euryhaline paddler

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak


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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…


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Fishing Creek to Hoopersville

Well, it’s been a while. Like over a year. Why? Life happened… literally! Brian and I welcomed our son, Patrick, into the world on February 9!

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And here he is… 7 months later 🙂

As you might imagine, he has kept us quite busy, and I certainly had to put a lot of my personal goals on hold. So this post is kind of a big deal. It marks the first official “me” day since Patrick arrived 7 months ago. To be perfectly honest, I was a little worried that having a child would be the end of this blog, and the end of attempting my goal of paddling around the entire peninsula.

Although becoming parents has been life-changing, it also hasn’t been life-changing. What I mean is, our life will never be the same as it was before, but we’re still the same people, with the same interests and hobbies, and the same goals. I just find that my daily priorities are different than before. That all being said, kayaking is not a top priority on a daily basis anymore, but it’s still important to me, and that’s why I’m thrilled to be writing this post right now!

Speaking of priorities, this post is a little late. I used to post the same day that I paddled, but this post is coming 3 weeks late!

On August 29, I paddled from Fishing Creek, MD to Hoopersville (Hoopers Island). Brian was super supportive of me taking a “me” day and decided to drop Patrick off at daycare AND pick him up so I wouldn’t have to worry about any time constraints. I packed up my car the night before; I had to take the car seat base out (ugh), disassemble my bike and pack in the car, and load my kayak on top.

I drove the hour and a half to Fishing Creek, MD, in south Dorchester Co. If you haven’t taken the time to drive through that area, I highly recommend it. Beautiful scenery & wildlife, some local history (Harriet Tubman, UGRR), and an overall remote/peaceful feeling. I stopped at the public landing in Fishing Creek and unloaded my kayak. As I loaded my kayak with gear and locked it to a telephone pole, I sort of felt like a fish out of water – multiple watermen working on their boats at various docks, talking with their heavy eastern shore dialects (which I love listening to, by the way). Meanwhile, here I am, clearly not from around the area. I’d be curious to know what the locals think when non-locals are choosing to use their salty hometown as a place for recreation, particularly since Fishing Creek isn’t exactly a tourist destination.

Once I got all unloaded, I headed down the road to the public landing in Hoopersville. I unloaded and assembled my bike, packed up my back pack, and started riding up the road back to Fishing Creek. Oh wait, just kidding. Priorities. Gotta pump. The kid has gotta eat. Yup. In the car, at a public landing. Hoopers Island. Awkward. What’s more awkward than pumping milk in a random parking lot in watermen country? Having a random truck pull up next to you while you’re hooked up to the stinkin machine. I was so weirded out I just didn’t look towards the truck. I have no idea who was in the truck, if they saw anything, or what they were doing. Luckily they were only parked there for 5 minutes or so. Still. So awkward.

Once I got Patrick’s lunch for the next day properly stored in the cooler, I finally started riding back up the road. Not only have I not been kayaking much lately, it had been a REALLY long time since I rode my bike. My legs felt like Jell-O by the time I got back up to my kayak, 8 miles away (yeah, 8 miles, I’m pathetic). It was an easy ride though, traffic-wise. I think I saw maybe 4 cars the entire trip. Plus it’s Hoopers Island – so flat, except for the bridges.

Once I swapped my bike for my kayak, it was time to hit the water. Man it felt good to get back in that seat! I had been kayaking multiple times for work, but this was the first time I had been in my OWN kayak in almost a year!

It’s been 3 weeks since I paddled so I’m going to try and remember the key parts of the trip.  First, not far into the paddle, I passed a house that did NOT belong in Hoopers Island. Very contemporary and eye-catching:

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weird, right?

After I passed the weird house and a few others, I started to pass some quiet marsh areas, with plenty of turtles and birds to look at. I didn’t realize at that moment though, that the majority of the trip was going to be open water and the wildlife-viewing opportunities would be few and far between. Blah.

As I rounded a point of marsh, I was able to just barely make out the bridge leading to Hoopers Island on the horizon. I sort of panicked for a moment at that point – did I over estimate what I was capable of? Is this going to take me 6 hours? I pulled out my phone and pulled up my mapping ap. My plan was to paddle alongside the land most of the way, but the bridge looked so damn far away that I decided to cut across the open water instead.

I then had to turn a bit west to get around a point of land. I had seen on the map that there was a creek that cut through the marsh neck which would cut out a good 2 miles if it was navigable. Sometimes it can be very difficult to spot the mouth of a small marsh creek when I’m out in the open water. I paddled right up to land, still not seeing the creek.  I started to think that the creek didn’t exist (every once in a while Google maps lies). I got out of my kayak and climbed up into the grass in hopes of portaging. Bad idea. That “neck” of land that stuck out was WAY wider than I expected.

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I continued paddling westward, unhappy that the creek didn’t exist and I had to now add about 2 miles to my trip and I was already pretty exhausted.

And then the heavens opened up and angels started singing. Well, the marsh opened up and I started singing because the creek DID exist!

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“Aaaahhh” ~angels

The creek cut right through the neck of land and put me out right near the landing in Hoopersville. Before long, I spotted my little car and the pavilion at the landing where I first got on my bike. “Me day” accomplished!

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(my car is behind the giant pile of crab pots!)

To wrap things up, I simply had to load my kayak, collect more food for my spawn, pick up my bike in Fishing Creek, and head home to my little peanut!  I paddled 8.2 miles in 2 hours and 37 minutes. Not bad for a new Momma! Here’s the path I took:


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Gargatha Landing to Folly Creek

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Gargatha landing

Mud.  Mud and tears would be the two words to describe this trip.  I launched at Gargatha Landing with a 9 mile trip ahead of me, which at my normal rate, would take me 3 hours to complete.  The first 2-3 miles of this trip were lovely.  All kinds of birds (willets, oystercatchers, rails, skimmers, terns).  And TON of turtles.  It was RAINING turtles in many spots.

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i swear there’s a rail in this photo

I guess I was in such a remote spot that the turtles weren’t used to many people around.  Every bend I came around, I saw a whole pack of turtles running and plopping into the water.  Made me laugh every time.

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As I came around another bend, I saw a channel marker in the distance.  However, as I got closer, I realized it was white with an orange border, which usually means some kind of obstruction or danger ahead.  As I got close enough to read it, sure enough, the sign said “DANGER”.  And that was it?  Well what kind of danger?  Submerged electric line?  Unexploded ordinances?  Alligator pit?  Terrorists?

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approaching “danger”

I knew Brian was familiar with this area from work, so I called him to see if he knew.  Turns out a storm had overwashed part of Metompkin Island and deposited a bunch of sand in the creek, blocking navigation.  No big deal for me though; it allowed me to pull up onto a sandy spot, get out, stretch, and walk the beach for a few minutes.  Then I only needed to drag my kayak 10o yards or so to continue paddling down the creek.

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Yeah…. I don’t even know how to start explaining the next hour of this trip.  It was so bad.  So, so bad.  First, I hate dragging my kayak because it’s exhausting.  Then the sand turned into mud as I got closer to the creek.  My feet started sticking, but shoes were covered in mud.  Then the mud got deeper.  My right shoe slipped off as I was almost knee deep in mud.  Luckily I was able to grab it out of the mud and throw it on my kayak.  Every step was a battle in itself, let along dragging my kayak behind me.  Then the mud got deeper.

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omg my legs are black!

My left shoe got sucked off as I was in mud to just above my knee.  Somehow I slid my hand down a good foot into the mud and salvaged my other shoe.  Then the mud got deeper.  Yup, up my entire thigh.  Make that both thighs.  In the sheer panic that I was going to drown in mud, my adrenaline must have given me the power to hoist myself into my kayak (not my legs though, I just sort of hung them off the sides so my whole kayak didn’t get covered in mud.  Holy crap.  What do I do now?  I’m stuck on a mud flat in 1 inch of water.  I’m not moving.  I can’t get out and walk or I’ll be swallowed up my the marsh mud for good.  Wait for the tide to come in?  Ugh, that’ll take hours.  I think at this point I shed a few tears in disbelief of my situation and how I would ever get out of it.  That’s when I prayed for a solution.  And solution I got!  I started to mud paddle and it kind of worked.  A few paddles on the left, a few paddles on the right, and I had moved a few feet!  Another few feet later I was in maybe 2 inches of water.  And then the wind picked up and pushed me even further!  Slow and steady, and an hour later, I was back to paddling in 6+ inches of water again.  Whew!  What an ordeal!  I was physically and emotionally exhausted, but overjoyed to be in navigable water again!

My original plan was to paddle along the back side of Metompkin as I headed south, but I felt I needed to get closer to the mainland, away from the mud flats and in deeper water.  I don’t remember much about the next 3 miles.  It was typical paddling, across open water.  I do remember seeing 2 HUGE sting rays though.  And of course I was crossing my fingers that I didn’t have to get out and walk anymore!

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the muddy finish line

The last stretch before I got into Folly creek was killer.  The tide and the wind were driving against me.  I was using every once of energy in me to get through it and barely felt like I was moving.  I shed more tears during this 200 yard stretch.  It was so bad.  As I finally rounded the corner of the creek, the tide and wind were finally both on my side and it was smooth sailing for the last half mile back to the landing.  As soon as I pulled up to the boat ramp, Brian was there laughing at me: “Did you get attacked by a mud monster?”  And then a lady on the dock saw me and just said “Bless your little heart. At least you are safe!”  Yes, I am finally safe and on dry land!

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photo doesn’t do a justice. once mud dries, it dries a like gray. it was black earlier!

I felt for sure that I paddled more than 9 miles (like 11 or 12), but the total mileage was only 9.7 miles.  Ugh.  So exhausted.  And it took me 90 minutes longer than I expected!  But one great thing I got from this trip was connecting a few dots!  Now I’ve paddled a solid line, all the way from Prime Hook, Delaware down to Wachapreague, VA.

Here’s the path I took today:


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ESNWR to Oyster via Mockhorn Island

Pre-paddle selfie!

Pre-paddle selfie!

It is becoming a bit of a tradition now, that the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend is a time for us to flee the beach crowds and go kayak camping. This time we headed to the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge to launch, and paddled out to Mockhorn Island to camp. Mockhorn Island is open to the public for camping so we were actually legally camping this time!  In the morning, I continued up north to the town of Oyster, VA and Brian went back to the car and picked me up on the way back.

Other people camping

Other people camping

The first stretch of this trip was through a pretty busy channel.  Brian drifted with the tide to flounder fish and I went ahead and explored a small island called Skidmore Island. Once I saw Brian catching up, I continued north towards Mockhorn Island.  As soon as I got to Mockhorn, I saw other people camping and my first thought was “crap, guess we don’t have the place to ourselves”, but we continued northward and it soon felt like we were the only ones out there.

We took a short break near an old abandoned homestead on the island. Brian has done some trapping out here for work in the past, so he had explored the area several years ago – it was almost like having a little tour guide. The homestead was quite expansive – house, barn, courtyard, gazebo, various outbuildings, and a concrete wall and mote surrounding the whole establishment. I couldn’t get over the amount of concrete! Everywhere you turned there was a building, a wall, a floor, all made of concrete. After doing a little research, it turns out most of the homestead was built by Larimer and Caroline Cushman in the 1920s and has been abandoned for several decades. The Cushman/Mockhorn story can be found here: http://www.abandonedcountry.com/2013/09/30/mockhorn-island-and-the-ruins-of-a-concrete-effort/.

On our way back to our kayaks, we found a turtle skull – anyone know what kind? Clearly a sea turtle of some kind!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

giant floating net

giant floating net

After exploring the Cushman homestead, we continued further north in search of a good camping spot. The wind was coming directly out of the south which pushed us most of the way. One thing that I saw a TON of on this trip were nets.  I guess they were pound nets of some kind? Not totally sure, but there were big chunks of net floating around the bay, and seeing that much discarded net was irritating to me. Clean up after yourselves, fishermen!

WWII Towers

WWII Towers

We finally chose a campsite on the west side of the island near two WWII towers. When I hear about WWII towers, I picture the circular concrete things we have in Delaware, but these looked more like giant deer stands! As I walked up the beach from our camp to get a closer look, I kept getting distracted by the number of terrapins nesting! It seemed like every couple hundred feet there was another turtle laying eggs! Some of them seemed unphased by my presence, while others stopped what they were doing when they saw me and ran back into the water. I also saw tons of raccoon tracks so I doubt many of those turtle nests will survive 😦 Oh well, the raccoons gotta eat too.

When I got back from my walk to the towers, we collected firewood, started a fire, and cooked our “boy scout dinners”; chicken and vegetables that we prepared and packed up in foil that morning. Pretty delicious, actually!

Brian then went for a walk and returned with an armload of clams. He proceeded to cook them over the fire and enjoyed a nice after-dinner snack (not me though, I stay way from all mollusks)!

our home for the night

our home for the night

The wind on Monday was predicted to pick up quite a bit by afternoon so we were early to bed, early to rise. However, I rose a bit earlier than I wanted to – 4 damned geese decided to float passed our campsite at the literal crack of dawn, and they would not shut up! I have no idea how Brian slept through their constant honking conversations. On the bright side, I was able to watch the sunrise over the marsh.

 

waterman on the bay

waterman on the bay

Shortly after sunrise we packed up camp, ate a breakfast of bananas and granola bars, and went our separate ways. My plan was to skirt the edge of Mockhorn for most of the trip up to Oyster, but the tide was really low and I had to head further west, away from the island. As I started heading out into the bay, I came across a waterman – the first sign of people since I passed the people camping on the south end of Mockhorn the day before. I believe this waterman had just dropped a bunch of crab pots which was a huge help to me later on in this trip (I’ll explain why in a minute).

I kept checking the map on my phone to make sure I was headed in the direction of what I THOUGHT was a channel heading northwest towards Oyster. I seemed to be headed in the right direction, but as I approached the west side of the bay, there appeared to be a lack of navigable water. Everything in front of me appeared to me a giant mud flat. Damnit. I was barely in 6 inches of water and it looked like it was only going to get shallower! What the heck! Googlemaps, you have deceived me! I then altered my course to go back in a northeast direction. Maybe if I stayed in the middle of the bay (as opposed to the edges) that I would stay in navigable water. To make matters worse, I could not see a channel marker in sight. I kept chugging along, my paddle hitting the mud with every stroke, crossing my fingers that it wouldn’t get so shallow that I would have to get out and drag my kayak through the muck.

site of "bam! splash!"

site of “bam! splash!” (also note towers in distance)

Then… BAM! SPLASH! I screamed (no seriously, I really screamed). Holy shit, OMG, WTF was that? Something. Some THING just smacked the stern of my boat and violently splashed around. Scared the crap out of me. Lucky I didn’t pee my pants. My instinct was to paddle faster and get away, so I did. But what was it? Still don’t know, but I’m pretty sure I startled a cow nose ray with my paddle and it freaked out. And freaked ME out in doing so. And now I REALLY didn’t want to have to get out of my kayak to drag it through the mud – heaven help me if I STEP on a ray.

Once I regained my composure after my near-death experience (okay, not really even close), I continued to paddle northeast, in hopes I would stay in navigable water. Still no channel markers. But then I got to thinking – I saw that waterman earlier, coming from the general direction I was headed. There HAD to be navigable water if a darn boat could get through at low tide! And that’s when it clicked. Follow the crab pot buoys. Clearly the boat had just dropped them (or checked/emptied them), so the water by the crab pots must be deep enough. And sure enough, I started to follow the yellow-brick road (and yes, some of the buoys were yellow), and it led me almost to the town of Oyster.

crab pot buoy leading the way

crab pot buoy leading the way

white pelican. no really. white pelican.

white pelican. no really. white pelican.

Once I entered an area known as “The Narrows”, navigating was really easy, the wind and tide pulled me quite a ways, and it became a very relaxing paddle. I saw black-bellied plovers, oystercatchers, loads of terrapins, and a WHITE PELICAN! Not sure what a white pelican was doing around here, but I was able to get a photo (not a very clear one, but you can almost tell what it is).

Cobb Island Coast Guard Station

Cobb Island Coast Guard Station

As soon as I got out of The Narrows, I started to see lots of boat traffic coming out of Oyster. Unfortunately, I had to follow the main channel all the way to the boat ramp because the tide was still way out and there were mud flats and exposed oyster beds blocking me from taking any other route. Along the last stretch of this paddle I passed the old Cobb Island Coast Guard Station – it has been relocated from Cobb Island to the mainland, so that it wouldn’t deteriorate or be completely destroyed by a coastal storm.

The town of Oyster was a neat place. It was just one of those classic waterman’s towns with a bunch of work boats and just a few houses. Not 10 minutes after I pulled my kayak out of the water, Brian showed up. Perfect timing!

 

 


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Johnson Landing to Crystal Beach, Onancock

On Saturday, April 25, I paddled from Johnson’s Wharf in Parksley, VA to Crystal Beach in Onancock, VA. However, this time I had a paddling partner! My BFF from 6th grade, Julia.

Julia and her husband, Alex, are from the Baltimore area and occasionally come down to visit us. However this time, I was eager to get away from home too, so we spontaneously decided to rent a house on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. And when I say “get away”, that is exactly what we did. The house we stayed in had hardly any cell phone reception and was 5 miles from town. And when I say town, I’m talking about Onancock, VA – I think the whole downtown area consisted of 4 blocks. Maybe.

20150425_112010Julia and Alex rented kayaks from a local place called Southeast Expeditions and they were kind enough to deliver the kayaks to us on Saturday morning. Brian drove us up to Johnson’s Wharf (about a 15-minute drive north of the house) where we planned to launch and kayak back to the house. Although it was late April, temperature were in the low 50s and we were pretty bundled up for kayaking. It was Julia’s first time kayaking in cooler weather but she handled it like a champ! There was also rain in the forecast for the afternoon so we didn’t dilly-dally and took off at a good pace.

It was really nice to have a paddling buddy with me for a change. Although I really do enjoy the solitude of paddling alone, it was great to catch up, talk about life, and enjoy the scenery together. It’s also fun for me to answer all of her questions about kayaking, coastal wildlife, the bay, watermen, and navigation on the water – all things that I’m passionate about, that she doesn’t experience often.

20150425_110657Although the day was extremely gray and overcast, it still made for a beautiful paddle. We got our heart rates up a little by paddling straight through open water, and we also got to explore and navigate a winding marsh creek, full of mallards, black ducks, and Canada geese.

As we came out of the marsh creek, we spotted the boys – exploring a marsh island and harvesting mussels. We thought about stopping and joining them, but we were in the home stretch and decided to push forward (not to mention the fact that we were a bit chilly and craving a cup of tea and hot brunch back at he house).

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In the home stretch!

Our total trip was 2 hours and 50 minutes, and we covered 8.54 miles. That’s right at 3 mph which is my average pace – very proud of Julia for keeping up so well! I’ll have to drag her out on more kayak trips in the future!

 

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Gotta capture a selfie!

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Eastern Shore NWR, Kiptopeke State Park, Cape Charles, and Smith Island, VA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo celebrate 1 happy year of married life, Brian and I headed south for a quick, 3-day camping trip to Kiptopeke State Park which is roughly halfway between Cape Charles, VA and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. We got there on Sunday morning, just as the weekend crowd was leaving, allowing us to get the best campsite – furthest from the bathhouse and with our own personal trail leading to the beach!

Kayak Adventure #1 of 3:
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter we set up camp Brian dropped me off at the boat ramp at the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. The plan was to paddle just 5 miles, around the southernmost tip of Delmarva, and finish at our campsite. The tide was running hard making the first half mile intense. I was paddling as hard as possible and barely moving at all. I had to pull over to a sandy shoreline just to take my camera out to take some photos.

Once I got out of the channel and within 100 yards or so of the bridge, the tidal flow wasn’t nearly as strong and I could relax a bit. It was a pretty cool thing to paddling under the first span of the CB Bridge-Tunnel. Although I’m only about 25% finished my ultimate goal, it definitely felt like a decent milestone. As soon as I rounded the tip the tide and the wind were at my back.

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homes at altitude!

homes at altitude!

As I cruised back to our campsite, there were two things that I saw that are worth noting. One was the elevation of the shoreline! I realize that these shorelines are probably eroding at an alarming rate, the shear drop from the houses above to the water below was 30 feet in some places! Since when does any of Delmarva have such elevation?

pound net (one of many)

pound net (one of many)

The other thing I noticed were the astounding number of pound nets!  Every 100 yards or so I was crossing over another pound net.  I will say this now, that I have a weird phobia of being in a body of water and touching something man-made that is covered in aquatic plants and grime.  Every time I paddled over a net my stomach lurched at the thought of getting caught or falling out right on the net.  Ugghhh my god, I’m cringing at the thought right now.  Okay time to chance the subject:

Kiptopeke pier

Kiptopeke pier

ships off Kiptopeke

ships off Kiptopeke

As I approached Kiptopeke, I got a good view of the fishing pier and the many old ships that have been placed just offshore from the pier. I learned earlier in the day that the now fishing pier, was the original pier for the ferry that used to run to Norfolk before the bridge-tunnel was constructed. The ships were placed to create a safe harbor and cut down on wave action. Now, the pier is part of the park and the ships make for great fishing!

When I pulled up on the beach near our campsite, I was reminded of the elevation. Brian was out catching bait so I had to pull my kayak up over the dune by myself, up the steep trail and back to our site. Doing that was harder work than the 5.5 mile paddle!

dragging my kayak up the hill

dragging my kayak up the hill

Kayak Adventure #2 of 3:
On Monday, October 6, I actually paddled WITH Brian for a change! Although our path wasn’t part of my original plan in rounding the peninsula, it is definitely worth including since we spent most of the day on Smith Island, another one of the amazing, undeveloped barrier islands in Virginia.

The plan was to launch at the free kayak launch at the Refuge, but since the tide was too low and there wasn’t enough water in the creek, we launched at the boat ramp. The guy working at the boat ramp was a brat and wanted to charge us the $10 launch fee. Seriously, dude? You’re going to charge us to launch kayaks here when your stupid free kayak launch area is inaccessible? Neither of us had any money (or a freaking checkbook! yes, he said they accepted checks) we said we’d go to an ATM when we got back. Maybe he’d be gone when we got back – we WERE planning to be gone almost all day.

approaching Smith Island light

approaching Smith Island light

From the channel we headed straight across the bay towards the Smith Island Lighthouse (built in 1892!). Brian has had to stay out here for work a few times so he already knew his way around and that we could actually climb the lighthouse! 242 steps later, we were at the top, taking in the amazing views of the island. Although my mild fear of heights and the 12 mph winds made me a bit uneasy, it was still well worth the climb. Once we got to the bottom, Brian showed me his fancy accommodations when he stays out here for work. Not. Jealous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then high tailed it through the marsh and back to our kayaks (mosquitoes were wicked in the grasses). We headed down around the south end of the island and to the ocean side. Brian carefully chose his fishing spot for the day and I spent most of the time beachcombing. For an island that is so remote, the beachcombing wasn’t spectacular. On the other hand, the fishing was decent as Brian caught a small red drum (although it was still too big to keep – if they are over 27 inches you have to release)!

After a few hours on the island, we started to head back. However, the tide had come in and the wind had picked up so I was a bit worried, particularly about launching into the swift tide and choppy water. I was so worried that I put my camera and phone in my dry bag, put all my loose items in dry hatches, and then carefully plunged into the water. Somehow I was successful and even stayed dry! Brian says I worry too much. I just figure I’m cautious and well-prepared!

When we got back to the launch, that stinkin’ boat ramp guy was STILL there! Dude, get a life! After we loaded up we actually went to an ATM, came back to the refuge, and he didn’t even have change for a twenty. He tried to tell us to give him the twenty and we could come back to tomorrow for free but Brian refused and just left. Hopefully he didn’t take down our license plate info, but still, I think we grounds to fight if we get a citation.

Kayak Adventure #3 of 3:
The last paddle of this trip was on Tuesday, October 7 from Cape Charles back to Kiptopeke. The wind was supposed to get up to 17 mph, coming from the south, so I would have preferred to paddle from Kiptopeke up to Cape Charles. However, that would have tied up Brian waiting for me at the dock, so instead, after he dropped me off, he was free to fish the ships at Kiptopeke. Plus I could use the workout and a challenge.

As I paddled out of the marina, I passed the huge concrete plant. It seemed to be a pretty heavy construction zone so I made sure to keep my distance as I rounded the corner and headed south.

Once I got out into the open bay I realized that I should have worn my paddle jacket as I was getting splashed with every other wave. Shortly after passing the concrete plant I found a sandy beach to get out. I successfully landed on the beach, but hesitated in getting out of my boat and the next wave to come in got me drenched! I even had to use my bilge pump to get a bunch of water out of my boat. As I was digging my jacket out, I saw a golf cart heading towards me, just over the bank. Great. I stop for 1 minute on someone’s private property and I get yelled at. I pretended I didn’t see them coming so I wouldn’t have to make eye contact and quickly put on my jacket and then my PFD. When I looked up, the golf cart had already passed me – maybe they didn’t even see me?

The next couple miles were tough. The wind and the swells were coming head on and I couldn’t even stop to take photos because I thought I would capsize if I stopped paddling. However, paddling against this wind wasn’t miserable. It was even fun as my kayak bounced over the waves. In addition to it being a physical workout, it was a mental workout as well. I had to calculate how I was going to tackle each swell that came towards me. Although I felt as though I was making hardly any progress, my overall speed for this trip was 2.9 mph which isn’t bad considering I usually average around 3.5 mph.

my helicopter friend first spotted at the ramp in Cape Charles

my helicopter friend first spotted at the ramp in Cape Charles

One thing that I noticed about this section of Delmarva is the air traffic! Commercial airliners, military jets, helicopters, you name it. Honestly it kind of got old. I like peace and quiet when I camp, not roaring jets above and constant rumbles in the distance. However, there was a helicopter (military-looking, I’m not up to speed on that kind of stuff) that kept flying over me, traveling up and down the shoreline. Probably passed me 15 times! I tried to imagine what the guys up there where saying about me. “She’s barely moved since the last time we passed her!” or “Wonder where she’s going” or “Is she freaking stupid fighting this wind??”

I finally came around a point on the shoreline and the ships at Kiptopeke were finally in sight! Only a mile or 2 and several pound nets separated me from solid ground and lunch!  Somewhere in the last mile or so, I saw a first (for my Delmarva paddling trips): dolphins.  Now I don’t usually get mooshy-gushy about dolphins, but I do when they are a couple arms’ lengths away from my kayak!  Some of their faces came out of the water and I got to hear their blowholes.  So cool!  However, I couldn’t keep up with them, within a matter of minutes they were way ahead of me and I lost sight.  I scrambled for my camera but only captured random shots of the water.  Woo.

So anyway, I completed my journey back at the campsite.  This is the longest post ever so I’m going to stop talking now and you can look at this map with all my kayak adventures from this trip (20.25 miles) in one spot:


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Claiborne to Tilghman

On October 1, 2014, I paddled for the first time in Talbot County.  Although, that’s a little bit of a lie because I’ve been kayaking many times in Talbot Co, seeing as I used to live there and even had a part time job as a kayak guide for the local YMCA.  But this was the first time I’ve kayaking in Talbot County as part of my “around Delmarva” goal.  Not only was I very familiar with this general area, it was also nice to take a short walk (or paddle) down memory lane as I passed right by Poplar Island, where I used to work.  Here’s the 9.3-mile path I took:

I left work at 12:15, thinking that was plenty of time for this adventure.  I must have been stopped at every light and stuck behind every slow vehicle on the way there because I didn’t get to Claiborne until 2:30.  I spent about 10 minutes organizing my gear and locking my kayak to a lamp post and during that 10 minutes I counted 5 cars that drove in to the parking lot, looked around, and drove back out.  I couldn’t figure it out.  One guy looked kinda sketchy, but the other cars just had middle-aged sight-seers in the car.  It was still bizarre to me.  Was I missing something?  Was there something exciting to see?  Or were they scoping the place out for a drug deal or some other illegal activity?  Or maybe I’m just over-analyzing the situation now.

Anyway, I then drove down to Back Creek Park, a county park right next to the drawbridge leading into Tilghman.  My plan was to ride my bike back to Claiborne and paddle back – the Talbot Co website and the sign at the park indicated there was a kayak launch a little further down that path.  Perfect.

I didn’t want to waste any time because I had left my kayak paddle and PFD (and snacks!) with my kayak, unattended.  My biggest fear is that someone will swipe some of these key kayaking accessories in the time that I’m biking.  Everything of value I had with me (phone, camera, VHF radio, money, keys).  I hopped on my bike and started heading up the road.  I wanted to go quickly because I knew I would be racing for daylight, but at the same time, I’m not a strong cyclist so I didn’t want to waste too much energy and save my strength for the paddling.

I covered 9 miles in about 40 minutes which was faster than I expected, and a good thing as I didn’t hit the water until 3:45, leaving just 3 hours of sunlight to cover 9 miles of paddling.  Eek!  No dilly-dallying on this trip!

I don’t have much of a story to tell with this trip because my mind was set on finishing the whole time.  One thing that was pretty cool was being able to see the houses at the end of the driveways that we used to pass on our commute to work every day when I worked on Poplar.  We (my fellow carpoolers and I) would pass many driveways, usually with fancy signs naming their property something like “Loblolly Point” or “Black Cherry Plantation”.  You could never actually see to the end of the driveway and I was always curious what kind of fancy mansions were there.  Here’s a few:

I was so worried that I wasn’t going to finish before dark that I barely stopped to look at my phone and evaluate how much further I had to go.  I barely stopped paddling the entire time, only a few times to snap a photo.  Luckily the wind was pushing me along which helped me to maintain a speed of roughly 3.75 mph.

Check out this handsome guy.

Check out this handsome guy.

Last view of Poplar

Last view of Poplar

I finally paddled all the way passed Poplar Island and into the vicinity of Tilghman.

Since I didn’t take the time to check out the Back Creek Park kayak launch, I wasn’t totally sure what I was looking for.  We I first reached the park the shoreline was covered in phragmites and thick brush.  I figured I’d paddle around the curve and there would be a nice sandy spot to get out.  No such luck.  Nothing.  This park definitely did not have a kayak launch.  What the heck, Talbot Co parks??  Nothing along the shoreline could have even resembled a kayak launch.  I ended up pulling up in front of the Tilghman Island Inn.  THEY had a kayak launching area 😛

"trespassing" through Knapps Narrows Marina

“trespassing” through Knapps Narrows Marina

I was a bit nervous that someone from the inn would question whether or not I was staying there and I was trying to come up with what I would tell them when they realized I was trespassing.  I left my kayak on the bank and hurried to my car (not far at all).  One advantage of pulling up to shore here, as opposed to the park, was that I was able to pull my car up right next to my kayak, rather than dragging my kayak up the path for 100+ yards to my car (the park’s parking lot was pretty far from the “kayak launch”).

By the time I had loaded my kayak onto my car, the sun still had a good 15 minutes before setting – not bad!  All that was left to do was pick up my bike and head home!  Since I rarely go kayaking around sunset, here are a few shots of the sun setting over the bay:


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Beach Plum Island to Lewes

Today, September 27, 2014, I paddled from Beach Plum Island to the Lewes Canalfront Park.  The distance was 3.5 miles but since I was going solo and biking between the start and finish would have been long and tricky, I decided to paddle an out-and-back, totaling 7 miles. Here’s the path I took:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI started the journey at the Lewes boat ramp, located at the end of Pilottown Road.  I had never been to this boat ramp and didn’t really have any expectations, but my god!  Soooo much parking!  I pulled up to the ramp, unloaded my gear, and then went to park my car.  The parking area for “single cars” (aka no boat trailer) was a tiny section in the back corner of the lot.  I almost felt like I didn’t belong there because there was so much parking for boat trailers.  As I was walking back to my kayak, a man stopped to say hello, and also complimented me on my kayak unloading skills.  He said he saw me and was going to walk over and offer to help, but realized “that girl knows what she is doing”.  Yup – that’s right :).

The tide was coming in so the first stretch was really easy.  I paddled to the north end of Beach Plum Island in probably 10-15 minutes.  The only challenge I had was dodging the fishing lines – there were probably a dozen people scattered along the bank fishing.  I wasn’t expecting this because I just thought everyone came to Beach Plum to fish the surf, not the back bay.  Although I suppose being that close to Roosevelt Inlet that some decent sized fish are in that water.

Once I got to the spot where I finished my last trip, I turned on my GPS to start tracking my path and I turned around and started heading back towards Lewes.  I was a bit nervous that this would be the most difficult part of the trip because I was going directly against the tide.  Surprisingly though, as long as I stayed close to the edges of the creek, it was pretty smooth sailing.

As I neared the Lewes boat ramp, I felt the need to hydrate so I grabbed for my water bottle.  Not there.  What?  I must have left it in the car.  Yeah that’s it.  Okay so once I get to the boat ramp, I’ll take a quick break and grab it from the car.  Wait.  No wait, I don’t remember putting it in the car this morning when I left the house.  Where the heck is my water bottle?  Oh.  Right.  Sitting on the kitchen counter.  Nice one, Laura.  I suppose it would have been worse had I left my paddle or something at home, but this was still quite frustrating.  No worries though – I can power through it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI then continued on passed the boat ramp and towards Roosevelt Inlet and Lewes.  Paddling passed inlets always makes me a little nervous because I never know what the currents and the tides are going to be like.  This inlet was just like Ocean City, Metompkin, Gargatha, and Wachapreague inlets – uneventful and easy to just cruise on by.

Because the tide was still coming in (I hoped to time it so that it was going out when I turned around at Canalfront park) I cruised passed the UD wind turbine, all the pretty houses and boats, as well as the Lewes Life-Saving Station and the Lightship Overfalls.  I’ve toured the inside of both of these places but it was cool to see them from the water.  I finally stopped as a “kayaks only” boat ramp, right next to the Overfalls.

I got out, stretched, ate a snack, turned off my GPS, and checked the time.  The tide was not supposed to change for another 45 minutes.  Ugh, not worth the wait, so I decided to head back and power through the incoming tide.  I could use the workout.

This time I hugged the east side of the canal which is mostly marsh grasses and again, as long as I stayed close to the shoreline, paddling against the tide was pretty darn easy.  However, as I passed the inlet for a second time, there were definitely some eddies and swirlyness going on that I didn’t feel the first time.  Not bad though – just had to push through it and as soon as I was passed the inlet, the tide simply carried me right back to the boat ramp.  Not a bad paddle for a beautiful Saturday morning (without drinking water, mind you)!