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OC1 – Mike McCrea, Tyler McCrea
An overburdened schedule having forced us to forgo our now customary spring jaunt to north Florida we elected to travel to the far southern reaches of Maryland’s western shore. Point Lookout State Park, at the confluence of the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay, being the furthest limit of south on the western shore.
We were surprised and delighted to find that, although some camping loops remain closed from the previous year’s hurricane damage, the park was nearly devoid of other visitors; we had only two other sites occupied in the area we chose for the duration of our stay.
One of those sites being occupied by the Palmers, our tripping companions of old. And just like the days of old the Palmer’s journey was not without mishap. Although it didn’t compare with the blown engine bearing in South Carolina, or the failed fuel pump in western Maryland or the shattered window gear-theft in Arkansas.
This particular vehicular mishap had it origins in the overstuffed nature of tripping with kids, canoes, camping gear and dog in a minivan. Accent on the mini. In order to transport the necessary mountains of gear the Palmer strategy is to stuff things into the inverted canoes on the roof racks. This strategy usually, but apparently not always, involves tying this gear securely into place.
The first sign of trouble appeared in the rearview mirror, as the traffic behind them on the highway suddenly began dodging left and right. The second sign of trouble appeared when they had made a U-turn to discover the scattered remains of a bundle of well-mangled paddles strewn along the highway and a disabled Volvo whose driver reported that he’d “Run over something on the highway”. Maybe writing your name and phone number on your paddles isn’t always such a good idea.
Although Point Lookout is surrounded by water on three sides it is more sea kayak country that open boater territory, wedged between the enormity of the Chesapeake Bay and the umpteen-mile wide mouth of the Potomac River. Within the park the more sheltered confines of the interconnected Lake Conoy, Point Lookout Creek and Hall Pond offer some prime flatwater paddling (and great birding, with a heron rookery, plentiful waterfowl, osprey, bald eagles and more).
Our first paddle outing took us through the tidal expanses of this sheltered venue. Exploring up the coves and feeder streams we eventually made our way under the low water bridge and into Hall Pond. A sandy berm at the far end of Hall Pond beckoned, and beaching our canoes we climbed the berm to discover the tidal Potomac on the opposite side of Cornfield Point.
This proved to be a most favored spot, providing shell and sea glass provender for the kids and an opportunity for Linus (the Palmer’s Wheaton Terrier puppy, making his inaugural canoe trip) to perform his impersonation of King Canute, attempting to turn back the tide by digging holes in the surf.
Back at camp the usual afternoons Frisbee, card playing and fireside sip & bite soon turned into the evening’s campfire circle and Botticelli bout. Quinn established a new Botticelli record by identifying Rosa Parks with only four directs (living, black, female, American) and then went onto to stump her collected challengers with Oliver Twist (despite our having ferreted out that her person was a youthful, male, non-American, fictional character, etc, etc, etc). Quinn reigns as undisputed Botticelli champ this trip.
Our second paddling trip saw us move eastward, to explore McIntosh Run, a small and swiftly flowing stream with a county maintained canoe & kayak put in along Rtes 5 and 234. Had we studied the Maryland Atlas & Gazetteer a bit before launch we would have discovered that with but a short shuttle we could have placed a vehicle at a take out at the head of Breton Bay. Lacking that wisdom we floated down with a falling tide, partook a leisurely shore lunch and attained back on a rising tide.
McIntosh Run was another birder’s delight; a densely wooded stream edging into scattered hardwood hammocks in the marsh. Within minutes of launching we had two mature and one immature bald eagles soaring overhead, with the usual osprey, egret and heron accompaniment in the marsh grass edges.
All in all a pleasant and laid back spring trip, adding a few new waterways to the list. Two words of warning regarding Point Lookout: from the expansive appearance of the boat launch and marina facilities this place is overrun in-season by power boaters seeking access to the mouth of the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay. We may have picked the perfect time of year to visit.
And, quietude can be in short supply in lower St. Mary’s County – the nearby Patuxent Naval Air Station provides the occasional top-gun lighting off afterburners and spooky unseen UVA’s whining overhead.
Bent Shaft Canoe Paddles