euryhaline paddler

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak


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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)!


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Prime Hook Beach to Beach Plum Island

Today, September 22, I paddled my first portion of the Delaware Bayshore AND I completed another 100% solo trip (meaning there was no help from Brian or anyone else to shuttle me from one end to the other).

I packed up my little car last night: kayak on roof rack, bike disassembled and inside my tiny hatchback. I’m amazed that silly little car can transport multiple, oddly-shaped objects. It was a bit windy when I woke up but I decided not to let that get me down. I knew that the wind and the tide would both be in my favor. I drove to Prime Hook Beach first to unload my kayak (which I locked to a Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge sign). A couple of construction workers were working on some utility lines and looked at me like I was crazy and I was a little worried that they were going to stop me from leaving my kayak there. But then again, why would they care? If anything it would be the local residents that wouldn’t like it. I then drove down to Beach Plum Island at the south end of Broadkill Beach. Cute little spot – can’t believe I’ve worked for Parks on and off for 8 years and never went there until today.

Once I assembled my bike, I had to figure out how to deal with all my kayaking accessories. Paddle disassembled and in back pack (sticking out by 2 feet, mind you!), PFD clipped to the outside of my back pack, and lunch box over my shoulder. I probably looked pretty ridiculous, but it worked really well.
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Although I had to drive out to Route 1 to get here from Prime Hook Beach, Google Maps indicated that I would be able to ride my bike straight up the coast on some sandy-looking back roads.

Wrong. Google Maps you deceived me! Stupid rich gated properties threw a major wrench into my biking plans.

I then had to back track, access the beach at the public access point, and proceed to WALK my bike and all my gear up the beach. Not. Fun. 1.5 miles rolling my bike through sand. I’ll probably be feeling it in my legs tomorrow morning 😦

walking w/ my bike. and my guns (aka kayak paddle)

walking up the beach w/ my bike. and my guns (aka kayak paddle)

I finally made it back onto a road and only had about a mile until I reached my kayak. When I got there the construction guys were teasing me about how much they were going to sell my kayak for and then they were teasing each other about not helping me carry my boat down to the water (about 50 yards away from where I stowed it). Nobody actually came to help me but that’s okay because this was one of my “independent woman” kayak trips 🙂

I locked up my bike and they then said they were going to sell that instead of the kayak but I assured them my kayak was worth way more and they missed their chance to make some money!

my new construction friends

my new construction friends

As I was launching my kayak, a man drove by and told me not to blow away. Yikes. Should I really not be kayaking in this weather? It’s probably gusting to 20 mph. But then again, the wind was blowing at the exact angle and direction I needed to go. And if it got really bad, this water can’t be more than what, 2 feet deep? What’s the worst that can happen?

meh. not too rough. I can do this.

meh. not too rough. I can do this.

Sure enough, the wind (and tide!) carried me quickly and gracefully. So quickly and gracefully that I actually didn’t get as much of a work out as I had intended for the day. As always, I pulled my phone out to check Google Earth and make sure I was correctly navigating the marsh creeks and not getting lost.

Wrong. I was in the middle of a wide open little bay and Google said I was on land. Very, very wrong. Once again Google Maps, you have failed me.  I thought maybe my GPS was off a little, but NOTHING around me matched up with what it looked like on the map. I saw the wind turbine near Roosevelt Inlet off in the distance so I just started out in that general direction. I started to make out a shiny object way ahead which must by the bridge I needed to go under (Broadkill Beach Rd). I continued on, straight towards the shiny object (ooo… shiny object!). But shiny objects are notorious for distracting people and that’s EXACTLY what happened here! As I got closer to the shiny object, I realized I was going off course and the bridge I needed to go underneath was about 200 yards west of the said shiny object. Darn it.

No big deal though, I just had to alter my direction a tad and continue on. As I got closer and closer to the bridge though, I realized there was something blocking my path. Not sure what, but something. I then passed a sign that was facing the other direction. Once I got passed it, I realized it was a Prime Hook Refuge sign saying “Area beyond this sign CLOSED”. Well, not my fault there wasn’t one where I started. Not sure why it was closed but I got through safe and sound.  Then I turned my attention forward again and realize there was a dam?! Huh?? Luckily there was a small space for me to get out next to this so-called dam (whatever is was, maybe something to control the tide passing through?). I then just had to portage a few yards and I was able to launch on the other side of the strange structure and continue my journey underneath the bridge and on to the Broadkill River.

As soon as I joined up with the Broadkill, it was really smooth sailing. The wind and tide pushed me so well I barely had to paddle at all. I didn’t pass much on this stretch except marsh grass, the occasional blue heron, and this:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What the heck is this?! It looks like a giant should be doing a Mexican hat dance around it. Or better yet, it looks like it belongs at an amusement park in South Carolina!

I knew I was nearing the end of my journey because the wind turbine was much larger! I finally pulled up to a muddy spot on the west side of the Beach Plum parking area. Just a short walk up the path and I was back to my car 🙂

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Today’s paddle was 6.58 miles. Shorter than what I normally do, but not bad for a 100% solo day! Here’s the path I took:


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Gargatha Landing to Pierce Taylor Road

Today, June 30, 2014, I paddled from Gargatha Landing to Pierce Taylor Rd.  This 8.1 mile trip was perfect.  It was the perfect length, far enough away from home that I felt like it was an adventure, perfect weather, good wildlife sightings, almost perfect tides, and perfect timing for Brian to pick me up after he was finished work for the day.

20140630_12502320140630_125021I arrived at Gargatha Landing just as the tide changed and started to go out.  The views from this landing are beautiful; you just look out to the east and see nothing but marsh, a few patches of sandy beach in the distance, and the horizon dotted with a couple fishing/hunting shacks.  As soon as I launched, the tide carried me gracefully out to Metompkin Island.  Along the way I encountered several boaters.  Each one was courteous and slowed down when they saw me, but really, I’d prefer that they didn’t!  I always like a little wake to bounce around in.  By the time the third boater passed me I tried to signal to him to NOT slow down and keep going, but he laughed and threw his hands up in the air, probably saying to himself “what the hell is she doing?”

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This is Waldo, the oystercatcher.

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First glimpse of Metompkin

As I came around a marsh bend, I finally spotted the sandy beach of Metompkin Island.  I love that first glimpse of beach – you just never know exactly when in the journey you will find it and it’s always exciting to me for some reason.  As I paddled up the final stretch of creek to the island, there were terrapins falling into the water left and right!  Plop, plop, plop, probably heard 50 plops.  I’ve never seen so many terrapins sunning themselves.  And I’ve never seen so many terrapin heads popping up around my boat either!  There must have been hundreds of them!  I also saw probably a dozen oystercatchers on a small shelly island as I was approaching Metompkin.

Once I landed on Metompkin, there were a few families that had come out for the day; picnicking and shelling.  Brian and I had come out here on a small boat about two years ago and I was surprised at how little Metompkin inlet had changed, considering the fact that we’ve had several very strong storms that I thought would have changed the inlet significantly.  I stopped just long enough to snap a few photos, eat some of my lunch, and see tons of terrapin tracks!  Not only was I amazed at the number of terrapins in the water, but I’ve also never seen that many terrapin tracks in one spot either!

The tidal current was running pretty hard and I was about to launch back in the water and continue on, passed the inlet.  I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as currents went, so I prepared for the worst (capsizing).  I took my phone out of my life jacket pocket, put it in my dry bag, put all my loose things (flip flops, water bottles, etc.) in my dry hatch and carefully launched into the crazy current.  Luckily, paddling passed the inlet wasn’t too bad.  In fact, it was down right easy.  The tide was going out and it just carried me right on towards Assawoman Island.

As I approached Assawoman though, the spot where I thought I would cut west and start paddling in the back bay again was gone!  The only feasible way I could see to paddle into the back bay was to go straight out into the open ocean!  So much for thinking that Metimpkin inlet hadn’t changed much.  20140630_134741This area was drastically different!  Instead of navigating out the inlet and into the ocean, I found an area to portage across (just a narrow strip of sand) and safely put in on the other side, in the back bay.

Once I completed the portage and got back in the water, that’s when the outgoing tide really was against me.  As I came around a marsh corner and started due west, I was really struggling to make any headway.  I was paddling as hard as I possibly could and I was barely moving at all!  It was unreal!  Probably the hardest current I’ve ever paddled against.  To make me even more nervous, I saw a huge sting ray cruise right in front of me, effortlessly swimming through the crazy currents.  20140630_140420Ugh, you all know how I feel about sting rays.  Luckily, the exhausting paddling didn’t last long.  After about 10 minutes I reached a small sandy island to take a break.  I was so sick of paddling that I even portaged straight across the island instead of paddling around it.

At that point the worst was over.  Paddling across the Kegotank Bay (love saying that for some reason) was simple.  The wind just pushed me right along.  The wind continued to help me all through the marsh creeks that were approaching Wallops Island and Pierce Taylor Rd landing.  This stretch of the trip was very relaxing.  20140630_154708No one around but hundreds of terrapins, more willets than I’ve ever seen, and jumping fish!  One little peanut bunker hopping right in my kayak!  Scared the crap out of me.  It jumped right next to my hip and I ended up sitting on the poor guy.  I quickly grabbed him, made him hang tight for a photo, and place him back in the water.  He survived and swam away 🙂

20140630_154159The last interesting thing I saw on this trip was some kind of oyster garden? reef? farm?  Not sure what to call it.  There was a line of probably 25 floats that I’m assuming had oysters or some kind of shellfish in them.  Pretty cool!

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Did I bring enough stuff?

I finished this trip at a public landing on Pierce Taylor Rd.  Not much of a landing; the docks and ramp had definitely seen better days.  As soon as I got out of my kayak, guess who shows up?  My husband – perfect timing.  We hadn’t talked since before I left the house this morning; I had just guessed what time I’d be off the water.  This trip was perfect from start to finish.  Here’s the path I took:


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Holts Landing to Delaware Seashore State Park

Launching at Holts Landing State Park

Launching at Holts Landing State Park

On Sunday, June 1, 2014, I paddled across two of Delaware’s 3 inland bays.  Although I normally have off on Sundays, I had to go to work in the afternoon.  I wanted to make the most of my morning so I decided to get a decent paddle in.  The plan was to launch at Holts Landing State Park and have my coworker, Lowell, pick me up at Tower Rd, the north end of Delaware Seashore State Park to take me back to my car.

I expected the stretch across Indian River Bay to be the most difficult as it is open water and typically filled with boat traffic.  Luckily, for reasons unknown to me, I only encountered one boat!  It was odd because it is pretty much summertime, and the weather was a beautiful day for being out on the water.  But I wasn’t complaining because it was quite peaceful without many boats around.

Indian River bridge in the distance

Indian River bridge in the distance

The nice thing about this trip was that I never had to pull out my phone to help me navigate.  I have been out on these waters so many times for work that I knew exactly where I was and where I had to go.

Distant view of the Life-Saving Station from Lynch Thicket

Distant view of the Life-Saving Station from Lynch Thicket

It was just about 3 miles to get to Massey’s Ditch.  However, instead of going through the ditch, I took a break on an island known as Lynch Thicket before heading east towards Savages Ditch and the marsh islands of Delaware Seashore State Park.

Okay yeah, this post is excruciatingly boring and I apologize.  I really didn’t see anything exciting, just the normal sites I see at work everyday.  Not that I don’t appreciate working in such a beautiful place, I really do appreciate it everyday, but there just weren’t any fun surprises on this trip.  I know where the birds nest, I know where people fish, I know where all the sandy beaches are.

The only somewhat exciting part of this journey was the fact that I finished quickly.  I paddled 7 miles in just 2 hours.  That is pretty speedy for me, particularly since the wind was coming directly at me the whole time.  I finished nearly an hour earlier than expected and since Lowell wasn’t available to pick me up that early, I got a coworker to pick me up and take me to the office.  Lowell was able to bring me all the way back to my car a little later.  Okay, boring post is over.  Here’s my path.  Even the path is a boring, almost straight line.


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Champ Wharf to Crisfield

It’s Memorial Day Weekend and what does that mean? Time for Brian and Laura to leave town, escape the Ocean City madness, and go on another kayaking-camping adventure.

Last year we had perfect weather and camped out on Cedar Island on the eastern shore of Virginia.  This year, the weather forecast was looking perfect again so we headed to the Chesapeake side of the peninsula.  Last fall, Brian had been fishing out near the teeny tiny town of Rumbley, MD which is somewhere between Deal Island and Crisfield, and he thought there were some islands out there that had good camping potential.  In order to get some decent distance in, he dropped me off in an even smaller town, Champ, MD.  As I started to paddle south, he drove to Rumbley and fished for a while. Although Champ had only a handful of houses, there seemed to be quite a bit of activity at the “wharf” (really it was just a beat-up, old boat ramp). There were a few watermen that had just come in, and several families were getting ready to head out on the water for the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce I got out of the boat ramp area and out of the creek, things quieted down very quickly.  Except for the osprey – there must have been a nest on every channel marker and more in the dead trees in the marsh.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen/heard such a dense population. Despite the osprey though, the quiet got me thinking – I would love to own property out here one day. Nothing fancy, just a waterfront lot with a little bungalow. I don’t even need proper plumbing and electric. I told Brian later, if we ever get to a point in our lives when we can manage a second home, I want to buy out here (or really anywhere from here south to Cape Charles). Just a place to get away from the crowds, get away from cell phone reception, and spend our days fishing, crabbing, and hanging out on the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo enough day dreaming. The first spot that I decided to get out on dry land was a small marsh point, about 2 miles into the journey. Bad idea. As soon as I got out of my kayak I was engulfed with flies. As I looked around, it was clear why: sting ray graveyard. There were about 5 cownose rays that were dead and dried up and covered with flies. It appeared that they had swam over the point at a high tide, and as the tide when out, they got stuck. Gross. And to be honest, I didn’t really have much sympathy for them – I’m still bitter about my sting ray incident 5 years ago (another story for another time).

To escape the flies, I hopped back in my kayak and pushed on. The next place I stopped was a small sand bar. After inhaling my sandwich, I decided to take a detour from my original course plan. The wind had started to pick up at an awkward angle and I was not in the mood for battling wind/current issues. I pulled out my trusty Android and “My Tracks” app to see what my options were. I quickly realized I could cut through some of the marsh peninsulas instead of paddling all around them. I veered off to the east and pushed forward.

This seemed like a great plan until I reached a bridge. A bridge that was much to low for me to fit underneath! Ugh portage. It breaks my rhythm, it’s awkward to haul my boat across the road, and worst of all, my kayak was packed with camping equipment, making it extra difficult! The temper tantrum that was going on in my head was only exacerbated by the traffic. Yes, I said traffic. And by traffic I mean one single vehicle – an ATV. Some dude was out on Frenchtown Rd hauling ass on his ATV. And not just down the road once, but repeatedly back and forth, faster and louder each time. Is that what people do around here for fun? Lame.

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The next stretch was pretty uneventful, aside from the crazy amount of flies that were swarming around my head the whole time. Usually flies aren’t an issue at all when I’m out on the water; they are most annoying when on land, however this was different. It was the first time I actually put on bug spray while on the water. Other than the flies, the only thing I really noticed about this portion of the trip was the vegetation: black needle rush. In all my years of leading marsh walks, learning about the vegetation level of a salt marsh, I never once encountered black needle rush (even though it is a native of the Chesapeake region). The only reason I knew what is was, was because of a small patch of it that was planted on Poplar Island (where I used to work). However, this was no small patch – this was acres and acres and ACRES of the pointy marsh grass. From a distance, I thought it was some kind of stone wall or old dock since it’s not green like the rest of the marsh grasses this time of year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I came out of that marsh creek and entered the open bay again, I spotted Brian and his yellow kayak. I called him on the radio to see if he could see me to the south (we were some distance away). He was a bit confused because he said I didn’t pass him yet – sneaky me took a short-cut through the marsh creeks!

Once he caught up to me we paddled together for a little while until we reached an island labeled as “Pat Island” on Google Earth. This was the island Brian was envisioning camping on and it was perfect. We pulled up onto a sandy strip of land (less than 50 yards wide?) and decided, based on the high tide lines, that this would be a great place to camp. However, we weren’t totally sure if it was okay to camp here so we decided to wait several hours before setting up the tent (it was only mid-afternoon when we got there).

I took a break from paddling while Brian continued to fish around the island. I was amazed at the number of sandy beaches in this area! Everywhere I turned there was a beach or a sand bar. There was even a DUNE at one end of the island! This surprised me because all I’ve heard throughout my career is that there is major habitat loss when it comes to sandy shorelines. I heard that as a seasonal employee in Delaware, and I heard that all the time when I worked on Poplar. However, I wouldn’t go telling all the terrapins to come nest on the islands near Rumbley though, they were COVERED in raccoon tracks!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou know what else I was amazed at? This awesome HAT I found! O’neil brand, like-new condition, and EXACTLY what I needed – more shade for my face and shoulders. Finders, keepers!

Once the sun started to set and we were getting hungry, we decided to set up camp and have dinner (chicken, broccoli salad, beer). It was cool to actually see the sun set over a horizon of just water – not something I normally see in Maryland 🙂 After the sun set Brian continued to fish – he had the proper “all around white light” too to stay safe! I was pretty beat after 9 miles of paddling in the sun so I relaxed by the fire and watched the stars instead (being out on this island made for some phenomenal stargazing!). An hour or two later Brian got back, but still no keeper fish! What the heck Brian, you said this was your “speckled trout hot spot”.

 

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMorning! After packing up camp and a gourmet breakfast of PB&J sandwiches, it was time to continue on. The plan was for Brian to continue fishing (isn’t that always the plan?) and for me to paddle down to Crisfield where he would pick me up later. I had never been to Crisfield so I didn’t really know what to expect, although the condo buildings in the distance did not fit what I was envisioning.

It was a bit windy so I expected the first stretch, that was over open water, to be the most challenging. I’m not sure of the distance, but I would guess it was about 2 miles of open water. I reached land in just 45 minutes or so and felt pretty accomplished so far – I was off at a great pace. The land I pulled up on was the north end of Jane’s Island State Park. Again, I was astounded at the long sandy beaches – really not something you see very often in he Chesapeake!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next hour and a half was tricky but fun. After exploring yet another sand bar and sandy island, I had to navigate through a crazy maze of marsh creeks. If it had not had my trusty Android to guide me through, it probably would have taken me weeks to find my way out of there! At every bend I had to pull out the Google Earth and reevaluate my current position and where I was headed. Also at every intersection of creeks, there were probably 5 or 6 options of direction from which to choose! By the time I made it to the main channel, I was exhausted. Even though I was in protected marsh creeks, the wind was still pushing hard against me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABrian called me around this point to say he was packing up and on his way to Crisfield. I figured that since I was in the main channel and that I could almost see Jane’s Island State Park boat ramp, I was probably pretty close and it was good timing. But… I think I was wrong. The last stretch through the Crisfield ditch (not sure if that’s what it’s called, but that’s what I named it) was killer!! Not only was the wind against me, but it was funneling the water through the ditch at a crazy pace. Add boat traffic and wake to that and I had water and waves coming at me from all angles! I did feel pretty awesome when I just cruised by a family in a canoe – a family of 6 PEOPLE in a wobbly canoe. Not sure, but I imagine they didn’t get very far!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As I passed the waterfront hospital (damn, if I have need a hospital stay, send me here, must be beautiful views!), watermen docks, seafood processing buildings (do they have a more official name/term?), people swimming, people fishing, people jet-skiing, condo buildings, the U.S. Coast Guard boats, the Tangier Island Cruises boat… I began to feel incredibly small – just some girl bobbing around in an orange kayak amongst so much activity. I wonder what people thought when they saw me? That girl is… stupid? ambitious? brave? clueless?

Well it doesn’t matter what they thought because although I was probably an hour late to meet Brian, I just paddled 9 miles to get here! And 9 miles yesterday! Plus 2ish miles around islands. That’s like 20 miles in the last 24 hours! What did YOU do today? Here’s my path; blue for Day 1 and red for Day 2:


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Fenwick Island State Park to Williamsville, DE

On Monday, May 5 (Happy Cinco de Mayo!), I connected the dots and completed the leg between Fenwick Island State Park and Williamsville, DE. I have now completed everything from Holts Landing State Park (Millville, DE) all the way down to Pierce Taylor Rd in Hallwood, VA. That’s a total of 82 miles and over 24 hours of paddling! And that’s not counting the other random trips over on the Chesapeake side.

The cool thing (in my opinion) about this leg was that it was my first one way trip that I have completed that I DIDN’T need assistance from Brian or anyone else to shuttle me from one end to the other! I was able to ride my bike instead. The logistics got a little confusing. Actually, it was SO confusing that I had to write down my itinerary to make sure I didn’t forget anything. No seriously, I should have taken a photo of the post-it note I had with instructions I wrote for myself – it was pretty ridiculous.

First I loaded my kayak on top of my car (with my awesome new Yakima “hully rollers”), and loaded my bike inside my car. I’m really impressed with how much my little Nissan versa can handle! I then drove to Fenwick and unloaded my kayak and locked it to a picnic table with my dry bag, paddle, and PFD stuffed inside. Then I drove back south to Northside Park in Ocean City. There, I hopped on my bike and pedaled back up north to Fenwick. When I arrived, I had to unlock my kayak, lock my bike to the picnic table, and launch into the Little Assawoman Bay. Once I completed the paddle (that story coming in a minute), I had to load my kayak on my car, drive BACK up to Fenwick, unlock my bike, pack it up in the car, and finally head home. I still can’t believe I didn’t screw up, like leave my keys with my bike, or forget to lock something up properly. Somehow I pulled the whole thing off! Good thing I had that post-it note.

Distant view of Assawoman Wildlife Area

Distant view of Assawoman Wildlife Area

This paddle was interesting in that I paddled a stretch of the coast that I drive everyday, to and from work, so it definitely offered a different perspective from what I’m used to.  When I drive up the coast, I am mostly passing houses on the bayside and I usually forget that just on the other side of those houses and the bay, is the Assawoman Wildlife Area.  It’s a gorgeous, often forgotten area, full of good kayaking and exploring.  Some of those houses along Route 1 are pretty damn lucky – unobstructed views of the ocean to the east, the bay and beautiful, undeveloped land to the west.  Must be nice.

Approaching Route 54 bridge

Approaching Route 54 bridge

For the first part of this paddle the wind was coming straight out of the west, making paddling a frustrating, but not too difficult.  However, about 2 miles in, I saw some threatening looking clouds.  Well, I thought they were threatening looking, most people would probably disagree and call me paranoid.  I stopped for a quick break at Coastal Kayak (a nice kayak rental outfitter but they were closed) to check the radar on my phone.  Yup, the closest precipitation was in Virginia and the “thunder” I thought I heard was a plane.

100MEDIA$IMAG2367I kept heading south, admiring all the fancy homes in Fenwick.  I then entered the “Fenwick Ditch” which is a narrow area that connects the Little Assawoman bay in DE, to the Assawoman bay in Maryland.  I was a bit worried about how hard the tide would be running through here, but it wasn’t bad.  It may have even been slack tide.  I went under the Route 54 bridge and I have to say, this was the first time I have passed a tiki bar while paddling.  Even though it was Cinco de Mayo, very few people were hanging out at Harpoon Hanna’s. Maybe had it been a warmer day, I would have stopped in for a margarita!

As I came out of the ditch, I headed west.  When I started this whole trip, I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to Northside Park, or if I was going to go to the kayak launch in the Bayside community (where I had started the OC paddle last September).  I decided I wanted to do this right and connect all the dots, so I paddled over to Bayside.  Once I arrived, I was pretty beat so I got out, ate a sandwich, and pressed on to Northside Park.

I was pretty worried about this last stretch because I was going to be going directly into the wind and it was a straight 2 miles across open water.  Luckily, it wasn’t that bad!  I don’t get it.  There are times when going against the wind is torture, and then there are other times when I swear it is actually easier than going WITH the wind!  I was cruising!  I couldn’t believe how quickly I made it to the park.

The worst part of this whole day was the last part as I got out of my kayak.  The park doesn’t exactly have an official kayak launch.  There is a nice bit of sandy beach to get out on, but then I had to carry my kayak several hundred yards to my car!  So frustrating.  By the time I got to my car, I was so tired that I could barely load my kayak onto the roof rack.  My arms will killing me, more from carrying/dragging my kayak from the water than the actual 8 mile paddle!

Although the weather was meh, the wind was frustrating at times, and there was very little wildlife to see on this trip, I still felt extremely accomplished since I did the whole thing solo.  No help being shuttled, no help disassembling my bike, no help loading my kayak.  I was a bit sore the next morning since it has been quite some time since my last long paddle, but it was worth it!  Take a look at my path:

And if you want to see the complete 82 miles from Delaware to Virginia, here it is!

kayaking


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South Point to Truitt’s Landing

Longest paddling trip of my life (to date): 16.5 miles (see map near the bottom of this post).  Completed on Sunday, September 15, 2013.

Long, painful, and exhausting are all words that first come to mind to describe this paddle.  I really shouldn’t be saying that though.  When I really start thinking about it, it’s more like peaceful, isolated (in a good way), and accomplished.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere was the plan: hit the water before sunrise, paddle south for 4 hours or so, and Brian will be leaving work in time to be at Truitt’s Landing around 11:30 to pick me up.  I didn’t quite make it by sunrise; I made it in the water maybe 15-20 minutes after sunrise (not bad for getting up so early on my day off).  I wanted to paddle alongside Assateague instead of the mainland because I enjoy paddling next to marshes more than farmland, and it just seemed quieter and more peaceful.

As I paddled away from the dock, an older gentleman was launching at the same time, but we were headed in different directions.  He asked me where I was headed and I told him Truitt’s Landing.  He seemed a little confused and shocked that I was planning to cover such a long distance, but then he said it looked like I knew what I was doing and that I could handle it.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was good encouragement for later on in this adventure!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI passed a few kayakers when I got up next to Assateague.  It appeared they were campers in the campground, doing some early morning exploring.  I’m starting to notice a trend among kayakers lately (and I saw some coming from the campground).  There is this funny demographic of recently retired, seemingly highly educated people out on the water.  They purchase really fancy/expensive kayaks, they wear all the fancy, high-end kayaking clothing and accessories (wide-brimmed hat, kayaking gloves, and an explosion of gortex).  And they appear to think that kayaking is the coolest way to spend their time and they are overly excited about it.  This is all fabulous; it’s good to see these people enjoying their retirement and spending gobs of money on something (in my opinion) worthwhile.  However, the thing that bothers me about them?  They buy these fancy shmancy kayaks and don’t go for long distances.  They just poke around in the marsh and explore small areas (or so I’ve witnessed over the last couple years).  I mean, can’t we trade?  Not that I don’t absolutely love exploring salt marshes and not that I don’t adore my 12 foot Necky, but seriously.  Why do you need a fiberglass boats to explore marsh creeks?  Clearly this is a huge stereotype, but I just needed to say it!

Okay, rant over.  Back to my 16.5 mile journey!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the cool things about Assateague is that they have campsites that you can kayak to.  The last people I saw on this trip were on their way back from a campsite.  However, even though these people were the last people I would see, I still had 10+ miles to cover at that point!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA little further down the bay, I finally spotted some ponies!  When I am driving on Assateague I get annoyed because they cause traffic jams and mobs of silly tourists.  But for some reason when I see them in a remote part of the island, it’s really exciting.  There were a bunch of them chilling in the marsh but as I got closer to snap some photos, they slowly moved inland so my pictures aren’t that exciting.

I took a quick break to eat a sandwich before heading straight across the bay to Truitt’s Landing.  I had it in my head that I was not far from the finish line.  I simply had to paddle across the bay, right?  No. Wrong.  I had to use all the energy in my body and all the motivational thoughts in my head to complete this last section of the trip.  The first mile wasn’t so bad (I saw huge jellyfish and a giant sting ray!) but the last 5 miles or so were complete torture.  My arms weren’t just tired, I was in pain.  When I finally made it next to land, I was extremely relieved.  However, I pulled out my phone to check the map and realized it was just a little marsh island and that I still had another 2+ miles or so to go!

The last stretch was killer.  I was talking to myself, singing songs, anything to motivate myself and not give up.  Even when I saw Brian’s car at the landing, I was 3/4 of a mile away!  When I FINALLY pulled up at the landing, I almost started to cry.  Not sure if it would have been tears of joy or tears of sheer pain, but I was able to keep my composure.  My arms were so sore that I had to sort of roll and shimmy out of my kayak, instead of my normal hoist and hop out!

I had plans to go to the gym the next morning.  That sure as hell didn’t happen!  But no big deal because seriously, look at this path on the map!  Sooo incredibly proud of myself.  16.5 miles completed in 5 hours and 11 minutes.  Not bad.

And you know what?  Not only was this the longest trip I’ve ever completed, I’ve now officially completed the seaside coast of Maryland in my overall goal of paddling around the entire peninsula.  Sweetness.


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Williamsville, DE to Ocean City Inlet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, August 25, 2013, I paddled from the MD/DE border to the Ocean City Inlet.  Brian dropped me off at the Bayside Community’s “The Point”, a section of the Bayside development that has not yet been developed, except for a kayak storage area, a screened-in pavilion, a fishing pier, and a boat ramp.  This is so close to the Maryland border that I think I only took about 5 paddle strokes before I was in Maryland waters.

Today’s path was probably the most boat-traffic-heavy stretch that I will encounter.  You’ll notice in the map below that I stayed close to land as much as possible.  However, the first stretch was pretty quiet as I paddled around some marsh islands, away from the boats and jet skis.  Even though the hustle and bustle of Ocean City was not far to the east, the marshes and wooded islands of the Assawoman Bay seemed like a world away.  There were even old hunting shacks and duck blinds (something that I would think to be in only remote areas of Delmarva) that I didn’t expect to see.

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After I passed the undeveloped marsh islands though, I kayaked passed the Lighthouse Sound golf course and several giant mansions; quite a change in scenery.  I then paddled underneath the Route 90 bridge and stopped at the Island of Wight Wildlife Management Area.  I was exhausted and needed a lunch break!

I continued on across the mouth of the St. Martins River.  There was quite a bit of boat traffic so I paddled as fast as possible to cross the channel and get close to land again.  It’s funny though – when I’ve kayaked in Talbot County, all the boaters slow down when they see a kayaker.  Here however, nobody slowed down.  But I’m not sure if I’m upset about that or not.  Although I appreciate the courtesy when someone slows down, I also enjoy paddling through their wakes!

Anyway, my next encounter with boat traffic was an annoying one – jet skis.  Ugh.  I hate them for many reasons.  It appeared that a jet ski rental company had “reserved” part of the bay to bring all of their customers.  It was marked with buoys and there were at least 15-20 jet skis zipping around in a gazillion different directions.  And right in the middle of my intended path.  These people clearly don’t own a jet ski (hence why they are renting) and most likely have no idea what they are doing.  This is why I’m terrified of jet skis.  To keep safe, I paddled around the buoys to stay out of their way, but I was still a little on edge, wondering if some idiot was going to leave the designated area.

Portage across the marsh

Portage across the marsh

I finally made it passed the jet ski zone and headed through a small marsh creek that was supposed to lead me to the next portion of the bay.  However, I took a wrong turn and just found a dead end.  I didn’t feel like back-tracking so I just decided to portage (it was only about 15 feet, not bad).  It was at this point in my journey that I really started getting tired, but just in time, because the outgoing tide really started to flow and helped to carry me through the rest of the journey.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI finished the trip by passing Hooper’s Crab House, underneath the Route 50 bridge, passed Stinky Beach and finally met up with Brian, who I found fishing around the docks, just inside the inlet.  I stayed with him for a few minutes as he fished, but I was exhausted, and all I wanted to do was get out of my kayak!

I then paddled into Sunset Marina and completed my 12.8 mile journey!

AND Brian caught 2 triggerfish for dinner!

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Here’s the path I took:


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George’s Island to Queen’s Sound

It’s been exactly one year (to the day!) since I completed the first leg of my overall goal.  After today’s leg, I’ve paddled just over 66 miles in 20 hours and 18 minutes.  I’m just about 10% complete (don’t forget the overall goal is to paddle around the entire Delmarva peninsula).  Today I paddled from George’s Island landing in Stockton, MD to Queen’s Sound landing which is along the Chincoteague causeway.  My first border crossing!  And another cool thing – I finished the first leg on June 24 last year at Queens Sound (but I obviously came from the opposite direction this time).  None of these coincidences were planned either.  I just realized as I was looking at my records a few minutes ago.

IMAG1227I drove to George’s Island landing, just east of the tiny town of Stockton.  This landing is probably the most gorgeous landing I’ve seen yet.  I love driving down a back road, usually wooded with a house here and there, and then all of a sudden, the landscape opens up and you’re right on the waterfront.  This landing overlooks Chincoteague Bay, Assateague Island way off in the distance, and a few islands (I’m thinking one of them was George’s Island at one point).  Before I took off, I snapped a few photos at the landing, just because this spot was so… the word enchanting comes to mind, but I feel like a nerd using that word.  But whatever, it was enchanting.  There was a man fishing from the bulkhead that even tried to convince me to buy the house that was right on the water.  Tempting at $200k but probably not the best investment with the increase in strong storms we’ve been seeing.

The first 7 miles of this 8.6-mile trip were lovely.  Even though I was paddling directly into the wind, it was pretty easy.  Much easier than yesterday’s paddle when I was paddling into the wind at an angle the whole time.  I took a quick break on a spit of land near Greenbackville, and another break at the Captain’s Cove development.  Brian was going to pick me up when he was done work so I sent him a text to let him know I’d be at the landing in about an hour and a half.

The last stretch of the paddle was tough.  Not as rough as yesterday’s paddle, but it was definitely not as lovely as the first couple miles of this trip.  I took my time paddling into the wind, careful not to wear myself out.  I was only moving at about 2.5 mph, but I was making headway and feeling pretty good.  It wasn’t until I had about a mile left that I hit a shallow spot.  So shallow that it turned into a mud flat.  Ugh, portage.  It was nice to give my arms a break and use some other muscles, but holy cow, trudging through the mud and dragging my kayak behind me was way more exhausting that paddling against the wind!

I did however get to see some cool stuff in the water.  Lots of crabs (thank goodness for my closed-toe Tevas), anemones, and a terrapin!  Since the water was so shallow and I was not in my kayak, she was easy to spot and easy to grab!  I kept her just long enough to snap a photo and let her continue on her way.  This sort of cheered me up and made me stop bitching at the mud flat for a few minutes.

FINALLY I got into water that was deep enough to paddle again!  The last mile or so was exhausting, but I finally made it under the Chincoteague bridge and completed the paddle at the boat ramp at Queen’s Sound landing.  I wish I had more pictures to share with this post, but somehow I deleted all but one of them.  None of them were life-changing, earth-shattering shots, but it would have been cool to show some of the sights and the terrapin!

Take a look at my path.  If you zoom in enough on the section between the causeway and Captain’s Cove, you’ll see the line is not as smooth.  This is where I had to portage across the mudflat.  Not fun 😦