euryhaline paddler

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak


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Madison to Taylor’s Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

this was my view for a while…

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

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


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Madison to Ragged Point

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

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

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

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

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

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

can you spot the eagle?

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

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

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

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


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Guardshore to Hopkins

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

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

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

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

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

DSCF2366 from Laura Baldwin on Vimeo.

 

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

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

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


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Neavitt to Bellevue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Deal Island WMA to Champ Wharf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Champ Wharf

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

How sweet is this boy??


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Crocheron to Wingate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yep.”

“Gotta be careful out there.”

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

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

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

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

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Quinby to Wachapreague

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

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

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

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

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

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White caps in Upshur Bay

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

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

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Can you see the fiddler crabs?

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

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

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

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

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

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