laura paddles delmarva

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak


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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).

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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.


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Deal Island WMA to Champ Wharf

I’m taking two weeks off from work! Yes, you heard me right. Taking some time to burn vacation days, get stuff done around the house, and go kayaking!

Patrick’s first day of Pre-K3 was yesterday so as soon as I dropped him off at daycare (he takes the bus to pre-k in the afternoon), I headed out to Deal Island to paddle.

Once again, I embarked on a one-way paddle and a bike ride back to my starting point, so I dropped my bike off at Champ Wharf first.  It had been over 5 years since I paddled from this spot, but it was still familiar. I then drove down to the boat ramp within the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area to launch my boat.  About two years ago I ended a trip here and biked up to Dames Quarter boat ramp, but I had sort of forgotten the 2+ miles of gravel road, and already started to dread riding my bike over it later in the day.

Anyway, I set out on my adventure.  The weather was perfect. 5 knots and 75 degrees.

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After about an hour of paddling, I saw a sandy beach to take a quick break on. I don’t normally take a break just to stretch my legs, but I really wanted to take in the silence of the marsh and bay. I could not hear anything man-made. No boats, not aircraft, no cars. Just the soft breeze and occasional laughing gull in the distance. Plus it was a nice spot for a few photos:

After a few moments of soaking in the view, I hopped back in my boat and continued on.  Once again, thank goodness for my GPS tracker app! I have such a hard time looking at a map, and recognizing what’s what when it comes to marshes and tidal creeks.  If you zoom in on the map, you’ll see a few divots in my path – that’s where I thought I was headed in the right direction, but pulled out the GPS and realized I was going off course and had to correct myself.

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Champ Wharf

I finished up the paddle in just under two hours – a total of 7 miles.  The wind did pick up a little out of the NE at the end as I was headed into St. Peter’s Creek, so I definitely got a workout! I felt accomplished when I got out of the water (as always), but I knew my adventure wasn’t over yet!  I had a 10+ mile bike ride ahead of me, I’m not a super strong cyclist, and I was dreading the last 2 miles of gravel!

 

The first few miles were nice. Back roads, one of them not even maintained by the state, cool old abandoned houses, with plenty of shade and protection from crosswinds. I loved this intersection so much I stopped to snap a pic. If this isn’t a Maryland intersection, I don’t know what is!

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And then I entered the main road (363 – Deal Island Road).  And it was not nice. No shade, wind was picking up, trucks driving by me really fast, and it was now HOT! I powered through until I got to Dames Quarter to take a quick break, grab a drink of water, and catch my breath. I figured the worst was behind me – how bad could that gravel road be?

BAD. So, so bad. I was exhausted from paddling and biking, and now my brain was rattling inside my skull with every damn pebble I rode over. Now I know what mountain bikes are for! I had no choice but to keep chugging along and finally I came to the group of trees next to the boat ramp (I couldn’t see the boat ramp because the trees were blocking it). Shew.  Finally, almost there.

And then I biked around the edge of the trees and realized I had OVER A MILE left of the gravel road. The trees I thought I had just passed were WAY far down the road! I wanted to cry.  I could see the glint of sunlight reflecting off my car and it just seemed so far away.  But, I had to keep going, despite having just finished my last bit of water. Nobody was coming out here to save me, that’s for sure.  After a quick break in a tiny patch of shade, I mustered the energy to get through the last stretch. Holy moly. I was slightly sun burned, exhausted, out of water, and now had a throbbing headache from 2.2 miles of biking on gravel. I cranked the AC in my car full blast and nearly collapsed. Once I cooled off and caught my breath, I was able to disassemble my bike, load it inside the car, drive back to Champ to pick up my kayak, and head home.

I had just enough time to unload all my crap, hose down my PFD & paddle, and get a quick shower before picking up my elementary schooler!

How sweet is this boy??


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Crocheron to Wingate

I went on another solo kayak/bike adventure on July 29. The theme of yesterday’s paddle was NAVIGATION FAILURE. No matter how skilled I get in kayaking and spending time on the water, I still get disoriented and can’t always match up what’s on the map to what I’m actually seeing!

Looking at this map, I think it’s pretty obvious that I made an error. My plan was to paddle directly (as possible) from Crocheron to Wingate, but when I rounded the tip of the little peninsula, the water got pretty choppy and I was unable to take my phone out and check the GPS to make sure I was headed in the right direction, but seriously, how hard could it be? I decided to wing it. And you want to know what’s funny about winging it?  The tiny “town” of Wingate is not pronounced win-gate, as it would appear. The locals pronounce it as WING-IT. Well clearly my attempt to wing it led me astray and when I was finally able to stop paddling in the choppy water and pull out my phone, I realized I had paddled a good 1-2 miles out of my way. And not only is that frustrating, but it was also incredibly difficult paddling across that stretch from Crocheron to the tip of Hooper’s Island. I literally yelled at myself and may have dropped a few 4-letter words. I was already exhausted and realizing I just added 2 miles to my trip was soul-crushing.

But I did it.  I survived, and I was never in any danger.  Just tired.

Other than my failure to navigate, it really was a pleasant paddle.  I started the day super early (got up at 5:00) and drove Wingate, which felt like the end of the earth – do people really live down here?! When I got to Wingate I unloaded my bike at the public landing and locked it to a telephone pole (they have phones and electricity all the way down here?!).  I then continued down the road about another 4.5 miles to the boat ramp in Crocheron and set out on the water.

Once I corrected my navigation mistake, I completed my 11.2 mile journey back to the landing in Wingate (which should have only been 9.5 miles). I paddled up to the ramp which had a boat on a trailer just sitting on the ramp, a few feet from the water, with no driver in the truck. There was still plenty of room for me to use the ramp and get out, but the driver’s side door was hanging open and I could hear the truck dinging like the keys were in the ignition. What really made it challenging was getting out in a NASTY ramp.  Grass clippings and fish carcasses were clogging up the waterway – so much that it was difficult to paddle the last few feet to the ramp. So gross.

As I picked up my kayak and carried it up out of the way of the ramp, the owner of the boat and truck came out of the fish house that was next to the ramp.

“You by yourself?” he asked, in his THICK Dorchester County accent.

“Yep.”

“Gotta be careful out there.”

I smiled, and was tempted to be like “Yes, it’s cool, dude, really. I am a certified kayak instructor, I used to have my 6-pack captain’s license, and I have a bilge pump, paddle float, PFD, VHF radio, cell phone with GPS, a float plan left with my husband, extra water, extra snacks, a first aid kit, and even a headlamp.”  But I didn’t say all that.  Just, “thanks, I know.”

I gathered a few valuables (cell phone, radio, wallet) in my bag and then hopped on my bike and pedaled the 4.5 miles back to the Crocheron landing. From there I loaded up my bike, drove back to Wingate, and loaded up my kayak.

This time the waterman offered to help me load my kayak and I was tempted to say “dude, you think I’d drive to the end of the earth to paddle 11 miles with all the proper safety precautions and equipment, and not be able to load my kayak on top of my car?!”  But I didn’t.  Just, “no thanks, I’ve done this before!”

Aaanndddd I don’t have any photos of this trip.  My camera had some issues and I wasn’t able to transfer the photos to the laptop.  Dang it!  Here’s the only photo that I have, since I took this with my phone when I got home.  However it IS my favorite photo of the day – first time I used the roof rack and bike rack at the same time!

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Quinby to Wachapreague

Back in the saddle for the 2019 paddling season! It’s been way too long and I’m determined to put in some serious mileage this year. The last few years have been tough to find enough “me” time to paddle with a little one at home, but I’m feeling pretty motivated. I have a ton of leave that I need to use up so I plan to take some time off in the fall to dedicate to paddling Delmarva!

Paddling the seaside of VA can come with some challenges, particularly tide – more so than MD or the Chesapeake side.  I’m not really sure why, but I’m going to guess that tides can be stronger because there are more inlets, and there are some big expanses of water that are too shallow to paddle at lower tides.  But today both the wind and the tide were on my side.  The wind was coming out of the SW at about 9 mph and it was high tide (or close to it) for most of the paddle today.  It really was perfect for paddling this stretch.

I always spend a good bit of time the night before a paddle deciding where and when and how I’m going to accomplish it.  I chose not to include my bike in this adventure because I knew I had to pick up Patrick from daycare and therefore I didn’t feel like removing his car seat and then reinstalling it at the end of the day (can’t fit my bike otherwise).  The distance between Quinby, VA and Wachapreague on land is about 4.3 miles so I figured I could run/walk back to my car after paddling the 5-6 miles on the water.

I launched at the public wharf in Quinby a little before 8 a.m. (got up at 5:15 to have enough time to eat breakfast and drive down to VA).  Quinby is a TINY little town right on the water.  I don’t think there’s anything there except some houses, a public boat ramp, and a post office.  The views from the town though are spectacular – gazing across Upshur Bay at Parramore Island – the folks that live on the water here are truly a world away from everything.

When I paddled out into the bay, I was pretty surprised at how windy and choppy it felt and I got a little nervous that this was going to be an unexpectedly challenging trip.  However the wind was out of the south and I was headed north so no big deal.  At times it was fun to sort of ride the little waves as they gently pushed me northward.

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White caps in Upshur Bay

When I’m planning a paddling trip, I typically spend a good amount of time on Google Earth and referencing various counties’ public boat ramp maps.  This time I used the VA Seaside Water Trail website for advice which is a very thorough and useful tool if you ever plan to paddle this area.  It indicated that there was a long “expert level” kayak route between the two towns, with another less-advanced and shorter route through the marsh creeks that would only be accessible at high tide.  Lucky for me, it was high tide and I was able to take that creek.

On every trip I almost always reference my GPS tracker app multiple times to make sure I am on my intended path.  Today that was extremely challenging.  When viewing my phone outdoors, the satellite mode is pretty hard to see so I usually rely on the “schematic” google map (the typical google maps colors you’re used to seeing).  Most of the marsh creeks behind Parramore Island were not identified in the schematic mode so I had a really difficult time finding the right creek to take, but after some hunching down in my kayak and blocking the sun with my hat, I was able to see the path on the satellite layer.

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Can you see the fiddler crabs?

Once I got into the marsh creek the wind was not really affecting me anymore and navigation was super easy (just follow the creek!) and I was able to relax a bit.  This stretch of the trip was so peaceful.  I felt miles and miles away from anything and anyone.  I couldn’t hear anything except my paddle hitting the water and the occasional clapper rail.  I saw lots of small terrapins (every time I rounded a bend a few plopped into the water from sunning themselves on the marsh banks) and bajillions of fiddler crabs!  So. Many. Fiddlers. More than I’ve ever seen anywhere.  And they weren’t shy either – I swear some of them were waving as I passed on by!  I’m used to fiddler crabs scurrying quickly into their holes when you get too close to them.

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When I got out of the creek, I crossed Bradford Bay (saw a bald eagle chillin’ in the marsh – see above) and approached the town of Wachapreague.  As I neared the final stretch, two Coast Guard vessels passed me – first time I’ve encountered Coasties on any of my paddling trips!

I ended the trip at a boat ramp that I haven’t seen in 6 years!  The ramp is free and is on the north side of the Island House restaurant.  Brian and I launched from that ramp back in 2013 when we went kayak camping on Cedar Island.  I can’t believe I have stuck with my goal for over 7 years – started this journey in June of 2012 and I’m still going (sort of) strong!2019_0617_08381900

Now you probably think that’s the end of my adventure, but NOPE!  After I locked my kayak under the stairs to the Island House restaurant, my plan was to run back to my car, 4.3 miles away.

Oh dear.  It was like 90 degrees and I was tired from paddling.  It was the longest damn 4.3 miles of my life!  I ran portions of it, but dang, I am terrible at running in the summer.  Honestly, I’m terrible at WALKING in the summer.  I have no tolerance for any kind of exercise in the heat, unless it’s paddling!

The advantage to walking back instead of biking was that I took in more of the sights.  Check it out.  Cute kayak rental place, a guy driving through town on a lawn mower, a few cute little churches, a guy that mounts shipwreck pieces in his front yard, a fixer upper with a view, an abandoned church, farmland with a view, and finally my return to Quinby Wharf!


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Hoopersville to Wingate

It has been 1 YEAR since I got some real mileage in so today I got back in the saddle and logged a few miles. For anyone just joining, or for those of you that don’t remember, my ultimate goal is to paddle around the entire Delmarva peninsula before I die. I started about 6 years ago and so far I’ve paddled 266 miles of 675; 40% complete!

I chose to paddle from Hoopersville to Wingate today because I had a work field trip to the new Harriet Tubman visitor center in Church Creek. I actually got this tired-mom-butt out of bed at 4:30 this morning so I had time to complete the paddle before my 10:00 meeting!

I arrived at the Hoopersville boat ramp a little before 6:30 a.m. (thanks to Brian for dropping off Patrick at daycare!). It’s been a while since I was in a scenic place for sunrise, but the sun peeked above the horizon’s haze right as I was about to launch.

The winds were pretty much calm when I started out which normally makes for very enjoyable paddling, but oh my gosh, the FLIES! If I was within 20 yards of the shoreline, I got SWARMED! I’ve been in some nasty buggy situations in my time but this one takes the cake! At one point I may have had 40 flies on me, being bitten by half of them. Luckily nobody was around because it probably looked like I was having a panic attack or seizure, trying to swat them away. I was literally screaming it was so bad.

I finally got far enough away from the marsh to avoid the flies and was able to enjoy the paddle.

I did get to snap this photo of an old tractor on the edge of the marsh before the flies totally took over. I am really curious about this tractor’s story.  There’s no road, no farmland, nothing but marsh grass and water for at least a mile radius from this tractor. Maybe someone just dumped it there a few decades ago? Who knows.

Another interesting thing about this trip is that I had no satellite service to track where I was going. Usually I am referring o my GeoTracker App every so often to make sure I am headed in the right direction. The app typically works in the most remote locations, even when I have no cell signal, so this time I had to just navigate by the map I had in my head from looking at Google Earth the night before.  My goal was to paddle across the mouth of the Honga river and then head back to Hooper’s Island which was pretty straightforward. Had I been paddling a section of intricate marsh creeks I would’ve been screwed without a map!

Once I neared the end of Hooper’s Island I turned out to cross the Honga and then reached a point of land near Wingate. The trip so far was 4.78 miles but I still had to turn around and head back to the boat ramp, so even though the total trip was 8.8 miles, only the 4.78 counts towards my overall goal. It kinda sucks to put in “extra miles” that “don’t count” but then again, it’s still great exercise, and peaceful solitude spent outdoors so I shouldn’t complain. It’s just not feasible to always to a one-way trip.

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View returning to Hoopersville ramp

The return trip was tiring.  It was basically a solid 4 miles of open water against the wind that had picked up. But I got across and back to the boat ramp in about an hour, with plenty of time to drive back up to Church Creek and change out of my stinky clothes for my meeting!

Here’s the path I took for the first 4.78 miles (the miles that COUNT):

 


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Scharle Family Paddling

It’s official! Patrick has been introduced to kayaking and he liked it (he damn well better like it)!

On Sunday, July 1 Brian and I got Patrick out on the water. It wasn’t technically the first time; we had paddled around for a few minutes a few weeks ago, but this was the first time we got him out on the water for a solid 2 hours.

We launched from the Isle of Wight park and paddled around under the Route 90 bridge and explored a few beaches. Patrick got to see and touch horseshoe crabs, wave to other kayakers, and watch egrets feeding in the marsh. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to paddle with him in my lap. He didn’t squirm around much and enjoyed dragging his hand in the water as we were moving. The trickiest part was actually getting in and out of the kayak. I came close to smacking him in the face with the paddle shaft or squishing him against the side of the cockpit several times, but despite his fussing, he was otherwise happy and excited while paddling and exploring the beaches.


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Dames Quarter to Deal Island WMA

20170813_174544I got to continue my paddling at Deal Island today!  Since Brian took a day to himself last Sunday (tarpon kayak fishing on the ESVA), this weekend is was my turn!  Last month I launch from Dames Quarter and paddle up towards Fishing Bay; this time I launched again from Dames Quarter, but headed down through Chance/Deal Island and finished at a small landing within the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area.

It was a one-way, 9.3 mile paddle, so I packed up my bike for the adventure too.  I dropped my kayak off at the landing in Dames Quarter and then headed down through the Deal Island WMA.  Due to gravel road that I wasn’t expecting, the drive down to the landing seemed to take forever, and then I had to hop on my bike and cycle through the gravel, back to Dames Quarter.  I was lucky I didn’t get a flat tire!

Docks. This was basically my view for 5 miles.

Once I got back to Dames Quarter I unlocked my kayak, locked up my bike, and headed out on the water.  The first half of this trip was passing a whole hell of a lot of private docks and various different kinds of residences; everything from a few giant mansions to a whole bunch of quaint, waterfront cottages.  There were also quite a few people outside – fishing, floating on rafts, drinking, catching some rays – and everyone was so friendly.  I’m not used to seeing so many people when I paddle so it was actually a welcomed change of pace, even though I typically prefer the serene, remote feeling of kayaking.

After what seemed like forever, I pulled into the ditch between Chance and Deal Island.  As I rounded the left turn there were some crazy swells pushing me eastward.  Had I not been by myself in an unknown town, this would’ve been super fun to sort of ride the waves in, but because I was alone, and only half way through my journey, I was pretty nervous for a few minutes!

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Once I got beyond the breakwater/jetty and the bridge for Route 363, the water was calm and the houses gone.  I was once again, surrounded by nothing but marsh grass – typical for most of my paddling adventures.

From this point until the end, I only saw two boats.  Other than that, felt like the only person for miles.  I could not hear people, cars, or planes, and I couldn’t see any signs of man, except the occasional crab pot buoy.  As I came out of a small creek and entered open water again, there were multiple points of land I could see off in the distance, but I wasn’t sure which one I needed to head around to get to the WMA landing.  This happens all the time and I am constantly pulling out my phone to check Google Earth to find my way.  Almost every time this happens, I make a guess as to where the next turn will be, just based on what I can see and my own sense of direction.  I then check the map to see if I’m right.  I am almost ALWAYS wrong.  And not just wrong, but I always end of having to paddle further than I expected, and always when I’m in the homestretch and exhausted.  NOT THIS TIME.  I win this time, Google Earth.  I checked the map and even though I was still wrong, I didn’t have to paddle nearly as far as I thought I had left!  Yes!!!

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As I rounded the point and headed up to the landing, my arms were killing me.  I’ve certainly paddled longer trips than 9.3 miles, but yikes!  Either I need to paddle more often, or hit the gym on a regular basis again.  My arms and fingers are actually sore as I’m typing this and glad I’m at the end of the post now!

 

Here’s the path I took:


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Dames Quarter to Clay Island

I’m sorry to say I haven’t been in my kayak since OCTOBER. Yikes. However, I’m pleased to report that I am STILL working towards my goal of paddling around the entire peninsula. To be perfectly honest, when I started this 5 years ago, I really didn’t have enough faith in myself that I would stick with it this long. In the beginning of this adventure, I remember writing in a post about how I needed some non-career-oriented goals in my life. Since then I’ve acquired a husband, a new & challenging job, a house, and a BABY (!), but my little kayak blog here will always be something I do for me, and only me.

Enough of the deep, mushy thoughts though. Today I paddled a total of 11.25 miles after being somewhat physically inactive over the last few months. 11.25 miles. MILES. Yeah, I paddled a bit over the last 2 months for work, led a kayak training, led a tour, but never paddled more than 3 miles in one day.

Brian had been encouraging me to take some time for myself and I finally got around to it, so he stayed home with Patrick so I could have some much-needed me time. I was out the door by 6 a.m. (that’s not that early with a 16 month old at home!) and made a bee-line to Somerset County to the tiny town of Dames Quarter. I had spent a while the night before weighing my options and deciding which leg to do based on wind, weather, the fact that I didn’t feel like bringing my bike, drive distance from home, etc. Since Brian was not available to shuttle me, and I didn’t bring my bike, I had to do an “out and back” rather than a one-way trip.  So I took this opportunity to paddle some “connections” between future trips, rather than choosing to paddle ultra-scenic marsh creeks or interesting canals.  The wind was super calm so I decided to get some open water trips over with.  Basically, I covered the mouths of the Wicomico and Nanticoke Rivers:

I never like to paddle more than 2 mile stretches through open water (I try to stay within 1 miles from land at all times, although that’s not always possible).  My plan was to paddle from Dames Quarter (Messick Rd boat ramp), north to Waterview, west to Clay Island, and then go back, retracing my steps (well, strokes). If boat traffic was minimal and the wind stayed relatively calm, my plan was to just paddle straight from Dames Quarter to Clay Island (4+ miles of open water). As soon as a launch and looked out towards my destinations, I couldn’t even SEE Clay Island with the haze, so therefore I paddled straight north to Waterview (across the mouth of the Wicomico).  As I got closer to the land near Waterview, I came across the most adorable little waterfront cabin. It was at least a mile from the next house up, and surrounded by just a few loblolly trees and marsh. Probably no plumbing, no electric, just someone’s sweet getaway, miles away from human connection. I see places like this frequently on my paddling trips, and the more I see, the more I WANT ONE. This dream might have to wait until retirement, but I need to make it happen.

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It was at this point that Clay Island was visible.  And it wasn’t nearly as far as I thought it was when I started.  So many times I think my destination is SO FAR AWAY and then I get closer and realize the trees near my destination were far away.  The marsh is so low in elevation that I forget I just can’t see it from a distance.  You’d think I’d get that by now, but it still throws me off every time!

Anyway, I paddled close to shore for a short distance before heading west across more open water (the mouth of the Nanticoke).  I only saw one waterman today. And whenever I DO see watermen, I wonder what they think when they see me out in the middle of nowhere by myself. I’d like to think they see me and think “wow, good for her, not afraid of a little adventure” but I’m sure it’s more like “stupid kayaker, out here alone, miles away from civilization, doesn’t know nothin’ bout the water, getting in our way.”  I suppose I’ll never know.

Once I reached Clay Island it was like Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Dragonflies”. Good god they were everywhere. I had dozens land on my kayak, my arms, my paddle. Blugh. Pretty harmless insects but that many gives me the willies!  I couldn’t even get right up next to the marsh because there were THOUSANDS of them covering the grasses and shrubs.

I quickly turned around to head back.  Given that the wind was light and blowing from the NW, and I had only encountered one boat (the waterman), I decided to paddle straight back to Dames Quarter, rather than going back by way of Waterview. No boats in sight, wind at my back. Not bad. I got about 2-3 miles across the open water, when off in the distance, out of the Wicomico river, comes a HUGE barge, being pushed by a HUGE tug boat. WHAT?? I didn’t know vessels HALF that size could back it up the Wicomico! Like seriously, WHAT?! It appeared to be moving pretty slowly, but remembering back to my days running boats out of Tilghman, large ships ALWAYS look like they’re barely moving and that all of a sudden they’re like, right there. About to eat you.  I realized I was like IN THE MIDDLE of the channel so I hauled ass to cross the channel and get far, far away from the channel.  I finally got to a distance away from the channel that I thought was safe so I stopped and glanced behind me.  The barge had stopped and the tug was circling it?  Huh? What this some kind of weird training?  I guess they gotta train new captains somewhere.  I paddled a little further and then glanced behind me again to find the tug now actually tugging (towing) the barge. Interesting. Not only was I flabbergasted that a giant vessel would travel the Wicomico, but it was pretty darn cool to see it maneuvering. Made me miss my days working on the water!

And just like that, 11.25 miles later, I was back at the landing.  Too bad only 6 of the 11.25 miles I paddled actually count towards my overall goal, but not a bad workout!

Happy 4th! (the flag was much more notable in person)


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Prime Hook to Slaughter Beach

A refreshing, 8.5-mile paddle took me from Prime Hook to Slaughter Beach, DE today.  I knew the Delaware bayshore existed, as well as Prime Hook NWR, and other beachy places like Fowler Beach and Slaughter Beach, but I always underestimated them.  I figured anything north of Lewes wasn’t worth my time.  Today I was proved wrong.  I really don’t know why I’ve never been paddling up in this area before.  It was beautiful scenery, abundant wildlife (well, birds), and an incredibly remote feeling overall.  The perfect weather didn’t hurt either!

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lots of shorebirds!

 

 

The journey started with Brian (and Patrick!) dropping me off along Prime Hook Beach Rd.  The two of them played on the beach while I was paddling.  I launched from the shoulder of the road in VERY shallow water.  There were plenty of gulls, terns, and other shorebirds wading in the water which made me think this trip was going to be a major failure – too shallow and too much kayak-dragging.  But that turned out not to be the case!  There was a nice little channel that was marked with sticks that led me all the water to Fowler Beach Rd.  (GoogleMaps is deceiving.  It appears that I was paddling through marsh, when it was really open water, but VERY shallow.)

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channel-marking sticks

 

 

I knew there was some kind of spillway at Fowler Beach Rd so I was expecting to portage.  When I got there, the spillway was open and navigable, but the bridge going over the channel was too low and the tide was too high.  I had to portage anyway.  Luckily, 4 women were walking up the road and offered to help me move my kayak to the other side of the road!  I was so thankful for their help!  In return, I pointed out a northern harrier and juvenile black-crowned night herons for them (they seemed new to birding and were very excited).

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After eating my lunch, I continued on.  One of the really nice things about this paddling trip was that I followed a channel through the marsh the rest of the way.  There was no need to navigate, and no to need pull out my phone w/ the map every 15 minutes.  I could simply paddle and enjoy the trip.  And the feeling of solitude!  I didn’t see or hear any sign of human life for another 2 or 3 miles!  Seriously, if you had just blindfolded me and dropped me off in that creek, I never would have guessed I was in Delaware.

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But then I finally did come in contact with human life.  Shirtless, Natural Light-drinking, country music-listening fishermen on the Slaughter Beach Rd bridge.  “Yo, you got a canoe comin’ man” was what the one guy said to the other as I passed underneath.  Yup, a bright orange canoe.

It was about that point when the outgoing tide started to really help me.  The wind, not so much, but overall the last stretch was pretty easy.  Especially when I passed under the Cedar Beach Rd bridge!  The tide was really ripping.  I don’t think I’ve ever moved that fast in my kayak.  I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like to paddle against the tide there – glad I timed it right!  And a minute later, I was at the boat ramp, awaited by hubby and baby!

A couple other photos from the trip…