In Priscilla Cummings’ book, Chadwick the Crab, Chadwick begins his story by asking his friend Bug-Eyed Benny a loaded question, “Is there something missing in your life?” If Chadwick were asking me, 30-something year old woman living a simple life in Worcester County, MD, I’d have to say no. A wonderful husband, happy-go-lucky son, comfortable home, fabulous friends and family.
In June of 2012 though, I realized that I was lacking long-term, non-career-oriented goals. I realized this on a long drive, returning from a camping trip in southern Virginia. As we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and passed Fisherman Island (the southern most point of the Delmarva Peninsula), my goal hit me like a bolt of lightning: kayak around the entire peninsula before I die. Simple, right?
I’m originally from “the Western Shore” as the locals in Talbot County refer to it. Amidst the rolling hills of northern Baltimore County, interest in the Chesapeake Bay was first sparked by my first grade teacher, Mrs. Mayo, when she read us Cummings’ Chadwick the Crab. Although I was fascinated when learning anything about marine science, I brushed the passion aside until college; marine science was too dorky, right? But fast forward, with a Biology degree in one hand, and a kayak paddle in the other, I started my career at Delaware Seashore State Park as a park naturalist. I spent the next 4 years playing in the marshes of Delaware’s inland bays, teaching kids about horseshoe crabs, instructing adults on how to cast a surf rod, and experiencing local maritime history through the Indian River Life-Saving Station Museum.
My next career move shifted me to Tilghman Island, MD. Everyday I took a boat to an environmental restoration site known as Poplar Island. I was a bit bummed that having that “real job” prevented me from taking off with a backpack to a foreign country whenever I wished–that was a perquisite of working seasonally for state parks. However, as I got to know the waterman’s town of Tilghman, I realized there was just as much culture to experience here in Maryland as there was somewhere out in Patagonia or Indochina.
For two and a half years I spent most of my weekends visiting my boyfriend – now husband, Brian. Although Brian lived 95 miles away at the time, it was the perfect weekend escape – to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. We spent most of our weekends fishing from the beach or paddling various waterways within Accomack County. We explored some of the undeveloped barrier islands such as Metompkin, Cedar, and Parramore Islands. If we got sick of the Atlantic side, we would just switch it up and explore the Chesapeake side. I’m always amazed beyond words at how rural this area is. There are times when we’re headed up a creek (WITH a paddle, of course!) and it’s like we’ve rewound several hundred years. Not a house, not a car, not even a power line in sight. And no plane or boat to be heard.
In 2012, I landed a full time job back at Delaware Seashore as the Interpretive Programs Manager, which brought me back to the coast. I moved in with Brian in Ocean Pines, MD, one thing led to another, we got married in 2013, and our son Patrick came along in 2016.
Life has hit some incredibly difficult times. Challenges of raising a special needs child, the tremendous loss of loved ones, not to mention the overall shit-show of 2020. But all the while, no matter what challenge or obstacle I run into, I’ve been plugging away at my kayaking goal. Working on this goal is the one thing that grounds me. The one thing that I do for me. And while some people would paddle 650 miles in 2 weeks, I’m not ashamed it’s taking me over 10 years. I’m a real person, living a real life, and I just get out there when I can.
Kayak around the entire peninsula before I die. Yeah, I can do that. I might even get it done before I’m 40. Watch me!
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