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We've all embarked on a paddle that was hastily planned. I actually had a well-planned paddle down Antietam Creek, but the morning of the trip I checked the water gauges on line and the flow was too low. I needed a Plan B.
I heard that Jug Bay on the Patuxent River was a nice place to paddle so headed out there with my canoe and my date. Or, my prospective date.
At the Jackson Landing launch Jug Bay is a broad freshwater marsh. There are great blue herons, osprey and at this time of the year red-winged blackbirds. But beyond the birds it gets uninteresting quickly.
We left the bay and paddled upstream. We were soon enticed by sight of the old Calvert Manor--a grand estate that sits atop a hill looking down stream. At Calvert Manor the flow splits. The main river heads off to the right, and a creek flows off to the left.
The creek looked more interesting. There were a lot of birds, and trees lined the shoreline. We opted for that.
Eventually the creek narrowed and it felt quite remote. Trees formed a tunnel-like canopy over the creek. There were woods on one side, and what looked to be farmland through the trees on the other. I love paddling up the headwaters of something until I can't paddle any more.
The flow slowed -- the water was a little stagnant and had a slight odor, but the remote creek and tunnel of trees were too enticing. And there was a deep enough channel to carry on. I barely noticed the smell, or I ignored it. I paddled on, while my partner lounged in the canoe, feet dangling over the side.
Eventually, in the distance, I heard the faint sounds of water falling. This was going to be spectacular. Maybe even romantic (there was a picnic packed in the canoe too). My first dates don't usually turn out this well.
I paddled on, and as the sound of the waterfall got closer I began to paddle with more vigor. My partner picked up on my energy and soon she grabbed her paddle too.
Ah, and then the moment came.
We rounded a bend and there was the sight. Well, the first thing I notice was the huge sewage treatment plant. And then, a small spillway from the sewage treatment plant. Yep. I later learned that the headwaters of this creek was the 600,000 gallon per day Marlboro Meadows treatment plant.
So much for romance.
We turned and paddled out of there. Thinking about the thin skin of the canoe being the only thing separating us from... that.
I will say, it ranks up there among the memorable dates. It is both awesome and disgusting.
I've been back to the Patuxent River many times. But I've never paddled up this creek again.
1 Canoe/Kayak Trailer