Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Kayaking the Nanjemoy

Nanjemoy Creek flows just over 13 miles in Charles County, MD to the Potomac River. It comprises a some open water ways, as well as thick, marshy grassland, providing an ideal habitat for a variety of water fowel and other birds.

It is also an ideal habitat for kayakers.

Nanjemoy -- the town and the creek -- draw their names from a Native American subgroup of the Piscataway people, the Nanjemoy (also Nangemy, Nangemaick). Likewise, another subgroup gave their identity to another Charles County creek: the Mattawoman. Archaeological research indicates evidence of pre-Contact settlements dating back thousands of years. Groups comprising the Piscataway, by 1600, primarily inhabited the north bank of the Potomac River in what is now Charles, southern Prince George's, and the more western part of St. Mary's counties in southern Maryland.

We accessed the creek via Friendship Farm Park, a small, local Charles County park that overlooks Nanjemoy Creek. In addition to a boat ramp for motorized boats, it also offers an excellent kayaking launch. Good news: there's ample free parking.

Once we launched, we first paddled to the right, up one of the branches of Nanjemoy Creek, until we beached ourselves on a hidden mud flat. After freeing ourselves, we paddled toward a deeper branch of the creek, although by then the tide was rolling in and we had no concerns about hidden mud flats.

We saw several osprey, including one that flew pretty low over our kayak carrying a fish. We also saw numerous hawks, although no bald eagles or heron, although both are common to the area. There were numerous smaller birds, including cheeky red-wing black birds in the grasses.

For the kayaker, canoeist or small boater this creek offers miles of scenic marshes which abound with wildlife. The winding creek has many high banks offering protection from strong winds and nesting sites for Bald Eagles.

Friendship Farm Park offers just over 7 miles of trails and these deserve to be explored -- another article. Several loop around the creek, offering overlook points, places to enjoy the beautiful water view.

Know before you go: Because Nanjemoy Creek is a tidal creek, best to know what the tides are. You probably will want to go during high tide, because some of the upper creek channels are pretty shallow and it's not hard to get stuck in the mud. Check out the tides here. Please note that there is no kayak rental at this location, so plan on bringing your own.

Getting there: 4705 Friendship Landing Rd, Nanjemoy, MD 20662

Hours: Dawn through dusk

Website: Find a trail map for Friendship Farm Park here.

For other great places to kayak in Maryland, check out the places below:
Blackwater River/Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Kayaking
Centennial Lake / Preparing for Kayaking Adventures
C&O Canal at Swain's Lock
Daniels, MD
Lake Clopper / Seneca Creek State Park
Lake Elkhorn
Little Seneca Lake
Mallows Bay Shipwrecks
Patapsco River
Piney Run Park
Potomac River
Wetipquin Creek (Nanticoke River Water Trail)
Wicomico River

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Revisiting Brookside Gardens

We first visited Brookside Gardens Mothers Day weekend, a few years ago. Construction was just beginning on the series of reflection ponds, but there was much to see and enjoy.

This year, we visited on Father's Day morning. We went early, hoping to beat any crowds and wishing to go while it would still be uncrowded, as we prefered to avoid other people during the time of pandemic.

Like most botanical gardens, Brookside Gardens is a photographer's paradise. In fact, I saw several camera set ups to envy.

Brookside Gardens is Montgomery County's award-winning 50-acre public display garden
located within Wheaton Regional Park.

Included in the gardens are several distinct areas: Aquatic Garden, Azalea Garden, Butterfly Garden, Rose Garden, Japanese Style Garden, Trial Garden, Rain Garden, and the Woodland Walk. The Formal Gardens areas include a Perennial Garden, Yew Garden, the Maple Terrace, and Fragrance Garden.

Brookside Gardens also features two conservatories for year-round displays, but where closed due to the ongoing pandemic precautions.

Because it's June, the rose garden was magnificient. Roses of all colors, and all the colors enhanced and vibrant after a night of rain storms.

Hydrangeas were also peaking, and gorgeous in pinks and blues and purples.

Mostly, we stood mezmerized by a great blue heron fishing for their breakfast in one of the reflecting ponds.

In addition to herons and other birds, be on the lookout forother critters, including turtles, chipmonks, of course rabbits, and black squirrels.

Brookside Gardens, unlike some of the other gardens attractions, didn't start out as the estate grounds to some millionaire. Instead, it was a project of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, opening on 13 July, 1969.

The site formerly had been the location of Stadler Nursery, so its transition into a botanical garden was logical. These gardens were always meant to be open to the public for everyone's enjoyment.

Did I mention that admission is free? It's a low-risk venture with high rewards for a summer afternoon!

Know before you go: To maintain proper COVID-19 social distancing practices, while Brookside Gardens is open we will be limiting the numbers allowed into our parking lot. We appreciate your understanding during this time. Due to COVID-19, the visitor center building is closed. There are no restroom facilities, we ask that you plan your visit accordingly.

Getting there: 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD

Hours: Dawn through dusk

Website: https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/brookside-gardens/

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Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Kayaking Patapsco River

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we followed Maryland's "stay at home" orders, only venturing out for necessities and exercise, such as hiking and kayaking, and then only in less popular areas. One of our adventures was a really pretty paddle on the Patapsco River, putting in just above the dam at Daniels and paddling upstream about 1.5 miles before turning around and heading back to the launch sight.

This stretch of the river flows through the aptly named Patapsco Valley State Park, one of Maryland's prettiest, and certainly, its most popular.

The Patapsco Valley State Park extends along 32 miles of the Patapsco River, encompassing 16,043 acres and eight developed recreational areas. Recreational opportunities include hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, horseback and mountain bike trails, as well as picnicking for individuals or large groups in the park’s many popular pavilions. The park is known for its trail opportunities and scenery -- the river is why. 

Although we probably only went upriver 1.5 miles before hitting some minor rapids that we didn't feel like paddling against just past a big bend, this is well worth a few hours of your time just to enjoy the river. This stretch of the river flows through the Patapsco Valley State Park (Daniels Area), and trees now line the shores. Other than a bridges and supports from the rail road (the Baltimore & Ohio's Old Main Line, now run by CSX), this stretch offers few signs of civilization. 

Other than these rapids -- and you can hardly call these even Class 1 rapids -- the river current was pretty gentle, although when we just floated, the current would push us sideways.

A railroad bridge from the Old Main Line is picturesque. It now carries a hiking/biking rail trail.

Heading back downriver was pleasant, with the current doing most of the work until just above the dam. We paddled only to steer. 

Another option for kayaking on the Patapsco River is launching at Woodstock and heading down stream until taking out at Daniels. That option offers a nice four-hour float with the current down the river. Check to see whether enough water is running on the river, unless you don't mind the occasional portage. I haven't done this kayak trip, but I know folks who have, and I plan on doing so next spring.

I think you'll be impressed by the beauty of the river. The morning we were there -- not a weekend morning -- we had the river to ourselves, except for a Canada goose, a mother mallard duck and her ducklings and a beautiful heron fishing for his breakfast. He kept a wary eye on us until we were well past him!

We were startled by how clear the water was, although the river doesn't seem very healthy -- no water grasses were growing in the river and we didn't see any fish and not very many turtles.

If Daniels sounds familiar, then thank you for being a return reader! MidAtlantic DayTrips has featured the Daniels area before, exploring several trails leading to Maryland's ghost town of Daniels and ruins of the churches in the fall, in the winter, and on the Howard County side above the dam exploring the Old Main Line (America's first rail trail) in the winter and spring, and a pretty loop hike past house ruins.

Know before you go: Some parts of the river will be impassable during a drought or low-rain period. Spring is your best option for exploring the Patapsco River by kayak, or after a significant rain. 

Know before you go 2: Parking is tight at Daniels -- maybe room for 10 cars unless you wish to chance parking illegally (not recommended, since big trucks can rumble by). Your best bet? Arrive early.

Know before you go 3: Paddling.com is a great resource for finding good kayak routes! 

Getting there: Patapsco Valley State Park - Daniels Area, 2090 Daniels Road, Ellicott City, MD 21043

For the Woodstock launch area: North on U.S. 29 to dead end at Route 99/Old Frederick Road; left on Route 99. Drive just over 3 miles and turn right on MD Rt 125/Woodstock Rd, cross the railroad tracks, cross bridge, parking on left for put-in (long portage from parking to the river).

Hours: Dawn through dusk


Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Patriotic Daytrip at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House

In 1813, the United States was at war with Great Britain. The British Royal Navy, by then, completely controlled the Chesapeake Bay, and Baltimore was preparing for an attack. Major George Armistead, commander of Fort McHenry, wanted a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a great distance, so he went to Mary Pickersgill, a noted flag maker who lived near the inner harbor in Baltimore.

The flag depicted on the side of the museum building is the same dimensions as the star-spangled banner flag.

The resulting 30 x 42-foot flag may possibly be America's most treasured artifact. 

Pickersgill was the daughter of another noted flag maker, Rebecca Young, who taught Pickersgill her craft. The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum tells the story of Pickersgille as well as the Battle of Baltimore that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the National Anthem.

What is now the Star Spangled Banner Flag House became the home of Mary Young Pickersgill when she moved to Baltimore in 1806, although the house was built much earlier, in 1793, and it was there she sewed the "Star Spangled Banner" in 1813. The house museum contains furniture and antiques from the Federal period as well as items from the Pickersgill family.

The museum houses exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Battle of Baltimore. 

Know before you go: Seeing the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House makes a good pairing with seeing Fort McHenry, just on the other side of the harbor. In fact, you can pick up a water taxi nearby over to Fort McHenry.

Parking: There is a parking garage (Kaiser Permanente Parking Garage) just across Pratt Street from the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum. On most weekends, it's a flat rate of $20 for the day. Less expensive parking can be found along the street (metered).

Artwork by Caris Witlock, aged 9.

Getting there: 844 E Pratt St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday, self-guided tours 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Website: http://www.flaghouse.org/

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Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Kayaking the Wicomico River

We headed to Whitehaven, an historic industrial town along the banks of the Wicomico River, for this paddling adventure.

Lining the shores of the fairly placid river were mud flats and marshland, with numerous inlets and creeks to explore.

The Wicomico River is a 24-mile-long tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the eastern shore of Maryland; the lower 20 miles are a tidal estuary. It drains an area of low marshlands and farming country in the middle Delmarva Peninsula. 

The gentle free-flowing river is a popular destination for recreational canoeing and kayaking, as well as recreational fishing and crabbing. You'll likely encounter some motor boats and sailboats on the main part of the river, and occasionally a barge, creating a significant wake to navigate. 

We stuck to the shore, avoiding wavy bumpy wakes (there was only one, actually), choosing instead to head into the inlets and creeks. It was magical. 

As you enter the creeks, the reeds loom several feet above you, creating rooms and hidden spaces in these tidal flats. We noticed numerous marsh crabs and their distinctive mud shelters, as they sifted the mud hunting for food.

John Smith, the first wave of the European invasion, encountered the Wighcocomoco (Wicomico) people in his exploration of the Chesapeake in 1608. They called the river Rokiawakin -- there is now a Rockawalkin Creek that flows in the Wicomico River. The Wicomico people slowly were pushed off their land because Europeans encroached on their land.

Osprey, herons, egrets are all common to the area, although we didn't see any during our paddle adventure. It was particularly lovely in the late afternoon, with the angles of the sun lengthening, creating the illusion of dusk in some of the narrow creeks. 

Know before you go: Do some research about tides, as that can make your kayaking adventure exhausting if you're paddling against both the river current and the tidal flow.