warm (highs in the mid-70s). So I contacted a few of my friends to join me for a nice day of scenic creek paddling.

    Norma was out with her friends at the National Arboretum seeing the flowers at their peak of color. I would also see flowers, but from a much different place.

    Stacy and Janie joined me for this May 1, 2011 trip. The plan was to launch just downstream of the pond in Tuckahoe State Park on the 5.4 mile Tuckahoe Creek Water Trail.

    From here we would paddle to Hillsboro and eat lunch at their little park and boat ramp. Then, we would kayak another 5.9 miles to the takeout at Coveys Landing. To get back to the cars, we would bike an easy 8.9 miles.

    According to Tides.INFO, high tide at Hillsboro would be at 0753 and low tide at 1357. So we would have the tide helping us downstream for most of the trip.

    Shortly after launching at 0930, we came to a downed tree that was a little difficult to get around. But after that, things were mostly easy.

    This trip is ideal for a short plastic boat (less than 16 feet long). Stacy's Old Town Cayuga is about 13 feet long while Janie's azure LL Bean Calypso with rudder is 14 feet. I paddled my Prijon Catalina.

    Both Stacy and Janie could have been LL Bean spokespersons with all the gear they purchased at the outlet store: boats, personal floation devices (PFDs), paddle, and clothes.

    Norma and I did about half this trip on July 4, 2006. Back then, there was a LOT more downed trees since we paddled after a big storm. But today, I didn't have to do any cutting and there was only one portage. Actually, Stacy and Janie didn't need to portage but I did. There was one huge fallen log that they were able to fit under, but only without their PFD. They knelt down into their cockpit and I pushed them through. I wouldn't have fit through (my head is too big) so I hopped on the log, pushed my boat through, then got in it on the other side after taking photos while standing on the log.

    In my opinion, this is the most scenic trip within a 2 hour drive of Savage. Here's proof:
  • First photo: Janie smiling for the camera while Stacy practices her bird calls.
  • Second photo: Sunscreen is not needed for the water trail.
  • Third photo: LL Bean fashion models.

  • I saw a northern water snake...one of several I've seen so far this year. See fourth photo.

    All three of us saw a swimming mammal...possibly a small beaver, nutria, or muskrat.

    I made the mistake of not clearing out old photos from Norma's Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 camera. We really took a lot of pictures during our April 22-25, 2011 trip to Great Dismal Swamp. Hence, the memory card filled up and since it wasn't my camera, I didn't know how to delete photos without hooking it up to my personal computer. But at least I got the snake on film.

    The creek often passed by the park's 4.5 mile Tuckahoe Valley Trail where we saw hikers and mountain bikers. But if it wasn't for them and maybe a bench near the trail, I would have thought we were deep into the wilderness.

    We paddled under Shore Highway (route 404) and Hillsboro Road (alternate route 404) near the end of the Tuckahoe Creek Water Trail.

    As planned, we ate lunch at Hillsboro. I was hoping it would warm up but I don't think it ever got about 60 degrees all day. The meteorologists were SOOOO wrong. The sun never came out and it was a little cold. Fortunately, I brought extra kayak clothes for everyone, including myself.

    South of Hillsboro, the creek opened up enough so we could paddle side-by-side.

    Stacy pointed out numerous birds including what we thought might have been an immature bald eagle. She also identified woodpeckers, a cormorant, vultures, owls calling, and lots of other birds I forget. She also did some bird calls for us. Her water bottle even made bird calls when she drank! Janie identified dandelions.

    Except for a boat with an electric motor, we didn't see any power boats.

    It started to drizzle a bit.

    After 11.9 miles, we were done kayaking.

    Stacy and I biked back to the start using my Coveys Landing to Tuckahoe State Park route. She keeps a real good pace. Janie stayed behind due to a calf injury she sustained while loading her boat in the morning. Stacy and I retrieved our cars then went to pick up Janie. I think we would have returned 10 minutes earlier if it wasn't for trying to get across route 404. That is the longest red light I've ever seen.

    We loaded up the boats and were done.

    It was interesting seeing Janie's Calypso. I thought it might be a good substitute for my Prijon Catalina. It is designed for women but the length, width, and weight are all ideal for the boat I wanted at the time. The rudder is very easy to hook up though I found the cotter rings to be weak and prone to stretching. The rudder control is a slider style, as opposed to a gas pedal style. I much prefer the latter. Her kayak is plastic and lightweight...much lighter than my Prijon. But with less weight, it is also weaker. One needs to have the proper kayak saddles for this boat. Otherwise, oil canning will occur if too much pressure is put on the bottom. On foam pads, oil canning was a real problem. Lighter weight, less material, less strength. You can't have it all. That's not to say it isn't a good boat. You just have to be a little gentle with it when tying it to a roof rack. If you are thinking about buying this boat, be smart like Janie and look at an LL Bean Outlet Store. You can save a bundle.

    I did a little blog about boats similar to the Calypso on October 21, 2009.

    This was Janie's first time in her boat. She did a fantastic job of maneuvering it on the trail and keeping a positive attitude despite her injury. Hopefully, I will see her (and Stacy) on the water much more.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Great Dismal Swamp
    Norma got Good Friday and Easter Monday off from work while my employer gave me Easter Sunday off. So we spent a long Easter weekend exploring the Great Dismal Swamp area on April 22-25, 2011.

    Scouting in Sussex County, Delaware
    On April 16-17, 2011, Suzanne and I scouted for an upcoming Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) kayak car camping trip in Delaware that we will lead on May 20-22, 2011.

    Hunting Creek
    The older I get, the more I seem to be satisfied doing things on my own. One nice thing about this is that I don't need to coordinate with others and can instead just take advantage of good weather. I did just that on Thursday, April 14, 2011.

    I had some hours to burn at work before my timesheet period ended so I got in a half day of work then drove out to Choptank Marina. They have a boat ramp (first photo) and a small beach (second photo) that would make for a great kayak launch.

    I was on the Choptank River heading downstream (east) by 1230. It was sunny and dry, with a high temperature of 67 degrees. There was a light wind. Visibility was so good, I felt like I just got a new contact lense prescription.

    After a mere 0.8 miles, I was at the mouth of Hunting Creek. After another 0.1 mile, I was at the Hunting Creek Bridge where one can fish and launch from a beach. See third photo.

    I continued up the creek, listening to 1980s music on my iPod while singing along. I shut up once I realized I might be scaring wildlife away.

    A 16 inch long yellow fish jumped clean out of the water. I think it was a carp.

    There were lots of turtles...more than I can remember. Most did not let me get within 50 meters.

    I spotted a large mammal swimming that I think was a nutria (fourth photo). It was near a "nutria raft" (fifth photo) which are used to eradicate them. See page B-77 of Nutria by Dwight J. LeBlanc for more information.

    While most of the creek wasn't too terribly narrow, it was extremely scenic with its tree-lined shores.

    About 4 miles from the start, I kayaked under the low Back Landing Bridge. The north side (left if looking at the photo) is the side you want to go under (sixth photo). Here I saw what I believe were barn swallow nests (seventh photo). One built its nest on a beer can attached to a bolt on the bridge. See eighth photo.

    I saw lots of eagles though it could have just been the same 2 that kept moving. They never let me get within more than an eighth of a mile before flying off.

    There were some cormorants (ninth photo) and lots of osprey, some with fish. I noticed a big white thing moving around that I thought was a rag blowing in the wind. As I got closer, I realized it was a fish in the talons of a perched osprey. The fish looked to be about 6 inches long. The bird flew off before I could get a photo.

    I checked out a few of the tributaries off the main creek. See tenth photo.

    As I approached the town of Preston, the creek got narrow and incredibly scenic. See eleventh and twelfth photos. There were numerous purple and white (my high school colors) flowers. See thirteenth and fourteenth photos.

    I turned around at a fallen log used as a perch for a red eared slider turtle (fifteenth photo) that lay just before Linchester Mill Pond and on the northeast side of Linchester Road. I couldn't see it but my ADC map of Caroline County claims the pond is there. However, Google Maps does not show it. I'm believing the latter. Had I gotten past the log, I think I could have gone a good bit further on this narrow but reasonably deep section of the creek (sixteenth photo).

    I went ashore and found a puddle with frogs. I never actually saw them but I heard them croak as they jumped.

    On the return trip, I stopped at Linchester Mill, went ashore, and looked around. Nice place. I suppose a small group could launch from there (seventeenth photo). I saw no signs stating not to. There were old, restored buildings maintained by the Caroline County Historical Society. See eighteenth and nineteenth photos. I found a sign that told me about the significance of the area:
    Since the establishment of Hunting Creek Grist Mill prior to 1681, a mill on this site has served farmers. Known during the revolutionary war as Murray's Mill, it supplied provisions to the Continental Army. Linchester also was a colonial port of entry.

    Another sign mentioned the role of the town prior to the Civil War:
    Two major "stations" on the Underground Railroad were located near Preston. Local Quakers, long opposed to slavery, operated one, and Harriet Tubman and her parents, Benjamin and Harriet Ross, ran the other. The success of these and other stations in Maryland led to the calling of local and statewide slaveholder conventions, which denounced the North for harboring fugitive slaves. Maryland slave owners were further enraged when these two stations were exposed in 1857-58, but most of their operators, including Tubman, escaped to Northern states and Canada.

    I would have loved to have explored longer but the tide was going out and there were definitely some parts of the creek that were shallow, even at high tide. I took in a few last bits of scenic eye candy before returning downstream.

    On the way back, after making it past the shallow areas, I checked out a few tributaries. I saw more turtles (twentieth photo) and some areas with numerous duck boxes (twenty-first photo).

    I spotted a muskrat in the water. It is much more weasel-like than the nutria.

    I never saw any power boats. But I did see one kayak near the launch site.

    I was done by 1645, having put in 13.6 miles in my Prijon Catalina.

    Kayaking can be a great stress reliever and this day was one of the best! I've been itching to get out on the water and I couldn't have picked a better day. I drove home in a fantastic mood.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Winter paddling
    I typically stop paddling at the end of October. When I start up again varies considerably but April is typical. However, once in awhile we have an unusually warm winter day and I'm just dying to get out on the water. This happened on February 17, 2011. It was a Thursday and I was at work. Every co-worker who came in from being outside kept saying how sunny and warm it was. After the third person, I could take no more. I waited until my 1300 meeting ended, then I headed for home. The expected high temperature was around 68 degrees with a 7-10 mph wind. Tomorrow would be even warmer but also windier so I figured today was the better of the two.

    I loaded up my S1-A then rushed out to Broening Park. Traffic was unusually bad heading towards Baltimore. Perhaps other people got a taste of the spring weather and decided to ditch work as I did. But maybe all the cars was a mixed blessing. I have a tendency to drive too fast when I'm anxious to get out on the water so the heavy traffic forced me to slow down.

    I was on the water by 1505.

    I kayaked past Fort McHenry then to the northwest side of the Inner Harbor. Along the way I passed all the usual lighthouses (I think 3 of them), the Navy ships, and the miniature replica of the Statue of Liberty at some marina.

    As expected, boat traffic was very light.

    Lots of people were outside enjoying the fair weather. Some good looking chicks were out running in their shorty shorts. Some looked nice from afar but far from nice.

    While the air was warm, the water was extremely cold. I wore my farmer john wetsuit with a long sleeve neoprene top. When the wind was to my back, I was comfortable...even a little hot. But at any other angle, the rushing air was uncomfortably cold. The wind kicked up some small waves that splashed on my legs and arms. Had I worn a splash jacket and/or splash pants, I think I would have been fine. I also failed to wear gloves so naturally my hands were cold too. Still, I had fun. But looking back, I can't say being underdressed on such a tippy boat in cold water was the smartest thing. I am quite stable on it and only fall off once every year or two...but still, falling off in such cold water with just 3 millimeters of neoprene would not be good.

    It is likely I'll be on the water the next time it is sunny and above 65 degrees. But I'll probably dress warmer, paddle in an area more sheltered from the wind, and/or take a more stable boat.

    I got in 10.25 miles averaging 5.4 mph. Not one of my faster days.

    Patuxent River Cleanup
    I failed to participate in last year's Patuxent (Pax) River Park spring trash cleanup. My excuse was that I was committed to attending a wedding event. This year, I didn't know until just a few days prior if I would be able to participate. I had recently completed a beginner beekeeping class with the Howard County Beekeepers. I was scheduled to view a hive at Gorman Farm on April 1, 2, or 3. The exact date would be weather dependent since it isn't good for the bees to be exposed to wet and/or cold conditions. Hence, it wasn't until the night of March 31 that I was told our field trip would be on April 3. That meant I could help out with the annual Pax spring cleanup on April 2 then attend the Howard County Greenfest immediately afterwards. It would be a full day of helping save the planet.

    So what does this have to do with kayaking to justify a place on this page? Well, the Pax is one of my favorite places to paddle on the western shore of Maryland. And while I wasn't in a kayak on that Saturday, I was in a boat. So it sort of fits...but not really.

    My previous Patuxent River spring cleanups were on
  • March 31, 2007
  • April 5, 2008
  • April 4, 2009
  • November 6, 2010

  • I arrived a little before 0900. Greg K., a park naturalist, issued us chest waders. For a serious Pax cleanup, this is a really great item to have as one can easily sink in mud up to one's crotch. Greg told us about a time he sunk in mud up to his armpits!

    We all piled into a big john boat then took off. Greg dropped us off at various sites laden with trash. I worked mostly with Max, a retired firefighter from Prince George's county. Many of our volunteers were students from Prince George's county getting in volunteer hours for their school. Also in attendance was Vince, who is becoming a regular for Pax River cleanups. He actually drove 3 hours from Pennsylvania for this event!

    After cleaning up an area for 20-30 minutes, Greg would come pick us up then shuttle us to a new location. Once the boat was full of trash bags, he would empty the boat back at the dock, then return.

    Probably 95% of the trash was bottles, either plastic or glass. There were also a few toy balls. Nothing too terribly interesting. Since we were working at high tide, there were no auto tires to pick up, which only show themselves in that area at low tide.

    Greg pointed out the beaver lodge that has been there for the last several years. He mentioned that it has grown to be almost as tall as the duck blind on which it leans. Unfortunately we saw no beaver. But we did see several osprey, some of which were displaying their fish catches.

    I believe the temperature was in the mid to upper 40s...which felt comfortable. The sun played peek-a-boo as a light rain sprinkle and cloud cover passed over a few times.

    We filled up the boat at least twice. In addition to our 10 volunteers in the boat, there were another 10 or so that were doing other cleanup work, including helping offload some of the litter.

    Everyone worked hard and had a good attitude. See photo at left. Greg led this event with great efficiency, as he always does.

    By the time we finished at noon, it was estimated that we collected over 1000 pounds of trash!

    Two years ago, there wasn't much to clean up. Last year, according to Greg, there was a tremendous amount. This year, there was also a good bit. It all depends on the rain. Flood conditions wash garbage downstream. Only God knows what next year will hold.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.