Me on the Leipsic River in Delaware

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Kayaking Adventures 2012


Last updated October 28, 2012


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Annapolis
For a trip report that includes kayaking in Annapolis with my cousin Steve from California and Norma's long-time friend, Angelika, from Germany, see my October 10, 2012 blog.


Hall Creek
Now that the summer is over, I savor every moment I can get out on the water on a warm, sunny day. So on September 30, 2012, I took my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) out to Clyde Watson Boating Area (Magruders Ferry) and paddled upstream on the Patuxent River (Pax).

I considered going under the Chaneyville Road bridge and up Graham Creek but it was quite shallow just before the bridge so I chose not to. But I did go up Fridays Creek for 0.35 mile. It was scenic and narrow but not surprisingly, I couldn't go far.

Back on the Pax, I continued upstream until I reached Hall Creek. Normally, if I want to explore this area, I launch from Hall Creek Natural Resources Management Area but the tide was on my side and I was wanting to get in a pretty good distance. I made it upstream for 3.5 miles. I timed things so I had the tide pushing me up then helping me on the return. At the furthest upstream section, I saw what I thought was a muskrat. Looking closer I realized it was a river otter. Closer yet, and I saw three river otters! They were playing. This is only the third time I've seen river otters in the wild and every time I see them, they are playing. I'm guessing they don't have many predators and have no difficulty finding food...hence, lots of free time. Once they saw me, two dove under and swam away but the third just looked at me for about three seconds. A muskrat would never do this as they are not curious like otters. Just as third third otter dove under, a fourth jumped from the shore and swam away to join his friends. Of the three times that I've seen river otter, this was the only time I've seen them on the western shore.

I also saw a few turtles and a crab. But what I saw en masse was red wing blackbirds. There were hundreds out. See photo.

My trip was taking longer than I expected so I had to rush to get back before too late since the Clyde Watson Boating Area closes at 1900.

Right around dusk, I noticed ripples in the water as if rain was falling. But it wasn't raining. I think it was just fish pecking the surface of the water. I've seen this before around sunset.

I made it back at 1840 and was out of the park with a few minutes to spare.

I completed 17 miles in 4.25 hours.
Click thumbnail to enlarge.


Tred Avon
I typically like to do my weekends so that one day is for fun and the other is for getting stuff done. Originally, I planned to have Saturday, September 15, 2012 be the fun day with a kayak trip from Rose Haven Memorial Park to Galesville. This was organized by Tom B. But with high winds and small craft advisory, he decided to cancel this trip which would have been on unprotected waters in the Chesapeake Bay. That was probably a good thing. So instead, my friend Lisa decided to organize a trip in the Curtis Creek area, which was much more protected. While I would have loved seeing everyone, I decided to opt out since I had paddled this area on Thursday. Hence, Saturday would be my git-r-dun day and Sunday would be my have-fun-on-the-water day.

On Saturday, I did a few hours of volunteer work to help restore Carroll Baldwin Hall in my town. Then I tried to install an electric switch (unsuccessfully), did yardwork, painted a shelf that Norma wants hung, updated my resume for work, backed up data on my computer and Norma's, started some laundry, and colored my hair (red streaks like Ozzy using Biolage Hybrid 7R Cherrywood...not sure what he uses). Thus, I was prepared to go paddling on Sunday, September 16, 2012.

The forecast for Sunday morning and early afternoon at Easton called for 63 to 74 degrees and a southwest or west by southwest wind of 2 to 7 mph. It seemed like a good day to get in some long distance paddling and do some exploring on the Tred Avon River. Thus, I took my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) to Easton Point in Talbot County on the eastern shore. See first photo. I had never launched here before or paddled on the Tred Avon so this would all be new for me.

But first, I had to educate myself a bit about the river:
With the colonial port of Oxford founded near its mouth between 1666 and 1668, the river served as a major shipping lane in the international tobacco trade until the end of the American Revolutionary War, when wheat became the Eastern Shore's main cash crop and Oxford's monopoly on colonial trade ended, leading to an economic downturn. With the decline in trade came a post-Civil War rise in oyster harvesting, causing a renewed local economic boom lasting until the depletion of oyster beds in the Tred Avon and lower Choptank in the 1920s from overharvesting.
Maryland governor Martin O'Malley sought to revive the river's oyster beds through citizen participation by initiating the "Marylanders Grow Oysters" project in September 2008, which encourages waterfront property owners to grow oysters from their piers using cages; after a 9 to 12-month growing period, the oysters are moved to a protected sanctuary in the Tred Avon.

- from Wikipedia - Tred Avon River

I made it to Easton Point in 70 minutes from Savage, without hitting any traffic. There was plenty of parking and a porta-john. I launched from the low dock at 0900. With low tide only being about 2.5 hours later, the dock was a little too high above the water.

I hugged the left side of the shore, making my way into South Fork first. I didn't make it far before things got too shallow to continue. Next was Jacks Cove, Platers Cove, and Peach Orchard Cove, all on the east side.

When paddling at the beginning of the spring, I see lots of wildlife. Now that it is the end of the summer, I see little. Sure, there are lots of birds (including two bald eagles) and a few turkey vultures (second photo) but I saw no snakes, no muskrats, and only one turtle.

I crossed the river just before venturing up Peachblossom Creek. I'll leave that for another day. My timing was about right so that I had the ebb tide helping me on the downstream portion while the flood tide assisted me on the return.

I took frequent breaks for snacks and to rest my feet, which always get sore from long paddleboarding trips. I also made sure to reapply sunscreen.

Time went by quickly as I listened to bluegrass, country, southern rock, and classic rock music on my iPod with Eco Extreme speaker. I was reviewing a playlist for a big event I'm helping plan in October.

Making my way up the west side, I hit Shipshead Creek and Dixon Creek.

I once read a bumper sticker that said
     The difference between assholes and rednecks is the Chesapeake Bay.
But clearly, if the folks I was seeing living next to the Tred Avon River were rednecks, then they were very rich and sophisticated rednecks. Their homes were big and well maintained (third photo). Their trees were old and beautiful (fourth photo). And unlike the Annapolis area, they had some elbow room.

I didn't see a single kayaker or another paddleboarder the whole day, though one homeowner and I spoke for awhile about paddleboarding. She was a kayaker thinking of buying an SUP. Not much power boat or sailboat traffic either. The water was quite flat...almost boringly so.

Apparently, I passed by Fort Stokes, though I don't remember it. I don't think there is much to see being as a Google image search showed nothing that looked like a fort.
[Fort Stokes:] A local militia six-gun earthwork battery, with a blockhouse, located on the west (north) bank of the Tred Avon River, on a point opposite the town marina, off of Fort Stokes Lane. Possibly built in April 1813 after a rumor spread of a possible British raid on the town in March 1813. Provided protection for local residents when the British later held nearby Sharps and Tilghman Islands.
- from Maryland Forts - Fort Stokes

I made my way past where I started as I headed into the North Fork. Like all the other creeks, it too started to get shallow but surprisingly, after about 100 meters of touching bottom with my paddle, it got deep again. It led me to Saint Michaels Road (route 33) and three six foot wide pipes that allowed water to pass underneath. See fifth photo. Sitting on my SUP, I had 6-12 inches of clearance above my head. I chose the middle pipe and pushed my way through for a distance of 18 meters (sixth photo) until I reached the other side (seventh photo), which was narrow and tree-lined (eighth photo). But I could only venture about another 40 meters before things got too narrow.

I completed my journey at 1440, having paddled 21.6 miles. I can't say it was a particularly interesting trip but it was nice to get out and see something new.

The trip home was slow. I was hoping that the post-Labor Day traffic coming home from the eastern shore on a Sunday afternoon would be light but I was sadly mistaken.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.


Colgate Creek
The forecast for the afternoon called for an up to 7 mph wind from the north. Hence, on September 11, 2012, I launched my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) at Broening Park around 1615, choosing a route that would minimize the effects of the wind. I paddled across the mouth of Middle Branch to Ferry Bar then into the Patapsco River to Fort McHenry. Crossing the mouth of Northwest Harbor, I made by way to Lazaretto Lighthouse. This is a trip I've done countless times before. Typically, I then head north to the Inner Harbor but today I decided to do something different.

Instead of going north, I turned south to Lazaretto Point. Following the shoreline, I continued to Point Breeze at the mouth of Colgate Creek. The reason I had never done this route before is because it is very industrial. That isn't necessarily bad. I prefer being out in nature but as long as I have something interesting to look at, I'm fine with the scenery. I passed what looked like giant wind turbine propellers being loaded on a freight ship. Then I passed numerous cranes used to load and unload the ships (first photo). The sun was bright and low enough to offer some fine photographic opportunities.

I was getting lots of looks and I wondered if they were concerned about me being near all the big freight ships on the anniversay of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What appeared to be a police boat came towards me. I think he was checking me out for anything suspicious. As he passed, I noticed that his boat didn't say "police" but instead it said "pilot." He made a pretty good sized wave that would have capsized me had I not turned into it. Later, I learned that
A pilot boat is a type of boat used to transport pilots between land and the inbound or outbound ships that they are piloting.
- from Wikipedia - Pilot boat

Paddling up Colgate Creek into Dundalk was far from interesting. Most of it was wide with concrete walls and lots of cars parked nearby. It wasn't until I got about 1.3 miles up from the mouth that it started to narrow and become scenic. See second photo. Though there was just a thin row of trees to shelter my view from the city, it was enough to make me feel like I was out in nature. Lots of the usual waterbirds flew around, including what I think were green herons. Some of the egrets were more than willing to pose for pictures. See third photo. Along the shore, I saw rip rap, along with what looked like pillars from ancient Greece. See fourth photo. I ended up making it 1.8 miles from the mouth of Colgate Creek, turning around once things got too shallow, right about 2 hours after high tide. I made it to about 150 meters before the bridge at Van Deman Street. I was hoping to reach Fort Holabird Park but I did not.

On the return trip, I took photos of ships/boats.
  • Fifth photo: The Perseus Leader on the east side of Colgate Creek, just south of Broening Highway.
  • Sixth photo: A sailboat that made its way across the mouth of Northwest Harbor. I was later told by DJ M. that it is the Lady Maryland.
  • Seventh photo: The Nord Harmony, from Panama.
  • Eighth photo: The HR Marion.

  • I had a chance to see one of the big ships start at the dock then get escorted out by two tug boats. See ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth photos. I'm guessing the ship was so long that it would have had a hard time making a tight enough turn in the Patapsco River. But with the help of the tugs, it did just fine. I watched it as it headed out towards the Francis Scott Key Bridge amongst all the sailboats. See thirteenth photo.

    The wind had picked up and unlike the forecast which called for a north wind, it was blowing from the south. This was not good since that meant it blew across unprotected water and kicked up some pretty good sized waves. They weren't big for a kayak but for an SUP with a few miles left to go, they were large. That was in addition to all the boat traffic and the walls along the shore that reflected the waves. At times, I was paddling in what I call "washing machine waves" which have little consistent structure. If I had to fall off my SUP, this was not the place to do it. The Baltimore water is filthy, there were quite a few jellyfish in the water, and all the boat traffic just makes spending time neck-deep in the Patapsco less appealing. There were several times I just had to sit down. By lowering my center of gravity in this manner, I became stable. I paddled a bit sitting down through the rougher parts then stood up when I could. Not surprisingly, I could not move very quickly when paddling in any position other than standing.

    It was getting dark as I got west of Fort McHenry. The water was less choppy now but still far from flat. I didn't want to be paddling under these conditions in the dark so I kicked up my pace a bit. As I got closer to Ferry Bar, the sun went down, but the water also calmed down so I was fine. I completed my 12.4 mile round trip around 1940.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Westmoreland area of Virginia
    For a trip report that includes kayaking in the Westmoreland County area of Virginia, see my September 1, 2012 blog.


    Future Trips
    When I'm not on the water, I'm often planning a future trip. I've been living in Maryland now since 1995 and kayaking seriously since 1999. So it comes as no surprise that there isn't much near me (within a one hour drive) that I haven't seen on the water. But there are a few things and these are on my "bucket list." I just need to drive a little further.



    False Cape State Park
    I first heard about this place about 10 years ago at an REI kayaking seminar. This place is 5 hours away in southern Virginia Beach, Virginia. The park lies on a mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Access is through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Cars are prohibited. Primitive camping is allowed.

    The main reason I would want to visit is to see the ship graveyard.
    The area got its name because its land mass resembled Cape Henry, luring boats into shallow waters. One of the area’s first communities, Wash Woods, was developed by survivors of such a shipwreck. The village’s church and other structures were built using cypress wood that washed ashore from a wreck.
    - from False Cape State Park

    Living in Maryland, I'm a little spoiled with some of the ship graveyards we have. See June 13, 2006, June 12, 2011, and July 4, 2012. My searches for website photos of shipwrecks at or near False Cape State Park revealed nothing too terribly impressive. Still, it might be interesting to see historical relics. Like an archaeologist, I just need to let my imagination fill in the gaps.

    Planning a trip might be a little tricky since the interior trail is closed from November 1 through March 31. So to avoid the mosquitos, a visit in October or April would be ideal.



    Westmoreland State Park
    In August 2012, I was invited to join a few kayakers on their trip to this Virignia park on the Potomac River. I had other plans so I didn't go. But they shared their photos and reports which Norma and I found fascinating.

    The steep cliffs, shells, and fossils are the main reason I would want to visit (mostly the latter).
    This site is Upper Miocene Age (6 to 14 [million] years old). Shark teeth, whale bones and teeth, crocodile teeth, and turtle shell are found here. Some complete whale, porpoise and crocodile skeletons have been collected here. Occasionally even a Megalodon tooth is found here. A Megalodon is an extinct giant shark - the huge monster whose teeth can reach 5 or 6 inches long. There are also beautiful fossil shells found here, including Chesapectens and Ecphora. Some of the Chesapectens have both valves, and some of the Ecphora are complete or almost complete.
    - from Mid-Atlantic Fossil and Nature Adventures

    While here, I plan to visit the George Washington Birthplace National Monument on Popes Creek. I don't know of any designated launch sites here but looking at satellite photos, it appears the monument is on a good bit of land that borders the creek. I'd be willing to pull ashore (after thoroughly exploring the creek), lock up the boat, then set out on foot with a change of clothes. There is also a nature trail. I don't know how deep Popes Creek is so I'd want to time things around high tide to ensure I don't get stuck. A tide table for Colonial Beach (about 6 miles upstream of Popes Creek) can be found at Salt Water Tides - Potomac.

    Another day, I'd like to check out Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and the boyhood home of two signers of the Declaration of Independence. This is just 5 minutes from the park so I'll probably bike there and have lunch at the restaurant. There are several gardens and nature trails. This area is also home to the Stratford Cliffs, known for numerous fossil discoveries.

    Yet another day, I plan to launch at the park one day and paddle east along the cliffs (including Stratford Cliffs) to Currioman Bay, taking out at Currioman Landing for a bicycle shuttle back to the park.

    Some other things to do include a visit to Westmoreland Berry Farm, which is 28 minutes from the park. Further away, is Caledon State Park, which has trails and kayaking events, though I don't believe there is a public launch site. This would be a good place to check out on the way to or from Westmoreland State Park.



    Stingray Point
    One of the things I really love about living in the mid-Atlantic region is seeing all the wildlife near, in, or on the water. Seeing them en masse is especially fun. So horseshoe crabs when they lay eggs, herons at their rookery, and schools of dolphin are at the top of my list. But after reading the Fall 2011 issue of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) magazine called Save the Bay, I found a very interesting article titled "Misunderstood: The Cownose Ray." One of my first encounters with these creatures was in Delaware on August 5, 2006. Here, Norma and I found a dead one, washed ashore. See photos at left. After reading a good bit about them, what I'd really like to see is a whole school of cownose rays. Here is some of the good stuff I learned about them.
  • Wingspan of up to 3 feet
  • Weight up to 50 pounds
  • Lives in schools near the surface of shallow waters
  • Forms schools based on sex and age
  • Some schools can be very large
  • Visits the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay from May-October
  • Leaves the Bay in autumn for southern coastal waters
  • Southbound migration has been observed to contain larger schools than the northbound migration
  • Changes in water temperature, coupled with sun orientation, may initiate seasonal mass migration
  • In the Gulf of Mexico, they travel in schools of up to 10,000. See some amazing photos of this at Snopes: Mass Migration of Cownose Rays

  • I posted a question to the Chesapeake Paddlers Association website inquiring if anyone has seen their schools heading south for the winter. Lots of people have seen singletons but not big schools. Greg W. mentioned that they like sandy to sandy/muddy bottoms, they like oysters, and about 6-10 feet of water. But that still didn't answer when and where I might find large schools. However, I did learn something intereting about John Smith's encounter with a cownose ray.
    Heading south once again, their tiny shallop ran aground on a shoal near the mouth of the Rappahannock River. Smith almost died when he speared a cownose ray and was stung by its poisonous tail spine. He recovered well enough by evening to dine on the ray. The area is still known today as Stingray Point.
    - from Chesapeake Bay Foundation - Captain John Smith

    Without better info, Stingray point seems like just a good a place as any to see cownose rays. By monitoring Chesapeake Bay Live Buoy Observations, I'll be able to determine when the water temperature drops.

    You're probably thinking that looking for a school of cownose ray in the Chesapeake Bay is like looking for a needle in a haystack. You might be right, but that doesn't mean I won't try. It also doesn't mean that I won't do other exploring while I'm there. I'll probably spend a day checking out the upper parts of Piankatank River and Dragon Swamp. I will also likely visit Something Different Country Store and Deli at
         3617 Old Virginia Street
         Urbanna, Virginia 23175
         Phone: 804-758-8004

    Here are some websites I found that provide information on cownose rays:
         FLMNH Ichthyology Department: Cownose Rays
         Cownose Ray - Chesapeake Bay Program
         Rhinoptera bonasus - Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce



    Morris Creek
    On Halloween 2010 Norma and I scouted a section of the James River in Virginia. I didn't find it particularly interesting. But then I learned about the Chickahominy River which flows into it just west of Williamsburg. The Chickahominy is a designated water trail (see Chickahominy Water Trail map by the James River Association). A "designated water trail" means lots of things but most of all, it is much more likely to be scenic than other rivers. But there is one part of the Chickahominy that rises above the rest; it is a tributary called Morris Creek

    I learned about Morris Creek last year. The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group scheduled a kayak trip out there. In their trip description, they quoted 50 Amazing Things You Must See and Do in the Greater D.C. Area: The Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Guide
    Morris Creek is a place of serene beauty. Morris Creek is a backwater tidal creek of the Chickahominy River, lined with majestic bald cypress trees and fields of marsh grass. It makes a perfect place to flat water kayak!

    The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group's website also states
    Morris Creek has been called "one of the most beautiful places on earth" by the book Sea Kayaking in Virginia.

    Not only is this place scenic, it is historic...full of history, in fact. Supposedly this is the place where Captain John Smith was captured by native Americans over 400 years ago, then saved by Chief Powhatan's daughter, Pocahontas. So I guess before I head out there, I should rent and watch the 1995 animated Disney movie Pocahontas.

    Supposedly, I can launch at the Chickahominy Riverfront Park, cross the Chickahominy River, the paddle upstream a short distance to access Morris Creek.

    The launch site is 3 hours and 16 minutes from Savage, so it isn't exactly a day trip.

    Other information that might be helpful in planning such a trip includes the following:
         Chickahominy Wildlife Management Area (WMA)
         Chickahominy River pamphlet - National Park Service
         Chickahominy River - Sea Kayak Chesapeake Bay



    Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge
    So far, I've paddled in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. But I've never kayaked in New Jersey. I have Ed Gertler's Garden State Canoeing: A Paddler's Guide to New Jersey which I have yet to put to good use (but will...I promise). Another good resource is Kayaking in New Jersey.

    The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge seems to have lots of great opportunities to get out in nature in a kayak. Looking at a map of the area, the water and land forms multitudes of nooks and crannies like a Thomas's English muffin, but instead of holding butter, it holds wildlife...yeah. It is 3 hours and 14 minutes from Savage.

    A little over an hour from the refuge headquarters (but just outside the refuge) is The Jersey Paddler in Brick, New Jersey. This is without a doubt, the biggest kayak store I've ever been to. It is where I bought my Futura C4. So I'd want to make sure to stop here if I'm out in that area.

    About 25 minutes from Brick is the New Jersey Shipwreck Museum. Here I can learn about the shipwrecks in New Jersey and hopefully, plot out a course to go find them. Thus, as is often the case for me, one adventure leads to another.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Turners Creek
    My last trip to Turners Creek was exactly one day shy of a year ago, on August 13, 2011. Norma did not join me on that adventure. I really wanted her to see this place so I figured that this year I would plan a trip that was suitable for her abilities. Being a beginner-level trip, I decided to invite a few other beginner/novice-level or less experienced paddlers. Participants included Clark and Carmen, Janie, and her husband Mark.

    Carmen and Clark showed up around 0600 to help load the boats they'd be using. Then we drove to Graul's in West Annapolis to meet Janie and Mark. This is a nice little meeting place when carpooling or meeting people to go east across the Bay Bridge. I would meet there when hiking with the Chesapeake Hiking and Outdoors Society (CHAOS), my first hiking group. What makes the area nice is that the parking lot is big and it is a short distance off highway 50. But the best thing is that you can pick up breakfast at the bagel shop next door which is open early.
         Naval Bagels
         609 Taylor Avenue
         Annapolis, MD 21401
    Unlike what the name of the place might imply, there is no navel lint in the bagels.

    Janie and Mark were running a little late and I was anxious to get on the water before the tide got too low so instead, we met them at the launch site, Turner's Creek County Park. We were on the water around 0900.

    Janie paddled her L.L. Bean Calypso while Mark was in his one day old L.L. Bean Casco 14. Norma and Clark used my Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem sit-on-top. Carmen paddled my Cobra Expedition...at least for the first part of the trip until she found something she liked better. See first photo.

    I was on my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP). One of the reasons I brought this is because I wanted to get a higher vantage point for taking photos of the regionally endangered American Lotus flowers, whose 8 inch flower are the largest in North America. Seeing these giant beauties is the main purpose for coming here. I also wanted Norma to take some photos of me on my SUP, since I had none. But now I do. See second and third photos.

    High tide at the Tidal Pond was around 0600 but we didn't get there until 0930. By then, we could paddle into the pond but not much else because it was too shallow. So we pulled ashore and waded through the pond to look at the flowers. This worked out fine. Here is what we saw:
  • Fourth photo: A pod with lotus seeds ready to drop.
  • Fifth photo: Lotus flower.
  • Sixth photo: Dragonfly.
  • Seventh photo: From left to right are Norma, Carmen, Clark, Janie, and Mark.

  • While the tidal pond is nice, it was nicer last year. There were a lot more pods than flowers this go around. I think visiting 3 weeks prior at high tide would have been better.

    After leaving the pond, we paddled northeast across the Sassafras River. This river gets quite a bit of boat traffic in the summer so it is good to cross as a tight group so power boats only have to avoid a single, more visible, entity.

    We pulled over at a beach. Here, I let everyone try out the SUP, except Janie who had already tried it. Carmen got the hang of it really fast. See the eighth photo. Mark was also very comfortable with it. He, like Janie, is a veteran paddleboarder. Norma gave it a try too which made me happy. See the ninth photo. My paddle is custom fitted for my height so it didn't work at all for Clark, who is probably about 9 inches taller than me. If I get an adjustable paddle, I'll ask him to try it again.

    Continuing on (tenth photo), we rounded Ordinary Point then went into Money Creek. There were some serious photographers deep in the lotus mass taking pictures up close. We also saw a couple of Amish guys fishing. They caught a big catfish just before I passed by. Mo' money photos:
  • Eleventh photo: Mark in his new toy.
  • Twelfth photo: Janie checking out the flowers.
  • Thirteenth photo: Norma sits in the captain's seat with her crew sitting behind.

  • While standing up on the SUP has its advantages for taking photos of the flowers, it also has its drawbacks. On most kayaks, one can flip up the rudder or pull up the skeg, assuming there is one. This ensures one can navigate in very shallow water. But it also means one can get closer to the lotus plants without damaging the plants. My SUP has a 10 inch, non-retractable fin that isn't very lotus-safe.

    From Ordinary Point, we paddled south by southeast which took us on the shortest path across the Sassafras. Then we turned west to get back to Turners Creek. The rest of our time on the water was spent exploring Turners Creek (fourteenth photo).

    Carmen and I pulled ashore and switched watercraft. She liked the SUP more than the kayak and demonstrated her comfort on it by twirling the paddle overhead and behind her back. See fifteenth photo.

    I found the best lotus flowers to be upstream on Turners Creek. It was now close to high tide so I beached the Cobra and explored on foot, which put me up-close and personal with the flowers. See sixteenth and seventeenth photos.

    We took a short break (eighteenth photo) then made our way back to the launch area, having completed 6.75 miles of kayaking/paddleboarding. Quite a few kayakers were out today...but no other SUPs.

    I saw a bald eagle flying overhead.

    After loading the boats, we ate lunch at the picnic pavilion on the top of the hill. From here, we had a nice view of the lotus flowers on Turners Creek (nineteenth photo).

    There were lots of signs informing visitors about the area:
    The "Settlement at Turner's Creek" was developed by Donaldson Yeates before the Revolutionary War. It was a hub for trade. At its peak, there was a shipyard, a tannery, a granary and a dock for shipping and receiving products. The Sassafras River provided a link to the Chesapeake Bay and markets beyond.

    The Yeates house was located where the picnic pavilion now sits. This mid-18th century house was moved to Baltimore County in 1968 and was restored.


    The signs (and a chatty old guy at the launch area) told me about other things to see on the creeks besides lotuses:
    The main branch of Turner's Creek extends for over one mile and contains several bald eagle nests and a blue heron rookery. From mid-June through October, the creek is overgrown with American lotus and some sections become non-navigable.

    Heading downriver from Turner's Creek brings paddlers past high forested bluffs frequented by bald eagles, ospreys, and blue heron. The mouth of Lloyd Creek is three miles distant, and the creek itself is pristine and worth exploring. Those with a shuttle can continue for two miles to the landing at Betterton or return to Turner's Creek for a six mile round trip.


    I will definitely make it a priority later this year or early next year (not during lotus season) to explore further upstream on Turners Creek or Lloyd Creek.

    Next, the six of us drove up the road to the Knock's Folly Visitors Center (scroll down in this link) where we toured this historic house. I learned about what the area was like long ago:
    In 1608, English explorer Captain John Smith conducted two expeditions on the Chesapeake Bay. He was charged by the Virginia Company to seek precious metals and a water passage to the Pacific. His first voyage focused on the Bay's western shore. His second trip took him to the head of the Bay, where he explored what are known today as the Sassafras, Northeast and Susquehanna rivers. While on the Sassafras, Smith encountered a group of American Indians known as the Tockwogh. Though Smith did not find gold, silver or a "Northwest Passage," his writings and maps served as important guides for future explorers and settlers in the Bay region.
    - from sign at Knock's Folly Visitors Center

    Also at the Visitors Center, I learned that like me, the Tockwogh liked their watercraft.
    The Tockwogh traveled by water in dugout canoes crafted from the trunks of large trees. The craftsmen built each canoe by burning a tree trunk's surface and scraping away the charred wood using oyster shells. They repeated the process until the trunk was hollowed out and the bottom was flattened (to help stabilize the canoe).
    I guess they hadn't been introduced to carbon fiber.

    Then, we drove to the Sassafras Natural Resources Management Area parking lot and then walked to the south end of the tidal pond for a different view of the lotus flowers via a duck blind (twentieth photo). I also saw some swamp hibiscus flowers (twenty-first photo). Most of the trails were wide dirt roads suitable for a Jeep. Many passed along farmland growing soy beans and corn (twenty-second photo). We walked 2.75 miles.

    It was mid-afternoon and we figured the traffic heading across the Bay Bridge was heavy. So (partly to kill time) we headed to Chestertown and ate at Fish Whistle. We sat outside at a table overlooking the Chester River. I ate the "Carmen" sandwich which was absolutely delicious but a little heavy on the olive oil.

    We said our farewells to Janie and Mark, then headed home. Carmen rode with me. As is the tradition for "Team Snack," we sang Kenny Roger's "The Gambler." But this time, we started putting together gestures to go with the song.

    The traffic returning home wasn't bad at all.

    A week later, on August 19, 2012, Norma and I found ourselves at Wildwood Lake/Park in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They have lotus flowers there too though not so many. While we didn't see so many flowers, we certainly learned a lot about them by reading their trail signs.
    In late May the leaf first comes to the surface as a spike. It clears the surface and unrolls, parchment style, into a pizza pan sized leaf which has a dimension of 1 to 2 feet. In July, the bug will rise above the water's surface before it opens. The yellow flower is slightly bigger than a large grapefruit (6-10" in size). As the petals begin to fall, one can see a "shower-head" shaped seed pod begin to develop. As it grows, the pod slowly turns from a bright yellow insect attractor to a dull green. When the pod is around 6 inches in diameter and still green the seeds can be eaten. Muskrats harvest the pods, dragging them up onto a mound or onto the bank, then rip apart the pod as they eat the seeds. People can eat the seeds at this time also. Historically, the Native Americans gathered the seeds to eat, cooked and raw.

    When the seed pod begins to be too heavy for the stem, the plant's life cycle is almost complete. The pod tilts over and looks very much like a shower head, which, if the seeds dry sufficiently, allows the seeds to fall out. Otherwise the whole pod falls into the water, becomes waterlogged and sinks, thus settling into the bottom silt.

    The seeds need to be scraped to allow germination to take place. Another way for the plant to produce more flowers and seeds is to send out rhizomes (roots) the way crab grass does. The tubers, like potatoes, store energy needed for spring plant growth. Muskrats use this as a winter food source. Native Americans were known to have walked barefoot through the water during the fall searching for the tubers with their feet.

    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Weems Creek
    The original plan was for Norma and I to spend a week in Arizona. Then it became Oregon. Then she kicked around the idea for someplace driveable. Such a trip never materialized. This was all fine with me as there were plenty of things to do around the house. For example, I started staining the deck and wanted to be around on the next day that there was no chance of rain so I could continue my work. A few days prior, that day was predicted to be July 29, 2012. But as of July 28, rain seemed a possibility. So perhaps our staying local on the weekend of July 28-29 was for naught.

    No, not really, we still managed to get quite a bit of stuff done. Not just chores but also some fun stuff (at least for me). On July 28, I hooked up with Geoff U. to go paddling in Annapolis. He introduced me to a launch site I'd never been to, the Tucker Street boat launch. See the first and second photos.

    The two of us were on the water just after 0800. I was on my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) while Geoff was on a Valley sea kayak. We started by paddling up Weems Creek. I don't remember if I've been there before but if I have, it's probably been 10 years or so.

    I saw more jellyfish than I'd ever seen before. I'm guessing I saw between 30 and 50 throughout the day. On a typical late July trip, I might see 10-20. Many were as long as 3 feet. But the really amazing thing is that I saw comb jellies. At first I thought they were just baby jellyfish but upon looking closer, I realized that was not the case. I figure I saw 50-100 of these. I didn't know they lived in Maryland. The last time I saw one was August 1, 2009 in Maine. Not surprisingly, I was delighted to see these interesting creatures floating about.

    Geoff mentioned that he has seen skates/rays in Weems Creek but we saw none today. In fact, I had not seen any all year.

    We made our way out the the Severn River then paddled upstream, passing under the Severn River Bridge (route 50/301). The two of us explored Luce Creek where we took a very short break. See third photo.

    Next, we made our way across the Severn to Cool Spring Cove, then back to Weems Creek.

    Geoff headed home while I stayed out to take photos of jellyfish and comb jellies.
  • Fourth photo: Jellyfish with something growing on its bell...perhaps algae?
  • Fifth photo: Another jellyfish.
  • Sixth photo: Two comb jellies.
  • Seventh photo: You can really see the insides of this one.
  • Eighth photo: This one has lights running up its sides.
  • Ninth photo: Four ghostlike comb jellies.
  • Tenth photo: Here's one with a water bug floating above it that is a little larger than a big mosquito.

  • I also saw about 6 crabs. See eleventh photo.

    By the time I was done, I got in an easy, casual 9 miles and got to hang out some with a pretty cool guy.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Sandy Point State Park to Dobbins Island
    Up to now, our summer has been pretty hot and dry. So all the rain we got on July 20 and 21 was very welcome, along with the cooler temperatures. July 22, 2012 was supposed to be clear and sunny with very little wind. I contemplated hitting one of the smaller creeks that would normally be too low in mid-summer. Only within a day or two after a hard rain would most of them be paddleable. But I also thought about taking my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) out in the Chesapeake Bay since the wind was expected to be only 3-4 mph. To help make up my mind, I checked postings on the Chesapeake Paddlers Association website and noticed that Ralph said he was planning to paddle from Sandy Point State Park to Jonas Green Park. I contacted him to let him know I was interested and he let me know where and when he planned to launch.

    My plan was to paddle in the morning then go home, mow the lawn, do some painting, and start staining the deck. Things were still quite wet when I left that morning but I figured that with the dry sunny weather, everything would be perfect for all my home projects by the time I returned.

    I arrived at Sandy Point at 0730. In addition to Ralph, Greg W., Jenny P.W., Bill S. Stephen J., and Cragg H. were there. We all launched at 0750. I noticed that 5 out of 7 of us were using Greenland paddles.

    Temperatures were in the mid-70s. Perfect!

    We launched into the Chesapeake Bay and headed out to Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse. To the south, we had a clear view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. See first photo.

    We went around the lighthouse (second photo) then made a bee-line to the Baltimore Harbor Light. See third photo. Along the way, I saw about 17 crabs swimming in the water. I think I saw more than the others because I was standing.

    Ralph pointed out that the black thing attached to the lighthouse that looks like an iron maiden is a restroom. That is a place from which paddlers would want to stay clear.

    After rounding lighthouse, we started heading to Gibson Island. See fourth photo. I tried to circumnavigate it about 10 years ago, only to find that there is an isthmus connecting it to the mainland. I thought it seemed awfully big.

    At the south end of Gibson Island is Mountain Point. This is a spot that you either want to paddle close to or very far from as the water near it has a shallow sandy bottom that won't damage your boat whereas the area further out has lots of rip rap just below the surface.

    Now we were in the Magothy River (aka "the Mag"), paddling out to Dobbins Island. See fifth photo.

    Dobbins Island is party central for boaters in the Pasadena area. It runs from east to west so looking at it from the east end, it looks small. See sixth photo.

    Kayaking/SUP-ing counterclockwise around the island, I saw a little island (actually called Little Island). See seventh photo. I also saw a big jellyfish (about 18 inches long). See eighth photo.

    As the other boaters rounded the west side of the island, I stayed behind to pee. A SUP is well suited for that if you're a dude; a kayak...not so much. Then I caught up with them on the south side of the island. See ninth photo.

    Paddling south, we crossed the Mag (tenth photo) over to the Cape Saint Claire area. We followed the shoreline southeast back to our launch area, finishing at 1200 after paddling 14.75 miles.

    I went home and found the deck and lawn to still be damp. The sun never came out and dried things up. I guess I'll have to do my home projects another day.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Horn Point
    The plan was to meet Lisa and her friends for paddling on Saturday morning. But rain and lightning forced us to change our plans. She told us about a launch site with which I wasn't familiar in the Eastport area of Annapolis. I was intrigued that there was a place here I didn't know about since I have paddled in this area numerous times.

    Lisa didn't reschedule for the next day so I went out on my own. It was sort of a last minute decision.

    It was the mid-morning of Sunday, July 15, 2012. I arrived at Horn Point Street End Park. It looked like a community beach but indeed it was not. I forgot to bring my camera so instead I took photos of the place with my cell phone only to find later that my phone requires me to hit "save" before it saves the photo. I think I use the camera on my cell phone about once a year. So how did I obtain the photos above? The answer...Lisa.
  • First photo: View of the beach launch area.
  • Second photo: The path that leads from the street to the beach.

  • Horn Point Street End Park is quite the oasis. It is about the size of a small house lot. There are benches, chairs, and a beach with lots of aquatic vegetation washed ashore. There is no restroom and I don't remember a garage can. There is no parking lot but there is room to park along the side of the street...you just might have to carry your boat aways. There is lots of valuable real estate in Eastport so I'm surprised the city put in a public launch site here. It probably would have made more sense to put it elsewhere being as Back Creek Nature Park is only one mile away (via kayak) and Truxton Heights Park is only 1.4 miles away (also via kayak).

    Launching my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) from the park put me at the mouth of the Severn River. I headed southeast, deeper into the Chesapeake Bay.

    The wind was about 6 mph (fairly calm) but all the boat traffic made for quite a few waves, which is what I wanted. I'm still trying to expand the paddling conditions for which I am comfortable on the SUP.

    I paddled 2.75 miles to Tolly Point. From here, I could see the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. I continued along the shore towards Highland Beach. Between Tolly Point and Highland Beach, the road rises up so boaters down below near the shore are hidden. There is a bit of a terrace midway between the water and the road but I don't imagine it gets used much. Having a little privacy, I took the opportunity to pee. One problem with the Annapolis area is that almost everyplace is built up. So there aren't many places to go when you gotta. The waves made it a little hard to stand on the SUP and pee at the same time but I managed.

    Regarding the terrace...notice that I said that it doesn't get used much. Well I know that it does indeed get used at least sometimes. About 12 years ago, I was paddling in this area with my Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro TW. Off in the distance, I saw someone on this terrace doing what appeared to be crunches. Getting a workout? That's great. But as I got closer, I realized that he wasn't doing crunches and he wasn't alone. It was a couple having sex out in the open...missionary position. It was a weekday at a time when nobody else was out...except me. I don't know if they saw me and if they did, it didn't seem to bother them. So I just continued on my way, making sure not to disturb the wildlife. That was the last time I paddled in this particular area. This time I saw nothing quite so interesting.

    Around Lake Ogleton, I saw a couple of young chicks carrying their SUPs to the water. But they weren't going anywhere. One just laid down on her SUP to catch some sun. The other just stood on the board. I'm assuming she eventually worked on her tan too. Five minutes later, I looked back and noticed that they were still in the same spot. Posers!

    As I got closer to downtown Annapolis, there were more boats. I saw lots of people in one or two man sailboats. When I see a lot of them, I assume they are from the sailing school and I keep an eye out for them as they don't always have good control.

    There were lots of kayakers out including a scruffy-looking fellow leading about a dozen people on a historic kayak tour of Annapolis. Someone in the group paddled a kayak that flew his flag which showed the name of his company and the website. It might have been Kayak Annapolis Tours.

    There were some fine examples of jellyfish swimming about. One in particular had a bell about 10 inches in diameter and long flowing tentacles that made it about 2 feet long.

    I stopped in at the pier for Annapolis Kayak and Canoe. One of the employees was helping get a couple launched. I asked if Dave I. was working there today and she said yes. I said to tell him "Saki said hi." I was actually hoping to see Jim C. who mentioned he might stop by to try out boats. I loaned Jim my Cobra Expedition so he could join me on my July 4, 2012 trip.

    I made it to Acton Cove on Spa Creek before turning around. There were lots of people on SUPs. Interestingly, unlike with kayaking, there were more chicks than dudes. One commented that I looked like I was working too hard. I thought to myself, "Yes, that is because I am using my whole body instead of just my arms. So after 14 miles, you'll be tired and I'll be the Energizer bunny." It was interesting that there were sooooo many SUPers in Spa Creek but almost none outside of it. Maybe they haven't gotten used to waves and boat wakes.

    I paddled in the downtown historic area of Annapolis up to Randall Street. This area is narrow and full of boats. One had the propellers of his engine spinning. I saw water churning up but I didn't think much of it and he wasn't going anywhere so I just maintained my course. I passed about 6 feet from his engine. When I paddle, I often lean from side to side as I dig my paddle deep into the water. I dug in the starboard side as my SUP passed by the churning water. Then, all of a sudden, my SUP turned 45 degrees to the starboard side. I was certain I would fall but I did not. In fact, my feet never left the SUP. I regained my balance quickly and continued onward. Anyone watching probably thought I was a shit-hot pro but the truth of the matter is I don't know if I could do that again. At Randall Street, I pulled over for a sip of water. It was a humid 92 degrees.

    I headed back to Horn Point, having completed a casual 9 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. As I loaded up, another fellow was preparing to launch his windsurfing board. That is something I've never tried. Perhaps some day I will. But for now, I have plenty of watersport activities to hold my interest. I need to get better on the paddleboard first.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    The Shipwrecks of Curtis Creek and Curtis Bay
    I've paddled the Curtis Creek and Curtis Bay areas numerous times...more than I can remember. It is so close to home that I've never really though of it as a particularly interesting place to paddle. It is wide and industrial. Totally unlike the narrow, natural places that Norma and I like. But the more I got to know the place, the better I liked it. So on July 4, 2012, I decided to organize a little trip to this area.

    I invited several people but only got a few hits, which is more than usual. In addition to Norma, my co-worker Jim C., Janie, and her husband Mark joined us. This was Jim C.'s introduction to kayaking.

    The weather was not cooperative. On the morning of the event, the National Weather Service called for
    A chance of showers and thunderstorms after 2pm. Mostly sunny and hot, with a high near 98. Heat index values as high as 104. North wind 7 to 10 mph becoming southwest in the morning. Chance of precipitation is 50%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

    These are far from ideal conditions to introduce Jim C. to kayaking but he's a marathon runner so I figured he'd do fine. In my opinion, kayaking is a great way to balance out his training.

    How did Curtis Bay receive its name? The name "Curtis" seems to have been a part of this locality since before the land was granted, or royal taxes imposed; certainly before any recorded local history began. It is known that on June 29, 1663, twenty-nine years after the Ark and the Dove landed, the first Maryland colonists at Saint Mary's, 200 acres of land north of Arundel Cove, on which part of the U.S. Coast Guard Yard is now located, was "patented" to one Paul Kinsey, who named his estate "Curtis' Neck"... There has been other speculation about the source of the name "Curtis" and frankly, no one really knows. But according to the records, no individual named Curtis took title to land in this area before the name itself was in general usage.
    - from A History Of Brooklyn - Curtis Bay, Maryland (a broken link as of 2016)

    Regarding the Ark and the Dove, mentioned above (for all you non-Maryland natives)
    In October 1633, the Ark and the Dove departed London, England for Maryland. On November 22, 1633, Leonard Calvert set out on the "Ark" and the "Dove" from Cowes Isle, England, on a voyage to Maryland to set up a colony.
    In early March 1634, the Ark and Dove reached the Chesapeake Bay, bound for the Potomac River to Maryland. The Ark and Dove arrived at Maryland on March 3, 1634. On March 25, they came ashore to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, that today we celebrate as Maryland Day.

    - from The Founding of Maryland

    The below article was written in 1999 so it is a little outdated. I know that within the last few years, a significant amount of work has been done to fill in the places where many of the old wrecks slept. So there are many less shipwrecks to explore. I did a blog on June 13, 2006 for some of the Baltimore wrecks that no longer exist today.

    During World War I, specifically in 1917-1918, Baltimore experienced a final frenzy of wooden shipbuilding. Literally hundreds of thousand-ton vessels were built, rapidly, inadequately and of unseasoned lumber. They never served their intended purpose of helping to provision Europe during the war. Many of these 200 ships were burned at Mallows Bay on the Potomac [River] for their metal scrap. That site - possibly the world's largest concentration of shipwrecks - is under consideration as a Maryland State Park, and is the subject of fascinating research by marine historian Don Shomette.

    This site eventually did become a state park. See my June 12, 2011 for more information.

    A number of these ships, described by Robert Keith as a wartime "river of wood" flowing into Baltimore shipyards, were bought by the Davison Chemical Company immediately after the First World War to transport pyrite (a sulfur-rich compound with iron) from Cuba. Davison and Mathieson produced a lion's share of the world's industrial sulfuric acid. (The site today is an industrially active, landscaped subsidiary of W.R. Grace.)

    Pyrite can be used to create sulfuric acid and sulfuric acid may be used to create explosives, a likely application given the wartime efforts.

    These old ships, many of which remain, are the repositories for memories and stories of harbor history. You can see a surprising number of them along the Patapsco [River]. Forming a mile-long phalanx against eroding northerly gales between Sledds and Leading Points, a score of great wooden ships lie sunken head to tail. Some are in the shallows, with sand and gravel accumulating in their ruined hulls. This permits some to host a disguising growth of shrubbery and small trees. From a great dike of deposited rubble lying inland, you can view the line of ships stretching off eastward, some still with decks of 4-inch-thick plank surviving, gray with age. The square black mouths of long-empty cargo hatches open into murky water beneath.

    Sledds Point and Leading Point form the western and eastern terminus of Curtis Bay on the south side. The W.R. Grace Company owns the land on which Sledds Point resides.

    For some, only structural frames protrude above water to suggest the shape of a hull and the tangle of rusting steel and rotting wood beneath. Where the entire above-water hull and planking have fallen away, there is the odd hawse-pipe standing, in which the anchor cable was once conducted through the hull and deep into the vessel's chain lockers.

    A "hawse-pipe" is an iron or steel pipe in the stem or bow of a vessel through which an anchor cable passes.

    At least another 10 ships lie ruined in Curtis Creek: Runner, Southern Dover, Ashland, Fort Scott.

    Two wooden hulks lie beside each other. The whole midsection of one has burned and collapsed, her bow standing high and proud, just as she was run ashore and abandoned. Her hawse holes are intact, but the anchors they once housed are gone. Her rudder is frozen in midturn, standing 10 feet out of the water. Some wag has added graffiti: "Free to a Good Home."

    A "hawse hole" is a hole in the stem or bow of a vessel for an anchor cable.
    A "wag" is a person given to droll, roguish, or mischievous humor.

    Next to her are the remains of a famous Bay passenger steamer, Emma Giles, her bow still rising many feet as well. The rest of her was torn apart for scrap in 1959. There is the Portland, crumbled almost to water level. A steam boiler is lying adjacent, rising vertically from the creek, its firing door closed forever on the coal that once brought a commercial ship to life. The hull is overgrown with what amounts to a small scrub woodland. She is a dead wooden ship which is, in the words of Robert Keith, "becoming a tree again."
    - from Bay Journal - Ghosts of Industrial Heyday Still Haunt Baltimore's Harbor Creeks

    This article says there are at least 10 wrecks in the Curtis Creek/Curtis Bay area. I'd say that is correct though there is very little left to some of them. Unlike the "Ghost Fleet" at Mallows Bay, these wrecks are not all together so one must do a little exploring to find them all. Studying Google Maps satellite photos ahead of time will help. I did indeed study these publicly available photos and in doing so, I decided to name each set of wrecks. Note that these names are not official names...just "Saki names."
  • First photo: Satellite image of wrecks just northeast of Walnut Point and northeast of where the Baltimore Beltway (highway 695) and Hawkins Point Road (route 173) intersect with the east side of Curtis Creek. I call these the Walnut Point Wrecks.
  • Second photo: This is a very faint photo of three wrecks less than 0.4 mile southeast of Sledds Point and just north of Herring Pond. I call these the Sledds Point Wrecks.
  • Third photo: A satellite view of a few wrecks just north of Stahl Point on Curtis Creek, on the northwestern side of the railroad bridge. I call these the Stahl Point Wrecks.

  • Also unlike Mallows Bay, many of these wrecks stick above the water a good ways so even if you're not there at low tide, you will still see quite a bit of what's there...well...maybe not for Sledds Point Wrecks. But of course low tide is the best time to be there. For us, low tide was 1523. So we launched from Solleys Cove at 1400 to give us plenty of time. The plan was to paddle in a counter-clockwise loop, hitting each set of wrecks along the way. The rest of my blog is divided up into three sections, according to the closest wrecks on the route.



    Walnut Point Wrecks
    The five of us paddled upstream on Curtis Creek to the Coast Guard Yard in Arundel Cove. Here we saw numerous ships including the James Rankin.
  • Fourth photo: Janie on her L.L. Bean Perception Calypso and Mark on his Necky Manitou rental boat. Interestingly, one of the Coast Guard ships was also named Manitou.
  • Fifth photo: Jim paddling my Cobra Expedition sit-on-top kayak.
  • Sixth photo: Jim near the James Rankin.
  • Seventh photo: Mark passing by one of the Coast Guard vessels.
  • Eighth photo: Mark and Janie check out the fleet.

  • Next, we paddled north on Curtis Creek under the swing train bridge, which was in the open position to let big boats through. See ninth photo.

    Continuing north along the east side of the creek, we passed under the highway 695 Baltimore beltway then turned right (east) towards Jaws Marine. Here we saw the Walnut Point Wrecks.
  • Tenth photo: Janie eyeballing the shipwreck in Walnut Point.
  • Eleventh photo: The south side of the bow of the biggest wreck in that area.
  • Twelfth photo: Mark and Janie paddling to the aft of the same ship. Notice how it has become a habitat for a variety of plants.
  • Thirteenth photo: Jim with an almost completely submerged wreck behind him. Notice how just a few points stick out of the water? It is stuff like this that one has to watch for when paddling, as dangerous obstructions may reside hidden just inches below the water. That's also a good reason to bring a plastic kayak.
  • Fourteenth photo: Certain parts of these wrecks bare very little ship-like resemblance from some angles.
  • Fifteenth photo: Can you see the Roman numerals written on part of the ship, possibly indicating water depth/height relative to the lowest part of the boat?
  • Sixteenth photo: These ships weren't only made of wood. There was a considerable amount of metal that was used in their construction. Much of it was salvaged but obviously not all of it.
  • Seventeenth photo: Looking over the walls of a ship to view its interior.
  • Eighteenth photo: I climbed out of my Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem sit-on-top kayak to get more interesting photos.
  • Nineteenth photo: Janie on the east side of the Walnut Point Wrecks.
  • Twentieth photo: More Roman numerals.
  • Twenty-first photo: This one looks like it was used to hold a lot of scrap.
  • Twenty-second photo: Looking west from the east side. Can you see two kayaks?
  • Twenty-third photo: Here's the same view taken a few seconds later with a close-up of Mark and Jim, the two kayakers in the previous photo.
  • Twenty-fourth photo: The deck of this ship lies in ruins. Can you see the hawse hole?
  • Twenty-fifth photo: Another view looking west.
  • Twenty-sixth photo: Old Glory flies proudly.



  • Sledds Point Wrecks
    Pushing onward, we headed out to Curtis Bay. Along the way, we saw about 30 cormorants. Shortly after turning southeast at Sledds Point, we saw the Sledds Point Wrecks. There were not as visible and had we not been there near low tide at 1523, it is likely we would have seen very little of them.
  • Twenty-seventh photo: The most prominent wreck at Sledds Point.
  • Twenty-eighth photo: This is why you want to see these at low tide.
  • Twenty-ninth photo: What are these metal pipes? Could they be smokestacks?
  • Thirtieth photo: Jim on the south side of the wreckage. Do you remember me mentioning, "W.R. Grace Company owns the land on which Sledds Point resides"? Looking in this photo, you'll see proof of that.
  • Thirty-first photo: Northwest view showing the sides of the boats with Janie in the foreground.
  • Thirty-second photo: Another northwest view but this time showing the interior of the boats.

  • One of the higher points on a wreck served as an egret perch (thirty-third photo). About a mile and a half to the east, we saw the Francis Scott Key Bridge. See Jim and Mark in the thirty-fourth photo with the bridge behind.

    At the southernmost part of Curtis Bay, we pulled ashore on a beach for a short break. See Norma viewing the wreckage in the thirty-fifth photo. Debris from the wrecks had washed ashore over the last several decades. So did a couple of horseshoe crab skeletons which now reside in my front yard. See Janie holding one of the skeletons in the thirty-sixth photo.

    Retracing our steps, we headed back near the first set of wrecks. Then, once I deemed it safe, we crossed Curtis Creek as a group (there was a moderate amount of boat traffic) to the west side.



    Stahl Point Wrecks
    Continuing south, we came to a half sunken tug boat.
  • Thirty-seventh photo: This is the little tug boat that couldn't.
  • Thirty-eighth photo: Not being like the old boats from the World War One era, this wreck looked a little out of place.
  • Thirty-ninth photo: Janie, Mark, and Jim paddle to get a closer look.
  • Fortieth photo: Mark with highway 695 (the Baltimore beltway) in the background.

  • Shortly after seeing the tug boat, we came to the Stahl Point Wrecks.
  • Forty-first photo: I call this ship the "S.S. Daryl" since that is what someone wrote on the side. It stands high and proud, being in considerably better shape and lying higher in the water than the others.
  • Forty-second photo: Janie and Mark paddle in front of the bow of Daryl.
  • Forty-third photo: Can you see the hawse holes on Daryl? There also appears to be one in the pile of scrap next to it.
  • Forty-fourth photo: Off in the distance, we saw a CSX train cross over the now closed railroad bridge that we paddled under earlier.
  • Forty-fifth photo: That big pile of scrap next to Daryl looks like another ship when seen from a different angle. Daryl is on the left. The ship on the right is used to hold the scrap.
  • Forty-sixth photo: More scraps piled high. Somewhere underneathe all that is a boat.
  • Forty-seventh photo: I'm guessing this is a boiler that ran the engine. It stood about 5 feet out of the water. See the train bridge behind?
  • Forty-eighth photo: This gear box was about 14 feet long. I'm guessing somewhere under water lies the other half.

  • That was all the wrecks to be seen in the area (that I know of). I never found that one that was "free to a good home." Perhaps someone claimed it.

    We continued making our way back, kayaking south of the railroad bridge on the west side of Curtis Creek. Across from the Coast Guard Yard was the Curtis Bay Army Depot. See forty-ninth photo. A sign warned boaters to stay at least 50 yards away. They had their own boats which were not as numerous as those at the Coast Guard Yard. But the Coast Guard can't say they have a ship for launching amphibious craft.



    We completed our casual 7.5 mile trip at about 1715. After loading up our boats and gear, we bid our farewells, leaving to celebrate 4th of July festivities on our own. Norma and I got invited to spend the evening with friends at a cookout. It was a good day.

    Special thanks to everyone who modeled for me. Shipwrecks are impressive but they are even more impressive when there is a kayaker nearby so one can appreciate just how big they are. Too bad I didn't get more pictures of Norma but that is the price for sitting behind me in a tandem kayak.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Middle Choptank
    On the morning of June 28, 2012, I headed out to the eastern shore of Maryland. My first stop was Stoney Point Landing on Tuckahoe Creek. While I've paddled this scenic creek several times, I've never checked out this launch site. It is not as good as some because there is a 0.8 mile drive on a dirt road that is a bit powdery in some sections. I imagine that during/after a hard rain, it could be quite muddy. Other launch areas to the north and south would be better, though this would certainly make for an excellent break area.
  • First photo: Launch area. Not quite as muddy as it looks. It is more on the rocky side. There are at least a couple of spots like this here.
  • Second photo: Dirt parking lot. It is more of a cul-de-sac.
  • Third photo: This part of Tuckahoe Creek is narrow enough to be scenic but wide enough so you won't need to portage. This is a good place to be one with nature.

  • As nice as Tuckahoe Creek is, I didn't stop to launch. I had other food on my plate.

    I drove to the Greensboro Boat Ramp. Here, I met Mark K. of Rooster Productions. Mark is a professional filmmaker. He also shoots video footage that is licensed to media content creators all over the world to appear in commercials, public service announcements, etc. Mark told me what he was looking for in a location to film and I suggested Greensboro. He was also looking for models. In addition to me, he wanted a senior kayaker. After showing him some photos, he felt that Bela M. of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association would be ideal.

    Mark shot several videos of Bela and me paddling. I used my Cobra Expedition. It took about 2 hours. The work was pretty easy though it wouldn't be suitable for someone without at least a moderate level of kayaking experience. We had to be able to paddle to certain points slowly and naturally, then turn around and do it again and again. We also had to paddle in formation, keeping our speed and distance from each other while being consistent. Nothing difficult, but we had to "know" our boats.

    When it was all over, Mark paid us for our services then we went on our separate ways. Bela went to work and I decided to get in some exploring on the water. Since Bela and I were now "professional kayak models," does that mean we can write off our kayaking gear as business expenses?

    I drove to Ganeys Wharf (fourth photo) on what I call the "Middle Choptank." Recall that on May 25, 2012, I explored the "Upper Choptank" which includes the most upstream sections where one can paddle. I was now between that and the lower section which is closer to where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. Actually, the middle section is quite large and if I had to be more exact, I would say I was in the upper part of the middle.

    I was greeted by a young man (about 18 years old) that serves with the Preston Volunteer Fire Department. He told me about a recent drowning that his depsrtment was called out for and advised me to be careful. It involved a toddler that fell into the water. The mother jumped in to save him then the father followed. The toddler was saved but the mother died.

    By 1200, I was on the water, heading upstream on my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP).

    The young man also warned me that much of the south side of the river just upstream of the launch site was very shallow. He wasn't kidding. That isn't the place to be in low tide. Fortuantely, I was riding the flood tide up and making good time.

    I passed the mouth of Tuckahoe Creek.

    I saw 10 eagles that day. Seven were mature and three immature. That might be the most I've ever seen in a single day. I'm not saying they were all different eagles. Eagles tend to not let me get very close and they often fly off in the same direction I'm paddling. So I might have only seen 6 unique eagles. But there were indeed 10 sightings. See fifth photo.

    I saw about 8 dead fish including what I think was a carp that was about a meter long. See sixth photo.

    I had a moving average between 4.5-5.2 mph as I made my way up the Choptank.

    At Martinak State Park, I turned right (east) on Watts Creek then made my way as far as I could upstream. The last time was here was July 2, 2006. I went up two different branches, getting past the Double Hills Road Bridge in both cases. Since it was high tide, I had to lie down on my paddleboard to fit under them and I couldn't get more than a eighth of a mile upstream of either. Near the second (southern) branch, I passed a mailbox that was clearly set in a place that no postman would deliver. See seventh photo.

    Near the mouth of Watts Creek, I pulled ashore at the Martinak Launch Site. Here, I took a break, refilled my water bottle, and used the facilities. See eighth photo.

    Back on the Choptank, I was now riding the ebb tide. But having the tide on my side wasn't too helpful as I was now paddling into a 6-9 mph wind. I think the wind was sometimes 10+ mph. On a kayak, that wouldn't be so bad but on a SUP, it really slows me down. I don't remember having such a strong wind to my back when I paddled upstream.

    At Potters Landing, I made my way up Mill Creek for about 0.8 mile. See ninth photo.

    Continuing downstream on the Choptank, the wind was really kicking my ass. I already did 15+ miles and was feeling a little tired. I needed to get out of the wind. So I headed up Robins Creek. This creek is a real gem. It doesn't look like much from the mouth at the red triangle "66" marker. But once you're on the creek, you're out in nature, away from any homes. The creek is narrow but deep enough to get 1.1 miles up without portaging. I highly recommend paddling Robins. See tenth photo.

    In one of these creeks (I forget which), a fish jumped onto my paddleboard. It was about 2 inches long. It was on the widest part, near my feet, so I had to pick it up and throw it back in the water.

    Back on the Choptank, the wind continued to wear me down. Waves splashed onto the deck of my SUP, drowning out the speakers of my Eco Extreme Waterproof Case. But since it is waterproof, I simply drained them out and they kept working fine.

    I stayed to the north side of the river to avoid the west wind. Then when I got close to Fowling Creek, I cut across then headed up that. Casually making my way up this creek was a welcome break from the wind. I got 1.3 miles up before getting stopped by a log. It would have been an easy portage over but I don't think I would have gotten much further. Up to that point, everything had been dredged since there were homes with docks. Beyond the portage, I saw no docks. It was now much closer to low tide than high tide and it was easy to get stuck in the undredged parts of Fowling Creek. Fowling was pretty nice but nowhere near as nice as Robins Creek. But I did manage to see a muskrat (eleventh photo).

    I had another 1.2 miles left on the Choptank. I think now the wind had died down just a bit. Near the mouth of Tuckahoe Creek and Gilpin Point, I saw some alpacas. See twelfth photo.

    I completed my 25.6 mile journey at 1645. This is without the doubt the furthest I've ever gone on a SUP in a single day and I don't expect I will break this record any time this year. My feet were quite sore and my obliques cramped up a bit but otherwise, I was fine.

    How does a SUP compare to a surf ski? Out on open water in the wind, I'd much rather be on a surf ski. A surf ski is just much more efficient. I'm estimating today's trip would be the equivalent to paddling 30-32 miles on a surf ski. But that doesn't mean I prefer surf skis to SUPs. They are different and I prefer each in different situations. But I think today would have been a better day to take out the surf ski.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Fort Smallwood, White Rocks, Black Rocks, and Stony Creek
    Back on June 7, 2012, I launched my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) from Downs Park and paddled out into the Chesapeake Bay. That was my step towards getting used to rougher waters on the SUP.

    So today, June 24, 2012, I decided to take it a baby step further and launch my SUP from Fort Smallwood. Doing so put me on the widest part of the Patapsco River in open waters with lots of boat traffic.

    The last time I was at Fort Smallwood (county park, not state park), there was no kayak launch area. So this was all new for me. The fellow at the entrance asked me what I had on my car and I told him it was an SUP. He said he had to call the ranger since he wasn't sure if he could let me launch there. The ranger came out (a really good looking chick) and she spoke to me long enough to realize that I knew what I was doing. I told her that I'd been kayaking for the last 13 years and had all the proper safety equipment. She got the same information from me that the folks at Downs Park did on June 7 then told me to have fun.

    I showed the folks at the entrance my Veterans of Foreign Wars life membership card and they let me in free of charge since I am a veteran.

    The park really was a fort at one time. In the first photo are the remains of Battery Hartshorne.
    From 1896 to 1928, it was an Endicott Period Coastal Fort named for Revolutionary War Major General William Smallwood who later became governor of Maryland. It is the location of Battery Hartshorne, named on November 18, 1902 in honor of Captain Benjamin M. Hartshorne, Junior, 7th U.S. Infantry, who was killed January 2, 1902, in action with insurgents near Lanang, Samar, Philippine Islands during the Philippine–American War.
    - from Fort Smallwood Park - Wikipedia

    I launched at the beach (second photo) at 0930. The water wasn't flat but it wasn't bad...just 6-12" waves unless a boat passed. I headed northwest to White Rocks. I think the last time I was there was May 31, 2007. I paddled my way around it, making sure to avoid any shallow areas. See photos three and four. The thing that looks like a hair on my lense is really inside the camera. My Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 is not quite the field camera that I hoped it would be.

    I could see Francis Scott Key Bridge to my northwest (fifth photo) and a big factory to my west (sixth photo). The northwestern sections around here seem to be industrial while the southeastern are residential.

    Next, I paddled west to Stony Creek. At the mouth, I passed Black Rocks. See seventh and eighth photos. I wish I could tell you something about these rocks but I cannot. But they sure seem out of place in an area with a sandy/muddy bottom.

    After crossing under the Fort Smallwood Road (route 173) bridge, I turned right onto Nabbs Creek, paddling until I reached the end. Along the way, I saw a wreck. But it wasn't the classic wooden boat from 1914. It was a less interesting modern one where someone obviously got into shallow waters then got stuck. See ninth photo.

    In the headwaters of Nabbs Creek, I saw lots of small fish. When they rested, I could not see them but once they saw my SUP, they all turned and swam away...all as a single entity. Being high up on the paddleboard, I had a nice view of them as they appeared as a hundred silver slivers in the blink of an eye.

    If you're into seeing wildlife, this isn't a good area to paddle. It is all quite developed and you'll have a hard time just finding a spot to pull over and relax. I recommend resting on the southeast side of the Fort Smallwood Road (route 173) bridge which has a nice shaded beach, maybe big enough for 4 kayaks. To the best of my knowledge, is not privately owned.

    On the return trip, I made a bee line from the mouth of Stony Creek to Rock Point, the northernmost part of Fort Smallwood. A Coast Guard boat kept its eye on me. I don't imagine they get too many SUPers out in open water. I hit some bigger waves than when I started but I handled them just fine. If they get bigger than 18 inches (a few were), then I turn my SUP into them to avoid getting hit from the beam. I am definitely getting more comfortable on mildly choppy waters and don't feel so tense.

    I made it back after 2 hours and 45 minutes, having paddled a comfortable 10.4 miles.

    On the beach, I met a fellow by the name of Peter who paddled a Stellar surf ski. We spoke for a bit. I'm guessing he's from England...certainly not Anne Arundel County. He's a Chesapeake Paddlers Association dude so maybe our paths will cross in the fuure.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Curtis Bay and Bodkin Creek
    In my opinion, June is the second best month for kayaking in the mid-Atlantic area (May is the best). The water isn't too cold, the air is warm, I don't need a wetsuit, and the hot humid weather usually hasn't gotten too bad. So why did I not get out on the water on the weekends of June 2-3 and June 9-10? For June 2-3, Norma and I visited her mother. For June 9-10, I participated in a Marine Corps League road cleanup, worked in the yard, participated in a cookout, then did an organized bike ride on June 10, 2012.

    To keep from going stir crazy, I got out quite a bit during the week. On June 5, 2012, I got out on my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and did some slow, scenic paddling. But I also tested my skills by venturing out into bigger waters, particularly at the mouth of Curtis Bay. While it isn't rough by kayaking standards, it can get a little chop and that is still something I am getting used to on the SUP.

    Wanting to test my skills further, I decided to launch right on the Chesapeake Bay by putting in at Downs Park on June 7. Check out the launch area from afar in the first photo. It is the beach to the left of the rip rap. A close-up view of the beach from which I launched is shown in the second photo.

    There was supposed to be about an 8 mph wind from the west so I figured I'd be pretty sheltered since to the west was the park. But once I got on the water, I noticed the wind seemed to be coming from the south.

    I paddled north to Bodkin Creek with one foot waves behind me. I tried to surf but couldn't catch any waves. I felt unbalanced at times but didn't fall. I was quite proud of myself.

    After 1.4 miles, I came to Cedar Point, at the southern mouth of Bodkin Creek. This is one of the few places where I can look so my south and see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge then look to my northwest and see the Francis Scott Key Bridge.

    I got in a few miles in Bodkin Creek. I didn't explore the whole thing but I explored most. It isn't terribly interesting. There are some very nices homes but nothing that would pique the interest of a nature-loving water dude like me.

    I worked on my speed, getting a good rhythm going and really using my whole body to propel myself forward. As I paddled, my mind drifted and I thought about how I could make a rudder for my SUP. It still pulls way too much to the left and I'm starting to think my paddling skills aren't 100% to blame.

    By the time I got back in the bay, the wind died down and I had an easy trip back.

    I was on the water for about 2.6 hours. I was going at it pretty hard and during the last 50 minutes or so, I was a little tired. Not that I didn't want to go on...I just couldn't give it all I had. I got in 10.9 miles, with a moving average of 4.2 mph. That's pretty good for me, especially considering much of that was not on flat water.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    The shipwrecks of Curtis Bay
    On June 5, I launched my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) at Solleys Cove then paddled north to Curtis Bay to see the shipwrecks. I had been there before but this time was different. Today, I really took my time and looked things over closely, appreciating their beauty.

    In addition to seeing the wrecks, I also found something totally unexpected. I paddled up Branch Creek on the west side of Curtis Creek. I went under the Pennington Avenue Bridge. I did this before several years ago. Back then, I went until I could see the end, then turned around. I couldn't get far. This time, I went a little further, getting just 20 feet from a wall of grass. I suppose I paddled 30 feet further than before. What difference would 30 feet make? A lot! I looked to my right and saw a tunnel that I did not see before. I paddled through this 9 foot wide tunnel under a road and found that the stream continued. I paddled until I got to a fallen tree. Perhaps I will return with a saw and loppers to see just how much further I can venture. It was a pleasant surprise.

    It was near dusk as I neared the end of my trip. I paddled under the Stahl Point railroad bridge. This old wooden relic looks like it may have been made from some of the same trees as the shipwrecks.

    The cloudy skies and setting sun provided for some dramatic lighting. I hope to return at high tide with friends and post some photos after my next trip to this area.

    This would make a great beginner trip, being only about 6 miles. It could even be made a little shorter by launching out of Jaws Marine. I imagine that at least if you lauched there and paid the ramp fee, they'd let you use a restroom, which Solleys Cove doesn't have.


    Miles River
    I got in my hours for the month at work so I decided to take May 31, 2012 off and go paddling. The weather was supposed to be very nice but a bit breezy with winds coming from the north. I wanted to go to the eastern shore and do some one way exploring starting north, paddling south, then getting back on bicycle. Unfortunately, the tides were not cooperating with my plans. So I looked for another option.

    Looking at my Talbot County ADC map, I noticed that there was a bridge over Miles River that looked like a potential launch site. I looked in my Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails book for a description of this area but found no mention of Miles River...only Miles Creek which is a totally different body of water.

    Next, I did a web search, hoping to find someone that might have a kayaking blog, mentioning this area. Then lo and behold, I found that there is indeed a launch site at this bridge...and not just a makeshift one. It looks like after my ADC map was made, the county created this launch area, called Miles River Bridge Landing. See first photo.

    I grabbed my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) then drove east. I was on the water by 1130.

    I paddled into the wind, heading upstream on Miles River. I wanted to see just how far up it I could go. I was stopped by a very small bridge around mile 4.2. I could have easily carried my SUP around it but the road, property, and bridge all appeared to be private property in plain view of a nearby house so I did not choose this option which might have given me only another three quarters of a mile of paddling. I suppose if the owner was out, I would have asked him/her permission to cross.

    Instead, I paddled up Potts Mill Creek. This is a scenic little creek that I was able to go up almost 2 miles before I came to a large fallen tree. I didn't make it to Longwoods Road (route 662).

    I ate lunch on my paddleboard on Potts Mill Creek. I also learned one great advantage to SUPs over kayaks if you're a guy. It is easy to pee off the side of an SUP. No need to look for a place to land. All I need is a little privacy.

    Lots of wildlife was out. I saw about 3 muskrats, numerous turtles, 2 or 3 water snakes, geese with their young (second photo), and 8-10 bald eagles. The eagles and snakes were uncooperative in posing for photos but I got a nice downward shot of one of the muskrats from my high vantage point on the SUP. See third photo. I am quite certain it was a muskrat as it had a rat-like tail and was too small to be a nutria.

    While Potts Mill Creek was very nice, Miles River was just moderately nice. There were some very expensive homes, including a few southern-style plantation homes (fourth photo). Outside of Potts Mill Creek, there wasn't a whole lot of narrow, scenic, creek exploring. There were some (e.g. fifth photo)...I just couldn't venture far up them. But still, it was a good place to put on some miles and just be out on the water.

    I estimated high tide to be between 1330 and 1400. By that time, I was heading back downstream with the wind to my back. But unlike most of my paddling trips, I didn't pay much attention to my speed. That is because I had my GPS set in map mode. Much of the river is wide and so are its tributaries so it isn't always obvious which part of the river is the main part.

    I explored most everything upstream of the launch site, including Black Duck Cove and Gully Cove, but not Goldsborough Creek or Glebe Creek. I'm saving those for next time and hoping their headwaters are scenic, natural areas full of wildlife.

    I ended up getting in a good 16.5 miles, finishing at 1630. I was feeling pretty zen.

    On the drive home, things were moving right along until I got to Annapolis. Then traffic stopped. It took me 20 minutes to move a tenth of a mile. Looking ahead, I saw no movement in traffic. Two police cars and an ambulance raced ahead. Not knowing when traffic would start moving again, I took an exit then made my way home after driving on smaller roads through Annapolis, Crownsville, Crofton, and Gambrills. There was a LOT of stop and go traffic. All the driving undid all the zen that my SUP gave me. Sort of like getting a massage in Washington D.C., only to drive home on the beltway in rush hour traffic.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Pohick Bay to Mason Neck
    After reading the description for Paddle/Hike Combo! Paddle to the Largest Heron Rookery Plus Mason Neck Hike!, I decided this was something I wanted to do, but not with a club. So I invited 8 friends to join me along with Norma. Brian and Kristina graciously accepted my offer.

    Norma and I left the house at 0645 then met Brian and Kristina at Pohick Bay Regional Park (see launch area in the first photo) at 0815. I spotted a water snake swimming through the water. See second photo. After unloading the boats, Brian and I drove to Mason Neck State Park, leaving his car near the beach launch. Then we drove my car back to Pohick. We were on the water around 0915.

    The forecast as of that morning was
    Mostly sunny, with a high near 88. Calm wind becoming south between 4 and 7 mph.

    We saw several other kayakers, including Dick R. of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association, and some people with an outfitter. Clearly, this was a popular place to launch and the park planned accordingly when they built the parking lot, which holds close to an infinite number of vehicles (50+).

    The four of us paddled southeast through Pohick Bay. See Kristina, Norma, and me in the third photo. Brian and Kristina were on Epic 18x kayaks while Norma and I paddled my Ocean Kayak Cabo.

    In Gunston Cove, we had a view of Gunston Hall to our right.

    There were lots of big, majestic, million-plus dollar waterfront homes on the Mason Neck peninsula. Brian and Kristina talked about which they wanted to own. But I think Norma was more interested in the wildlife. See osprey in the fourth photo.

    Rounding Hallowing Point put us on the Potomac River, heading downstream (west). See Brian and Kristina in the fifth photo.

    The residential area ended at the 2277-acre Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge.

    We paddled across the entrance to the Great Marsh, pulled ashore at a beach (sixth photo), and then ate lunch (seventh photo). There were lots of big snail shells on the beach and in the water. Some were over two inches wide! See eighth photo. It was a beautiful, sunny, day but perhaps a bit too sunny for Norma who prefers the shade...there was none though that was partly because it was almost noon.

    We paddled up a tributary on the west side of the Great Marsh. Spatterdock and other marsh plants lined the edges (ninth photo). Frogs called to each other, warning each other of our approach as we paddled. Listen to them by clicking on the tenth photo which will start a video. Watch for the fish jumping out of the water in the video. Redwing blackbirds flew amuck (eleventh photo).

    A beaver lodge was spotted. See twelfth photo.

    I would have loved to explore the middle and east sides of the Great Marsh but we already planned to put on quite a few miles so I figured it would be best to return on my own in a faster boat, doing an out and back trip from the Pohick launch site.

    Leaving the Great Marsh put us back on the Potomac, heading west. According to Brian, the heron rookery is located just west of the Great Marsh on the Potomac River.
    The refuge has the largest fresh water marsh in Northern Virginia, the largest Great Blue heron rookery in the Mid-Atlantic region (over 1400 nests), is a designated RAMSAR site, and hosts over 200 species of birds, 31 species of mammals, and 44 species of reptiles and amphibians.
    - from Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge

    Naturally, I was expecting to see a multitude of heron nests...far more than I saw on my highly successful March 23, 2012 trip to the Sassafras River. But as it turns out, the rookery is inland a bit and only visible from the water when the trees are bare. So I saw none. Very sad. But when would be a good time to see them?
    April - Eaglets hatch. Great blue heron courtship and nesting activity peaks in the rookery. Spring wildflowers fill the woods. Teal pass through on northward migration. Deer grow new antlers.
    - from Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge - GORP

    So maybe I'll return next year in early April and see hundreds of birds like these in the thirteenth photo. But I'm not convinced the view will be all that great. I noticed when I did web searches on the heron rookery of Mason Neck that I saw no actual photos of the rookery.

    Paddling on the Potomac, we hit a good bit of chop. In some parts, the waves were 1.5-2 feet high but my tandem kayak doesn't cut through them. Instead, it rides on top. So the person at the bow (me) ends up feeling like they are riding a bucking horse. It is actually kinda fun though I wouldn't want to do it for more than half an hour.

    We saw a 22 inch long bald eagle feather floating in the water. That is the biggest I'd ever seen. I'm guessing I saw about 4 mature bald eagles (fourteenth photo) and possibly 2 immature. I'm not sure what the raptor is in the fifteenth photo. Possibly a young eagle?

    The ebb tide gave us a little boost down the Potomac but I couldn't tell.

    Rounding High Point then turning north put us in the Occoquan Bay. Then turning east at Sandy Point put us in the protected waters of Belmont Bay. Here, numerous power boats linked together to socialize.

    We pulled ashore at the Mason Neck State Park take out. This is a little beach used by the outfitter. See the sixteenth photo. On such a nice holiday weekend, the place was really hopping.

    I saw another water snake and followed it to shore (seventeenth photo). I'm guessing it was 2 feet long. It swam up a tiny tidal creek. In this area, I saw three more snakes, each about a foot long. It must have been a whole family or a nest. See eighteenth and nineteenth photos.

    We took a break at the visitor center, checking out their displays, using their restrooms, and buying snacks. We watched a windsurfer test his skills (twentieth photo). Then we were on our way.

    Continuing northeast along the shore through Belmont Bay, we made our way to Kanes Creek. This is a very scenic creek that should be very peaceful but on the festive weekend, there were too many jet skis racing up and down the creek. We made it less than a mile into the creek before heading back. We could have gone further but Brian said it would not have been much further since there would soon be signs telling us to turn around. The women were getting tired anyway.
  • Twenty-first photo: Brian near where we turned around.
  • Twenty-second photo: Norma and I in the tandem.
  • Twenty-third photo: Brian and Kristina in their Epics.

  • I checked my GPS at the take out. We put in a good 15.9 miles.

    Brian's vehicle can haul 4 boats so we threw all our kayaks on then locked up our gear inside. I had originally planned for us to do a 4-6 mile hike but instead opted for a much shorter walk. I don't think everyone had the energy to enjoy the original plan as much as I intended. See May 27, 2012 hiking to find out what we saw on our little nature walk.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Upper Choptank
    The original plan for May 25, 2012 was for me and Norma to drive to the Clarion River area in Pennsylvania and spend the Memorial Day weekend kayaking, bicycling, and hiking. The problem is that according to the USGS 03029000 Clarion River at Ridgway, PA monitoring station, the discharge is 219 cubic feet per second while the gage height in feet is 2.59 as of midnight, May 25, 2012. According to Ed Gertler's "Keystone Canoeing," we need a discharge of at least 300 cubic feet per second and a gage height of 2.95 feet. I've found him to be pretty accurate when it comes to this type of information so I decided to cancel this trip rather than drive 5 hours from Savage and be disappointed.

    So I grabbed my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) then drove to G. Daniel Crouse Memorial Park (first photo) in Denton, Maryland on the eastern shore. The last time I paddled in this area was July 1, 2006, shortly after I met Norma. Back then, we did a 13.2 mile one way trip from the Greensboro Boat Ramp down to Martinak State Park. This time I decided to do an out and back trip, taking advantage of the tide.

    A mother duck was out with her offspring (second photo). It is that time of year when ducks and geese with juveniles are a common sight.

    I launched at 0930, riding the flood tide up the Choptank River. I was moving along at about 5 mph. The tide gave me about 0.8 mph more speed than I would typically be going with the same amount of effort. There were some interesting looking places to explore off the main river but if I wanted to ride the flood tide to my destination, I had no time for exploration...a least not now.

    Working on my paddling form, I tried to refine my starboard side J-stroke to avoid having to paddle x times on the right side then [2+]x times on the left. This is not an easy thing for me to overcome. I was even starting to wonder if my SUP was off but I'd visually checked it a few times now and found no such problem. Regardless, with the water so flat and calm, it was a good day to practice my technique.

    Most of the time I had the river all to myself. One power boat kicked up a 6 inch beam wave that hit me on the port side. My SUP tilted at about 30 degrees and I just rode with it. I find that being relaxed is often the best way for me to avoid capsizing.

    I had forgotten just how scenic the upper part of the Choptank River is. Unlike the section near the mouth which is about 4 miles wide, the Choptank on which I paddled today was often just a tenth of a mile across and lined with trees on either side. With a predicted high temperature of 83 degrees along with south wind of 5-7 mph, I was in paradise. What made it even more fun was having my iPod protected in my Eco Extreme Waterproof Case external speakers playing some tunes (not loudly) while I paddled.

    I saw a 3 foot long northern water snake on a pier. But once it saw me, it scurried away. I saw another snake (probably the same kind) swimming to the shore but I couldn't get very close before it hid.

    I reached Greensboro at 1116, just 15 minutes before high tide. Continuing further upstream, I was now in unfamiliar waters. I didn't expect to get far, but much to my surprise, I continued another 2.3 miles. The river narrowed. I could easily underhand throw a rock from one side to the other. Fallen trees often made maneuvering difficult on my 14 foot long SUP. I often had to squat down low to get under branches. What was especially awkward was using my 74.75" long single blade paddle under such circumstances.

    In some areas, I felt like I was paddling through a jungle. See third and fourth photos.

    Steep walls sometimes revealed tiny caves. See fifth photo.

    As the day warmed up, wildlife became more abundant. It seemed like there was a turtle around every corner, resting on a log. See sixth photo. Many were in the water too. On a kayak, I would just see their heads sticking out of the water and as Norma says, "You don't know they're there until they're not." But on a paddleboard, I am high enough above the water so I can see not just their heads but their whole bodies floating below the surface.

    In such shallow waters, I paddled slowly. Occassionally, my fin would hit a log and I would start to fall forward as I came to an abrupt stop. But if I crept along at under 3 mph and remained aware of my surroundings, I could usually avoid such incidents.

    Back in Greensboro (seventh photo), I pulled ashore to eat. The tide was now on its way out, moving along at about 0.7 mph. Paddling downstream, I harnessed the power of mother nature so I didn't have to work so hard.

    I saw one fellow in a recreational kayak. We were both moving in the same direction. I was catching up with him but as with many lone kayakers, I don't think he wanted any company. But I wasn't going all that much faster than him so it would be awhile before we were out of sight from each other. Fortunately for him, I saw a snake, which prompted me to pull over and take photos. It was a beautiful 3.5 foot long black snake, resting motionless on a fallen tree. See eighth and ninth photos.

    Continuing downstream, I now had a chance to take my time and explore since the ebb tide would remain flowing for several more hours.

    I checked out some tribuaries such as Forge Branch which was often a sea of spatterdock. See tenth photo. A few of these plants were starting to bloom.

    Some parts of the Choptank were divided by small islands that divided the river into two sections. So while I paddled on one side going upstream, I now explored the other side on my return.

    A 16 inch long northern water snake swam by. It tried to get away from me but steep shoreline structures kept it from getting on land. So it was forced to pose for me as I took its photo. See eleventh photo.

    I paddled by an osprey nest. Being so high above the water (as compared to a kayak) put me at a level where I could hear the faint chirps of the babies.

    I pulled under a tree and lied down for a few minutes. I was thinking I could take a power nap but I found myself slowly drifting. Afraid that I might drift into the middle of the river and get hit by a boat, I got up and continued onward. I found the foam padding on the platform of my SUP is pretty comfortable.

    I made my way under the old train bridge that ends in Denton. See twelfth and thirteenth photos.

    I remember when I first started studying Muay Thai. My sensei had me do roundhouse kicks as hard as I could on the heavy bag until I was exhausted. He didn't teach me how to do a Muay Thai roundhouse kick. He wanted me to do a Kenpo Karate kick, which I knew how to do. In comparison, a Kenpo Karate kick has more snap and less hip rotation. But as I became more and more fatigued, my kick had less snap and I relied more on hip rotation. That is exactly what he wanted. I was learning to rely on my bigger, stronger muscles to put more mass behind the kick. Today, I learned something similar regarding SUP paddling. Kayak paddling relies on torso rotation. SUP paddling can also use torso rotation. But it also incorporates rotation from bending forward at the hips and squatting as the blade is dug into the water. Near the end of my trip, I was tired and my left shoulder was sore. What I found, however, is that I had much more strength (and less shoulder soreness) if I relied less on torso rotation and more on bending at the hips and squatting. Both techniques involve rotation, but one is a twisting motion while the other is a bending movement. These are my observations and I'm sticking to them.

    I was out of the water at 1545, having paddled 21.6 miles. My left shoulder and both feet were sore. Had I figured out how to avoid paddling twice as often on my left side as my right, my left shoulder might not be so sore. I haven't yet figured out what to do about my feet. But otherwise, I felt just peachy...just way tired.

    On the way home, I noticed that almost all the traffic was heading in the opposite direction as me. I figured that would be the case. Folks were heading to Ocean City for the Memorial Day weekend.

    I stopped in at the L.L. Bean outlet store in Queenstown but couldn't find it. I guess they are no more.

    At home, I told Norma about all the turtles and snakes I saw. Then she showed me the three eastern box turtles that she found in our back yard. See fourteenth photo for the first two. I moved them into the park behind our property (which is separated by a fence) so I wouldn't mow over them. While moving them, I found a broken robin's egg (fifteenth photo) that had fallen out of its nest. I guess if I want to see wildlife, I only need to go into my own yard.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Pickering Beach and Leipsic River
    On May 25, 2009, Norma and our parents saw thousands of horseshoe crabs at Kitts Hummock. We totally hit the jackpot back then. I timed our visit with the high tide and new moon. The evening high tide is supposed to be better but of course it is hard to see things or get good photos at night so our visit was in the late morning.

    Hoping to hit the jackpot again (and find some new launch sites), Norma and I woke up early on May 20, 2012 and drove 2 hours to Pickering Beach, an official horseshoe crab sanctuary, just 2.4 miles north of Kitts Hummock.
    Pickering Beach takes pride in its beautiful location on the Delaware Bay, which is the world's largest spawning ground for horseshoe crabs.
    Unfortunately, both Pickering Beach residents and researchers have observed that the horseshoe crab population along Delaware Bay has been drastically declining in the last two decades. To help preserve this precious natural resource, Pickering Beach partnered with the Ecological Researcch & Development Group to become a Horseshoe Crab Sanctuary in 2004.

    - from sign at Pickering Beach

    We arrived about 45 minutes prior to the 0955 high tide on the day of the new moon. So I figured we'd see at least as many crabs as back in 2009.

    At the beach, we walked north, towards Little Creek Wildlife Area. There were a few others out walking along the beach. I expected they were there for the same reason as us. A few of them carried some really serious-looking camera equipment.

    It was cool and windy. Norma was cold. The forecast for the day was
    A slight chance of showers after 3pm. Sunny, with a high near 74. Northeast wind between 9 and 17 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

    As expected, there was a plethora of dead horseshoe crabs (see first photo) along with several that were alive and stranded because they were lying upside down and unable to turn over (second photo). Whenever we saw a crab in this situation, we gave it a flip.

    What we didn't expect to find were so many dead oyster toadfish. See third and fourth photos. I've never seen this fish before. It is without a doubt one of the ugliest fish I've ever seen. There were about two dozen dead on the beach. Most looked like a bloated organ was sticking out someplace it shouldn't. I don't know why they were dead but a scientist told me
    They could be killed by low oxygen (but they're very tough), or more likely by fishermen who caught them.
    I guess they're not good eating.

    After walking about 0.3 mile, we came to a brackish creek that flowed into the Delaware Bay. Here we saw numerous birds (fifth photo) dining on horseshoe crab eggs (sixth photo). Many of these birds were red knots (seventh photo) which rely on a feast of eggs to complete their 9000 mile migration from the southern tip of South America to the Arctic.
    Each spring, as many as a million migratory shorebirds converge on the Delaware Bay to feed and rebuild energy reserves prior to completing their northward migration. At least 11 species use horseshoe crab eggs as their primary food supply during their 2 to 3 week stopover. The birds dine mainly on eggs brought to the surface by wave action - eggs which would otherwise dry up and never develop. So while the eggs are essential to the birds, their consumption has limited effect on the horseshoe crab population.
    - from sign at Pickering Beach

    But birds and eggs weren't the only things in the creek. The tops of several horseshoe crabs stuck out an inch or two out of the water as they crawled along the shallow parts of the bottom. See eighth photo.

    As high tide approached, we saw more and more crabs come ashore to mate (ninth photo). In some areas, as many as 40 were clustered together in a 20 foot diameter space (tenth photo) but generally the groups were smaller (eleventh photo). Sadly, we didn't see the thousands that we saw before. This time, I think we saw two or three hundred that were alive. But based on the number that were dead on the beach, it was obvious this was the place to see them...just not today.
    During spawning, the horseshoe crabs form clusters along the edge of the water, with as many as 12 "satellite" males grouped around one female. Females burrow into the sand and lay masses of green eggs, which are then fertilized by the males around her.
    Each female will return to the beach on successive tides, laying as many as 4-7 egg clusters with each tide. Each cluster, which incubates 5-8 inches below the surface, contains about 4000 eggs. A female typically lays about 25 egg clusters each year.

    - from sign at Pickering Beach

    Even if we saw no horseshoe crabs, we sometimes knew if they recently passed by looking at the marks left in the sand. See twelfth photo.

    I'll be back (I don't know when) to try to see my 350 million year old friends on another day.



    After leaving Pickering Beach, Norma and I drove to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Our goal was to paddle the Leipsic River, taking advantage of the outgoing high tide and returning to the launch area via bicycle.

    We planned to take out at Whitehall Landing so that is where we went first to drop off the bikes. I found this location through Delaware State Parks - Other Paddling Locations. But the gate to this landing was locked.

    I worked up plan B in my head. It would be some bicycling in Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on the scenic paved roads. They also have some short hiking trails but the last time we walked on them (also in late May), we were attacked by dozens of ticks. At the refuge, we took at power nap then went to the visitor center. I spoke to a local about Whitehall Landing. He said the river wasn't very interesting there or anyplace downstream of the town of Leipsic. He also warned us of severe tidal changes. After talking for awhile, I reworked plan B in my head. Instead of bicycling in the refuge, we would paddle on the Leipsic and do a bicycle shuttle...we would just take out at a differet location.

    So Norma and I drove to our new takeout: Leipsic - Dyke Branch Launch. See first photo. Here we locked up the bikes and I took a GPS reading. Then we drove to Garrisons Lake - South Side and launched around 1345.

    It was a rough carry down a rocky dam to the water (second photo) but after that, it was easy. No portaging or cutting of fallen trees. The river was plenty wide enough...maybe even a little too wide. But that's why there are tributaries to explore. While the main part of the river was open and windy, the smaller creeks that flowed into it were narrow, scenic, and protected.
  • Third photo: Norma paddling my Cobra Expedition. It isn't often that we paddle together in separate boats but she did just fine on her own.
  • Fourth photo: I think someone needs to mow. Just look at how tall this grass is!
  • Fifth photo: Me on my Prijon Catalina.
  • Sixth photo: On water a smooth as glass.
  • Seventh photo: Norma takes the lead.

  • The 15 mph headwind slowed us down on the main river but the outgoing tide helped make up for some of that.

    It was pretty cool so there wasn't as much wildlife out as I would have liked to have seen. However, we did see about 4 or 5 muskrats (eighth photo). Also a two foot long garter snake that had a hard time slithering along a muddy bank. See ninth photo.

    We kayaked up one long tributary then had lunch at the Big Woods Road (road 84) bridge. Check out our view in the tenth photo.

    The tide was getting noticably low so we made this tributary our last. Paddling back down, it almost looked like a different creek with so much mud and stumps exposed that were not just an hour prior.

    There were a lot of chatty redwing blackbirds out but they were not easy to photograph (eleventh photo). But the flowers were willing models (twelfth photo). So were osprey (or eagle?) nests (thirteenth photo).

    Just before reaching the town of Leipsic, we paddled south on the deep Dyke Branch for about 0.2 mile to our takeout. Within 4.5 hours, the water dropped about 4 feet! Unlike the more forgiving Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware Bay has much more extreme tidal fluctuations. I've seen rivers flowing at 6 mph into the Delaware Bay just as a result of the tide. Needless to say, knowing your tides and planning around them is very important when kayaking in Delaware.

    By 1800, we were out of the water, having paddled 9.3 miles. But taking out so late in the day wasn't the best thing. Bugs were out in swarms. I had on some bug spray and Norma had none (yes, I offered). As we quickly unlocked the bikes, locked up the boats, and stowed away the gear, I looked and found at least 100 small flies on her back.

    It was a big relief to get on the bikes and away from all the insects. It was an easy 5 mile ride back to Garrisons Lake along routes 42 and 13. Not the most scenic ride but certainly safe with such wide shoulders along the roads. Back at the lake, we loaded the bikes and changed into dry clothes. Then we went and picked up the boats.

    Traffic wasn't bad coming back to Maryland and across the Bay Bridge. In Annapolis, we stopped for some man food at Red, Hot, and Blue.

    It felt good to get in so many activities in a single day. But it was also very tiring. We felt like we did a whole weekend in a single day.

    The next day, I had numerous insect bites while Norma had none. It's not fair! Still, the trip was well worth it.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Fish story
    Several years ago, I had a fish jump over my Futura C4 surfski. It was a very small fish (about an inch long) and it only cleared the bow, just about 6 inches from the nose. On another trip, a fish of about the same size jumped into that same boat and landed on my lap. I set it free. I believe both occurrences were on the Patuxent River. When paddling in the shallow areas, dozens of small fish jump out of the water when they are spooked, so both stories are quite believable, especially if you spend as much time as me on the water.

    But on May 15, 2012, a three inch long fish jumped over my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) on the South River. It was a warm, sunny evening and I decided to paddle upstream from Pier 7. My paddle was moving on the port side when I caught a split second glimpse of something silver fly from the starboard side over my SUP, about a foot above it. Then I heard a splash. It jumped near the widest part of my SUP, which is 27 inches long. Add another 4 inches on each side and that little bugger must have cleared 35 inches! At first, I questioned what I saw, or thought I saw. Could it have been a splash of water from my paddle? No. If it was, it would have been moving the other direction. Could it have been a leaf falling from a tree? No, it made too big of a splash. It was definitely a fish. So that's my fish story.


    Western Branch of the Conococheague
    On April 10, 2010, Norma and I scouted launch sites on the western branch of Conococheague Creek in Pennsylvania. I followed up on a lead from Yukon John and ended up finding a real gem that I call the Findley launch. Since then, I've been wanting to explore these waters. But finding a day that fits in our schedule with good weather and high water levels is not easy.

    I decided that May 12, 2012 would be the day. We made no other plans that day since I knew it would be a long trip with a long drive.

    I invited 8 others to join us but had no takers.

    The night prior, I loaded up the bikes, maps, and Ocean Kayak Cabo so we could get an early start the next morning.

    By 0730, we were on the road. Including a quick stop for a grab and go breakfast, it took about a hour and 45 minutes to get to Findley in Pennsylvania. We dropped off and locked up the boat and paddling gear. Then we drove to the take out at Route 494 in Maryland. There I parked and unloaded the bikes. It was a very simple 11.5 mile ride to Findley, mostly along route 494 and 57 which then turns into route 75 in Pennsylvania, then cutting across on Shimpstown Road. We could have biked along more scenic routes but these other routes were narrower and possibly more dangerous as traffic might fly along without seeing us until they got too close.

    At Findley, we unlocked the boat, ate a snack, locked up the bikes and were on the water by 1130. In the first photo is a view from Findley of the Route 16 bridge, just downstream.

    The creek was narrow and scenic. It is even prettier than the Monocacy River, in my opinion, because of the sometimes steep rocky walls along the creek.

    The weather was perfect. The NOAA forecast as of 0636 that morning was
    Sunny, with a high near 78. Calm wind becoming southwest between 4 and 7 mph.

    The water was quite cold. We were fine wearing summer clothes but I brought along a neoprene top and splash jacket just in case.

    There were lots of interesting (and sometimes unpleasant) smells along the creek. During the first mile or two, we smelled cows, which were not far from the water. The water didn't look all that clean, perhaps from farm runoff. Later, we smelled a couple of skunks. Fortunately, we never saw them. But there were also nice smells with all the flowers in bloom.

    We saw three snapping turtles, each with a carapace about 14 inches long. In the second photo is the first snapper. Notice its jagged dinosaur-like tail. They looked too big for their shells and I thought the first was dead because the last time I saw a turtle like that, it was bloated and dead. But the turtle moved then dove into the water as we approached. Its neck and legs were thick and muscular. Unlike other turtles in the area which are harmless, snapping turtles can be quite dangerous. I've heard they can easily bite off one's toe. But none of these were aggressive. As we got closer, they sought refuge in the water.

    I was hoping to see some snakes but saw none. But we did see a 2 foot long carp.

    The biggest problem with kayaking that day was the lack of water. Despite rain earlier in the week, the water was low. According to Ed Gertler's "Keystone Canoeing," the USGS Real-Time Water Data for Conococheague Creek (Fairview) should be at least 500 cubic feet per second (2.6 feet). At the time we launched, it was only 303 cubic feet per second and 2.13 feet. Needless to say, we were hitting lots of rocks on the bottom and getting our boat stuck in the shallow areas. Even when we weren't hitting bottom, it was often hard to get any speed because we couldn't dig our paddles deep into the water to get a good power stroke. Sometimes Gertler and I disagree on things like how scenic a particular area is, but when it comes to how much water is needed for paddling, he always seems to be correct. Our trip was based on a subset of his "West Branch Conococheague Creek" Section 2 route.

    One thing we (Gertler and I) disagree on for this route, is where to portage over dams. There were two dams, the first at mile 1.7 (see third photo), and the second a mile 3.1 (see fourth photo). Each was 5 feet high. Gertler suggested portaging on the left side for both. But I found the right side better. Perhaps this is just due to our portage style. I found the left side to have too steep of a drop off. If he is very tall and carrying a boat that he can lift easily, then the left side might be better for him. But our Cabo loaded with gear is an unwieldy 100+ pounds that is 30 inches wide. Additionally, Norma and I are 5'4" and 5'5", respectively. So choosing the right side (as seen facing downstream), was the more logical choice for us. At the first dam, we had to carry the boat ashore and around some trees which was awkward for a 16 foot long boat. For the second dam, we carried it down some slightly slippery rocks (fifth photo). Each portage took about 20 minutes. See Norma in the sixth photo waiting on the upstream side of the second dam.

    Around mile 2.5, Licking Creek merged with the west branch of the Conococheague. We paddled up Licking Creek for about 0.2 mile to get a look at the Witherspoon Covered Bridge (seventh photo). This bridge was constructed in 1883 by S. Stouffer on Anderson Road.

    After the two dams, the water started to look cleaner.

    Bringing the Cabo was a good choice. It is an almost indestructible boat and quite stable. Plus, for the distance that we needed to cover that day, Norma would not have been happy during the last 5 miles in a single boat.

    Spring is my favorite season and this day was a fine example. It wasn't too hot or humid, things were very green, and there was lots of wildlife out. There were several ducks and geese on the water with their offspring. Naturally, the ducks were scared as we approached. See eighth photo. The babies can move very quickly for short distances. Sometimes it looks like they are even running on top of the water as they say "cheep, cheep, cheep." But they can't always climb ashore when the bank is steep. So instead, they hide and the mother tries to distract us by playing lame. It hopes we (a predator) will try to attack her rather than her babies. Once we are sufficiently far from them, she will fly away.

    Jagged limestone rocks frequently lined the sides of the creek. Some lay in layers that were warped under pressure from other material above. Others contained shallow caves. See ninth and tenth photos.
    The Conococheague is a very impure limestone that contains layers of silt and dolomite (magnesium rich precipitate). It is a hard, erosion resistant formation relative to most limestones. Even though as a carbonate it is soluble, it has been used as a building stone in the Williamsport, Maryland area, in particular in the construction of the aqueduct over Conococheague Creek, for which it was named.
    - from McMullans - Conococheague Limestone, now a broken link

    There were lots of old historic structures visible from the water. Some, such as those near the dams, were probably for industrial use while others appeared to be private residences (eleventh photo). Some of the bridges looked quite old too. See twelfth and thirteenth photos.

    Around mile 6, we pulled over for lunch and a short nap. See fourteenth photo. With the water so low, there were lots of places that made for nice rest stops. There were lots of polliwogs in the shallow areas, munching away at algae. See fifteenth and sixteenth photos.

    A large fallen tree blocked our route. We couldn't fit under the tree but the boat could. So we climbed up on the tree and pushed the boat under then got back on.

    We were not making good time. The dams and all the shallow areas where we got stuck really slowed us down. So after lunch, I picked up the pace a little.

    Around mile 8, the western branch merged with the main Conococheague. The water was then deeper, faster, wider, cleaner, and not as cold. I attribute much of the cleanliness to all the aquatic grasses we didn't see until now. Previously, even with a downstream current, we moved at maybe 3.2 mph but now we were cruising along at about 4.6 mph. At one point, we wanted to see how fast we could go and we managed to get the boat moving at 7 mph!

    We saw numerous kingfisher birds (seventeenth photo) and a bald eagle (eighteenth photo). Neither was very cooperative in posing.

    I was hoping to see a groundhog in a tree like we saw on the Monocacy River back on October 2, 2010. Unfortunately, I saw none.

    On such a nice Saturday, I figured places like Harpers Ferry, Annapolis Rock, and Old Rag would be packed with people. So it was nice we were in a place so remote. For the first few hours, we didn't see anyone on the water and for the whole day, we saw maybe 3 fishermen, 2 other kayakers, and maybe a dozen people on the shore. So we were quite successful in getting away from it all.

    As we neared the end, I saw a few places that looked like they would make for nice launch sites along Wishard Road. Some even appeared to have room for parking along the side of the road. The nice thing about these locations versus the Route 494 launch is that there wouldn't be a long 50 meter carry to the water.

    We paddled under the Conococheage Creek Bridge built in 1932. This was our landmark for the take out. In the ninteenth photo is a view of the creek from the bridge.

    Having kayaked 17.75 miles, we were quite tired. Carrying the boat from the water to the car seemed much further than what it was.

    On the way home, we stopped in to visit Joyce and Jimmy, who fed us. Of course we also said hello to Harlem.

    I was tired to the point where caffeine was no longer helpful so Norma drove the rest of the way home. We left the gear in the car to be unloaded tomorrow.

    I was pleased to have completed a route that I've been wanting to explore for the last 2 years. A tremendous amount of work went into planning this trip since the launch sites were not very well known and really took a lot of research to find. Fortunately, I did almost all that work 2 years ago. I'm glad we finally made time for this adventure.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Magothy River
    A few months ago, Lisa told me about a new launch site called Beachwood Park. On May 4, 2012, I finally made my way out to check it out.

    This place is a real gem. Not because it is a particularly nice place to launch but because it is the ONLY public launch site that I know of on the entire Magothy River (the Mag). Why is it that such a big river has not had a public launch site until now? My guess is that Anne Arundel County won't make as much money by having a public launch site as compared to collecting taxes on expensive waterfront property.

    We had a few cold days in late April but things are really warming up now that it is May. A couple days ago, I took my S1-A surf ski out to Pier 7 to get in a fast 10 miles. Today, I decided to take my Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP) and get some "serious distance" in while enjoying the 80 degree weather. This is only the second time I've taken out the Yolo so I really don't yet know what qualifies as "serious distance."

    I invited Janie to join me but she was busy with other stuff.

    I ended up driving right past the launch site. Retracing my footsteps, I found it on the second try. There was no sign indicating I had found Beachwood Park...just a sign listing the park rules. The first photo shows what the place looks like from the side of the road.

    I parked and then walked to the launch area on a wooded trail. It was an eighth of a mile to the water. The area was lush with greenery but the trail was obvious. The second photo shows what the launch area looks like from the trail while the third photo shows it from the water.

    I passed an interesting flower on the trail. See fourth photo.

    With my short arms, I find that carrying my paddleboard for any distance is easiest if I use my head...literally. So I carry the board on one trip and all my gear on a second trip.

    Getting the board down from the trail to the water is a little cumbersome because of all the trees that I have to work my may around. The actual launch area appears to be an old foundation for a house that got torn down.

    It was warm, a little humid, with very little wind. The water was cool but not cold. So I left the wetsuit in the car and just brought my neoprene top in case I got cold, which I did not.

    I started by paddling as far upstream as I could on the Mag. I did a similar trip last year with Janie, turning around at Magothy Bridge Road. But this time I got about a third of a mile further until it got too shallow to continue. I then proceeded to explore all the other creeks west of Henderson Point.

    I was hoping to see some interesting wildlife...especially snakes, but I saw none. However, I did see the splash of something that fell from a skinny tree branch into the water. The branch was too weak to hold a turtle. Judging by the size of the splash, I'm guessing it was a foot long snake. I saw no eagles and only one turtle on a log. This area is pretty built up and isn't exactly the type of place one would go to enjoy some serene nature paddling.

    On Cattail Creek, I saw some geese with their offspring (fifth photo).

    As I made my way to Steedmans Point, I passed by some rip rap that went into the water. I should have known better but I got too close. The rip rap wasn't visible above the water but as I started to pass over what I originally thought was deep water, I realized there was rip rap just a few inches below the surface. My fin caught it hard and the SUP came to an abrupt stop, almost flinging me forward. The fin was a little scratched and some gel coat came off the boat. Next time I will be more careful. I underestimate the size of my fin.

    At the area that I believe is Girl Scout Camp Whipporwill, I saw a totem pole (sixth photo).

    I was really working on perfecting my paddling form and trying to develop muscle memory so it becomes second nature as it has for kayaking. I've come to realize that I have become spoiled by kayaks with rudders. They allow me to paddle asymetrically and compensate with the rudder. Hence, I don't even know I am asymetrical. But with an SUP, I quickly learn if my stroke is inconsistent between my left and right sides. I feel my left side is good. The paddle seems to lock in place, I get good power, and the board tracks well. My shoulders feel good too. But this is certainly not the case for the right side. I end up sending the SUP off to the left much too soon which means I might do 10 strokes on the left but only 5 on the right before having to switch sides. And it isn't because my right side is stronger. After experimenting, I found that if I really concentrated on applying the maximum force to my stroke right when the paddle passed by my feet, the board would track better. If the force was further forward, then it would turn in the direction opposite my paddling side sooner.

    I think keeping one's arms almost straight, as many really good kayakers do, is also a good technique for the SUP. It forces one to use the bigger muscles to generate power. But I find this is hard on my shoulders. I can start to feel inflammation building up from tendinitis when my arms are straight as I cross my top paddling arm far across centerline to the opposite side. But by keeping my top arm bent, I open up the angle between my humerus bone and scapula, thereby allowing more room for my shoulder tendons. Years of weight training and seeing orthopedic doctors and physical therapists has taught me how to listen to my body when it comes to tendinitis.

    Kayakers always talk about torso rotation when it comes to perfecting one's stroke. With the SUP, I feel that rotation is also important though perhaps moreso in a vertical plane rather than horizontal. That is, by bending at the waist and knees to really "dig" into the stroke, I feel I am gaining more power than using torso rotation. I'll need to play around with this more to get a better feel but it seems like what Ed Parker (Kenpo Karate late grandmaster) referred to as the "marriage of gravity" coming into play. Had I started with canoes rather than kayaks, I am sure I would understand the finer details of a good stroke much better.

    Unlike kayaking, my hips don't bother me on the SUP. But my feet do. They get tight and start to hurt. Shoes are more of a problem than a solution so I went without today. I think paddling barefooted also helps lower my center of gravity and makes me slightly more stable though the difference is probably negligible. When my feet hurt, I just sit down, eat a snack, drink some water, and take photos. The big surface area of the SUP allows me to sit any way I like or even lie down if I so desire. Kayaks certainly don't give me that flexibility.

    One drawback of the SUP as compared to the kayak (at least the surfski) is that it is slower. On my S1-A, I can do 20 miles in 4 hours. That includes breaks, snacks, taking photos, etc. But on the paddleboard, it took me 4 hours to do 13.75 miles today...not that I'm trying to go all out but still, that seems quite slow. I get up to 4.2 mph then when I switch sides with the paddle, I lose some momentum. I'm sure I'll get faster but I will never be as fast on an SUP as I am on a surfski. But that's o.k. Speed isn't everything. And I certainly don't plan to give up either activity.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Annapolis
    Having recently purchased a Yolo Prowler stand-up paddleboard (SUP), I took it out for its maiden voyage on April 26, 2012. I was hoping to launch on a nice sunny, warm day with little wind but being April, those days are still in the small minority. So I waited until the rain stopped and got out in some cloudy, cool weather. The next day is supposed to be sunny but also with 30 mph gusts! No thanks.

    With a new SUP, I keep in mind that I might fall in. So I want to stay away from Baltimore with its polluted waters. Annapolis is a much better place to be submerged. So I drove to Truxton Heights Park and launched around 1630.

    I had my new Grace Digital GDI-AQCSE101 Eco Extreme Waterproof Case with Built-In Speaker for MP3 Players to provide me with some waterproof tunes. I listened to oldies like Alice Cooper, AC/DC, and Ozzy Osbourne. It doesn't get very loud and if one isn't right in front of the speaker, it is hard to hear so I wasn't concerned about disturbing anyone.

    I explored Spa Creek then paddled out by the Naval Academy and into the Severn River. It is a similar route to the one that Norma and I did on July 24, 2011.

    Next, I stopped in at Annapolis Canoe and Kayak. I took my SUP out of the water and lay it on their dock but as I turned it around, the bow hit something and a piece of gel coat about a centimeter long came off. That's like taking your brand new car out for its first drive and putting a dent in it. Oh well, it's nothing I can't fix or at least make look nice and it isn't structural damage so I'm not going to fret over it. But sadly, I arrived at the store just a few minutes after it closed for my stop was futile.

    There were lots of little sailboats out. I think they are part of a sailing school. I try to keep a good distance from these guys.

    On calm water, the paddleboard is easy but even the tiniest bit of chop makes me shaky. It reminds me of when I first started paddling surf skis.

    I experimented with different paddling techniques. I tried a j-stroke to try and keep the board straight. I tried squatting down slightly during the pull (power phase). I tried torso rotation. I tried a combination of the two. I tried keeping my top hand at centerline during the pull and I tried keeping it far to the opposite side to keep the paddle near vertical during the pull. I kinda like keeping the paddle near vertical but I'm not sure if I have the shoulder flexibility for that. Paddling on the left side is easier. I imagine the reason is a combination of more flexibility on one side and my left side being larger and longer. I found that placing my left foot slightly ahead of the right helps me get better rotation on my right side without weakening my left side.

    Trying different techniques, I checked to see how fast my GPS said I was moving. If I did 4.5 mph, I was doing pretty good. I got it up past 5 mph a couple of times but I didn't maintain that speed for more than a few seconds.

    The SUP handles well and seems very efficient. It tracks well. At 14 feet long, it isn't the most maneuverable thing but combining a forward stroke on one side with a back stroke on the other allows me to turn without hardly moving forward.

    I paddled up Back Creek and passed Back Creek Nature Park, a place I've launched several years ago.

    I played around with paddling from the kneeling and sitting position. I find kneeling to be awkward and unstable for me but sitting Japanese style while paddling is easy. I would certainly do that if I felt I was in water that was too rough for paddling while standing or if I just got tired of standing. Being able to sit, stand, or kneel is a great feature of SUPs but not kayaks.

    As the sun started to set, I turned on my light.

    I didn't see any kayakers all day but I did see another SUP person. I paddled towards him but he either didn't see me or didn't want to talk so I let him be.

    By 1940, I was done, having paddled 11 miles.

    I felt pretty good. I could easily see myself doing 20 miles if the water is really calm but it doesn't take much chop for me to feel unstable. I figure that after 6 months, I'll feel much more comfortable in a wider variety of conditions. I've got my work cut out for me.

    Brandywine Creek
    A very nice day of paddling on the Brandywine Creek in Pennsylvania and Delaware was spent on April 15, 2012.


    Patuxent River Cleanup
    Helping clean up the Patuxent River (Pax) is something I really enjoy. I spend a lot of time paddling on this river, some time hiking near it, and occassionally bicycling on roads that parallel it. So I feel that helping keep it pristine is my way of giving back to something that gives me so much pleasure.

    So in February 2012, I contacted Patuxent River Park via e-mail to find out when their annual cleanup would take place. Generally, it occurs in early April. But this year, it was on March 31 and I didn't find out until a week prior. My contact at the park changed her e-mail address so my inquiry never got through. As it turned out, I had other plans for March 31, 2012 so participating in the cleanup was not possible.

    Then I found out that Ralph and Chip were leading a canoe cleanup of the river for the Chesapeake Paddlers Assocation (CPA), upstream of the section I typically help maintain. So I signed up to help.

    On April 7, 2012, I drove out to the Queen Anne Canoe Launch (see first photo) to meet the upstream group led by Chip. Ralph led the downstream group which met at Jackson's Landing. The upstream group would paddle 6 miles downstream and the downstream group would paddle 2 miles upstream (though I think they also did an extra 1.5 miles (for an additional 3 miles of out and back paddling) to clean up Western Branch. We would all meet at Patuxent Wetlands Park (Hills Bridge).

    I was paired up with Tom H. in one of Chip's fiberglass Old Town canoes. A kayak just doesn't cut it for a river cleanup.

    At 0900, Chip led Tom, me, Dorothy, Sue, Rich, Bill, Dan, and Steve heading downstream while Ralph led Jim, Mike, Yvonne, Steve, Mary Lynn, Al, Ben, Greg, and Jenny heading upstream.

    The section of the Pax between highway 50 and route 4 is my favorite because it is narrow, peaceful, scenic, and natural. It is also fairly clear of obstructions though I think that is largely due to the hard work of the Patuxent Riverkeeper. But I wasn't out to enjoy the scenery. I was out to help keep it scenic. So Tom and I got right to work.

    Tom (the fellow on the right in the first photo) has more canoe experience than me so he took the aft side of the boat while I paddled in the forward section. The wide mid-section is where we would store the bulk of the trash. River trash further downstream (e.g. closer to Jug Bay) tends to accumulate in the areas that get flooded when the water is very high but that remain dry (or drier) under normal conditions. Vegetation catches much of this trash while trash in the wetter areas floats downstream or is caught near a fallen tree. But in the area we paddled today, the trash was trapped in the downfalls.

    By targeting the places where trees/branches fell into the water, we were able to collect a large number of bottles and cans in a small area. Then we would paddle to the next downfall. Generally, Tom controlled the boat and steered us right to the trash while I climbed out on the fallen trees to collect them. It was a sytem that worked well and certainly kept me entertained. See second photo.

    Occassionally we would find a car tire. For Tom and me, we found 6. Actually, we found 7 but after 6, it was a safety hazard to take on another as it would have made the boat too unstable (see the third and fourth photos to see what our boat looked like after 6). Our first 5 tires were regular car tires but the 6th was from a tractor trailer (semi). How they got into the water we know not. Tire number 6 was full of mud. I tried to move it but it wouldn't budge. So Tom came ashore and we both put forth our maximum effort to pull it out of the mud. Just breaking the vacuum suction was quite difficult. I'm guessing that our combined force was equivalent to a 500 pound deadlift! With the tire vertical, we removed the mud to lighten it. But even without any mud, it still weighted about 150 pounds!

    As it warmed up, turtles came out to sun themselves on the logs.

    The high air temperature was in the low to mid 60s and very sunny with a pretty strong wind that only affected us in the open areas though I'm sure the downstream group felt it much more. With the water temperature in the mid-50s, it was definitely wetsuit weather.

    Continuing downstream, we saw a few fishermen. Tom tried to sell them used tires.

    With a full load, we took out at Patuxent Wetlands Park. We were the first to arrive. It turns out the others in our group pulled over for lunch at Wootons Landing Natural Area. Somehow we didn't get the word. But we ate the lunches we packed and I took a nap on the pier so it was all good.

    Eventually, the others started to arrive. From left to right, see Rich, Dorothy, Chip, and Sue in the third photo. We all unloaded our boats and staged the trash in one end of the parking lot.

    Ralph passed out chocolate Easter bunnies for all the participants. He counted our booty. It came to 40 bags of trash and 36 tires. Tom and I won the award for the biggest tire...and probably the heaviest single item of trash. Sadly, someone (I think Chip and Dorothy) acquired more tires than Tom and me.
    Off the top of my head, I'm estimating Tom and I collected 350 pounds of trash and the whole group collected 1800 pounds. But that's just a guess. Regardless, I'd say we were quite successful...and had fun. See the fourth photo. Much of the downstream group had already dropped off their trash and left so they aren't in the photo.

    My post-cleanup plan was to go bicycling in the area. I put together my 31.7 mile Northern Patuxent River route but decided to do that on another day as it was 1600 by the time we finished...a little later than I anticipated. So instead I went home and went for a little run in my neighborhood. As I jogged along the Little Patuxent River, I thought about how any trash that falls in where I ran might end up where we cleaned up.

    That night, I washed the parts of my body that were exposed during the cleanup with Zanfel to wash away any poison ivy oil that I might have come in contact with. I quit taking chances with poison ivy after paddling with Chip on Mason Branch of the Tuckahoe Creek back on May 14, 2010. That was a hard lesson.

    My previous Patuxent River spring cleanups were on
  • March 31, 2007
  • April 5, 2008
  • April 4, 2009
  • November 6, 2010
  • April 2, 2011

  • Special thanks to Tom for providing some of the photos.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Sassafras River Heron Rookery
    I decided to take Friday, March 23, 2012 off from work being as the temperature was supposed to be sunny and in the low 80s. So I loaded up my S1-A surf ski and headed to the eastern shore. But along the way, I ran over a big rock...I'm guessing it was softball size. My tire blew out and I pulled over.

    Getting a flat tire is never a good thing but if I had to get one, now was the time. I had enough time to spare, the weather was good, traffic wasn't bad, and there was a place to pull over to. I hadn't changed a tire yet on my Subaru Impreza so this was a first for me. It didn't take long. But the spare only had 30 pounds of air and it is supposed to have 60. So I pulled out my bicycle pump then pumped and pumped and pumped until my arms fell off. All good to go. The flat tire had a big hole ripped out of the side. Not patchable. But my tires were getting worn and my plan for the day was to visit Annapolis Subaru after paddling and schedule a 60,000 mile service. So I'd add getting new tires to my list of things for them to do.

    I arrived at my destination, Foxhole. This is a fine little launch site that puts one on the upper part of the Sassafras River. I had never been here before but read about this location from someone else's trip report (I don't remember who but I think it was a club). The last time I paddled the Sassafras was last year on August 13, 2011. Back then I came to see the lotus flowers in bloom. This time I came to see a heron rookery.

    If you've spent much time on the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries, you've probably noticed lots of osprey, herons, and osprey nests, but no heron nests. Why is that? It is because osprey nests are spread out on or near the water, while herons live in large groups. The area where one finds a collection of heron nests is called a "rookery."

    Looking across the river from Foxhole and slightly to the right, I could see the rookery. It looked like bushes in the tops of the trees. They were easy to spot because there weren't many leaves in the trees yet.

    I wanted to race over and get a better look but I decided to take advantage of the flood tide and explore things further upstream first. I paddled up the various sections of the Sassafras, going as far as I could without having to portage. I saw a muskrat swimming across a narrow part of the river. I passed it and saw it hiding. But when I stopped to get a better look, it dove under.

    It didn't take long before I saw a bald eagle. This one let me get closer than most. See first photo.

    Skunk cabbage (second photo) flourished in this area in the muddy sections on the bank. I hoped to see some remnants of lotus plants but saw none. I don't know if they live this far upstream but if they did, I would expect to at least find the woody "shower head" looking pods that hold the seeds.

    I found evidence of recent beaver activity. A little later, I found its lodge but no resident. See third photo.

    I made it upstream of Blue Star Memorial Highway (route 301).

    Paddling back downstream, I saw more bald eagles. Some were mature (fourth and fifth photos) and the one was just coming out of adolescence.

    Eventually, I made my way to the rookery. The first time I was at a rookery was on a park naturalist-led tour several years ago (pre-Norma). I knew not to approach the rookery if it was cold or raining since the adults may leave the nest if they see an intruder and the offspring could get sick or die as a result of exposure. But I don't think there were babies or eggs and even if there were, it was quite warm and sunny.

    I pulled my boat ashore and walked through the mud until I reached dry land. Then I climbed a hill to get a better look. Their nests were probably about 40 feet high so being on a hill was definitely good for viewing. As long as I didn't make sudden moves, the herons didn't seem to mind me being there.

    During my naturalist-led tour, I heard the sounds made by the young heron. But I heard no such sounds here. I'm guessing that will come later.

    Rookery photos and video:
  • Sixth photo: View from afar.
  • Seventh photo: Silhouette.
  • Eighth photo: Treetop nests.
  • Ninth photo: Sunnyside.
  • Tenth photo: This is a popular place.
  • Eleventh photo: Prime real estate.
  • Rookery video: See what a few seconds at a rookery is like.

  • After taking lots of photos and a video, I continued exploring, paddling downstream and exploring each tributary along the way. In one particularly scenic section just north of Hen Island, I pulled over for a snack and to walk around. See twelfth photo.

    I saw numerous turtles. See thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth photos. I think most (or most that posed long enough so I could take their photo) were red eared slider turtles. There were more turtles than I could remember, especially as the day got warmer.

    I saw another muskrat. This one was swimming about 30 meters from the shore. As I got closer, it dove under. I waited about 15 seconds before it re-appeared about 10 meters away. It would see me again, dive under, and repeat the process so I never got a good look at it.

    Just east of Mill Creek, I turned around, never getting around to exploring this creek. Maybe another day.

    In Swantown Creek, I saw what I believe is a very large northern water snake. See sixteenth and seventeenth photos.

    I saw one other kayaker out. Maybe two or three power boats too. The last time I was on the Sassafras, there was considerable boat traffic but today it was rather quiet. Lucky me.

    I ended up paddling just over 14 miles at a very leisurely pace. Unlike my last trip, I was out to see wildlife, not get exercise.

    I drove to Annapolis Subaru and made an appointment to get my car serviced on Monday. I can't get my boat to the water without a working car so that is of high priority.

    It was a great day to get out, do some exploring, and see some critters.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Patuxent River
    I tried to get some friends to join me for a one way kayak trip on the Patapsco River through Patapsco Valley State Park with a return bike shuttle. One fellow said he was in so I spent a long time putting together a plan. Then on the morning of the event, he canceled. Very disappointing. So I had nobody to paddle with.

    I decided to change my plans so I headed out to the Clyde Watson Boating Area (Magruders Ferry) with my S1-A surf ski. I timed things with the flood tide to give me a push upstream. Where the river narrows, I sometimes got over 7 mph!

    I stopped for a snack and break at Selby's Landing then returned. I was supposed to be on the ebb tide but it didn't help me much. I reckon it gave me about half as much push as the upstream trip, if even that.

    It was warm, sunny, and a little hazy. I saw 3 snakes in the water (each bigger than the last), 2 turtles, about 3 immature bald eagles, about 10 muskrat dens (but no muskrats), and several osprey couples building their new homes. They didn't seem as territorial as the typically are later in the season. Maybe because they don't have any eggs and haven't invested much into their homes yet.

    My torso rotation on the right side isn't as good as on my left side. Perhaps it is because everything on my left side is bigger/longer. I found that by shifting my hips slightly to the left (so my tailbone is more towards the left), I get better rotation on the right and things balance out. Maybe if I wore a thicker sole on my right foot, this would have the same effect. That was a good lesson.

    Though it is still a few days until the first day of spring, it feels like we are deep into it. I just hope that doesn't mean an early summer since spring is my favorite season in Maryland.


    Broening Park to Inner Harbor
    I generally don't start paddling until April but 2012 has been unusually warm so on March 15, 2012, I launched, paddling the route I do more than any other because of its closeness to home.

    After leaving work a little early, I put my S1-A surf ski in at Broening Park which is right next to the Harbor Hospital in Baltimore. Then I paddled out past Fort McHenry and into the Baltimore Inner Harbor. I got out of my boat at the Maryland Science Center to stretch my legs then headed back.

    If I remember correctly, there was a light wind, it was sunny, and the air temperature was in the low 70s. I wore a 3mm wetsuit, neoprene pullover shirt, and neoprene booties. That was easily sufficient for the water temperature. With the wind to my back, I was a little hot.

    Upon returning to Broening Park, I saw lots of young people out in rowing shells. They were all from the Baltimore Rowing Club. Some day I'd like to try out one of those boats and try to break the sound barrier. Or maybe a K1 Olympic racing kayak. Both semm like fun.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.