Me on upper Tuckahoe Creek


Kayaking Adventures 2013

Last updated December 14, 2013


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Plans for 2014
Last year, I wrote a blog called Future Trips which listed some places I wanted to explore via kayak or SUP. As of this writing, I've only been to one of those five places so I still have a lot to do. But I'd like to add one more place to this list.

In the November 17, 2013 issue of the Washington Post newspaper, I read an article titled "Ancient Seawater Found Near Chesapeake" that described 100 million year old seawater that is preserved in the crater that created the Chesapeake Bay.

About 66 million years ago, an asteroid landed off the coast of Mexico that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. It left a 112 to 149 mile diameter crater called Chicxulub that was discovered in 1978.

About 35 million years ago, an asteroid crashed into the area we now know as Cape Charles, Virginia on the eastern shore. The Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater, as it is called, was discovered in 1999. This impact left behind a 56 mile wide hole that formed the Chesapeake Bay. But what makes this crater unique is that
While drilling holes in southern Virginia to study the impact crater, the scientists discovered "the oldest large body of ancient seawater in the world," a surivor of that long-gone sea, resting about a half-mile underground near the bay, according to the USGS [U.S. Geological Survey].
- from "Ancient Seawater Found Near Chesapeake"

"What we essentially discovered was trapped water that's twice the salinity of [modern] seawater," said Ward Sanford, a USGS hydrologist. "In our attempt to find out the origin, we found it was Early Cretaceous seawater"...the water is probably between 100 million and 150 million years old.
- from "Ancient Seawater Found Near Chesapeake"

While I certainly won't see this impact crater that is now underwater and I won't see the 100-150 million year old seawater trapped 5000 feet down below the surface, it would be great just to be able to paddle where the Chesapeake Bay was born.

For more information, see
  • 100 million-year-old seawater found in Chesapeake Bay
  • Researchers Find Ancient Seawater Had Twice The Salt

  • Big River, Mendocino County, California
    On Columbus Day, October 14, 2013, Norma and I took my parents canoeing on the Big River in Mendocino County, California. We saw a few seals and a lot of river otters on our 6 mile trip.

    Middle Sassafras River
    Over the last few years, I've spent a good bit of time exploring the Sassafras River. It is now one of my favorites because of the large number of lotus flowers and heron rookeries. Other things I really like about it is the fact that many of the creeks that feed into it are undeveloped and that there are so many trees lining the shore, which are much easier on the eyes than bay grasses.

    My previous adventures on the Sassafras include the following:
  • August 13, 2011: Turners Creek to Back Creek.
  • March 23, 2012: Uppermost section down to but not including Mill Creek.
  • August 12, 2012: Turners Creek area.
  • May 17, 2013: Betterton to Lloyd Creek.

  • I decided it was time to explore the section between Back Creek and Mill Creek. This was the only section of it that I hadn't explored but wanted to.

    I took off from work Monday, September 30, 2013 and headed out to Fredericktown. See first photo.
    This landing is located in the busy recreational boating center of Fredericktown, located directly across the river from Georgetown, Maryland. During the War of 1812, the twin ports were raided and burned by British Rear Admiral George Cockburn. As legend has it, local heroine Kitty Knight begged the men to spare her home while repeatedly putting out the flames with her broom. Today, the Kitty Knight House is a popular hotel, restaurant, and bar in Georgetown.
    - from "Fredericktown Boat Launch" (a broken link as of 2017)

    I was on the water by 1250.

    The high temperature was to be in the mid-70s. It was sunny with very little wind. A perfect day to be on my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP). I am really savoring my time on the water since I know this nice weather will soon come to an end.

    While the air temperature was nice, the water was cool. I was dressed in summer attire but I kept my neoprene top with me in the unlikely event I should fall.

    I paddled downstream (west) along the Kent County shore. Most of it was undeveloped and sandy though I expect all the exposed beach area was partly due to the fact that low tide had recently passed. I saw few signs claiming private property. Much of the land bordered corn fields.

    Some of these small beaches had fire rings. I'm guessing they are hangouts for the local kids. One beach was called "White Ass Beach." See second photo.

    I made my way into Woodland Creek. There was a small lagoon and a fairly large beach that I pulled into on the northeast side. I saw a few shallow areas packed with lotus pods. The flowers were gone but the shower-head-like seed pods were still attached to the plants. The leaves were starting to wither.
  • Third photo: This is all one big plant...not several small ones.
  • Fourth photo: The woody pods were once beauful flowers in August.
  • Fifth photo: These pods contain large seeds.

  • I stopped at Daffodil Island for a snack. See sixth photo. I also found a smaller, nameless island further upstream on the creek.

    A pier badly in need of repair was starting to look like an abstract piece of art. See seventh photo.

    I left Woodland Creek and continued downstream on the Sassafras. I rounded Big Marsh Point and started looking for a launch site called Shallcross but didn't find it until after I finished SUPing and set out to explore it in my car.

    I explored Freeman Creek then headed north to the mouth of Back Creek. I saw some structures that brought back memories of when I was last there on August 13, 2011.

    I pulled over for another snack and spied on a grasshopper-like insect (eighth photo)...perhaps it was a grasshopper.

    Turning around to paddle upstream, I now had a gentle push from the flood tide.

    I saw a single small turtle throughout the day.

    A lot of vultures were out. They were on the beaches (ninth photo) and in the trees. There were several dozen. The ones on the beach didn't look like they were waiting for something to die. They were just working on their tan.

    I saw a gazebo with a huge osprey nest on top. Next to it was an osprey platform. I thought about how if you buy something for a cat, they often won't use it and instead use something else. For example, our cat has a scratching post but she prefers to use our clothes hamper. I am thinking some osprey might be similar. You can give them a nesting platform but they'll prefer your gazebo to build a nest. See tenth photo.

    I checked out Hall Creek and then Dyer Creek where I saw a bald eagle. See eleventh and twelfth photos.

    Near the marinas just west of the route 213 draw bridge, I saw a boat disguised as a pig. See thirteenth photo.

    I paddled under the bridge and then headed up Mill Creek. But the sun was starting to set and I knew it would get cold fast so I only made it about halfway up before heading back. On the return trip, I saw some Bald Cypress trees in the water. I've never seen such trees so far north. Based on the proximity to someone's waterfront property and the fact that there weren't many, I'm thinking they did not occur there naturally.

    I finished my 20 mile trip at 1835.

    On the boat ramp, I saw something very strange. It seemed to have a jellyfish consistency but I've never seen one that looked like this. See fourteenth photo. Plus, I wouldn't expect to see jellyfish so far upstream at this time of year. I was later informed by Ralph that it is a bryozoa.
    [A colony of] a group of organisms that has been around for approximately 5 million years! Most of these critters live in marine waters, but there is one class from the Bryozoan phylum that lives in freshwater: Phylactolaemata. The colonies form on submerged logs, branches, etc. and can be 2 to 7 feet in diameter.
    - from "Creatures from the River - Bryozoa" (broken link as of 2018)
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Oxford to Saint Michaels
    The last time I got a chance to see rays/skates was on August 15, 2013 when I paddled in the Broad Creek, Harris Creek, and Tilghman Island area. While I have been seeing lots of rays this year, I still have not met my goal, which is to photograph one of these beautiful creatures. So on September 15, 2013, I decided to give it one last try for the year.

    Norma wanted to join me but the place I would be exploring was big open water...not the type of place she likes to kayak. So instead, we loaded up her bike and she planned a 30 mile route from Saint Michaels to Bellevue, then to Oxford (via ferry), then to Easton, and finally returning Saint Michaels. This was very similar to the trip we did on June 9, 2007 with the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC). Norma made sure to inform me that the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry is believed to be the nation's oldest privately operated ferry service. It was established in 1683.

    We were up bright and early at 0500. It was cool seeing the sun rise as we drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. See first photo.

    I drove us to Bellevue Landing (second photo) and launched my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP) just after 0800. See third photo. Norma then took my car and drove it to the take out, San Domingo Park in Saint Michaels.

    The air temperature was in the low 50s but the water was not very cold. It was supposed to be a clear, sunny day with south winds of only about 3 mph until the early afternoon where it would pick up to only around 6 mph. Days like this don't come very often so I jump at the chance to get out on the SUP on open water when it does occur.

    The first thing I did was paddle across the Tred Avon River. There were dozens of big sailboats out so I had to wait and then hurry across when I had a chance. I then paddled into Town Creek and landed at the Oxford launch. The ramp is right next to Schooner's (fourth photo) which sells seafood and ice cream.

    I took photos of what I thought was a great blue heron. It posed for me very nicely, not moving a muscle. But as I got closer, I soon realized it was a decoy. Take a look at the fifth photo and then try telling me you wouldn't have made the same mistake.

    The water was looking very clean.

    My SUP got within inches of a medium-sized turtle before it dove under.

    I paddled back across the Tred Avon amongst all the sailboats. It looked like a race was about to start.

    Just north of Fox Hole Creek, I saw a large ray (about 3 foot wingspan). It was swimming towards me just below the surface. I got a good look at it but before I could get out my camera, it was gone.

    I got to Benoni Point. My map shows this as being a peninsula on the west end of the mouth of the Tred Avon River. But erosion has turned it into two islands. I landed at one of them (sixth photo) and explored the area on foot, looking for shells.

    Continuing on, I entered the Choptank River.

    I saw another turtle swimming.

    What I saw most of throughout the day was jellyfish. But unlike the big ones I saw on September 11, 2013 in Baltimore, almost all of these were small. The Baltimore ones had a bell that was bigger than a large grapefruit. But today's had bells that were about the size of a baseball or smaller. I wouldn't be exaggerating if I said I saw a thousand.

    I paddled past lots of expensive homes. Some were a little unusual. One looked a little like an observatory (seventh photo) while another had a lighthouse (eighth photo).

    In Broad Creek, I saw a few needlefish but probably not more than a half dozen. In contrast, on the west side of Tilghman Island last month, I saw about a hundred.

    I explored Bridge Creek. At this point, my triceps were starting to cramp. I drank a lot of Gatorade, then lied down on the SUP for a rest before resuming.

    I saw a couple kayakers...a man and his young son. He asked about the SUP. I don't think he had ever seen one before.

    The tide was pushing me upstream along with a light wind so I had no problem maintaining 4.4 mph once I got into a good rhythm.

    I paddled into Edge Creek. Nothing all that interesting there. Once I starting paddling out, I noticed that the wind had picked up. It certainly seemed stronger than the forecast amount. My pace slowed down to 3.2 mph.

    I passed Hambleton Island then started up San Domingo Creek.

    A couple of people were out on SUPs, paddling into the wind. They should have started earlier when the winds were calm.

    From a distance, I saw something white floating in the water. As I got close, I knew it was big and dead. As I passed it, I realized it was a huge fish, about 10 inches thick at the gills. See ninth photo. Some of that may have been bloating but still, it was one of the biggest fish I'd ever seen in the Chesapeake Bay.

    I was working on my J-stroke. As I completed my forward stroke, I twisted my wrist to keep the board heading straight. That night, my left wrist was sore. I'm thinking that part of the reason might be because when I glued the T end cap handle to my paddle, I attached it backwards, so the curved side faced away from my palm while the flatter side faced my palm. I read that doing this can make it harder to turn the paddle and hence, put more strain on the wrist. I guess I need to use less J...or get a new paddle and put it together correctly. I didn't know what I was doing at the time.

    I saw a guy on a power boat that said he saw me much further downstream. I told him where I started. He seemed impressed.

    I saw a bald eagle. Like the ray, it was the only one I saw that day.

    I completed my 18.4 mile trip just after 1300. See tenth photo. Norma was there to meet me at the take out. She had a nice bike ride.

    I directed her to the Saint Michaels Nature Trail. She rode on part of it earlier and finished the rest of it while I loaded my gear. It is pretty short.

    The guy on the power boat was out walking his two small dachshunds. They tried to pick a fight with a much larger dog that wanted to play. Things got a little out of control and Norma and I stepped in to help. Fortunately, nobody got hurt. The small dogs were frightened and the large dog looked a little puzzled.

    Norma and I stopped at farmers market stand in town and bought some fruit. Then we drove to Easton. I've driven through Easton countless times but never took the time to really explore it. It looked like a very nice town with lots of things to see, though most of the shops and restaurants were closed on Sunday. We ate a nice lunch at Scossa, a Northern Italian cuisine restaurant. Outdoor seating allowed us to get a little more time outside.

    We had a good time though I was disappointed to only see one ray. But my previous years of kayaking has told me that once the summer ends (or draws to a close), wildlife is much harder to find. Springtime is the best to see critters. I guess I'll have to wait until next year.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Baltimore SUP with Carmen, Part Two
    On September 4, 2013, I took Carmen out on the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) in Baltimore. We made it to Northwest Harbor but not the Inner Harbor. So on September 11, 2013, I took her out again for the second half of our tour.

    Once again Janie was good enough to loan me her SUP and paddle so we would each have one. I invited her to join us but she preferred to work.

    I picked this day because the wind was calm and the weather was warm. Now that summer is ending, some nights have been quite cool...a little too cool if one should happen to fall in midway through and have to finish the trip in wet clothes.

    Carmen and I met at the Canton Waterfront Park where someone built a simple piece of art and attached it to one of the piles. See first photo.

    We were on the water by 0650, just in time to watch the sunrise. See second photo.

    Unlike my training paddles, I had us go clockwise on the loop to give me a slightly different view. So we started by paddling across the harbor to the North Locust Point Marine Terminal (Maryland Port Authority) where we saw a few military ships. See third and fourth photos. Dozens of cormorants rested on the west pier and the lines that held the ships in place.

    There were also some big civilian ships moored to the dock (fifth photo).

    Like last week, there were numerous comb jellies out and about. But unlike last week, there were also a few of the typical sea nettle jellyfish that I typically see.

    Staying along the shore, we passed the Baltimore Museum of Industry, one of my favorite museums.

    Next, we saw the Tiki Barge. It was around here that Carmen turned her stand up paddleboard into a kneeling paddleboard.

    We passed the Harborview area. See sixth photo. I can't imagine what it must cost to live in one of the corner flats with the waterfront view.

    There was a yacht with the same name as my SUP...Yolo. I think my watercraft was nicer and not as pricey.

    A little later, we were in the Inner Harbor, passing Federal Hill Park on our left.

    Looking to the northwest, I saw what I came for...a view of the Baltimore skyline (seventh photo).

    Next, we saw the Maryland Science Center, another museum I like...but only because of the dinosaurs.

    At the northwesternmost point, we paddled by the USS Constellation. Look on the right side of the eighth photo. Actually, we paddled under its lines. See ninth and tenth photos. After that, we made our way past other historic ships, including the USS Torsk.

    Heading into the sun, it was feeling hot and muggy. I can imagine how it would feel in a few more hours. I was glad to be out so early.

    Near the floating wetlands area (eleventh photo), we saw one of the boats that pick up trash via a conveyor belt at the waterline. See twelfth photo. Notice how it is painted in Baltimore Raven's colors?

    We passed the National Aquarium (thirteenth photo) and then the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse and Pier Six Pavillion where I saw "Weird Al" Yankovic several years ago. See fourteenth photo. The knoll is the red thing and the pavillion is the big tent.

    Carmen and I saw a Mississippi River Boat resembling the one from last week. I don't think it was the same.

    A plethora of yachts dotted the area around Fells Point. Carmen spoke to an old timer who has been living on a yacht with his wife for the last 25 years and loving it. In the winter, they take their boat to Florida. He was off to do a 20 mile bike ride. I didn't ask his chronological age but he sure seemed young at heart.

    We saw one of the Urban Pirates faux pirate boats. Look for "Fearless" in the left side of the fifteenth photo.

    Way off in the distance, we could see the distinctive and vibrant gold domes of the Saint Michael the Archangel Ukrainian Catholic Church.

    Carmen worked on her stealth paddling technique. See sixteenth photo.

    Near where we launched, we saw another lighthouse near Bo Brooks. I don't believe this one has a name and I also don't know if it was ever functional or is just decorative. See seventeenth photo.

    We were off the water by 0920, having completed 6.2 miles. It was much easier than last week.

    After loading up the SUPs, we bid our farewells.

    Later that evening was the Second Annual United We Paddle Event. This is to remember our warriors, first responders, and the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. Several kayakers showed up to this event despite the 100 degree heat index. I debated whether or not I should attend but paddling in the same place twice in the same day was a little much for me. Morning was definitely better with the cooler temperatures, little boat traffic, lack of wind, and smooth-as-glass water.

    I'm glad I got to show Carmen her new city from a different point of view. Hopefully we will share many future adventures together. After all, she is the 'C' in "Team SNaCk."
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Kayak and bicycle camping on the Potomac River and Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath
    From September 7 to 8, 2013, Norma and I teamed together with Joyce, Jimmy, and Harlem for a family-friendly weekend of kayak and bicycle camping along the upper part of the Potomac River near Sharpsburg, Maryland.

    Baltimore SUP with Carmen, Part One
    Norma suggested I take our good friend Carmen out on the stand-up paddleboard (SUP). On September 4, 2013, I did just that.

    Carmen had only been living in Baltimore for a few months and to the best of my knowledge, she has only seen it from land. I wanted to give her the opportunity to see it from a different point of view.

    We met at Broening Park.

    Janie loaned me her SUP and paddle so we would each have one since Carmen doesn't yet have a SUP.

    By 1700, we were on the water, heading towards Fort McHenry. Carmen was on my board, using the paddle that Janie loaned me. I was on Janie's board, using my paddle. My board is longer and faster. It cuts through the water. Janie's board, on the other hand, is shorter and more stable. It tends to ride on top of the water rather than cutting through and as a result, waves hit it and make a lot of noise. The paddle she loaned me is the one her husband (Mark) uses. It is longer and much heavier than mine. Carmen is a bit taller than me so I figured Mark's paddle would be a better fit.

    We started by paddling across the mouth of Middle Branch to Ferry Bar Park. Carmen was still doing fine and seemed reasonably comfortable on my board so she stayed on it.

    As we entered the Patapsco River, the water got a little choppy. I believe the wind was about 7 or 8 mph from the west by southwest.

    We saw some cormorants.

    Approaching Fort McHenry, the water was rougher so I told Carmen that we would switch boards at a little beach area just west of the fort. There was really no place to land between that 1.2 mile stretch between Ferry Bar Park and that beach. A few minutes later, she lost her balance and (SPLASH!) fell into the water. Fortunately, the water wasn't very cold and despite Baltimore's reputation for having filthy water, it wasn't too bad. I suspect that was because it hadn't rained in awhile so there was no recent stormwater runoff. Her first statement once she surfaced was, "I still have my glasses."

    We pulled over and swapped SUPs and paddles. She was more stable on Mark's SUP. See first photo.

    Rounding Whetstone Point at the southernmost point of the fort, we paddled north into Northwest Harbor.

    We crossed the harbor and headed to the Canton Industrial Area where we had some close-up views of some military ships. See second and third photos.

    Just north of the ships was a boat resembling a Mississippi River Boat (fourth photo). Next to that was a helicopter landing area. We saw a couple land and take off. See fifth photo.

    We passed Canton Waterfront Park. It was around here that Carmen decided it was time to head back.

    While we saw no jellyfish, I saw numerous comb jellies.

    At the miniature Statue of Liberty (sixth photo, we crossed back across the Northwest Harbor, paddling into the wind much of the time. See seventh photo.

    There were lots of sailboats on the water. Many were small rental boats but some were grand. See eighth and ninth photos. I think this is the same boat, just different views.

    Across the harbor, we could see the military ships we had passed earlier (tenth photo).

    We had a view of Lazaretto Lighthouse which we couldn't see earlier because a ship was blocking it. See eleventh photo.

    Paddling east after rounding Whetstone Point was slow because of the headwinds. Carmen found it easier to paddle from the kneeling position which might not have been a bad idea since she certainly caught less wind.

    We had a nice view of the Francis Scott Key Bridge (twelfth photo) and some huge cargo ships heading towards it (thirteenth photo).

    As the sun set, the wind died down. I turned on my light and gave her one to wear.

    We finished our 7.25 mile trip at 2015.

    At the takeout, I chatted with a kayaker/high school teacher by the name of Curtis (I think) and tried to convert him into becoming a SUPer.

    I didn't get a chance to show Carmen the Inner Harbor. Hopefully, she's let me take her out from Canton Waterfront Park and do a 5-6 mile early morning trip. It should be much more scenic than today's.

    This trip wasn't just about getting out on the water, it was also my chance to try out my new camera. So the rest of this blog is my review.

    One thing I really love about getting out on the water is taking photos of wildlife and scenery. I consider Carmen wildlife. I get to see a lot of things that other people don't get to see and I want to be able to show these views to my parents and others that aren't with me at the time. So it is very important that I have a good, reliable camera. I'm not saying I need an expensive one...I am by no means a good or knowledgeable photographer. But I do need a camera that can at least take photos that usually don't come out blurry. My last camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8, failed in that regard. It quit taking good photos on July 13, 2013. Since then, I've been using Norma's camera, which is a slightly older Lumix.

    Based on what I found on-line, my Panasonic DMC-ZS8 gets dust in the case when you carry it in your pocket, as I often do. I read on-line that one can use a vacuum cleaner and a rolled up piece of plastic wrap with one end attached to the vacuum and the other around the lens to try and suck out the dust while taking a photo in the time delay mode with the flash turned off. This worked for awhile but just wasn't sufficient. After a little more searching, I found Cleaning the CCD sensor of a Panasonic Lumix Compact Digital Camera. I tried it and at first I thought my camera was working better but it was not. Someone recommended I take it to Strauss Photo Technical Service. An estimate of the repair would cost $29. They weren't conveniently located.

    If I really liked this camera, I might have tried to save it but to be honest, it's been a bitch ever since I bought it on April 28, 2011 for $280 from Samy's Camera via I sent it back to the manufacturer around June 28 because every 15 seconds or so, it gave me the message "Please turn your camera off then on again." Sometimes, I received the message "System Error (O.I.S.)." It was also the case that in several photos, I saw a shadow in the upper right and lower right corners of the shot. It took about 2 months before I got back a refurbished one which worked well up until recently.

    With this camera only lasting me 2 years and 3 months, I was not about to buy another Lumix. And with the amount of time it took for Panasonic to replace it, I wasn't about to purchase another Panasonic anytime soon.

    On August 30, I went to Best Buy, Office Depot, Costco, and Staples to compare brands and prices. Costco was by far the cheapest with Best Buy in second place.

    I wasn't looking for a waterproof camera. Those just don't have enough zoom for me. I don't just want to take a photo of an eagle...I want to be able to zoom in on its nose hairs. Plus, in my 14 years of kayaking and 2 years of SUPing, I have yet to drop my camera in the water...knock on wood. The only water damage I've sustained to a camera was from backpacking and letting a canteen leak on my abosorbent case.

    I was originally thinking of buying a larger camera, like the Olympus C-755 Ultra Zoom that served me well for several years. I tried out the Sony DSC-H200 floor model but after I took a photo, it took far too long before it would allow me to take a follow up shot. There were some really big, expensive SLR cameras but these were much more than I was willing to pay. I ended up purchasing the FujiFilm FinePix F850 EXR which Costco sold for $200...$100 less than MSRP!

    Fujfilm rates the F850EXR as able to achieve a focus lock in around 0.21 seconds which is great because eagles and rays don't sit and pose for me.

    It comes with its own belt case which is also good because otherwise I'd end up getting lint in it from carrying it in my pocket again.

    It includes a 16 gigabyte memory card which is 4 times as big as the one that came with my Lumix and probably more than I would ever need for a week-long vacation.

    I'm not so sure I like the way the door to the battery compartment opens. It makes it a little hard to remove the memory card.

    Out on the water, the camera did great. By far the biggest strength is how fast it focuses and is ready for a follow-up shot. For those moving objects (like Carmen racing along on a SUP) it is good to take multiple photos in the hope that one of them won't have an arm or paddle blocking the face. So a fast camera like this one is ideal.

    I took a lot of photos that day and I'd say about 90% of them were pretty well focused, which is pretty darn good considering I was standing on a SUP when I took them.

    If this camera were a movie and I was Siskel and Ebert, I would give it two thumbs up.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Upper Patuxent River
    Norma said she wanted me to take her kayaking. So I picked out a route and then invited along a few friends. It was all rather last minute so we didn't get many takers. But our good friends Clark and Carmen said they were available.

    On August 25, 2013, Clark and Carmen arrived around 0700 and we loaded up the boats.

    Clark showed us his new vehicle, an electric Smart car. Carmen rented a car to come out and see us which was quite the compliment...we are "rental car worthy."

    The route I planned was a very scenic one that I've been wanting to take Norma on for the last few years. I last did it on March 31, 2009.

    The water level as of the night before was 4.37 feet, according to U.S. Geological Survey Real-Time Water Data (Patuxent River near Bowie). According to Ed Gertler's Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails, we needed at least 4.1 feet so we were good to go.

    Carmen, Norma, and I drove our cars to Governor Bridge Canoe Launch. Clark rode with Carmen. I had to call Patuxent River Park to get the combination to the lock so we could access the launch area.

    We unloaded the boats. Then we left Clark with a knife to guard the gear and my Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) magazine about electric vehicles to keep him entertained while the rest of us drove our cars to the take out at Patuxent Wetlands Park.

    Norma and I left our cars there then rode back with Carmen in her rental car.

    It took awhile to get everything all set up but by 1000 we were on the water.

    Clark was in my Cobra Expedition. I had to remove the foot pegs so it would fit his long legs. That left him rudderless so we were all without.

    Carmen was in my Prijon Catalina which is a good fit for her and pretty fast.

    Norma and I were in my Ocean Kayak Cabo. I was the main engine and she was the photographer.

    Carmen was taking it easy and letting her feet dangle outside the cockpit. A couple of minutes later, there was a big splash. She quickly learned that the Prijon is not the most stable boat and one's feet should remain inside.

    When I kayaked this route in 2009, I had to paddle around a lot of obstacles but I think I only had to portage once, if at all. But today, we had numerous portages. There were a lot of downed trees (first photo) and I wasn't so sure the Patuxent Riverkeeper or his crew had been in this area for awhile. For logs that were at the waterline or just below it, I got out and stood on the obstruction then pulled the other boats through. If the logs were higher, we were often able to go under them.

    It was a sunny day with ideal temperatures. Much of our time was spent in the shade under the trees. See second photo.

    I saw a launch site I had not seen before. It was on the Anne Arundel County side of the river at Davidsonville Park. It is marked by a Patuxent Water Trail sign with the number "57" on it.

    Things were very peaceful and quiet. See third photo. Much of the time, all we heard were insects. But then we heard a loud motor. We think it was pumping water for irrigation to a waterfront farm. It was here that a medium girth but very long log blocked our route. I got out my saw. It is a backpacker saw so it folds up. As I put it together, I tried to screw on the wingnut to tighten the blade in place. Plop! I dropped it in 3 feet of water. I was not happy. Fortunately, I managed to move the log just using brute force. But I was saw-less for the rest of the trip.

    We came to a split in the river. A sign pointed to go to the left. I checked things out on the left but there were a lot of downed trees. Getting through would be very difficult. So instead we went the other way. I was certain that the land mass in front of us was an island since the current was pretty strong on both sides of the split. We still faced several downed trees (fourth photo) but they weren't as bad as the other side. I did a lot of cutting with my loppers to create a route for us to paddle through.

    Three northern water snakes were spotted. Carmen doesn't like snakes so when we saw the first at a downfall, Norma told her to go the other direction. Fortunately, one could get around the fallen tree two different ways. But as I approached the snake to get a photo, it slithered into the water to get away, swimming right towards Carmen. But she didn't turn to look at it and instead just kept going.

    Around one of the fallen trees, Carmen managed to fall in again. See fifth photo. Clark never did. I'm guessing Carmen was pushing the limits of what that boat could do.

    I saw a muskrat.

    By the time we reached the Central Avenue (route 214) bridge, there were fewer obstructions. See sixth photo.

    There were a few broken fishing lines hanging from logs with the other end dangling in the water. At the end of some of these was a rusty hook just waiting to catch on an unsuspecting kayaker. I cut the lines and then put them in trash bottles that we collected along the way for disposal.

    After about 7 miles, we came to the Queen Anne Canoe Launch, our lunch spot. Up to then, we averaged a mere 2 mph. We probably could have gone faster with shorter boats since it was the obstacle course with all the downfalls that slowed us down. But I think Carmen and Clark liked it.

    At the lunch area, we met a fellow by the name of Will P. He was wearing a Kali shirt. Kali is a Filipino martial art that I know a little about. We chatted for awhile about martial arts and other stuff.

    The rest of the trip was much faster and easier. But I think Carmen preferred the obstacle course on the first half.

    Numerous butterflies were out. When it came to flowers, they really had their favorites. Unfortunately, I didn't recognize the flowers types and I'm too lazy to put much work into finding out. See seventh photo.

    We saw some water hibiscuses and a few turtles (eighth photo), though not a lot. But it was certainly a lot more than Norma and me saw in the Adirondacks on July 29 to August 4, 2013.

    We passed Wooten's Landing which now has a nice aluminum pier. It wasn't there in 2009.

    To keep things interesting, we took turns pulling each other. I would hold onto Clark's boat and then Carmen would hold onto the Cabo. Then Clark would see how fast he could go, towing us. I'd yell out his speed according to my global positioning system (GPS). Then we'd switch up.

    While we caught our breath, we posed for a group photo. See ninth photo.

    We saw quite a few herons though it wasn't easy for Norma to get a decent photo of one with good lighting. But eventually she was successful. See tenth photo. We saw no eagles.

    Further downstream near the take-out, there were a lot of spatterdock plants...not so many upstream. These are lining the shore in the eleventh photo. As the salinity of the water increased, there were also a lot more bay grasses (twelfth photo).

    It took us about 7 hours to complete our trip, including lunch. We did 13.6 miles. In the first part of the trip, we had a good bit of help from the downstream current and for some of the second half, we had help from the tide.

    We finished a little after low tide. I was expecting it to be muddy at the take-out but it was not. I'm thinking that maybe rocks were put in.

    After retrieving Carmen's rental car, we went to Nautilus Diner in Crofton. It seemed very upscale for a diner. Carmen had to get her car back soon so she could catch the train home. So she asked for her food to come out quickly. It seemed like from the moment she ordered, her food was on the table in under four minutes. We were all very impressed. The food wasn't just fast but also tasty though I suppose the fact that we were all pretty hungry made it even more satisfying.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Tilghman Island
    In August 14, 2013, I got out on my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP) with a few other paddleboarders: Janie, Mark, and Jay G. It was a short trip followed by a nice dinner. I had fun but I was still itching to get out on the water. So the next day, I worked a half day then headed out to the eastern shore.

    My destination was Talbot County and my goal was to photograph rays/skates. The last time I tried this was June 29, 2013. I saw only one ray then, partly because of the rough water and the lack of sunlight. Prior to this, I saw numerous rays on June 22, 2013 but since I was focused on setting a new personal distance record on the SUP, I didn't bother to stop and take photos. I still regret that.

    I launched my SUP at Neavitt Landing around 1345. It would have been nice to have started earlier but the wind wasn't supposed to die down until later in the day. It wasn't real windy when I launched but it was enough to create ripples in the water and hinder visibility of rays.

    I paddled to Nelson Point at the west end of the mouth of Broad Creek. Then I paddled west to Change Point then upstream on Harris Creek to Turkey Neck Point. I heard a splash and for a split second, I saw what I'm almost certain was a ray.

    Crossing Harris Creek, I made my way to Bald Eagle Point and yes, I did see a bald eagle in that area. Just south of that along the shore, I was in very calm, shallow waters. I saw two rays. I tried to turn and follow one of them but I am not skilled enough on the SUP to be making quick turns.

    I saw various schools of small fish.

    Going through Knapp Narrows put me out on the Chesapeake Bay. I paddled south along Tilghman Island. I saw a house with a big turtle statue and a cannon in their yard. It was around here that I saw about a hundred needlefish. They are amazingly fast though it is not surprising given their shape.

    Looking west, the sun reflected off the waves in a way that made them look like star twinkling in the night. See first photo.

    I was a little ahead of schedule so I stopped for a snack. I was timing my route so that I would have some pull from the ebb tide as I paddled south and then some push from the flood tide as I traveled north as I circumnavigated Tilghman Island.

    I rounded Blackwalnut Point. Shortly after, I saw another bald eagle perched in a tree. It was one of 5 that I would see that day.

    Continuing counterclockwise around the island, I got to Upper Bar Neck Point then did a 3 mile open water crossing back to Nelson Point. By this time, the wind had died down and the water was glass-like. There was almost no boat traffic. Generally, I find big open water boring was this was very peaceful. I enjoyed being the only one out there. I had the same feeling I get when I am out on some narrow creek far from civilization. Very zen.

    When I was out there last month, I looked for Nelson Island but never found it. I figured it might have been underwater at high tide. But now it was just after low tide and I still did not see it. I guess it eroded away.

    I crossed the 1.6 mile mouth of Broad Creek. I saw more jellyfish than I had ever seen in my life, which says quite a bit. Throughout the day, I think it is reasonable to say I saw 1000.

    I made my way back across the creek. I saw two more rays but had only mediocre views since the sun was low.

    I finished my 20 mile trip a little before 1900. The route I picked was good for seeing rays (I saw a total of 6) but it wasn't the most scenic. But that didn't matter. That day was what I call a 1% day in that out of 100 days, this was the best. If I had more daylight, I would have stayed out. Everything was so serene. See second photo. I'm glad I left work early to paddle and am fortunate to have a job that offers so much flexibility in my schedule.

    I never accomplished my goal of photographing a ray. They are much too elusive, only showing themselves for a couple of seconds and never sitting still. But for those who want to go out specifically for the purpose of seeing them, I've come up with some suggestions:
  • Go to a place where there is a lot of food for the rays. Since they eat oysters, you're more likely to see them at a place where there are a lot of oysters.
  • Rays typically live in schools near the surface of shallow waters. The ADC Chesapeake Bay Maryland and Virginia Chartbook will show you water depths in the Bay.
  • Pick a sunny day. Visibility a foot or two down into the water can be cloudy and it is much worse if the lighting is bad.
  • Look for them around the middle of the day. I don't know when they are most active but I've found it easiest to see things in the water when the sun is overhead versus early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Wear polarized sunglasses. They help you see things in the water.
  • Look when there is little or no wind. This is the most challenging part. There is usually at least some breeze on the Bay and while it may not be enough to create waves, it can create little ripples which make it harder to see things in the water. Searching when the wind is 5 mph or less is ideal.
  • Use a SUP rather than a kayak or canoe. You'll definitely see more stuff in the water if you're up high looking down.

  • Good luck seeing rays. If you are good enough to photograph one, please let me know.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    From July 29 to August 4, 2013, Norma and I spent the week kayaking, hiking, and exploring upstate New York.

    Beverly Triton Beach Park to Selby Bay
    Lisa organized a July 21, 2013 trip that I couldn't pass up. She would meet her group at the parking lot at Beverly Triton Beach Park and then they would cart their boats 0.2 mile to the beach. I avoided the carry and got in a little extra paddling by launching from Carrs Wharf (first photo) on the Rhode River at 0730 and then paddling about 2.5 miles to meet them.

    The water was pretty calm in the morning. The lighting was good too. I was hoping to see some rays or skates but saw none. Just jellyfish.

    Lisa's group consisted of Tom, Maywin, and Geoff. The timing worked out great. As I landed at Beverly Triton (second photo), two of them were in the water and the remaining two were preparing to launch.

    We headed north in the Chesapeake Bay. I was on my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP). See the third photo which was taken by Tom.

    Soon we came to Big Pond. The tide was going out and we had to dismount because the force of the water leaving the pond was pretty strong. As I waded through waist-deep water, I felt a jellyfish brush up against the lower part of my leg. It didn't hurt much for three minutes but eventually, the stinging really set in and wouldn't go away for about 40 minutes. It wasn't terribly painful but certainly annoying.

    I've paddled this area a few times now and never noticed this very peaceful pond. Thanks for showing me this place Lisa!
  • Fourth photo: Wading through 3 foot deep water under Honeysuckle Drive bridge to the pond.
  • Fifth photo: Geoff was the first to make it through. I had problems with my fin getting stuck in shallow water. I later found that the north side is deeper.
  • Sixth photo: The group races along on flat water.
  • Seventh photo: Leaving the pond.

  • Continuing north, we paddled into Ramsey Lake. I was there just a few days ago on July 17, 2013 after I paddled my SUP to Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse.

    We made out way under the Turkey Point Road bridge to Selby Bay. Then we stopped for a break at a community beach. See eighth photo. One of the folks in our group lives in this community so we were legal.

    I let people try out my SUP. Nobody fell. I can honestly say that over the two years that I've had that board, nobody has fallen off it.
  • Ninth photo: Lisa is a natural on the SUP.
  • Tenth photo: Lisa races past a sailboat.
  • Eleventh photo: Maywin with South River Farm Park in the background.
  • Twelfth photo: Tom puts some muscle into his stroke as Lisa watches from a cooler location.

  • We left the beach and completed our circumnavigation of Turkey Point Island.

    On the bay, the wind picked up just a bit and the water was a little choppy but not bad.

    Continuing back the way we came, the five of us stopped at Mayo Beach Park. See thirteenth photo.

    In another half mile, we were back at Beverly Triton. The kayakers completed about 7.3 miles but I still had a little further to go. I bid my farewells and continued onward.

    As I rounded Dutchman Point, the water got very rough. I was hitting several two foot waves created by all the boat traffic. But after I passed Cadle Creek, things calmed down.

    I completed 13.8 miles, finishing around 1240.

    I stopped at a convenience store in Edgewater and picked up a Diet Pepsi fountain drink which always tastes good after a hot day on the water.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Thomas Point Lighthouse and Turkey Point Island
    I don't paddle at Pier 7 with the Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA) as much as I used to but once in awhile I do like to stop by and see some familiar faces. That is what I did on July 17, 2013, the first Pier 7 paddle for me in the year.

    It was very hot with high temperatures in the mid 90s and very little wind.

    I arrived early, launching my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP) at 1545. Low tide in the bay was at 1755 so I rode out the ebb tide to Quiet Waters Park and then to Thomas Point. From here, I paddled 1.2 miles due west into the Chesapeake Bay to Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. See first photo.

    From there, I paddled southwest about 3.2 miles to Ramsey Lake and went around Turkey Point Island by paddling under the bridge at Turkey Point Road. See second photo. This put me at Selby Bay.

    Once I got around Long Point, I had the flood tide helping me get back to Pier 7 where I enjoyed some shish-kabobs made by Ralph.

    I completed 16.9 miles in 3 hours and 50 minutes.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Tuckahoe Creek
    It had been awhile since Norma and I did an outing with any of her interns. We decided a kayak trip was in order.

    I planned what I call a "fit beginner" level trip on Tuckahoe Creek for July 13, 2013. I sometimes lead trips like this for people with sea kayaks who haven't kayaked but are physically fit or people who have kayaked some, but not much. I did a trip like this on April 17, 2013 with Jim C. I invited him again on this trip but he had other plans. I figured Lisa might enjoy this trip on the stand up paddleboard (SUP) she has on loan. She's new to the world of SUP so this would be a good for her. But apparently, she tried out the SUP a few times and developed enough mastery to enter in a SUP race for that day so she too had other plans. Janie was also invited but she was on holiday. I did, however, manage to find a couple other people that were interested. My good neighbors Sara and her daughter Samantha (Sam) joined us.

    The original plan was an 8 mile route on the lower Tuckahoe. We would launch from New Bridge Landing then paddle upstream with help from the tide. Five miles later, we would stop for lunch at Coveys Landing. Then we'd finish off the remaining 3 miles to Stoney Point Landing. High tide would be at 1126 at Wayman Wharf which is just south of Stoney Point Landing. This meant if we were on the water early enough, the tide would push us upstream for the first half of the trip. With two vehicles, we would do a car shuttle.

    It had been raining quite a bit over the last few days so I expected the creek to be higher than normal for this time of year. This meant the 5.4 scenic water trail was paddleable. I last did this trip on May 1, 2011 with Stacy and Janie, and prior to that with Norma on July 4, 2006. In my opinion, it is one of the most scenic kayak routes in Maryland. It wouldn't be suitable for a SUP but since Lisa wasn't joining us, I figured it would be suitable for our group.

    If we did the water trail, we would launch at Tuckahoe State Park - Water Trail then paddle 5.4 miles downstream to Hillsboro where we'd stop for lunch. We would then lock up the boats and walk back 5 miles, mostly on the Tuckahoe Valley Trail. The other option was to continue another 2.2 miles to Stoney Point Landing and do a car shuttle back to the start. High tide at Hillsboro was 1150 so we'd have a little help on the second half of the trip. I decided that this last option would give us the best scenery and still allow us to get Maxi (Norma's intern) to the Metro in time for her evening event.

    We left Savage just after 0800 which is a little later than I generally leave for eastern shore kayaking. But I was told that on a non-holiday weekend, the Bay Bridge doesn't get backed up on Saturdays until around 1000. That was indeed the case. We got across quickly. But once highway 50 turned south after the outlet mall, traffic slowed down considerably. I should have had us leave an hour prior.

    We arrived at the start of the water trail, which is just below the dam at Crouse Mill Lake. Normally, the water falls about 3 feet from the dam but this morning, it fell about a foot. There was a LOT of rain the previous day and the water level of the creek was about 2 feet higher than normal. One could easily paddle over the dam to the creek. The section of the creek where we would normally launch was over twice as wide as normal due to high waters. This also meant the water was moving very quickly. I feared that tree branches that we would typically paddle under would now become strainers. Combined with the faster moving water, this meant unsafe conditions. So I decided we would forget about doing the water trail and instead do the original plan but in reverse. Why reverse? With so much water, I figured paddling upstream would be much more difficult than normal. Additionally, we were starting later than I intended, which meant we would be on the water mostly during the ebb tide.

    We drove to Stoney Point Landing. All the rain washed out some of the sandy road. But Sara's and my Imprezas had no problem getting through the wet, uneven sand and rock. After dropping off the boats and gear, Sara and I drove to New Bridge Landing. Along the way, I found a snapping turtle with a 6 inch shell in the road. I relocated it to a grassy area on the side of the road. We left Sara's car at the take out and I drove us back to the Stoney Point Landing.

    Norma and Maxi paddled my Ocean Kayak Cabo while I was in the Prijon Catalina.

    Unlike the tree-covered water trail, this section of the creek is fairly wide, open, and not as scenic. But it is still nice. See first photo. We saw a few turtles and lots of spatterdock. I learned its seeds can be popped like popcorn. The water was noticably high so during the first half of our trip, not many spatterdock flowers were visible.

    We saw pickerel weed and a what I believed to be a hickory tree.

    After about 3.3 miles, we came to Coveys Landing where we pulled out for a lunch break. See second photo.

    The remaining 5 miles went fairly quickly since we now had the tide on our side.

    Norma and I swapped boats. She was pretty fast in my Prijon.

    There was a very light sprinkle that was hardly noticeable. At first, I thought it was just bugs on the water...that is how light it was.

    The clouds were dramatic. See third photo.

    Maxi and I saw a bald eagle off in the distance. Unfortunately, that is the only one we saw all day.

    Up until the end, we had the whole creek to ourselves, not seeing any other boats.

    We finished our 8.3 mile trip around 1445.

    The section between Coveys and New Bridge was the final section of Tuckahoe Creek for me to explore. I can now say that I've seen all of it and more...from Mason Bridge on May 14, 2010 all the way to the mouth at the Choptank River.

    Sara and I retrieved my car while Sam, Norma, and Maxi got the gear and boats ready for loading.

    On the way back, we stopped at Holly's Restaurant for some homemade ice cream. I highly recommend the strawberry ice cream in the waffle cone. It was a good way to end a day of kayaking.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Seneca Creek
    Norma and I decided to celebrate Independence Day with some kayaking. The forecast as of that morning was
    Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly between noon and 5pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 89. South wind 8 to 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.

    On July 4, 2010, we did a route where we launched on the Potomac River and took out at the mouth of Seneca Creek at Seneca Landing Park. This time we would launch further upstream on Seneca Creek and take out at the same place.

    We drove to the take out to lock up our bikes, which we would use later to get back to the car. A member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary was there, offering to do Paddle Craft Vessel Safety Checks (VSGs). He asked if I wanted a check and I said sure. I was pretty sure I would do quite well but there were two areas where I was deficient. Normally, I file a float plan with Norma and if Norma isn't around, I find someone else. But with Norma with me, I didn't bother. The other thing was that I didn't bring a first aid kit. So much for all my first aid, CPR, and wilderness first aid training. Sort of like being a good gunfighter then showing up for the battle unarmed. At least I passed all the required checks...I just missed a couple of the suggested checks.

    The guy doing the check mentioned that if kayaking in Washington D.C., we would need to have our boat registered. That was news to me so I investigated this later. It turns out he was wrong. According to Washington D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV),
    Vessels that do not require registration: Any boat that is propelled only by oars or paddles.

    I asked the Coast Guard Auxiliary member about creek conditions upstream. He thought things would be fine as far upstream as Riffle Ford Road. That was where I wanted to launch so things were looking good.

    Was there enough water to paddle on Seneca Creek? According to Edward Gertler in "Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails," the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 01645000 Seneca Creek at Dawsonville (route 28), Maryland gauge should read at least 2.2 feet. Typically, it is low in the summer but with all the rain we've been having it was sufficient, measuring 2.44 feet at 1145 (when we launched) and 2.41 feet at 1645 (when we took out). My Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) map for Seneca Creek State Park suggests at least 2.1 feet.

    There was plenty of parking along the side of the road and a big crushed rock road that allowed us to drop off the boat on the southeast side of the creek. It wasn't a nice launch area but certainly doable for a plastic boat. See first photo.

    Despite having more than the minimum amount of water recommended for kayaking, the water seemed low and we scraped bottom frequently. There were several times when we had to get out and drag the boat over rocks in just a few inches of water. At least we didn't have to cut our way through. The riverkeeper took care of that. But the openings between the trees was often small and it was a test of our maneuverability to make it through the openings between or under the trees.

    At first, the only people we saw were fishermen. They accessed the creek via the 16.5 mile Seneca Creek Greenway Trail. Later, we saw families enjoying their time wading through and swimming in the water. One of the more popular spots for families was the Black Rock Grain Mill which dates back to 1815.

    The creek was very scenic and despite groups of people here and there, it was pretty peaceful and mostly isolated. See second and third photos. Unfortunately, we saw no interesting wildlife.

    Around mile 5, we stopped for a lunch break (fourth photo) and a nap on a small beach. There were lots of rocks around that resembled petrified wood but I don't think they were.

    Most of the places on the creek had a gentle flow with some parts having class one rapids.

    At Darnestown Road, there was a small dam that one could paddle over though I recommend checking downstream for rocks before attempting this. See fifth photo.

    Numerous dragonflies and damselflies were out and about. Several were mating. A very large Maine Snaketail dragonfly landed on my paddle. See sixth photo.

    In some areas, there were large rocks that lined the creek.

    We ran into two volunteers that were clearing obstructions in the creek with a chainsaw. They paddle Heritage plastic sit-on-top kayaks. See seventh photo. I'm thinking the optimal boat for this creek is a 10-14 foot long plastic sit-on-top like theirs. With the numerous portages, a sit-on-top would be easiest to get in and out of. In contrast, the Ocean Kayak Cabo we paddled was too long and not very maneuverable. A tandem was not the best tool for the job either since the lead person could often get around an obstacle while the rear person collided into it.

    Just before Berryville Road, there was another dam. See eighth photo. We got to witness how our chainsaw volunteers gracefully kayaked over it without hitting any rocks.

    As we neared our take-out, we saw numerous young people out enjoying the day with Calleva outdoor adventures. We passed one of their boats which appeared to be a 22 foot long Indian canoe.

    After 5 hours, we completed only 11.6 miles.

    Norma and I unlocked our bikes, locked up the boat, and biked back about 7.5 miles to my car.

    We didn't get out to see the fireworks. In my opinion, we did something much more enjoyable.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Searching for Raymond
    On June 22, 2013, I paddled out in the Saint Michaels area. I saw several of what I thought were cownose rays. I vowed to return to photograph these magnificient creatures.

    I set aside time for the following weekend. The problem is that we are now into summer and thus, the weather is harder to predict. Every day for as far out as the National Weather Service predicts, there was a chance of rain. No clear skies for an extended period of time. That being the case, I picked the day and time with the least wind. This meant June 29, 2013. In the morning, the southwest wind was forecast to be 4-7 mph. In the afternoon, it would pick up. So that morning, I was up at 0430 and on the road at 0450, on my way to Talbot County.

    I locked up my bicycle at the take out.

    On one of the back roads, I saw a wild turkey. Ahead in the road, I saw what I thought were more but as I got closer, I realized they were six guinea fowl. They were in no rush to get out of my way so I had to inch my car around them.

    At 0650, I launched my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP) at Cummings Creek Launch, armed with my camera at my left hip for a quickdraw in case any rays presented themselves. I suppose if I really wanted to react quickly, I could have worn my camera around my neck but for now, I felt better keeping it in a waterproof case.

    Normally, by this time of the day, the sun would be out but instead it was cloudy and dark. It was hard enough just to see jellyfish in the water. I doubted I would see any rays until it cleared up.

    I made my way to the mouth of Cummings Creek then to Harris Creek.

    The water was much rougher than it was last week which meant I couldn't very well see into it. For seeing rays, one really needs a clear, sunny day with flat water. Today was anything but that. At least it wasn't raining.

    I saw the Vertical Profiler, a state-of-the-art water quality monitoring device deployed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources on June 26, 2012. See first photo.
    "The Profiler will allow us to understand how water quality affects the settlement of oyster larvae as well as survivorship and growth of juvenile oysters," said Eric Weissberger, of DNR's Shellfish Program. "This information will then help us refine when and where to plant oysters."
    - from DNR Deploys New Monitoring Device in Harris Creek for Oyster Restoration Efforts

    As I rounded Indian Point, the winds became stronger as did the waves. I'm thinking the wind was 8 mph. Making my way to the mouth of Harris Creek was slow. I was facing 32 miles of unobstructed wind from Virginia.

    Having passed Turkey Neck Point, I encountered 1-2 foot waves that lasted for about 2.5 miles. Some were strong and fast enough so that the front third of my SUP was out of the water as I passed over them. As I turned east, the waves came from my starboard side. Rather than deal with challenging beam waves, I zig zagged back and forth. I waited for a break in the waves before I changed direction. None of this was easy but it also wasn't so difficult that I had to paddle in kneeling position either.

    One wave came after another for what seemed like forever. I did my best to simply "roll" with each wave. I thought about a line from the song "Jump" by Van Halen:
    You've got to roll with the punches to get to what's real.

    I only found one ray that day...or perhaps I should saw it found me. I heard a loud splash that sounded like a cormorant trying to take flight from the water. As I looked behind me, I saw the wing tips of a large ray swimming quickly to get away from me. I'm thinking my SUP spooked it. There were about 16 inches under water between its wings which were each about 8 inches out of the water. Did it jump out of the water like a mobula ray? I don't think so. But based on the sound, it might have skimmed along the surface of the water for a short distance. The water was far too rough for me to even think about pulling out my camera.

    At one point, I fell. But as with all my previous falls on the SUP, I didn't fall into the water. Instead, I landed on the board. A few seconds later, I was back on my feet continuing to make my way to Broad Creek.

    In order to maintain my balance, I had to keep my legs bent and slightly flexed. I was reminded of the long periods of time that Arnie, my Karate instructor, had us stand in a low square horse stance. All that training was paying off now.

    As I approached the mouth of Broad Creek, I looked for Nelson Island which should have been 0.6 mile south of Nelson Point. I did not find it there or in satellite photos. But high tide was around 0915 (about the time I was there) and one website describes the island as being a shoal which means it is likely visible at low tide.

    I paddled up Broad Creek. Once I got north of Nelson Point, the waves died down slightly. Then the waves were behind me, giving me a little push.

    By now, the sun came out and the water was calmer. I thought I might see some rays at this time but I did not. Last week, it was definitely the mouth of the creek that was better for seeing rays and I was further upstream. I was reminded of the old joke of a man looking for his lost watch at night. He is looking under a lit street light. A friend comes out to help him look and asks him where he lost the watch. The man points, "Over there." His friend says, "So why are you looking for it here?" The man answer, "Because the light is better here." I felt like the man who lost the watch. I was looking for rays in a place where I was less likely to see them but at least conditions were good for seeing them if they were there.

    While I didn't get any ray photos, I did get some of a school of fish. See second photo.

    I stopped at Hambleton Island, which I believe is really 4 islands. See third photo. Unlike the Nelson Island shoal, these have large trees growing on them. I saw kayakers out on recreational boats around here. I'm thinking they were from Chesapeake Bay Outfitters.

    Paddling up San Domingo Creek, I reached my destination, San Domingo Park. Just to the left of it was the distinctive Saint Michaels Nature Trail Bridge. See fourth photo. Originally, I thought it might go up Broad Creek for as far as I could but that time out on the rougher water wore me out mentally. Had I seen as many rays as last week, I'm sure I would have had more energy.

    I completed 14.25 miles. I ate lunch, unlocked my bike, locked up my SUP and paddle, then biked back to my car. Some of my route was on the 1.51 mile scenic Saint Michaels Nature Trail. For such a short trail, it certainly gets a lot of use.

    It was an easy 8 miles of bicycling.

    I expect I will return a third time to look for rays, launching at Neavitt Landing then paddling out to Nelson Island if it is low tide. But when I come back remains to be seen. Conditions need to be ideal, like a sunny day with 0-3 mph wind. I won't rest until I've got a good photo of a ray in the wild.

    I was home by 1430.

    That night, Norma and I watched the original Karate Kid movie from 1984. When I saw the main character standing in a square horse stance at the bow of a row boat, I thought about how my Kenpo Karate training helped me get through the rough water.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Saint Michaels peninsula circumnavigation
    In previous years, I found a summer challenge to keep me goal oriented and focused. I was inspired to do this after reading about Jack LaLanne, who died on January 23, 2011 at age of 96. My previous challenges include the following:
  • 2006: Kent Island circumnavigation
  • 2008: 45 miles of paddling and 44 miles of bicycling in two days
  • 2009: 30 miles on Piscataway Creek
  • 2010: Chincoteague Island circumnavigation and century ride in two days
  • 2011: 40 miles on the Pocomoke River
  • 2012: Race against Wahab

  • In the latter half of June, Norma was out of town with the girls, celebrating one of their birthdays. With me being home alone, I decided it was a good time to do my summer challenge.

    I looked at the weather forecast several days out. June 22, 2013 looked like a sunny day with little wind. In the Chesapeake Bay area, there really aren't that many warm days where it is sunny with so little wind all day. I took advantage of this opportunity by planning a circumnavigation of Saint Michaels peninsula.

    I got this idea from Rich S. Rich is a quite an amazing paddler. He maintains a good, steady pace and can go on forever and ever. I forwarded my questions about this trip to him and he gave me a very thorough reply, complete with photos. Maybe my blog will serve to help others planning this same trip as he helped me.

    There were several considerations:
  • As of that morning, the forecast was
    Mostly sunny, with a high near 80. Calm wind becoming southeast 5 to 7 mph in the morning.
  • Low tide at Claiborne (the north end) would be at 1106 while high tide would be at 1553.
  • Low tide at Saint Michaels would be at 1132 while high tide would be at 1607.
  • Low tide at Dogwood Harbor (the south end) would be at 1046 while high tide would be at 1525.
  • The narrowest part of the isthmus is 0.4 mile at Chew Avenue. Fortunately, there is a launch site at both ends so a portage is feasible.
  • If the circumnavigation includes Tilghman Island (like what Rich S. did), it would be 35 miles but if I cut through Knapp Narrows, I could cut it down to 28 miles.
  • If the circumnavigation includes Tilghman Island, the biggest open water crossing is 3 miles from Nelson Point to Lower Bar Neck Point.
  • If the circumnavigation does not include Tilghman Island, the biggest open water crossing is 1.4 miles from Change Point to Knapp Narrows.

  • I had a vague plan that morning but I would give myself some flexibility and make my final decision once I got there after viewing the conditions at various places on the route. I loaded up my S1-A surfski, Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP), and bicycle. If I did the 35 mile route, then I'd be on the surfski. If I did the 28 mile route, I would take the SUP.

    I forwarded Lisa my float plan. Since I wasn't certain of what I'd be doing, I let her know what I did know. This included where I'd be, when I expected to be done, the two possible watercraft I'd be using, and my options for launching.

    I wanted to use my SUP. Calm to 7 mph wind is not bad for the SUP. But conditions were not idea. A best case would be for me to launch at San Domingo Park, ride the tide out, reach Knapp Narrows by 1046, ride the tide north to Tilghman Point, then paddle up the Miles River to Saint Michaels City Dock. But this meant the last third of my trip would have a headwind when the wind was strongest. It may only be 7 mph but on a SUP, that is certainly much more noticeable than the weak Chesapeake Bay tide. I didn't want the hardest third of my trip to be the last, even if the first two thirds were relatively easy. So I took a different approach.

    I decided to launch at the north end, at Claiborne on the Eastern Bay. Then I'd paddle up the Miles River into the wind when it was weakest. But that meant paddling against the tide. At Saint Michaels, I would do a 0.4 mile portage from the City Dock to San Domingo Park. Then I'd paddle to Knapp Narrows for the second third with the tide mostly against me. In the last third, I'd be on the Chesapeake Bay with some wind to my back and the tide against me most of the time. I don't know if this was the right choice. Either I'd fight the wind or the tide and I chose to fight the tide.

    I drove to each of the launch sites along my route and took GPS readings. I also went to Tilghman Back Creek Park which is near Knapp Narrows and took a GPS reading there. At this park, I locked up my bicycle and put extra water and Gatorage in the saddlebag. If I didn't think I could finish the trip, I could carry the SUP up some stairs from the water (first photo), carry it another 300 meters to the parking lot, unlock the bike, lock up the SUP, bike back to the car and then retrieve the SUP later. Or, if I was low on fluids, I could refill there. This park also has a restroom.

    Without a doubt, this would be my longest SUP trip and the one where I would be exposed to the most open water. Previously, my longest trip was 25.6 miles on June 28, 2012.

    I started at 0740. I was carrying about 5 liters of fluids to include Gatorade, water, and tea. I also had 2 sandwiches, Cheez Its, meat sticks, and Nutri Grain cereal bars. Regarding equipment, I had my GPS, map, whistle, knife, light, rope, very high frequency (VHF) radio, cell phone, sunglasses, and sunscreen. My waterproof iPod stereo was turned on to my Wedding Music playlist which includes bluegrass, country, southern rock, pop, and rock.

    From Claiborne, I paddled 2.8 miles northeast to Tilghman Point, the northernmost point of my trip. Then I made my way up the Miles River to Saint Michaels. I saw Hooper Strait Lighthouse (second photo) at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

    Nothing eventful happened on this first third of my trip which was about 10 miles. I did manage to miss my takeout slightly but eventually got there. Next came the hard part.

    If I was to do this again, I would have brought my kayak cart and locked it up at the City Dock (third photo). Intead, I carried my SUP on my head for 0.4 mile to the other end of Chew Avenue. The SUP isn't heavy but carrying it on my head meant my shoulders were constantly engaged. I had to make several rest stops. Once I got it to San Domingo Park (fourth and fifth photos), I walked back to the City Dock to get the rest of my gear. This is a pretty upscale community and I wasn't worried about things being taken or vandalized. But still, I kept my wallet, keys, and phone in a drybag over one arm as I walked back and forth between the two launch sites. A backpack drybag would have been more ideal. Three trips on this 0.4 mile portage meant 1.2 miles of walking which took awhile. I ate lunch, reapplied sunscreen, and rested up before resuming.

    On the second third of my trip, I paddled south on San Domingo Creek. There was no restroom at either launch site along my portage so I stopped at one of the uninhabited islands near the mouth of the creek. I continued south on Broad Creek. The wind picked up and there were some gusts that blew my hat off (fortunately it was tethered). As I stopped to put it back on, my SUP got turned the wrong way. I straighted it out and then my hat blew off again. This went on for awhile until I just pulled my hat down tight to my brow. Eventually, the gusts subsided.

    I saw several schools of fish, about 10 throughout the day. On a kayak, I usually just see the ripples but on the SUP, I saw much more. Each school contained hundreds of minnow-sized fish. Schools spanned anywhere from 3 to 30 feet.

    A lot of jellyfish were out whereas I didn't see them the last time I was out.

    I also saw about a dozen needlefish that ranged in size from 1 to 2 feet. This reminded me of the longer trumpet fish that was caught by one of the kayakers in our group on December 31, 2012.

    The most impressive thing I saw all day were the numerous rays or skates. I can't tell the difference between the two but based on what I saw and read, I'm guessing I saw cownose rays. These creatures are known to visit the lower and middle Chesapeake Bay from May to October. Then they leave the Bay in autumn for southern coastal waters. They typically live in schools near the surface of shallow waters. The ones I saw had 2-3 foot wingspans and swam as individuals or couples.

    I don't know how many cownose rays one might see together in the Chesapeake Bay but in the Gulf of Mexico, migratory groups of golden cownose rays, called "fevers," can be up to 10,000 strong!
    - from The great ocean migration...thousands of majestic stingrays swim to new seas

    They aren't aggressive but they can be dangerous. A cownose ray is
    potentially dangerous because it has a poisonous spine at the base of its tail.
    Captain John Smith learned about the cownose ray’s spine the hard way. During his 1608 voyage he was stung so severely that his crew thought he was going to die. The site on the Rappahannock River where he was stung is still known today as “Stingray Point.”

    - from Chespeake Bay Program - Cownose Rays

    Seeing them is one of the most impressive things I could possibly see while kayaking. They look like they are flying effortlessly through the water. Graceful and beautiful. I haven't seen any since at least 2011 and today I saw 14! About 9 were seen near the mouth of Broad Creek. Another 3 were seen at the mouth of Harris Creek, and 3 were seen in the Chesapeake Bay on the easternmost side of my trip. When I've seen them before, I'd only seen the tips of their wings and maybe a faint glimpse of their body. But today on the SUP, I was looking down on them from above. I could see their eyes, color, tail, etc. It is likely I will return this summer to try and photograph them, maybe starting from Neavitt Landing. Since today I was planning on just covering a lot of distance, I didn't have my camera in a location I could access it quickly.

    Why were there so many rays out here? My guess is it is because this area is full of what they like to eat: oysters. Earlier this year, Phat Joe (a co-worker) told me about a $31 million effort by the state to reintroduce oysters to Harris Creek. Why Harris Creek?
    Already home to productive and protected oyster reefs, Harris Creek’s good water quality and moderate salinity should allow for high rates of reproduction and low rates of disease—both critical factors in ensuring oyster survival.
    - from Chesapeake Bay News - March 19, 2013

    So has this program been successful?
    News of a good spat set during the past two years has resulted in many people reporting lots of young oysters in Harris Creek as well as Broad Creek and other local waters.
    - from East Coast’s Largest Oyster Restoration Project Underway On Harris Creek

    For more information, see Harris Creek Oyster Restoration Open House and Harris Creek Oyster Sanctuary.

    Cownose rays
    have earned a reputation as voracious consumers, often decimating shellfish beds, including important oyster reefs. In 2004 cownose rays ate nearly $80,000 worth of oysters set on artificial reefs as part of a restoration project by the Army Corps of Engineers in the Great Wicomico River.
    - from Maryland Sea Grant: Cownose Rays scientist observed a school of rays that ate 60,000 oysters in single night. Traveling in schools across the Bay bottom, these rays flap their wings quickly to stir up the sediment there. This uncovers hidden clams and oysters. They rays then grab their prey and crush their shells, using two strong dental plates. Cownose rays also eat bony fish, crabs and gastropods like snails.
    - from Cownose Rays - the Bay's Flattened Sharks

    Seeing all the rays really made the second third of my trip go by fast.

    I thought about it later and came to the conclusion that one of the reason I saw so many rays is because I was wearing polarized sunglasses. I don't typically wear sunglasses but just recently I started because the glare off the water on a bright, sunny day can be intense. The people I've spoken to that wear polarized sunglasses tell me it helps them see things in the water. Some of the rays were near the surface and easy to see but several were not. It might have been the case that I would have reported much fewer had I not been wearing my sunglasses.

    Boat traffic wasn't bad but I did have to be careful at Knapp Narrows.

    As I cross through the Narrows, I tried to make my way to Back Creek which is where I would need to be if I wanted to get to Tilghman Back Creek Park. But the water around here was very shallow. I could have walked through the water to get there if I really wanted but at this point, there was no need. There was no question that I would finish my trip and I had plenty of fluids.

    Heading north, 10 miles of the Chesapeake Bay was the only thing between me and Anne Arundel County on the western shore. Normally, it could get pretty rough being so unprotected from the wind. There were occasional waves up to 2 feet high from boat traffic but for the most part, it was pretty calm.

    My feet were sore but if I sat for a couple of minutes, I was then fine for at least another half hour.

    I saw 7 kayakers throughout the day. Most were recreational kayaks. I'm glad I wasn't the only one out on the water enjoying the nice weather.

    Having not always taken the most direct route, my trip ended up being 29.4 miles. But I was still feeling really good so I just puttered around to get my distance up to an even 30. Along the way, I ran into another paddleboarder. He was on a newbie on a 12.5 foot long Bic board. We spoke for about 7 minutes.

    I finished at 1620, having completed a tad over 30 miles of paddling in 8 hours and 40 minutes (that includes portaging and rest). My moving average on the water was 3.9 mph, according to my GPS.

    At the take out, I met a couple other SUPers and spoke to them for awhile.

    I texted Lisa to let her know I was safe and off the water.

    I drove to the park to pick up my bicycle. I was thinking I could have paddled much further until I picked up my bicycle to put on my car. Then I really started to cramp up. So maybe 30 was a good distance for me.

    I bought two Diet Cokes from the fountain at a little grocery store on Tilghman Island. Those were the best tasting sodas I drank...and I prefer Diet Pepsi!

    I stuck around the area for awhile and scouted other launch sites before heading home. I was as happy as a pig in mud...or perhaps I should say a cowhose ray in a bed of oysters.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Upper Tuckahoe Creek and Blackiston Branch
    The last time I paddled Tuckahoe Creek was May 1, 2011. This is one of my favorite trips because the scenery is just soooo good. The first time I paddled it was with Norma on July 4, 2006. After that, I was curious to see what it was like further upstream so on May 10, 2009, I had a chance to check that out at the area I refer to as the upper Tuckahoe. It was indeed scenic and in my experience, had the highest concentration of photographable turtles in all the state.

    On June 15, 2013, I took Norma and Carmen on this same route. Clark was invited but he was busy car shopping. So it was just "Team SNaCk" for the day.

    They say experience is the best teacher so I made sure to warn them about poison ivy, which grows abundantly in this area. We covered exposed areas with Ivy Block. I learned the hard way just how sensitive I was to this plant after my May 14, 2010 trip in this area. I also told Norma and Carmen to wash using dish soap when they got home which should absorb and wash away most of the toxic oils left by poison ivy contact.

    Norma and I left the house at 0710, picked up Carmen at Baltimore Washington International (BWI) Airport, got across the Bay Bridge around 0810, then made it to Tuckahoe State Park - Tuckahoe Lake by 0900. Our schedule wasn't extremely early but it was early enough to avoid the weekend beach traffic.

    What I did not expect was the two dozen Boy Scouts and their leaders all wanting to launch at the same place as us. But we managed to squeeze between a few at the ramp and get ahead of most of them. Those that were ahead of us were soon behind as we passed them. I've got nothing against Scouts, but I don't much care for big groups anytime I want to get out in nature. Those at the front get to see the wildlife which is then scared away by the time the second boat arrives. Eventually, we were far enough ahead so it seemed we had the whole creek to ourselves.

    I was pleased to see that the upper Tuckahoe was still packed full of turtles that didn't mind posing for the camera. We saw up to 8 on a single log! Occasionally, a smaller one rested on top of a larger one.
  • First photo: A turtle watches as Norma and Carmen pass by.
  • Second photo: Little guy climbs up for a better view.
  • Third photo: I see a hitchhiker.
  • Fourth photo: I think they need a bigger log.

  • Normally, this is a great route for beginners because it is short and scenic. But today was more difficult than your average day because of all the rain we'd had recently. The downstream current was fairly strong. It wasn't difficult to paddle upstream but the current did make it difficult at times to maneuver around fallen trees, of which there were many. But Norma and Carmen (the "Tucka-hoes") did just fine in my Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem sit-on-top.
  • Fifth photo: Working as a team with Norma as captain and Carmen as crew.
  • Sixth photo: Kayaking a shady scenic section of the creek.
  • Seventh photo: Stopping to photograph turtles.

  • I was on my Prijon Catalina. A recreational kayak would probably be the best choice, but amongst my boats, this was the best one for the job. See eighth photo.

    We had to make our way under a few downed trees (ninth photo) and around numerous branches. It was hard to avoid the poison ivy. We did one portage.

    There were some swamp roses in bloom.

    Around mile 2.5, we passed the take out at the park campground. By mile 2.85, I decided it was time to turn around. Too many downed trees made getting further very difficult. This was a bit of a disappointment since previously, I made it to mile 3.2 without having to portage.

    On the return trip, we stopped for lunch and a restroom break at the campground.

    Heading back downstream, we didn't see any Scouts but there were a lot of other people on the water.

    Turtles weren't the only reptiles we saw. I also got a close view of a 2 foot long northern water snake. See tenth photo.

    After making it to the west end of the lake, we continued under Crouse Mill Road to Blackiston Branch. I had never explored this section previously. I didn't think we'd get any further than I could throw a rock since on the bridge, it looked like things narrowed quickly. That was indeed the case but after one section where some branches created a small dam, things widened back up and we were able to get much further. If you've got a plastic boat, you can put things in turbo drive and just let momentum carry you over this small dam or if you're like Norma and Carmen, you can get halfway over and then butt scoot your way over the rest. This area was also very scenic. See eleventh photo. We did a couple of portages before calling it quits, having only made it 0.42 mile upstream from Crouse Mill Road.

    There was a little noise from the road but otherwise, all we heard were frogs.

    Numerous dragonflies and damselflies were buzzing about. Some were mating.

    On the way back, under the bridge, I saw a barn swallow nest with a small turtle right next to it, about 3.5 feet above the water. See twelfth photo.

    By 1415, we completed 6.7 miles. We moved along at a snail's pace except for when we wanted to get ahead of the Scouts. This is the type of place you want to savor because there is so much to see and hear.

    I was hoping to be done in time for a Scales and Tails tour of the aviary at the park office but we were too late. So instead, we drove 2 miles to Adkins Arboretum for a little hike. See June 15, 2013 - hiking.

    Despite taking precautions, I still ended up getting a poison ivy rash.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Herring Bay and Rockhold Creek
    Wednesday, June 5, 2013 was a beautiful day. Looking at the forecast, it would be the last really great day for awhile. So I got into work early, worked a few hours, then left early (I worked extra the day before). Then I drove out to Rose Haven Memorial Park (aka Holland Point Park). See first photo. This is a place Lisa told me about but I had never been to until now.

    I launched my Yolo Prowler stand up paddleboard (SUP) on Herring Bay around 1430. While it is a bay, it doesn't offer much protection from the Chesapeake Bay unless there is a south or west wind.

    It was sunny and the day was so clear, I could easily see 10 miles east to the eastern shore. The wind was about 5 mph so the water was pretty flat.

    I paddled north, passing Fairhaven Cliffs. See second photo. The steepness of some of the cliffs reminded me of the trip Norma and I did on August 31 to September 3, 2013 to Westmoreland State Park. We paddled to an area where cliffs were eroding and exposing lots of fossils. I pulled ashore hoping I might find the same thing. Unfortunately, I did not. The cliffs seemed to be more clay-like.

    It was plenty shallow even 50 meters from the shore, despite it being only about 30 minutes after high tide.

    I saw a bald eagle, my only one for the day. I've noticed that when I see lots of eagles, I see few ospreys and vice versa. So today was a big osprey day.

    My goal was to paddle up Rockhold Creek as far as I could.

    About a tenth of a mile just east of Drum Point, I found an osprey nest. This was one of many but the only one that day which was built on a pile that stuck only about 4 feet out of the water. For a kayaker, this nest might just as well be 50 feet in the air but for a paddleboarder like myself, I could look down into it. Inside, I saw 2 juveniles. See third photo. They were pretty big but definitely not ready to fly on their own. They lay down in the nest and didn't make any noise or eye contact with me but I could see them breathing. I've visited a heron rookery before with a park naturalist and the big rule is to not visit when the weather conditions are such that if the parents left, the offspring would be in danger of exposure. I didn't touch the nest or the birds and I was only there very briefly in ideal weather conditions so I don't think there was a problem. As soon as I got 40 meters away, the parents returned.

    I made my way up Rockhold Creek. It was one marina after another. I must have seen at least a hundred yachts that day. A few of the places had boat ramps that I'm guessing a kayaker could launch at for a fee.

    I thought this was all unexplored territory for me until I came to Harbour Cove Marina. Then I remember I had launched here about 10 years ago after my Marine Corps League group did a little fundraiser grilling hot dogs. One of our members, Danny R. worked here. After seeing that marina, it all came back to me. I was paddling the exact same route I did back then...I was just launching in a different place.

    I made it up Rockhold Creek as far as I could which was just past the second bridge, Bay Front Road East (route 258). It just got too shallow after that.

    I paddled back downstream and explored Tracys Creek. I couldn't get too far upstream past the first bridge, Deal Road (route 256). There wasn't a whole lot on that creek. But what I did see was a little place called
         Calypso Bay Restaurant
         421 Deale Rd Tracys Landing, MD 20779
         Phone: 410-867-9787
    which was on the southwest side of the bridge. There are plenty of places to eat out there but this one is unique in that they have a beach that a paddler can easily land at for a casual lunch or dinner. It is a similar setup to Restless Ric's. See my May 19, 2013 blog.

    I saw a snake swimming in the water. It was about 2-2.5 feet long. I'm assuming it was a northern water snake. See fourth and fifth photos.

    As I made my way around Town Point into the open waters, I noticed that the wind had picked up to 8 or 9 mph. Some of the waves were a little over a foot tall. They crashed down on my bow then hit my deck bag, only to be deflected at me. I wasn't unstable but I also couldn't paddle at my normal pace since it took more effort to stay balanced.

    About a quarter mile out from shore, I saw a small snapping turtle in the water. I stopped to investigate. It didn't look alive so I picked it up and put it on my SUP. I figured if it was dead, I would take it to work for show and tell. But after about 10 minutes, I saw a head pop out of the shell. A few more minutes and it was walking. I wanted to get a good photo of it before I let it go so every few minutes, I had to stop paddling to reposition it to keep it on the SUP. Eventually I made it to shore at an area where I could take a picture. See sixth photo. Then it let it go.

    As I paddled by Herrington Harbour South, I remembered the place from 10 years ago. There was a big event going on and I decided to approach shore to investigate. I paddled my Futura C-4 closer and noticed it was a wedding. The photographer must have thought having a kayaker in the area was cool because the next thing I knew, he started taking my photo. This wasn't the last time I had my photo taken at a wedding that I just happened to be passing by.

    I was off the water at 1900 after 4.5 hours of paddling. I got in a good 14 miles and was feeling quite zen. Even though I wasn't paddling in a natural area, I had plenty of opportunity to see nature up close and personal. It was a good day.

    In the launch area there were lots of dead blue crabs of fairly good size. There were also shells and other stuff you'd expect to find on a beach. What I did not expect to find, however, was a duck skull. I picked it up, studied it a bit, then took it home. I figured I'd use it as a "fun fact" at work. This is a post-meeting thing I do once or twice a week. My co-workers seem to like it. Without it, the meetings would be dull.

    Here is the fun fact I gave:
    Notice how this duck skull (see seventh photo) is made of bone but the bill is made of something else. [I passed it around for everyone to see and feel.] The bill is attached to the bone but is flexible and lightweight. How is the material that makes bone different from the stuff that makes the bill?

    The beak or bill of a bird has a similar structure to its claws and feathers in that they are made of a tough protein called keratin. In most birds (including ducks), two holes in the bill (known a nares) lead to the respiratory system.

    In several mammals (including us), fingernails, toenails, hooves, and hair are also made of keratin.

    A horn consists of a covering of keratin and other proteins which generally surrounds a core of live bone. Rhinoceros horns do not have a bone core. Deer have antlers which are not true horns. When fully developed, antlers are dead bone.

    One might think that since birds use their beaks and bills similarly to how we use our teeth, that they might be related in structure, but this is not the case. The hard material of the tooth is composed of calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals. The material in the majority of the tooth is called dentine while the hard, shiny layer that you brush is called the enamel.

    There are lots of similarities between teeth and bone but they are not made of the same thing. While they both contain calcium, bones contain the protein collagen, a living tissue that enables them to grow and withstand pressure.

    Teeth are stronger and harder than bones. But bones have regenerative powers. When a bone fractures, new bone cells rush in to fill the gap and repair the break.

    So now you know the structural difference between beaks, fingernails, bones, horns, and teeth.

    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Scotchman Creek and Little Bohemia Creek
    On May 17, 2013, I spent the day exploring Lloyd Creek, a tributary of the Sassafras River. After returning, I studied my maps and noticed that there were still a few places on the far northern end of the eastern shore that I had yet to explore. So on the next good stand up paddleboarding (SUP) day, I set out to explore a couple of these creeks.

    On May 30, 2013, I drove to Bohemia River Minipark after rush hour traffic died down. There was no sign to mark the place to park. It was just a little turnoff on the right (west) side before the Bohemia River Bridge. Then it was a 50 yard carry to a shallow beach landing. See first photo.

    I launched my Yolo Prowler on the Bohemia River around noon.

    Paddling to the south side, I made my way up Scotchman Creek. On the map, this looks like the type of creek that is just begging to be explored. See second photo. But most of it was quite shallow. I was able to paddle but not easily and certainly not at my preferred pace. Fortunately, the tide was going up so I was in no danger of being stranded. High tide at Town Point Wharf was at 1505. Town Point Wharf is listed on my map as Old Town Point Wharf. It is 1.2 miles north of the mouth of the Bohemia River.

    With the tide rising, I saw debris moving upstream. It all moved at a pretty constant rate so anything that didn't really stood out. I spotted one of these outliers and investigated further. It was a northern water snake. It hid behind a fallen log (third photo) then slithered towards my paddleboard. See fourth photo.

    I made it about 2.3 miles up the creek.

    On the way back, I turned right (southeast) onto one of the tributaries. Near the confluence, I heard a familiar sound. I made an audio recording with my camera then compared it to sounds at Great Blue Heron Sounds once I got home. Though I never saw it through all the trees, I confirmed that I was near a heron rookery. The sounds I heard were the calls of young herons. The location I heard the sounds was 39.44418 latitude and -75.877736 longitude.

    I was eventually stopped after a short distance at a beaver dam. See fifth and sixth photos. It had quite a bit of vegetation growing on it so I'm assuming it had been there awhile. Nearby, I saw some primo specimens of blue flag flowers growing. See seventh photo.

    On the way back downstream, I spied on a muskrat gathering vegetation. See eighth and ninth photos. It was the first of two I would see that day.

    Spatterdock were in bloom.

    I made my way back to Bohemia River then paddled under the Bohemia River Bridge. Hugging the south side of the shore, I passed Georges Point then made my way up the Little Bohemia River.

    About 0.4 mile east of Georges Point on the south side, I found a small tributary to explore. But I didn't get far, being stopped by a fallen bridge (tenth photo). A satellite photo showed me a different view (eleventh photo).

    In another tributary further east on the south side, I spotted what I thought was a snake coming out of the water onto a log. As I got closer, I noticed that it had fins and I though to myself, "Holy s**t! A snakehead fish." Then as I got closer yet, I realized what I saw was a snake with a catfish in its mouth. I only got one photo before it went back into the water. See twelfth photo. If you like that, then you'll love northern water snake eating really big fish.

    Continuing further east on the creek, I saw two beaver lodges. These were small so I'm guessing either they were fairly new or the owners moved on before completing their homes. See thirteenth photo.

    It was about 90 degrees. Fortunately, I brought 3 liters of fluids to include Gatorade, tea, and water. I also brought enough snacks to stay out all day. There was also a bottle of sunscreen with me though I didn't reapply since I was testing out my new Bull Frog Water Armor Sport Quik Gel Sunblock sun protection factor (SPF) 50. It seemed to do the job without rinsing off in the water like other sunblocks often do.

    I had to do a few portages throughout the day but never more than 2 per tributary. The big fin on my SUP is a definite hinderance though I don't think I'd want to be without it on big waters. It sticks down about a foot and doesn't flip up like most kayak rudders when I hit an obstacle. A few times, the fin brought me to a sudden, unexpected stop. Once, I fell forward with enough force so that when my hands hit the bow, the entire front part of the SUP went under water. Another time, I was knocked forward, flying with both feet in the air. But still, I can say that I have never fallen off my SUP...I've just fallen on it. I have learned that when paddling in shallow waters where there is a good chance of the fin catching on a log, it is best to paddle from the sitting position.

    I made it pretty far upstream on the Little Bohemia. Had I paddled another half mile, I think I would have made it to Bohemia Church Road.

    Paddling downstream, I now had a light headwind. While this slowed me down a bit, it also kept me cooler.

    Around Georges Point, I saw a couple of power boats with some young people in the water. This was one of my few encounters with people while I was out for the day.

    One interesting thing I noticed was that there were no lotus plants. There are plenty in the Sassafras River which is the next river south. I figured the two would be similar enough to support the same vegetation but maybe that is not the case.

    I crossed the mouth of Great Bohemia Creek then continued downstream on the north side of the Bohemia River.

    There was a very small tributary just before (to the east of) the Bohemia River Bridge that I explored. Here is the view I had while sitting and paddling upstream. I call this my kayaking view (fourteenth photo). On the way back downstream, I stood. Here is that view, which I call my paddleboarding view (fifteenth photo). Which view is nicer? Now you know one reason why I enjoy paddleboarding so much.

    I finished the day around 1810, having completed 18.5 miles. My feet were quite sore though I suspect some of that is because I did a lot of standing the day prior at a community meeting where I gave a presentation to members of the Howard County Council about the Appalachian Snaketail dragonfly.

    I expect I will return to the same launch site and do a full exploration of Great Bohemia Creek and possibly Manor Creek. That should be a 13-16 mile trip.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Curtis Creek
    This was an unusually good weekend for me. It started with paddleboarding on May 17, 2013 followed by bicycling with 3 good looking chicks on May 18, 2013, then kayaking on May 19, 2013. It was what I call a "well balanced" weekend.

    A few months ago, Lisa asked me if I would help her lead a kayak trip for the Chesapeake Paddlers Association (CPA). I said yes.

    So on May 19, we met at Solleys Cove for some easy kayaking in Baltimore. Her trip description included the following:
    Our 5-8 mile sheltered leisure paddle includes a Coast Guard Station, a railroad bridge, a shipwreck or two and lunch at Reckless Ric's, Glen Burnie's premier waterfront biker bar, staffed by the Glen Burnie Bikini Team. The first person who forgets his waiver buys me lunch at Reckless Ric's. The second person who forgets his waiver must stand on a chair at Reckless Ric's and sing "Rubber Duckie, You're the One!".

    Before launching, I gave an overview of the area to include how I found Solleys Cove and some history about the area and the shipwrecks we would see. See Curtis Bay and Curtis Creek for a little history lesson.

    By 1045, we were on the water, paddling down Curtis Creek. Participants included Bob H., Bunny, Debbie, Sue, Marla, Justin, Jenny, Lisa, and me. I hadn't seen Bob H. for about 7 years! He still looks as fit as ever.

    There was a 70% chance of rain with a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. It was very overcast and rather gloomy but Lisa's cheerful attitude brightened up the day.

    I led the first part of the trip with Lisa as sweep. I took people past the swing train bridge (first photo) where an osprey at the top of the bridge kept a close eye on us. See second photo.

    After the bridge came the Coast Guard Yard, then highway 695 which was far overhead.

    We ended up at our first destination, the Walnut Point Wrecks. The names I use for these wrecks are something that I came up with. For more details on this "Saki Terminology," and lots of other photos of these shipwrecks, see my July 4, 2012 blog.
  • Third photo: The bow of a wreck. While there aren't a whole lot of shipwrecks here, they are much more visible than the ones at Mallows Bay.
  • Fourth photo: Bob H.
  • Fifth photo: Bunny.
  • Sixth photo: Bunny again. No, I'm not stalking her.
  • Seventh photo: Don't these shipwrecks make our kayaks look small?

  • Next, we headed upstream past a not-so-old tug boat wreck then to the Stahl Point Wrecks which included the famous "S.S. Daryl's." See eighth photo.

    Lisa led the second part as I now took sweep. We kayaked past the Curtis Bay Army Depot. See ninth photo. Turning west at Thomas Point, we made our way up Furnace Creek.

    Having worked up a bit of an appetite, Lisa took us to Restless Ric's. We found their signature red and white lighthouse (tenth photo) then pulled ashore at the beach. See eleventh photo. There we found a table and ordered lunch.

    There was a family of geese nearby that some small dogs chased away. See twelfth photo.

    Since the weather was still pretty cool, the Glen Burnie Bikini Team staff was a little covered up. Very disappointing.

    I knew everyone in our group or their significant other. But they didn't know each other. So I had them do a little name game where they introduced themselves and said something interesting about themselves. Then each additional person had to say the name and interesting fact about the previous person. I found out that a lot of people in our group lived in interesting places like Japan, Australia, and Canada. We even have one person (I won't say who) that was part of a world record setting team of skydivers!

    I spoke about one of my favorite subjects, chickens. I informed people that while the Howard County zoning law may be amended to allow residents to own chickens more easily, roosters will not be permitted. But some counties do allow roosters for conjugal visits. People always find that amusing.

    After lunch, we did the obligatory CPA group photo. See thirteenth photo.

    I took point again and we were back on the water paddling to the most upstream portions of Furnace Creek beyond route 10.

    We saw some deer, egrets, herons, turtles (fourteenth photo), and what I think was an eagle nest on the power line tower just west of route 10 on the south side of the creek.

    The south side of the creek was developed with modest homes while the north side was more natural (fifteenth photo). It was a good mix.

    We were done around 1600, having paddled 8.3 miles.

    The rain and thunderstorms held off.

    A few people joined Lisa for drinks at the American Legion while the rest of us went on our merry way.

    The sun finally came out for awhile once I got home.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Lloyd Creek
    Our 2012-2013 winter was colder than normal as was our 2013 spring. Here it is mid-May and it feels like we've had only a taste of spring here and there. So it came as no surprise to Norma when I said I was going to take Friday, May 17, 2013 off from work to go paddleboarding.

    It was a perfect day. The high temperature was in the mid-70s, it was sunny, low humidity, and wind not more than 8 mph. I knew that if I didn't take the day off to get out on the water, I would regret it. With conditions so ideal, I decided the stand-up paddleboard (SUP) would be better than a kayak.

    I headed out to the eastern shore. I wanted to paddle someplace far away and spend a lot of time on the water.

    As I drove east on highway 301, I saw what I thought was water spraying in the air. I got closer and realized it was smoke. Closer yet and then I knew it was a swarm of insects. I continued driving and saw several more swarms. I tended to notice them in grassy areas, especially on the east side of a field though I expect that maybe they were just more visible there with the morning light. I pulled over to investigate. See first photo. As the wind blew, the swarm scattered but then regrouped. In some areas, there were perhaps a dozen swarms. I drove through one swarm and then observed the insects that stuck to my car. They were about the size of aphids but they were dark brown instead of green.

    It took awhile to get to my destination because my GPS got me off track and then I made things worse by trying to rely on my own intuition. I swore that my next car will have a built-in compass. But eventually I got there...a boat ramp in the town of Betterton. See second photo. Betterton is on the Kent County (south) side of the Sassafras River.
    Betterton Landing provides access to the open waters at the mouth of the Sassfras River. Betterton historically was a major tourist destination featuring a boardwalk, bandstand, and numerous hotels before the construction of the Bay Bridge in the 1950s encouraged tourists to bypass the Eastern Shore en route to Ocean City.
    - from sign at Betterton Beach

    I've had many good trips on the Sassafras. In the summer, there are lots of lotus flowers. In the early spring, I can see a heron rookery. The last time I paddled here was on August 12, 2012. On that trip, I saw a sign that described Lloyd Creek:
    Scenery here is characterized by high forested cliffs that contain numerous bald eagles, ospreys, and blue heron. In just over two miles, the mouth of Lloyd Creek is an excellent location to rest, swim, and fish. At this point, paddlers can return to the landing for a 4-mile round trip, explore the unspoiled wilderness of Lloyd Creek, or continue for another 3 miles upriver to Turner's Creek Landing.
    - from sign near Turner's Creek

    I was determined to find out just what made Lloyd Creek so special.

    I launched around 1100 heading upstream. There were some nice homes to my south.

    I heard a voice calling to me. I looked at a nearby house and saw nobody. Then I looked on the pier and the shore and still saw nobody. I wondered if it was just a bird that I mistook for a human. Then I heard the voice again. Looking down, I saw a woman in the water. She was asking me what I was on and I told her it was a stand-up paddleboard.

    After not more than a mile, the town came to an end and I was left with more natural scenery. I saw numerous eagles. I knew it would be pointless to try and count them all so I didn't try but I'm guessing I saw a couple dozen during the day.

    The land to my south was sandy beach that measured about 8-20 feet from the waterline to the treeline. See third photo. It went on for a good mile. I saw about 3 "no trespassing" signs but they weren't in the best of shape, very visible, or posted with much frequency. I was thinking that whoever didn't want us trespassing really didn't care all that much if we did or didn't. One sign read "Regulated Shooting Area...Unauthorized Hunting or Trespassing Prohibited, T. Sergeant Pepper Owner/Operator." It looked legitimate except for the name. Saying it is owned by Sergeant Pepper is like saying it is owned by Mickey Mouse.

    Eventually I made my way into Lloyd Creek. Except for a very infrequent house that was fairly hidden or some duck blinds, the place had a very natural and pristine feel about it.

    I paddled counterclockwise around the perimeter. My goal was to explore every nook and cranny of the creek.

    I saw a large island on the west side of the creek. Judging by the size of the trees and the height of the island (fourth photo), I'm guessing it has been there for awhile. On maps, it has no name. I saw several herons flying amongst the tops of the trees. I also saw patches of brown amongst the green. It looked like a heron rookery. See fifth photo. As I got closer, I heard the unmistakeable squawks of baby herons.

    I looked for a place to land so I could get closer. The steep cliffs of the island would make accessing the upper part difficult. On the south side, the island sloped closer to the water so I landed there and climbed up. But the breyers were so thick, I couldn't get through. So I paddled back to the west side, landed, and climbed. There wasn't much of anything stable to grab onto as I made my way up but after about 25 vertical feet, I was on level ground near the top.

    I looked down and saw a lot of bird s**t. Then I looked up and saw some nests. See sixth photo. Had I been here 6 weeks ago, I would have seen a lot of nests but the trees were so thick with leaves that there was little to see. I moved around to get a better look but I only saw about 5 nests. The squawking of the juveniles stopped once they heard me moving about the brush.

    I climbed back down. This was not easy and I don't think I would do it again or recommend it to anyone.

    I paddled away from the island heading west. As I got further out, I could see several more nests near the tops of the trees that I would not have been able to see on the island. See seventh photo. I'm guessing there were at least 20 nests.

    I made my way closer to the shoreline, passing amongst lotus leaves. See eighth photo. In the summer, these leaves are often 2 feet in diameter but today they were more like 6-10 inches. I paddled slowly and carefully so as to disturb the leaves as little as possible. Wherever there were lotus leaves, the water depth was about 16 inches.

    A few empress/princess trees in full bloom dotted the shoreline. Their purple and white flowers were quite a sight (ninth photo).

    Heading south, the creek got narrow and more scenic. There were lots of arrow arum.

    I saw raccoon footprints in the sand (tenth photo).

    I heard frogs (bullfrogs?) croaking so I turned off my stereo. Hearing Alice Cooper is good but frogs are even better.

    I had to do a couple of portages.

    Eventually, I was stopped at a small dam after paddling up the narrow, scenic portion of this creek for a mile. See eleventh photo. I climbed up, crossed a gravel road, and found a large pond on the other side. My map didn't show this road or the pond. In this pond was a family of swans. See twelfth photo.

    This section of the creek was definitely easy on the eyes. See thirteenth and fourteenth photos.

    Continuing counterclockwise, I headed southeast on another narrow, scenic sub-creek of Lloyd Creek. See fifteenth photo. I did another one or two portages and only made it up 0.4 mile. High tide was around 1500 and that is when I was there so I don't think I could have gotten much further so easily.

    On the way back downstream, there was a photogenic opportunity I couldn't pass up (sixteenth photo). Not such a great photo but in real life it looked quite nice. Standing on my SUP, I reached for a branch to stabilize my camera. Then looking at the branch, I saw a blue-lined skink hiding in a crack (seventeenth photo).

    One would have a hard time paddling out here in July with all the lotuses but I'm sure it would be beaufiful. You'd just have to stick to deeper water since the small lotus leaves covered several acres of the shallow parts of the creek.

    I wondered where all the showerhead seed pods went. Then I pulled ashore and saw several dozens of them, covering the ground. See eighteenth photo. I don't know why there were none in most areas but here I found the jackpot. I grabbed a few to take home to show Norma.

    I saw three muskrats throughout the day. Seeing them on an SUP is much better than seeing them on a kayak but me seeing them easily means they can also see me. They dove before I could turn my camera on. As they went under, their skinny tail was the last thing I saw. I only got one photo and it wasn't a good one (nineteenth photo). I think the reason this one didn't dive is because he was carrying some leaves in his mouth...possibly to build a den.

    I saw one snake during the day. It was swimming. Again, on my SUP, I had a great view of it but that only lasted a couple of seconds. Once it saw me, it disappeared in the blink of an eye.

    I made my way back to Betterton after spending almost 5.5 hours on the water. I usually don't bother re-applying sunscreen but I defnitely needed to on that bright day. I only paddled 13.5 miles but most of that time was spent moving slowly through shallow waters.

    I checked out one of the maps posted on a sign that showed Lloyd Creek in relation to Betterton and Turners Creek. See twentieth photo. It looks like the map route assumes people will stick to the deeper sections of the creek.

    On the way back, I stopped to investigate another launch site called Still Pond Landing. See twenty-first photo.

    This was the most likely the first perfect day of paddling in the year. I'm sooooo glad I spent it on the water. Spending it behind my computer at work would have been a sin.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Chicamacomico River
    On April 28, 2013, Lisa invited me to join her and her friends for some kayaking in Dorchester County. Afterwards, I decided to do a little exploring. Back at home, I studied maps of the area. Over the next few days, e-mails went around from Lisa's group about exploring Worlds End Creek, a place that has piqued my interest over the last few years. The closest launch site for this that I know of is Asquith Island. I had tried to find something on Golden Hill Road (route 336) or on Parks Neck Road but found nothing for either. After studying satellite photos, I thought Charles Creek Road might be a suitable launch. It looks like there is a beach and room to park. But satellite photos don't always indicate if roads are public or private so whether or not it is doable remains to be seen. I was motivated to go back for some long distance kayaking.

    I put together my Dorchester County float plan. I would paddle the Chicamacomico River. I had seen this river when looking for launch sites and read about it in Ed Gertler's writing. It is a
    slightly longer and slightly prettier version of the Transquaking River to which it is a tributary.
    - from Maryland and Delaware Canoe Trails

    After kayaking, I planed to investigate Charles Creek Road as a potential launch site for Worlds End Creek.

    The forecast a few days out called for sunny temperature in the high 60s with little wind. I was thinking of taking my stand up paddleboard (SUP). But as the actual day of exploration approached, the temperatures dropped and the wind picked up with a day of launch prediction of a high of 63 and a northeast wind of 16 mph. Too windy for me to do paddleboarding.

    I loaded up my S1-A surfski and bicycle then left the house at 0650 on May 4, 2013. It was a long drive but that was o.k. since I would maintain my rule of thumb which is to spend more time doing the activity than driving to and from the activity.

    My first stop was New Bridge. Here I locked up my boat, PFD, and paddle to a tree. They were kept out of road view, hidden amongst the reeds.

    Next, I drove to Bestpitch. Sadly, I found that this location was no longer open to the public. There was a cable across the entrance with signs posted saying "Private." But I looked across the river and saw what looked like another site. I was pleasantly surprised to find a big parking lot and public ramp at a place called Fishing Bay. See first photo. My car was the only vehicle there.

    During the drive, I saw a bald eagle in flight and a muskrat in the water.

    I unloaded my bike, threw some air in the tires, then biked 10.4 miles to New Bridge. Along the way, I found a turtle crossing the road. See second photo. I made sure it got to the other side safely.

    I prepared to launch. I saw some other kayakers. Between 2 recreational kayaks, I saw 8 fishing poles attached to their boats. Another couple were in a recreational tandem.

    By about 1100, I was on the water.

    It was hard to find tidal information for the area. High tide was at 1013 at McCreedy's Creek in Fishing Bay but that was 25 miles downstream. I could find no better data.

    I paddled under New Bridge (a tight squeeze) and went upstream on Otter Pond Branch. This is a lovely creek (third photo) with lots of trees and spatterdock, which are now blooming. The spatterdock was thick and I often found myself paddling through it, not being able to go around. But this was not a problem with my surfski which just found its way between leaves without damaging the plants. I made it about 0.9 mile upstream before turning around.

    Next, I paddled up the Chicamacomico River. I generally don't like kayaking on rivers I can't pronounce but for this I made an exception.

    The river was very scenic. See fourth photo. This far upstream, it had a fresh blackwater feel. I saw more eagles.

    Some parts of the river were wide and it wasn't easy to figure out the deeper areas. But I knew spatterdocks like shallow water so I tried to stay away from them. Still, there were times where all I saw was spatterdock.

    I made it to about a quater of a mile south of highway 50 before I turned around. I never did any portaging and if I had a shorter boat, I would have certainly continued on.

    Back at New Bridge, I pulled out and ate lunch. I completed 7.2 miles of very scenic kayaking. It is definitely a route I would recommend.

    I was wearing my wetsuit and neoprene top but I was a still little cold with the wind so I also threw on a splash jacket.

    I continued downstream on the Chicamacomico. It was now around 1330.

    Paddling south, I caught a lot of wind on my port side.

    My sunny weather was turning overcast.

    Downstream, the scenery changed to more of a grassy, marshy look that became monotonous. Unfortunately, it remained this way for the rest of my trip.

    I saw numerous eagles. Including the one I saw while driving, there were 11. I also found 3 eagle nests. They are so big, they can be hard to miss. See fifth photo. Interestingly, I saw few, if any ospreys. I'm thinking that they compete for the same food with the eagles so the eagles drive them away but that is just a guess.

    I kayaked under the bridge at Drawbridge Road. I think one could do a rip rap launch here and also have room to park. This could make for a mediocre rest area.

    I paddled up Beaverdam Creek just downstream of Drawbridge Road. But I could not get far without a portage being as Griffith Neck Road cut through midway.

    I tried to explore the various tributaries I encountered along the way but I quickly learned that unless my GPS shows the waterway or unless my map actually gives it a name, it is too shallow to explore.

    Another lesson I learned is that when the river widens, follow the duck blinds. Hunters can get to the duck blinds via power boat so I know the water is deep there. A couple of times I strayed away from the blinds, only to find myself stuck in mud. I'd get out and try to walk with my boat then step into a deep hole. This made it very slow and frustrating to get anywhere. Sometimes these shallow areas covered quite a large area.

    There often wasn't any place to stop and take a break. The duck blinds usually made for the best rest stop.

    I passed some ducks sitting on eggs. I didn't see the eggs but I knew they were there. Birds don't lay low on land and give me "that look" unless they are sitting on eggs.

    Downstream of New Bridge, I saw no kayakers. During my whole trip, I saw no power boats except for one launching. There were very few houses too. I really felt like I had the river all to myself.

    I was hoping to paddle up Hurlock Creek but I either missed it or found it too shallow.

    I saw one muskrat while kayaking and I spotted maybe 40 of muskrat mounds (sixth photo). In one 75 meter by 75 meter area, I saw a dozen mounds! See seventh photo. They were anywhere from 1.5 to 3 feet thick. I wondered if they might be nutria mounds but the on-line photos I saw indicated they were from muskrats. Additionally,
    Some nutria dig shallow dens into the mud of marsh banks. Dens have a nesting chamber inside.
    - from Chesapeake Bay Program - Nutria

    The wind was really blowing. I am guessing it ended up being 18 mph with gusts of 22.

    I'm really glad I brought my GPS and marked the take out. There were some places where it became a little confusing to know which was the right path to take. If I had to backtrack, I would not have been a happy camper, paddling with all that wind. I was getting tired, more mentally than physically. A mile from the end, the Chicamacomico merged with the Transquaking River. I had to study the GPS for a long time to determine which route to take.

    I finished my trip around 1730, having paddled 21.7 miles. I did the entire Chicamacomico River! I'm definitely glad I didn't bring my SUP on this trip.

    My car was still the only one at the take out.

    I loaded my boat with great difficulty. At 22.5 pounds and 18 feet in length, it caught wind like a kite. After getting it in the saddles, I had to wait for a lull in the wind before loosening my grip to strap it down.

    It was getting late and I was exhausted. I still had a 2 hour drive home so I aborted exploring a launch site for Worlds End Creek. Maybe another day. I picked up my bicycle then headed home.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Hoopers Troopers
    On April 26-28, 2013, my good friend Lisa rented a house on Middle Hoopers Island in Dorchester County then invited a bunch of people to share it for a weekend of kayaking. I was one of the lucky invitees. But conflicts in my schedule only allowed me to spend one day with her and group. So on April 28, 2013, I was up at 0430, leaving my house at 0500 for a 2.5 hour drive. Normally, I would never drive this far for a day paddle but for Lisa I will make an exception.

    The drive down was scenic. Going through the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge area around dawn is quite the sight. As I approached what I thought was a cell phone tower disguised as a tree, I soon realized it was a real tree and the things that I thought were antennas were actually egrets! There must have been 10 of them all gathered together at the top.

    I met the group at the rental house. It was a nice place with a view of the water. One could conceivably launch a kayak from there but it would be a rough rip rap launch. A much better choice is to drive a quarter of a mile to the Hoopersville Public Boat Ramp.

    The forecast high temperature was 62 degrees with a south 6 to 13 mph south wind.

    We all drove out to Tylers Cove Public Boat Ramp (first photo) at the southernmost point of the mainland just before the islands. Then, after our obligatory group photo (second photo), we launched.

    By 0900, there were 12 of us on the water: Lisa, Eric K., Tom M., Ben M., Bob G., Steven J., Pat K., Sue B. Debbie S., Madeline T., Julie K., and me. I had my wing paddle and Prijon Catalina. Everyone else had Greenland or Euro paddles. I usually wear my wetsuit and neoprene long sleeve top in such weather at this time of year but today I decided to wear my splash jacket and splash pants. When I wear a watch, I put it over my Under Armour shirt. This keeps sand from getting between my skin and the watch and wearing at my wrist. But this created another problem. My shirt sleeves extended two inches past the cuffs of my splash jacket with my watch on top of the extension. While I had the cuffs fairly snug, every time my two inches of shirt got wet, the cold water was drawn into my splash jacket, settling at my elbows unless I raised my arms...then the water got pulled to my torso. So much for trying to stay dry.

    We left Tyler Cove for Fishing Creek. This area is known for erosion and shifting sand which means lots of shallow areas. To mark the channel, bamboo trees were put in the water. As long as you stayed between them, you'd be fine. Otherwise, you might run aground.

    We did a one mile open water crossing across Tar Bay to Barren Island. Then we headed north to Barren Island Point at the tip of the island. To our west we could see Calvert Cliffs.

    Somewhere on the northwest side of the island, we stopped for a break on the beach. See third photo. Just slightly to our south and inland were some interesting wetlands where I was hoping to find a beaver or muskrat but did not. See fourth photo.

    Continuing around the island counterclockwise, we passed through Barren Island Thoroughfare and into Great Cove. At one time this was simply a narrow part of the island but now it divides the island in two. Lisa said this happened with Hurricane Sandy last year in October. This area has often been subject to a lot of erosion and changes in water level but the superstorm (Sandy) was a real slap in the face for locals.
    At Taylors Island Family Campground, owner Bruce Coulson has a front-row seat to the damage wrought by sea-level rise. He and his group, the Dorchester County Shoreline Erosion Group, have long promoted ways to reduce the force of the waves pounding the shoreline in these parts so the bay’s increasingly ravenous appetite for nearby land will be slowed. He has good reason: The bay’s been stealing away his land—though not as fast as it’s been taking it from other nearby landowners, thanks to the huge chunks of concrete he’s placed along his shoreline. Each weighs 15,000 to 20,000 pounds, he estimates, yet the waves of Superstorm Sandy still managed to move them. Of the 15 acres of land that once comprised this parcel, 11 remain. “The other four is out there in the bay,” he says.
    - from Baltimore City Paper - Aquageddon

    Paddling through the Thoroughfare was not easy. It was only about an hour before low tide and we needed every inch of depth we could get. It was soooo shallow. Eventually, I just gave up using the paddle and pushed on the bottom with my hands. Surprisingly, I had few problems with getting stuck. What was amazing was the amount of area the shallowness spanned.
    At Barren Island, which has historically lost an average of five acres a year, the seas have claimed tracts that the maps still show as part of the island, and visitors can paddle over what had been land just prior to the last heavy storm.
    - from Baltimore City Paper - Wetlands, Exploring the Shrinking, Sinking Islands of the Chesapeake Bay

    Around this time, our nice sunny weather was starting to be replaced with overcast clouds.

    As we came back near Fishing Creek, a few paddlers decided to bail. The rest of us continued onward.

    Our landmark when crossing back across Tar Bay was what looked like an old barge at Charity Point. See fifth photo. But for me, this wasn't just a landmark; it was an opportunity to explore a shipwreck. There are few things I enjoy more about kayaking than exploring shipwrecks. So I landed at the beach where this boat was stuck (sixth photo) and commenced to have a lookabout. Some of this 100 foot long and 25 foot wide boat was rusted through. Most of the stairs that led to the covered area wouldn't support the weight of a normal person so I had to be extra careful when walking.

    Inside the cabin, I saw a huge engine. In the seventh photo, on the bottom right, you can see the walkway which was about two feet wide. The eighth photo shows a satellite photo.

    The first time I explored a shipwreck was with Lisa back on June 13, 2006. I wish I had gone back to take more photos because sadly, those wrecks are now gone. The last time I checked out wrecks (other ones) was July 4, 2012. Of course I've been to Mallows Bay now a few times. One book on my "to read" list is Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay and Other Tales of the Lost Chesapeake. It is just sitting on my book shelf, gathering dust. Maybe I'll get around to it after kayaking season has ended.

    I caught up with the rest of the group which was heading north along the shoreline. Around Aaron Cove, there were some trees that were the victims of erosion. Notice their roots in the ninth photo.

    I always enjoy photographing kayakers on the water. I think it is the whole "man versus nature" thing that appeals to me. See Lisa and Steven in the tenth photo along with Debbie in the eleventh.

    We stopped for lunch at a small sandy island near Houston Point. See twelfth photo. The island was covered with shells, but none worth collecting. I took a cat nap using my Therm-a-Seat as a pillow.

    Back on the water, we paddled into the wind and headed back to where we started, getting in just under 10 miles.

    I loaded up and said my farewells. The drive home was a bitch.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Maiden Voyage
    I don't know if I am a gook kayaking influence for beginners or not. I guess it just depends who you ask. Nonetheless, I have gotten people interested in kayaking. Two of these people are Janie and Jim C. Jim bought a new boat, rack, and all the equipment yet he hadn't get gotten his boat wet. I offered to help with that.

    I got Jim interested in kayaking last year on July 4, 2012. I figured it would get a good balance to all the jogging he does. After our trip, he was ready to become a full-fledge kayaker.

    I checked the tide and put together a trip for April 17, 2013. I invited five people but in the end it was just Jim and me.

    We worked a short Wednesday then headed out to the Queen Anne Canoe Launch. We dropped off our gear then drove to the takeout, Jackson's Landing in Patuxent River Park, where I had been just a few days prior on April 6, 2013 for a river cleanup. That day, there were several groups helping clean up the river between the Queen Anne Canoe Launch and Jackson's Landing. This being the case, I expected our route to be pristine.

    Jim left his truck at the takeout and we drove back together in my car to the launch. In the park, we saw a 3.5 foot long black snake slither across the road.

    I prepared my Prijon Catalina and Jim got his Necky Elias ready. See first photo. By about 1230, we were on the water.

    It didn't take long before we saw our first sign of wildlife...a bald eagle (second photo). Unlike most eagles, this one was not camera shy. Unfortunately, the sun was not cooperative so I didn't get a very good photo.

    Later we saw a kingfisher and Jim got familiar with its distinctive call. We also heard a woodpecker pecking away.

    The high temperature was about 75 degress. It was sunny when we started but later in the day, clouds rolled in along with a light wind. But no rain.

    The tide was going out which gave us a push of about one mile per hour. We averaged about 2.8 mph. The water was as calm as a pot-smoking sloth. See third and fourth photos.

    We saw an unusually large number of turtles. I am guessing I saw about 50 throughout the day. See fifth photo.

    With the tide going out and the current of the river, debris floated downstream. So it struck me as odd to see what looked like a piece of wood floating upstream. Looking closer, it turned out to be a muskrat, swimming with just the top inch of his body out of the water.

    One reason I picked this route is because I felt the distance (with help from the tide) is sufficient for a fit beginner sea kayaker like Jim. Another reason is because there is a very good chance of seeing wildlife here since it is away from big development. The last reason is because this route demonstrates different phases of the river. It starts out narrow and wooded with mostly fresh water. Then it widens as trees are replaced by grasses. The water becomes brackish. Then it continues to widen as is goes from a creek-like feel to a river. It may not have everything but it has a lot (of good stuff).

    We stopped at Patuxent Wetlands Park (Hills Bridge) for a break.

    There was some evidence of beaver activity along with two beaver lodges (sixth photo) but no beavers to be found.

    I spotted a 1.5 foot long snake swimming in the water. The water seemed rather cold for a snake to be swimming. Maybe it was escaping a predator.

    After completing our 10 mile trip and loading the boats, I showed Jim the Black Walnut Creek Nature Study Area. The trail for this connects with the Jackson's Landing parking lot. I spotted another muskrat but Jim missed it. What I believed to be skunk cabbage flourished. We also saw toad trillium in bloom. See seventh photo.

    Along with the many flowers were a good number of tiger swallowtail butterflies, busy at work.

    We passed by the Patuxent Rural Life Museum where we saw various old houses including the Sears catalog kit house.

    Jim drove us back to the launch area where we transferred my boat to my car. Then we said our farewells.

    It is important for every kayaker to have a positive experience on their first trip in their own boat. I think I succeeded in making Jim's trip a positive and memorable one.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Patuxent River Cleanup
    Every year since 2007, I've spent at least one day helping clean up the Patuxent River (Pax). It is my way of helping do something for the environment.

    I contacted Patuxent River Park via e-mail to find out when their annual cleanup would take place then set aside some time to help. Sometimes I help with the Chesapeake Paddlers Assocation (CPA) Pax cleanup but that requires proper water attire and canoe skills whereas anyone can help with the park's cleanup. So I figured I'd have a better chance of recruiting more volunteers for the latter effort. But in the end, Norma was the only other person to actually join me. Vince drove all the way out from Pennsylvania to assist but he ended up helping the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary group at Patuxent Wetlands Park (Hills Bridge) instead. There were some communication errors between us.

    We showed up at 0850 on Saturday, April 6, 2013. I checked in with Stephanie then headed to Jackson's Landing where I met Greg K. at the john boat.

    As is typical for this time of year, it was windy and cold. But the chest waders and PFDs they provided helped keep us warm.

    There were 12 people in our boat. I think everyone except Norma, Greg, and I were students.

    We got a late start, not leaving the pier until about 0930.

    Most places we cleaned were not too terribly dirty but some were. There were numerous balls, a toy bowling pin, old glass bottles, platic bottles, styrofoam, and non-broken incandescent light bulbs.

    Greg shuttled us around, dropping us off in two person teams to clean up various sections along the shore of the Western Branch. See first photo.

    Norma found a red bellied turtle (cooter) shell about 14 inches long. The skeleton was inside though it was headless. It now resides in front of our house.

    We saw a lot of volunteers from the kayak club including Ralph, Bela, and Dorothy.

    By 1230, we were done, having collected easily a couple pickup truck loads of trash in multiple boat loads. See second photo.

    My previous Patuxent River spring cleanups were on
  • March 31, 2007
  • April 5, 2008
  • April 4, 2009
  • November 6, 2010
  • April 2, 2011
  • April 7, 2012

  • Special thanks to the Patuxent River Park staff for providing the photos.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia
    From March 29 to April 3, 2013, I spent time with friends down south where we got in three good days of kayaking in Charleston, South Carolina; Ebenezer Creek, Georgia; and Tybee Island, Georgia.

    Espiritu Santo Island, Baja California, Mexico
    From December 28, 2012 to January 7, 2013, Norma and I spent our honeymoon kayaking around Espiritu Santo Island in Baja California, Mexico.