laura paddles delmarva

Circumnavigating 650+ miles of Delmarva's shorelines


Oyster to Red Bank

Last Saturday was a BIG day on this journey. I finished the last leg on the Atlantic side of the peninsula! I’ve now paddled everything from Bowers Beach, DE to Cape Charles, VA (not to mention everything from Kent Island, MD to Hacks Neck, VA on the Chesapeake side).

The stretch between Red Bank and Oyster had me perplexed for a few years. It is long (15 miles), middle of frickin’ NOWHERE, and probably pretty susceptible to tides and wind. Because of all this, I decided a few years ago that this stretch would have to wait until I had a paddling buddy to go with me. Luckily the stars aligned last Saturday to make that happen! I made plans to paddle with Lisa and Kim (Kim came with me last year from Red Bank to Quinby). They are both members of the Badassawomen of Delmarva group (aka BAD) and I knew both of them had the stamina and the gear to do a 15-mile trip. Unfortunately, Kim’s kayak had a last minute equipment malfunction and was unable to join us, but she was still super kind enough to help shuttle us from one end of the journey to the other (thanks, Kim!).

I’ve known Lisa now for 15 years. She was actually the first person to ever give me a tour of the Indian River Life-Saving Station, way back in 2006. Our career paths have crossed several times over the years and I was stoked she could join me for this piece of the trip. Since she lives near me, we were able to ride together, and I was very grateful that she had a pick-up truck to haul both kayaks – so much easier than a roof rack.

When we arrived at the boat ramp in Oyster, we unloaded all of our stuff. Holy cow. It was so much stuff. When I looked at everything laid out on the ground, it looked as though we were headed out on a multi-day trip! But when you’re prepared and have everything from hydration packs and first aid kits to paddle floats, bilge pumps, and extra paddles, it adds up quickly. Lisa then drove to the ramp at Red Bank where Kim met her to shuttle her back down to Oyster. During the 40 minutes she was gone, I enjoyed relaxing on the dock of the kayak launch, watching the tide creep up the bank, and watching at least a dozen boats launch! It was a beautiful Saturday so I could see why so many people were headed out on the water.

As soon as we launched and paddled out of the harbor, I was thrilled with how high the tide was (thanks, offshore Hurricane Henry!) and how calm the water was. It was like a mirror and very reminiscent of the conditions that Kim and I paddled last year. And despite the many boats I saw launch at the ramp, there wasn’t a boat in sight, or in earshot. If we stopped paddling for a moment, it was completely silent. It was pretty cool. I hadn’t heard silence like that in… I don’t know how long.

When I scoured Google Earth last year to examine the possible paths to take on this leg, I figured we’d have to follow the marked channel, as Ramshorn Bay appeared to be super shallow, and if you’ve followed my blog for several years, you KNOW I don’t need a repeat of the great low-tide mud incident of 2015. But due to the high tide, we were able to stick pretty close to the mainland and enjoy the pretty views of the golden, fall marsh grasses, without any issues with mud! The first 9+ miles of this trip was mostly through open water and I found myself feeling pretty grateful to have a paddling buddy. Although this stretch was absolutely beautiful, it was a lot of the same scenery – open bay to the right, marsh on the left. For 3 hours. Having someone to chat with along the way was wonderful. Sometimes when I paddle long, open-water stretches alone, particularly in remote locations, I get too in-my-head about how far I’ve gone, how much further I have to go, was that thunder or aircraft… all kinds of thoughts. But before I knew it, we were 10 miles in, and entering the marsh creeks just south of Red Bank. Check out our path on the map:

The Virginia Water Trails map shows this creek to be navigable, but cautions that low tide could make for a challenging trip. Although the tide was on its way out, it was still pretty high, which allowed us to navigate the narrow creek without any issue. Since the tide was going out as we entered the creek, we definitely noticed we were paddling against the current, but luckily it wasn’t super strong. But when we passed smaller creeks that fed into the larger creek we were paddling, the water got weird. Swirly little eddies formed. It wasn’t super challenging to paddle through, but we definitely noticed our boats moving differently from time to time. And somewhere about halfway through the creek, we passed the threshold of the outgoing tide, and felt the tidal current pushing us towards Red Bank. I was enjoying the helpful current so much that we almost missed our turn into the creek that would take us to the boat ramp! We had to back track a tiny bit and as we turned around, that outgoing tide was VERY noticeable, along with the south wind which was against us as well! But once we got into the final creek to take us to our finish line, the last mile was pretty smooth sailing.

As I sit here and reflect on the journey, the words I would use to describe this trip would be “peaceful” and “quiet”. I still can’t quite get over how quiet it was. And not just because there were hardly any boats, people, or aircraft, but also because we saw hardly any wildlife! Not one osprey, bald eagle, or oystercatcher. Not even a terrapin. A handful of gulls, great egrets, two herons, and a jumping needlefish about sums up our list. We did see one bird species though, which we guessed was a whimbrel, but I had to look it up to confirm when we got home – we were right! Kim is a very skilled birder so we definitely missed her today when we saw those guys.

Despite few wildlife sightings, the tranquility was just what my soul needed. And I am beyond thrilled to have reached the milestone of paddling the entire Atlantic coast of the Delmarva peninsula! I’ve now paddled 460 miles of my ~650 mile goal 🙂

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Terrapin Nature Park to Jackson Landing

It’s that time of year again – my annual “staycation” to burn leave that will expire at the end of the year. And of course that means logging some miles. Although this is already the second week of my 2 weeks off, it’s the first kayak trip. The wind was not cooperating last week, plus I was a bit back-logged with work for Virginia Water Trails, so last week was mostly spent catching up on the side-hustle.

Not only was it the first official kayak trip of my staycation, it was also Patrick’s first day of kindergarten! Brian dropped him off, but I still stayed at home long enough to help him get ready for school and take the obligatory “first day” photos. Fast forward – he had a great day! The kid loves school so much.

After wishing him well on his first day, I headed up the road to Kent Island. I dropped my bike off at Jackson Landing, located just east of Kent Narrows. I then drove to Terrapin Nature Park, a waterfront county park that overlooks the bay bridge. The noise of the traffic just made me feel closer to the infamous “western shore”. Although I’m originally from that “western shore” I can’t help but feel my blood pressure go up a tiny bit as I approach it. The Eastern shore has been my home now since 2007 (plus a few summers prior to that) and I totally live by the slower, quieter lifestyle of the shore now.

And as I was unloading my kayak, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two early-20s women that were parked right next to me, discussing why they chose X agency over Y agency to sign with. “Well X won’t even consider you if you have a zit.” And then, “Well Y has a specific diet you have to follow.” “Oh no, I could never do that. But I don’t know why I even considered Z agency as they always choose the famous people, I would have had no chance.”

Uh, what? Where am I? Then, two other dudes walk up to them giving them info about when their galleries would be available to view and asking them if they should send the proofs directly to their modeling agencies. Oh my, I am not on the lower shore anymore! Clearly these girls just did a photo shoot down by the water, where I was about to go.

The water, however, was a 0.37 mile walk from my car, so this was the first time I utilized wheels! Nothing like a brisk walk through a flowery meadow to start off the day’s adventures!

The bay was like glass and made for super easy paddling. And there was hardly any boat traffic in the bay. I guess the day after Labor Day is not known as a big boating day, but man everyone was missing out. Such a beautiful day! And almost all of the houses I passed looked completely vacant. Like summer was over and people were already back to their busy autumn lives. Most of the houses I passed were GIANT mansions, but it was odd – the last house on the very northern tip of Kent Island was kind of a dump! Well, in comparison to the huge, manicured lawns, in-ground pools, fancy terraces, etc.

As I rounded the northern tip, the current got kinda swirly on me for a bit. I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was the wake of a few boats in the distance hitting the point and the tide? Not sure. I didn’t take many photos for the next 2 miles as I wanted to concentrate on paddling, and be alert for any rogue waves.

I could see the Kent Narrows bridge WAAYYY far off in the distance, and I knew I had to go just beyond it to get back to Jackson Landing, so I started to feel overwhelmed by the fact that I was not even quite halfway through my paddle. My hands and arms were already starting to get tired and the sun was starting to beat down. Luckily, there still wasn’t as much boat traffic as I had imagine on this stretch, so paddling across the open water wasn’t too tricky (once I got beyond that weird swirly current near the northern tip). At times the water was so calm, my depth perception was challenged. The subtle ripples in the water water and the occasional boat wake made for a trippy feeling. Add that to being far enough away from the shoreline to not feel like I was moving at all, it was just bizarre. I checked my GPS multiple times to make sure I was making progress – I was, but not as quick as I thought, given my new, sleek kayak and ideal paddling conditions. I still haven’t looked at what the tides were doing, but I’ll just assume the tide was against me. That’s my only explanation for not paddling the pace I had hoped for. Or maybe it was the wheels that I strapped to the back of my kayak weighing me down?! I probably looked pretty ridiculous to anyone that saw me, with those wheels sticking up in the back!

I finally got to Kent Narrows and knew I wasn’t far from the finish. I did have to wait off to the side to allow 3 boats to go through the Kent Narrows channel before crossing, but that was it. Glad I didn’t try and paddle this stretch on the holiday weekend! Then I rounded the last little peninsula and I could see Jackson Landing in the distance, about a mile away. But for some reason the last mile was KILLER. The wind and boat wakes were at my back, but I still felt like I really struggled to paddle the last mile. Again, not sure why, so I’ll blame it on the tide that I never looked up 🙂 But to be honest, it was kind of all in my head. I had estimated that paddling the 11.2 miles would take 3 hours, and I finished in 2 hours and 59 minutes!

When I arrived on the beach, I swapped out my kayak for my bike, and took the Cross Island Trail back to Terrapin Nature Park. The ride was just shy of 7 miles and was a nice combination of marsh boardwalks, and paved paths through wooded areas.

Here are the paths I took today, both kayaking and biking on the same map: