euryhaline paddler

exploring the shorelines of Delmarva via kayak


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ESNWR to Oyster via Mockhorn Island

Pre-paddle selfie!

Pre-paddle selfie!

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

Other people camping

Other people camping

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

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

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

giant floating net

giant floating net

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

WWII Towers

WWII Towers

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

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

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

our home for the night

our home for the night

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

 

waterman on the bay

waterman on the bay

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

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

site of "bam! splash!"

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

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

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

crab pot buoy leading the way

crab pot buoy leading the way

white pelican. no really. white pelican.

white pelican. no really. white pelican.

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

Cobb Island Coast Guard Station

Cobb Island Coast Guard Station

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

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

 

 


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Johnson Landing to Crystal Beach, Onancock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In the home stretch!

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

 

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Gotta capture a selfie!

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

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

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

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

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homes at altitude!

homes at altitude!

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

pound net (one of many)

pound net (one of many)

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

Kiptopeke pier

Kiptopeke pier

ships off Kiptopeke

ships off Kiptopeke

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

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

dragging my kayak up the hill

dragging my kayak up the hill

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

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

approaching Smith Island light

approaching Smith Island light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

my helicopter friend first spotted at the ramp in Cape Charles

my helicopter friend first spotted at the ramp in Cape Charles

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

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

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


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Claiborne to Tilghman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this handsome guy.

Check out this handsome guy.

Last view of Poplar

Last view of Poplar

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

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

"trespassing" through Knapps Narrows Marina

“trespassing” through Knapps Narrows Marina

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

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


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Beach Plum Island to Lewes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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: