euryhaline paddler

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak

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Hoopersville to Wingate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


View returning to Hoopersville ramp

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

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


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Scharle Family Paddling

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

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

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

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Dames Quarter to Deal Island WMA

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

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

Docks. This was basically my view for 5 miles.

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

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


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

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


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


Here’s the path I took:

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Dames Quarter to Clay Island

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

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

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

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


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!


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.)


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).


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.



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!


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:


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.


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!


“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!


(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


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.


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.


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?


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.



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.


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!


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!


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: