laura paddles delmarva

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak


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Red Bank to Quinby

Love this photo captured by my friend Kim!

On Thursday, September 3, I paddled from Red Bank, Va to Quinby, VA, but luckily this was another trip with a paddling buddy! This was one leg of my journey that I was a little nervous to do alone, so I took it upon myself to find someone that could paddle along with me. Shout-out to BAD – Badassawoman Adventures of Delmarva, a group of outdoor adventure-minded woman on the eastern shore.

This meet-up style group has done some cool events in the last year or so, but COVID sort of put all of those events on hold for the last couple months. The facebook group however, remains somewhat active, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and posted in the group that I was seeking a paddling buddy to come with me on some of the longer, remote locations. Within a day of posting, Kim commented that she was interested in coming with me at some point.

From there I monitored the forecast, selected a potential day to paddle from Red Bank to Quinby, and Kim was all in! I was stoked to paddle with someone for a change, particularly since I so enjoyed paddling with my sister the day before. My only concern was… how serious was she? I’ve had people tell me in the past they want to paddle with me, but 11-12 miles is a bit much for a beginner. I certainly don’t want to be a snob, but I also don’t want to venture out, only to have to rescue or tow someone!

When we met at Quinby Wharf, I was instantly relieved when I saw she came with a nicer kayak than mine (fiberglass Perception), bilge pump, GPS, etc. I just thought to myself, “shew, she’s legit. She’s probably more experienced than me!” From there, we threw her kayak on top of my car, and headed to Red Bank. I was not familiar with Red Bank at all, except that a local ESVA aerial photographer frequently posts photos of the marsh creeks around it, and has mentioned time and time again that it’s one of his favorite places to photograph. Once we launched and started heading down the creek towards the bay, I totally understood why – the twists and turns of the creek, the wide open vistas of the bay – and it was especially gorgeous because there wasn’t a lick of wind and at times we couldn’t even quite tell where the horizon was between the water and the sky.

It really was great to have a paddling buddy on this trip. There were some long stretches that were more enjoyable with conversation, rather than being left to my own thoughts and surroundings, if that makes any sense. We paddled out of Red Bank Creek, across the mouth of the creek that leads to Willis Wharf, and up along the edge of Upshur Neck. The wind was so minimal that it looked like we were paddling towards the end of the earth at times.

The best part of the trip was a marsh creek that cut through a long point of marsh (and probably cut out 2 miles by going through the marsh, rather than around it). We weaved back and forth through the curves of the creek, admiring the birds around every bend. Kim has more experience birding than I do, and was able to identify just about everything we saw! My favorite sightings were about a dozen whimbrels and a black-bellied plover.

When we were about half way through the creek, we were actually able to identify where the tidal flow changed. For the first half of the creek, we were paddling against the out-going tide. It wasn’t super strong, but when we reached a point where we were paddling with the outgoing tide (leading out to another bay/inlet), it was a noticeable change. This might sound super boring to the average reader, but it’s these tiny observations that I get excited about! It makes me feel that much more experienced in understanding how tides work – something that consistently confuses and intrigues me at the same time.

When the creek finally opened back up to the bay, I could just about see Quinby in the distance. What I also noticed was a large mud flat in front of us! The water was pretty shallow, and I could see a coloration difference in the water ahead of us, and the brownish color signified a very shallow mud flat that would not be fun to try and paddle over. It may have only been a few inches deep! I interrupted our conversation, pointed out what I was seeing to Kim, she agreed, and we slightly altered out course to paddle around it. Success! We were in deeper water in a matter of moments, and we never ran aground or had to get out and drag out boats through the mud!

Before I knew it, we were rounding the bank leading into Quinby. I couldn’t believe how fast 4 hours went by! I truly underestimated how helpful it would be to have someone to paddle with! Thanks for a great day, Kim! Can’t wait for some more “B.A.D.” adventures!

We paddled 11.4 miles in 3 hours and 52 minutes. I’ve now paddled 363 miles of my ~650 mile goal 🙂

Here’s the path we took:


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Broadway Landing to Crystal Beach

img_20200902_091859572Today I had a paddling buddy! It was the first time in (literally) years that I’ve had someone paddle one of these trips with me. And who better to paddle with me than my very own sister, Julia!

I certainly wouldn’t take just anyone to come paddling with me, but even though Julia isn’t a huge kayaker, she does some pretty bad ass things like mountain biking, skiing, backpacking, and paddleboarding. Coming to visit the east coast from her very active lifestyle in Colorado seemed like a no-brainer that she could handle paddling several miles with me.

Since Brian’s kayak is super heavy and rigged for fishing, it wasn’t the best option for Julia to paddle, so we decided to rent her a kayak. Shout-out to Burnham Outfitters in Onancock for providing exactly what she needed, and arranging to meet us at the rental shop before business hours!

img_20200902_083936963_hdrWe launched from Broadway Landing which is just south of Onancock. The landing is for car-top vessels only and had room for maybe 2 cars to park. We did have to drag our kayaks a ways down the trail to get to the waterfront, and along the way, I saw some of the biggest fiddlers crabs of my life! I mean GIANT fiddler crabs. They were more like cellist crabs! Sorry, Dad joke 🙂

We launched and headed straight to the first beach we saw along the south end of the Parkers Marsh Natural Area Preserve. After sitting on the beach and admiring the view, we continued around the bend and followed the west side of the island all the way to the northern tip. The wind was coming directly out of the south so we really cruised along quickly.

img_20200902_100414850It was SO NICE to have a paddling buddy. Usually I think about paddling, what I’m doing, and my surroundings the whole time, but this time it was nice to catch up on life. Having conversations while paddling made the time go by so fast! Before I knew it, we had gone 3 miles. We stopped on a another beach to hang out for a bit, and then I pressed on to the northeast to “connect the dots” with a trip I completed back in 2015. Brian and I had rented a house for a long weekend on Crystal Beach back in the spring of 2015 with our friends Julia and Alex. Julia (friend Julia, not sister Julia) actually paddled a 9 mile trip with me that we arranged to end at the house we rented, so today I paddled back to that beach. img_20200902_111357197_hdrSince it was private property, and a dog started yapping at me, I was on the beach for maybe a minute before I decided to head back. Julia (sister, not friend) was hanging out on the northern shoreline of Parkers Marsh while I paddled to Crystal Beach. Once she saw me returning, she launched into the creek behind the island where we then met up to paddle together again.

I really liked this trip because we were able to do a loop, rather than an “out-and-back.” As we headed back south, we were able to paddle through some narrow marsh creeks (out of the increasing winds), rather than returning the way we came, directly into the wind and open water. The creeks were so narrow, I had to pull out my GPS twice to make sure we were going the right way!

When we came out of the creek and reentered the bay, the wind was coming straight at us, at about 10 knots. I was mentally preparing to struggle, but it really wasn’t that bad! Julia kept up with me beautifully and we conquered the 2+ miles into the wind with little issue.

The tide had been coming in the entire time we were out on the water, so by the time we got back to the landing, I actually had a hard time finding the landing. The water had come up so far that it looked very different! Plus my car wasn’t exactly parked right next to the water, so there wasn’t much of a landmark to show us were to go. However once we did find the landing, we were able to paddle closer to the car than we would have several hour prior (since the tide came in so far, as it was a full moon).

My overall thoughts from this paddle: I love remote, sandy beaches, and I love having a paddling buddy more than I ever would have expected! Who wants to go kayaking with me now?!

A few more photos from today’s trip:


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Bellevue to Trappe

Before I say anything about today’s trip, let me just say that I absolutely sucked at taking photos today. Not only was it overcast and the photos I actually did take were blah-looking, I missed some of the best moments of today.  But anyway…

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beach at Bellevue landing

I paddled from Bellevue to Trappe today. The 9.3 mile journey was relaxing for the first 2/3 of the trip.  I crossed the Tred Avon River, enjoyed gazing at the houses in Oxford, and there was just enough of a head wind to be mildly challenging and still enjoyable. I felt like I was getting a workout, but not over-doing it. Until I rounded a point of land and the wind came at me and an annoying angle, MUCH stronger.  For about a mile I really struggled. Not to the point where I had doubts I could do it, but to the point where I literally had to talk myself through it. I find that giving myself a pep-talk (out loud!) actually works. “Girl, you can do this. You’re crushing it. You’ve been in much worse conditions that this.” All that gobbly-goop pep-talk nonsense. It really works. I just make sure nobody is around to hear me 🙂  I did pass one waterman during that difficult stretch that waved to me, I waved back, and he probably had no idea I was struggling. Either that, or he thought I was absolutely insane for paddling alone in windy conditions.

After about a mile, I made a turn into the creek that leads to Trappe Landing. I just paddled out of Trappe Landing last Monday so it was all very familiar. I really like that little creek. There are some beautiful homes, deep water for multiple sailboats moving through, and everyone on passing boats always waves.

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my trust light post

When I finally got to the landing, I began switching out my kayak for my bike (I had locked it to a street light post on the way to Bellevue earlier that morning). I got my kayak locked to the post and was organizing my backpack for the 8+ mile bike ride to Oxford, when that same waterman pulled up in his truck. “How far’d ya row today?” (I silently chuckled at his very Eastern shore accent and the term “row”). I proudly said “just over 9 miles.” He didn’t seem impressed. Did he not understand that that’s pretty good? He just said “huh, I saw you down there around the corner.” Yup, yes you did. What a deep and thoughtful conversation.

Here’s the path I took:

 

I then hopped on my bike and started heading to Oxford. I was very pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this bike ride! There were hills! Actual hills on the Eastern shore. And almost all of them were downhill which was even better. The landscapes were a mix of woods and agricultural, and not as many houses as I expected. I saw a HUGE fox in a field (no photo), 4 turkeys crossed my path at one point (again, no photo, dang it), some cool whooly bear caterpillars, and about 8,423 grasshoppers. The sights and sounds reminded me of the scene at the end of The Shawshank Redemption, when Morgan Freeman gets out of prison and hitchhikes to the hayfield in Buxton. If it had been sunny, I would’ve felt like this was where that scene had been filmed.

I ended my bike ride at the ferry terminal in Oxford. It’s been about 10 years since I rode this ferry, so I was kind of excited to finish out my day with a quick boat ride, on the oldest, family-owned ferry in the country (it got it’s beginning in 1683!). The ferry took me straight to Bellevue where I parked my car several hours earlier. It was kind of bizarre to be on an outdoor boat ride and wearing a mask, which was required. Stupid pandemic! But whatever, it was just about the only time I needed to wear a mask today. That’s what’s so great about doing what I love – kayaking is very socially distant!

Oh, and I finished off the day with a delicious burrito and iced chai from Rise Up Cambridge!

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Trappe to Cambridge

Another Monday off, another 6.7 miles in the books! Today I paddled from Trappe to Cambridge. My sister, Julia, is on the east coast right now, bouncing between Baltimore County and Ocean Pines to visit with family. She was headed back to the western shore this morning after spending the weekend with us in Ocean Pines, so I took advantage of her driving west, to shuttle me across the Choptank River.

I left the house at 5:30, about 20 minutes ahead of her leaving. I drove straight to Trappe Landing, unloaded my kayak and locked it to a lamp post, and then drove to Gerry Boyle Park in Cambridge. I parked my car there and Julia picked me up and drove me back up to my kayak in Trappe – that way I didn’t need to ride my bike across the Route 50 bridge (I don’t think you’re allowed to do that anyway).

As I was getting ready to launch, I realized I left my bilge pump at home somehow. No big deal, unless this was to be the trip where I capsized for the first time. As I was about to launch, an old man (like he was pushing 90) was wandering the landing and struck up a conversation with me. “You don’t have much room in that thing!” LOL! I told him I had enough room for myself and that was all that mattered. Then he asks, “you ever fall out of that thing? I’ve seen on the television people that roll down in the water.” I told him I never have, but there’s a first time for everything! And of course as soon as I said good-bye and paddling out of the landing, I started to wonder if the universe was against me and that I was totally going to capsize on this trip!

Nevertheless, I continued on my journey, knowing that I really had no choice, because I was literally stranded in Trappe and my car was several miles of paddling away.

IMG_20200824_074718719_HDRThe creek out of Trappe was delightful. The sun was just starting to make the water sparkle, and I enjoyed admiring all the fancy homes and docked sailboats along the way. Several small pleasure boats and someone on a SUP passed and waved. Such a friendly little creek!

As I came around the point and entered the Choptank the wind and chop started to hit me.  My original plan was to paddle along the northern shoreline of the river, then cut across the river adjacent to the bridge, since I felt safer from boat traffic doing that. But the wind was really sloshing me around on the north side, and the boat traffic in the river was light, so I decided to take a turn to the south and head straight across. You can easily see on the map where I made the decision to cut across:

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my attempt at a pic of the sailboat in the choppy water

It wasn’t bad. The work boats in the area were nowhere near me, and the sailboats kept their distance. By the way, I think this is the first time in over 300 miles that I’ve really encountered any sailboats – hard to believe!

Once I got across the river, I had to take a minor detour due to a long jetty that was in my way. Not as bad as the detour I had to take around the Slaughter Beach jetty a few weeks ago, but it was still mildly annoying. Once I rounded the tip of the jetty, it was a short, straight shot to the boat ramp at Gerry Boyle Park (which by the way, super cute park with a pavilion, boat ramp, playgrounds, walking path, and beautiful views of the Choptank).

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Oh hey – and I never capsized 🙂


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Neavitt to Tilghman Island

Yesterday, August 17, I had the day off, the weather was BEAUTIFUL and perfect for kayaking, so I paddled from Neavitt, MD to Tilghman Island, MD – 10 miles.  There was a small chance of afternoon thunderstorms so Brian dropped Patrick off at daycare so I could get a super early start – 5:30 a.m.!  I packed up everything the night before – kayak, bike, breakfast for the road, lunch for the paddle, water, and all my kayak accessory crap – and hit the road by 5:45.

I arrived Neavitt Landing around 7:45 where I dropped off my kayak and locked it to a sign post. From there I drove to Back Creek Park at Tilghman Island where I parked the car, hopped on my bike, and started the 17 mile bike ride back to Neavitt. I am NOT a strong bicyclist at all, and was sort of dreading this 17 mile journey and feeling a bit daunted by the idea of paddling 10 miles after biking that far. But I told myself the night before that I was up to the challenge, and what better conditions to do it in – 70 degrees in the morning and light, almost calm, winds.

The ride was not as brutal as I was imagining.  It was definitely a challenge for me, but I only took one break about half way, and completed it in about an hour and a half.  If any half-decent cyclists are reading this, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me, but seriously, I suck at riding a bike! Trust me – my husband concurs 🙂

IMG_20200817_094227032_HDRI swapped my bike for my kayak and locked my bike to the sign post. I hit the water a little before 10:00. Some much more experienced cyclists were enjoying the view from the landing and wished me a nice paddle, and we both commented on what beautiful weather it was for both kayaking and biking. As I rounded the southern point of Neavitt, I looked across the water at Tilghman Island and thought – yikes, that looks really, REALLY far away! After about a minute of paddling around the corner, more land came into view and I realized what I had been paddling towards was Cambridge! Yikes! Good thing I only paddled a minute in that direction before realizing that was the wrong direction! The actual Tilghman Island looked waaayyyyy closer and much more doable. I’ve said this in many posts before, but DANG do I get disoriented on the water sometimes! Thank goodness for GPS and my awesome GeoTracker app, or I would’ve had to hitchhike from Cambridge to Tilghman. In the middle of a pandemic.

As I started to head across the 2 miles of open water, I was mentally preparing myself to deal with the watermen boat traffic. This is heavy watermen country and they STRESS ME OUT when I’m paddling near them. Checking their pots, or focusing on their trot lines, makes them seem unaware of where their boat is headed and if any kayakers are nearby. They also tend to erratically switch direction which makes paddling near them even more stressful. But I get it – I’m the crazy one out here, paddling alone across open water with a bunch of work boats in the vicinity. I’m in their territory, so to speak, so I’m mostly responsible for my own safety. Luckily, this trip across open water was less stressful than some other trips I’ve done. Fewer boats and none that got super close to me, so all was well. Once I got across the 2 miles, I could stay close to the shoreline for the rest of the journey, away from the work boats.

Although I’m pretty familiar with the Tilghman area since I worked in Tilghman and ran a boat to Poplar Island every day for 2+ years, I was excited to see the southern tip of Tilghman. I never actually took a boat out in that direction, and I was interested in seeing the famous “Black Walnut Point Inn,” a seemingly mysterious B&B that you can’t see from the main road and has a gated driveway so you can’t just go see it while exploring Tilghman.

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Black Walnut Point Inn

Well, I was highly disappointed by Black Walnut. I was expecting some grandiose, luxurious, old farmhouse with beautifully landscaped gardens and space to hold large, fancy weddings. Incorrect. Not even close. While it was cute, and I would still be interested in staying there one day, it was not at all what I imagined. The house seemed a bit more modern than I imagined, definitely way smaller, and honestly there seemed to be too much random “junk” in the yard that was not kept up super well. It also had some random trailer/cabin looking things that didn’t have the homiest feeling in the world.

Anyway, enough about Black Walnut, I then rounded the point and paddled straight up along the shoreline to Knapps Narrows. I was pretty beat after a 17 mile bike ride and 9 miles of paddling, so the last mile or so was definitely challenging, particularly since I haven’t done a great deal of long distance paddling this season (yet).

Now 6 years ago, I paddled from the other direction (from Claiborne) and planned to end at Back Creek Park, but I couldn’t quite find the water access point at the park, so I ended at the Knapps Narrow Inn instead, which it right next door to the park. I chose to end at the inn again so I could officially “connect the dots” on my overall map. I never got approval from the staff at the inn to get out here, but nobody onsite seemed to question or care that I did.  Once I got out, I left my kayak on the edge of the water, walked to my car, and drove around to the inn and loaded up.  I then headed back to inspect this Back Creek Park to try and find the kayak launch it was supposed to have. Turns out there is one, but it’s a good 1000 ft from the parking area – way too far to carry a kayak – and it’s down some stone steps and there’s almost zero beach to launch from at the bottom of the steps and it’s all overgrown with phragmites. It’s a terrible spot for a kayak launch in my opinion!

Overall it was a challenging, yet enjoyable day.  Here’s the path I took:


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Slaughter Beach to Big Stone Beach (and back)

It’s been way too long since I paddled a post-worthy trip, but I definitely logged some miles today.  It would seem that I’d have more miles logged seeing as though my workload decreased and I worked from home for over 2 months, but with a little one at home and Brian and I trying to juggled our schedules, “me-time” was pretty nonexistent during the COVID-19 “quarantine.”

Now that Patrick is back in daycare and I’m working a much more normal schedule, Monday is MY day and I was able to go paddling once again today.

After checking weather and tides, I decided the best spot to paddle was from Slaughter Beach to Big Stone Beach in Delaware. Since it’s pretty much impossible to bike between the two towns without riding on Route 1, I decided to do an out-and-back.  This looked totally doable since I measured the distance to be about 4 miles one way, and 8 miles is totally feasible.

I arrived at the Slaughter Beach boat ramp a little before 9:00.  I estimated the time it would take me, and then texted a coworker to tell her I would meet her at our offices in Dover to pick something up around 11:30-12:00.  The tide was going out so I cruised towards the bay.  As I approached the inlet, I realized there was a jetty.  A REALLY LONG jetty.  A jetty that was a mile long!  A mile in the OPPOSITE direction I needed to go.  I did NOT see this jetty on Google Earth when I measured the night before!

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gazing down the loooong inlet

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the jetty that i didn’t see on google earth

As I finally got to the end of the jetty and turned north, the wind was against me.  Although this was expected (and I planned on it so it’d be at my back on the way back), it was a little choppier than it would’ve been had the jetty NOT been there, and I had been able to paddle closer to land.  But whatever, I pressed on as it was still pretty early in my trip.

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great beach-combing here!

After about a mile or so back towards land, I pulled up on the beach just north of the jetty to see if it was feasible to safely portage my kayak over the jetty.  Good news!  It appeared there was a sandy area to drag my kayak over and launch into the river on the way back – shew!

I got back in my kayak and kept heading north.  It was dead low tide and I had to drag it across a span of mud flat and old marsh peat before I could actually climb in.  Since I was still heading north, I was still going against the wind, and since I haven’t paddled long distances lately, I got fatigued way sooner than I used too (or I’m just getting old).

It was pretty cool to see more of the Delaware Bayshore that I haven’t seen before.  I always think “crowded” and “heavy traffic” when I think of Delaware, but that’s just the resort towns.  The bayshore is pretty cool and always takes me by surprise as to how remote it is.  At one point I couldn’t see any man-made structures except a container ship far off in the distance.  I also saw some huge planes circling from the Dover AFB, and several times I temporarily panicked because I thought it was thunder.

Another thing that I found interesting was how shallow the water was, even 50-100 yards from the shore.  I realize it was low tide, but there were spots where the old marsh peat beds extended 100 yards or so out into the bay, making some areas 2 inches deep and completely impassable.  I really had to read the water and the waves to make sure I didn’t run aground.  If I ever paddle this stretch again, I’ll be sure to wait for high tide!

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Big Stone Beach

After what felt like forever paddling against the wind, I pulled up onto Big Stone Beach – a tiny town that consisted of maybe 10 house, several of which looked abandoned.  Here’s the path I took (that random straight line is NOT an error – that’s the spot where I paddled along the jetty)!

 

It was already 11:15 and there was no way in hell I was going to make it back to my car and drive to Dover by 11:30!  I called my coworker to let her know I’d be super late.  I also called a friend that lives nearby to see if she was available to drive me back to my car.  Like I said, I haven’t paddled long distances in awhile, and I already added 2+ miles to my intended trip because of that damn jetty.  Unfortunately she was not working from home and it would have been too complicated for her to figure out how to get away from work and give me a ride in the middle of the day.

So I took a deep breath, pulled up my big girl underpants, hopped back in my kayak, and started heading back south.  Luckily the wind was at my back, and I knew I could portage near the jetty so I wouldn’t have to paddle around it again.  The first half of the trip back south was smooth sailing and the wind really helped.  But about 2 miles down the beach, the wind seemed to die out and I was struggling.  I was only 2.5 miles from the end but I was BEAT.  I honestly started talking to myself and giving myself a pep talk to get through it.  My arms felt like jell-o.

I finally pulled up on the beach next to the jetty back at Slaughter Beach and began to drag my kayak over the sandy part of the jetty.  The tide had gone out even further from before so I had to drag my kayak further.  Holy moly I forgot how exhausting it is to drag a kayak over land!  I almost wished I had paddled around that dang jetty!  Well, almost, but not really.  I even got to a spot that was super muddy, nearly lost my shoes, had to back track a little so I wouldn’t drown in marsh mud, and then I had to drag my kayak across 50 yards of tall marsh grasses.  Not fun.

I finally got to a spot that I could safely get back in my kayak and paddled the final stretch back to the boat ramp.  All in all, I paddled 12 miles (instead of the 8 I originally planned on)!  Here’s the path I took to get back – if you zoom in you can see the squiggly line of my uncomfortable portage:


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Madison to Taylor’s Island

This past Monday, October 21, I had the day off from work and decided to squeeze in another paddling trip before the weather gets too cold. I typically go first thing in the morning, but because a storm was clearing out of the area, the winds were predicted to be significantly calmer in the afternoon, and out of the NE which was perfect for the area I chose since I’d be headed in a SW direction most of the way.

I unloaded my kayak at the Madison boat ramp and then drove to the Taylor’s Island boat ramp on Slaughter creek. From there I unloaded my bike and started biking back up to Madison. The 5-mile trip was pretty, crossing a few creeks and passing along the boundary of Blackwater NWR. I usually only take photos on the water, but I actually remember to snap a few during the bike ride:

I do apologize though, our waterproof camera is so scratched up and now takes horrible photos. Add a new camera to the Christmas wish list! Or better yet, maybe a GoPro. 🙂

The first stretch of the paddling trip was into the wind, which was expected, so I concentrated on paddling for the first mile or so.  As soon as I turned west to round the bend, the wind should start to be at my back, and eventually get even easier as I continued and headed SW. Or so I thought. As I turned more to the west to round the bend, the wind was even stronger! The wind was blowing directly out of the NW, not the NE as NOAA had predicted! I kept the camera tucked away and kept concentrating on paddling. The water and air temperature were both around 62 degrees and with waves and wind, it was a bit unnerving for about a mile. I was getting splashed more than expected, and worrying about getting too cold (I do worry too much though).

I struggled with the wind out of the NW until I got well into Slaughter creek and had some protection from Taylor’s Island.  At this point, I finally had a chance to take some photos and enjoy the scenery.  I even saw people on the shoreline fishing and enjoying the sunset.  They waved, and I waved back, but I always wonder when I see people (watermen, people on their docks, etc.) what they think of me. Do they think anything? Why is she out here all alone? Where did she come from? Where is she going? How far is she going?  Maybe they don’t think any of those things, but if I were sitting on land, I certainly would be questioning a solo kayaker in a random, remote part of the bay!

I wasn’t able to take any quality photos, not only because our camera is so worn, but also because I was paddling directly into the sun for a good while.

this was my view for a while…

As I neared the ramp on Taylor’s Island, I tried to navigate by memory to where the ramp was actually located. I launched at this same ramp over 7 YEARS ago, so paddle down to Hooper’s Island. I saw the bridge (Route 16) crossing the creek, and I could even make out my car in the distance, but honestly, NOTHING looked familiar. It’s amazing how some launches I haven’t seen in years look so familiar, whereas others have completely left my memory. I guess I’m getting old!

As I paddled up to the ramp, I passed a man that was working on his docked boat, getting it ready for waterfowl season. I again waved, and he waved back, but I still couldn’t help but wonder what he thought of this kayaker – where she came from, and where she was going.


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Madison to Ragged Point

My staycation continues with yet another kayaking trip. This time was an out-and-back. Not my favorite thing to do, but it’s nice not to have to pack the bike and shuttle between the start and finish. I also crossed the mouth of the Little Choptank so if I had done a one way, I would have had to bike 23 miles (feasible, but not enjoyable for me).

The nice thing about doing an out-and-back is that it saves time which was perfect today because I was able to get some paddling in, and still make it to a meeting I wanted to go to (Mothers of Preschoolers – woot woot!), although I was still late getting there.

In order to time with the meeting I had to get up at 5 a.m. Funny how if I had to get up at 5:00 for work, or to go to the gym, I’d have a heck of a time getting by butt out of bed, but when I get up for kayaking, it’s totally different! I was on the road by 5:15!

DSCF2394I got to the launch just in time for sunrise. There was not a soul in sight, which I was not expecting. Not event a truck and trailer parked in the lot. Usually there’s a waterman working on his boat, someone working in a fish house, or at least evidence that someone had already launched their boat for the day. Nothing here, which was even more surprising because this ramp is not far from civilization. Many of the ramps I go to are practically at the end of the earth, but there are still people there.

Although the wind was only around 5 knots, it was coming out of the WNW so as soon as I got up north of the marshy area and away from the launch, I was surprised by the size of the swells coming in from the bay. Not huge, but bigger than I would have expected for 5 kts. I actually didn’t need to use my GPS at all to navigate on this trip. Maybe I’m getting better at identifying what I saw on the map before I left? Or maybe this was just a super easy, straight shot over to Ragged Point.

I was also expecting a decent amount of boat traffic, given that I was in what I thought was watermen country. But not once did I have to worry about boat traffic. The paddle was actually quite relaxing and quiet! I zipped across the mouth of the Little Choptank and paddled until I hit land near Ragged Point. There is a boat launch further north of where I hit land, but whenever I end up launching from that ramp in the future, I will be headed south and will intersect the path I made today, so no sense in going all the way to the ramp (plus I had a meeting to get to, so no time to be wasted!).

can you spot the eagle?

I saw quite a few bald eagles flying and fishing, and one perched in a tree. I also saw TONS of GIANT sea nettles! So glad I wasn’t swimming. These things were seriously monstrous! I wasn’t able to get a photo though. By the time I saw one, I was right on top of it and didn’t have time to get by camera out (and didn’t feel like turning around to look at a dang nettle).

Another weird thing I saw was this striped bass. I spotted it from yards away. First I thought it was a water snake, but as I got closer, I thought maybe a muskrat, maybe a turtle, definitely a ray, no definitely a shark… nope. A fish. Chillin’ on the surface. He was totally alive, but I imagine not doing well. What fish just hangs out with its fins out of the water? (sorry, don’t know why I can’t get a clear photo. Of like, anything!)

I hustled back to the ramp and made good time – 3.79 mph (that might be a record for me, although I haven’t really kept track)! With all of these back-to-back paddling trips I’ve been doing on my staycation, I’ve become super efficient and packing up all my crap and loading my kayak on top of the car. From paddling to driving was less than 10 minutes! And I made it for the last 45 minutes of the MOPS meeting 🙂

Here’s the path I took – 3.8 miles. I only tracked one way, but if you really wanted to see the full out-and-back paddle, just draw a line on top of the one you see here:


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Guardshore to Hopkins

Two back to back days of paddling? I think it’s been 4 years since the last time I did that! Well, not counting kayaking for work or just putzing around locally. Today I headed down to Virginia to connect two trips I had done back in 2013 and 2014. I figured today would be easy compared to yesterday since it was a shorter drive, a much shorter bike ride, about the same distance of paddling, and way less boat traffic.

I started the day by driving to “Ann’s Cove” which is a county ramp. I always get a little anxious as I’m driving to a water access point that I’ve never been to, particularly when it’s in a remote location (which most of them are). The roads get rougher and narrower the further you get from the main roads, and the closer you get to the water. Sometimes I feel like I’ve made a wrong turn, thinking “there can’t possibly be a public landing down here!”  Many times I’m unfamiliar with the area I’m driving, and some of the neighborhoods are pretty rough around the edges. I sometimes see some sketchball people and get a bit nervous to be driving to a dead end road, alone, with no cell service, and god knows what creepy people might be around!

This is how I felt today as I drove to Ann’s Cove. I’m sure everyone that lives in the area is super nice and nothing to be afraid of, but sometimes I just overthink things! Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Dateline or watched too many murder mystery-type movies?

I noticed the wind was a bit stronger than I expected so I decided to unload my kayak, drive to Hopkins (Johnson Landing), and ride my bike first, rather than paddle first.  The wind was coming out of the east so I figured it would just push me out into the bay, rather than fight it back in. Only 3 or 4 cars passed me as I biked the 5 miles back to Ann’s cove, but I couldn’t help but wonder what they thought of me. I can’t imagine many people are just biking through this area.

Once I launched, I headed straight for Guardshore beach which was right around the corner.  This was the first of several beaches I got out and walked around on this trip.  The next stretch of paddling was super fun. The wind was pushing me in the exact direction I needed to go and I was even about to surf some tiny waves along the way.  As I rounded the first bend out into the open bay the wind was still pushing me pretty good, barely had to paddle. Check out this video, I didn’t paddle at all while taking it, and you can see how fast the wind was carrying me:

DSCF2366 from Laura Baldwin on Vimeo.

 

The thing that really caught my attention during this paddle were the beaches! Soooo many sandy beaches.  I got out on a few and saw many more. This is something you don’t see that much of in other parts of the Chesapeake, or even in the coastal bays. I’d be curious to learn more about what makes this area so beach-heavy. Currents? Bathymetry? Prevailing winds? Geology? Anyway, the beaches came in handy later. As I continued to round the marshes and beaches, I eventually had to start making my way back east – directly into the wind.  The beaches and small coves gave me several opportunities to take breaks.

The last mile or so was killer. Directly into the wind. Dang did I burn some calories. I was so freaking happy to see my car at the end as I was exhausted! I was also thrilled that I had already done the biking leg. The thought of getting on my bike after that windy paddle just sounded awful!

Another 8 miles in the books. And GUESS WHAT?! I’ve officially surpassed 300 miles of my goal! Only 300+ miles to go. Yikes. Here’s the path I took:


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Neavitt to Bellevue

Today the weather was looking a bit iffy on the lower shore, so I decided to head up to the mid-shore to paddle. The whole day was a little bit of a trip down memory lane as I spent 2.5 years living in Talbot County back in 2010-2012.  As this was another one-way paddle, I started by dropping my bike off at the boat ramp in Bellevue, which is also the ferry terminal for the Oxford ferry.  I then drove to the boat ramp in Neavitt which was 17 miles away – 17 miles I was planning on biking after I was finished paddling.  I was already dreading it since I struggled so much on the 10.5 mile bike ride on Deal Island!

Before I even launched, I had the most notable wildlife encounter of the trip – fish! I was greeted by hundreds of some kind of minnow; maybe mummichogs? Peanut bunker? Mullet? I couldn’t quite tell, but they were swimming in the coolest spiral patterns. I took some video – if you squint, you might be able to see them!

DSCF2344The water was like glass which made for very enjoyable paddling. The most frustrating thing for the first 3 miles of the trip though, was boat traffic! Watermen traffic. It’s one thing to deal with the pleasure boats – people traveling from here to there. But work boats are a different story. Their direction and turns are super unpredictable as they are either emptying a line of crab pots, or heading from end to end of trot lines. And most of the time they aren’t paying much attention for lone kayakers, and steering from the stern, rather than at the helm.  My blood pressure always goes up a little when there are work boats near me. Not sure if it’s because I’m stressed they’re going to run me over, or if I’m just frustrated. I get it though – they have a job to do, and I’m the foreigner in their everyday world.

DSCF2357Once I crossed Broad Creek, the boat traffic died down and I was able to realize the drastic change in scenery on this trip, in contrast to the recent trips I’ve taken. Trees! Wooded shorelines with big oaks, maples, sweet gum. Yeah, many of the waterfront properties had hardened shorelines full of rip rap, damaging the surrounding ecosystem, but it was so nice not to be staring at marsh grasses the whole time!

Another change in scenery were the houses. When you travel up and down Route 33, you don’t realize the number of giant mansions that are in the area because they are all set way off the road so they can be waterfront. Some of these homes are beautiful, and some are just downright ridiculous.

As I rounded the last point and headed towards Bellevue, I was greeted by the Oxford ferry.  I will likely take this ferry next time I head to this landing to paddle (I’ll probably go from Bellevue, to Oxford, to somewhere in Cambridge).

DSCF2360

After a quick snack and locking up my kayak, I hopped on my bike to start the 17 mile journey. I took it slow and steady as to not wear myself out.  It was still overcast and very calm winds, so before I knew it, I was in St. Michaels! I even rode the little 1.3-mile bike path on the west side of town.

The wind was still at my back as I headed beyond St. Michaels and down towards Neavitt.  The last 3-4 miles were definitely tough, but by the time I arrive back at Neavitt landing, I was still not nearly as beat as I was when I was biking at Deal Island. Thank goodness! Maybe I’m not as out of shape as I thought I was!

Another 7.8 miles in the books! Here’s the paddling route I took today.