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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Paddling Patuxent Wetland Park

Sunday, August 2, 2020
Hi Blog!

We've been enjoying our time with Matt, Weina and William as they get settled back in the United States. Weina starts work at the Arlington Montessori House on Monday. In order to give the family a chance to get settled before she starts work, we decided to stay near camp and explore our new neighborhood.

Just around the corner from the Adventure Bound Camping Resort, where we will be for the month of August, is the Patuxent Wetland Park. This park is just one of dozens of small parks dotting the entire length of the Patuxent River.

The Patuxent River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. The 908-square-mile Patuxent watershed had a rapidly growing population. It is the largest and longest river entirely within Maryland, and its watershed is the largest completely within the state. Over 100 miles of the river contain numerous paddling opportunities from at least half a dozen entry points within 5 miles of our campground!  We look forward to spending our free time exploring different sections of the river.

We scored a great parking spot right next to the boat launch, which is at mile 47 from the mouth of the Patuxent River. Here Kathy gets ready to shove off.

Before heading out into the main channel of the river, we decide to explore one of the many water trails through the wetlands surrounding the river.

As we paddled deeper into the wetlands, we spotted countless orioles and butterflies taking advantage of the summer wildflowers.

We were hoping to make it through the trail and back out to the river, but the lilly pads had other ideas. The vegetation became so thick, we soon had to retrace our route.

Upon closer inspection, we noticed this little yellow lily flower getting ready to bloom.

After we made it back out to the main channel, Kathy startled a Great Blue Heron who buzzed her kayak. The heron ended up on the far bank. If you look closely, you can see him just to the right of and beyond Kathy's knee.

Here's a better look.

A paddle just wouldn't be complete if we didn't find a bird box.

After the crowds we encountered earlier in the week at Calvert Cliffs State Park, we were amazed we didn't see more people on the river, especially since today was Sunday.

With temperatures around 92F, finding shade along the banks became a priority.

We eventually found another boat. These folks anchored themselves at a fork in river.

As we left the wetland park, we passed an old campground that has become a mobile home park. The neighborhood kids like to the climb the crooked trees leaning over the water.

As we worked our way upstream past the mobile home park, we noticed the remnants of old docks, most of which were in various states of disrepair. We can only assume that storm damage wiped them out and residents never bothered to repair them.

We found an osprey nest perched high above the river bank. We didn't notice any osprey in the nest, but we did see one fishing further upstream.

These white flowers lined the river banks. They were a favorite with the local bees.

We passed a pretty impressive duck blind. Lucky for us, duck season doesn't start until September.  On our paddle back down the river after lunch, two families had taken possession of the duck blind spot to fish and picnic.

On our way upstream, we didn't see any turtles. After lunch, we retraced our steps and found turtles on just about ever log we passed. Apparently, turtles don't come out to sun themselves until after noon.

The Patuxent Water Trail is a cooperative effort that pools the hard work and dedication of everyday citizens, nonprofit organizations, plus county, state and federal partners to provide public access and recreational opportunities on the Patuxent River.  We spotted this location sign as we turned back up the estuarial channel, from the main river channel, toward our original entry point:

We are grateful for all the hard work of the groups supporting paddling on the Patuxent River, and we look forward to exploring more of the Patuxent River Trail.

Calvert Cliffs Redux

All the way back in 2012 -- the first year of our full-time RV'ing adventure -- we visted Calvert Cliffs State Park and posted a blog entry about our hike.  We were camped in the old Duncan's Family Campground in Lothian, Maryland, then.  Our son Matt and his wife Weina and their infant son William were in Falls Church, Virginia, while Matt completed language training for his first State Department posting in Ecuador.  This time, we're in the same campground, although it has changed its name to Adventure Bound Washington.  We're here again while Matt, Weina and William are starting their next tour in D.C.

We remembered very little of our first visit, although we remembered the bogs and frogs, and the beach with fossils.  The hike itself was a blank in our memories.  So, this time, we focused a little more on our hike itself.

From the main parking lot at Calvert Cliffs State Park, we took the Red Trail toward the beach.  It took us through a coastal rainforest.  We saw the remains of some old giants that fell to loggers or disease.  Here, Kathy is dwarfed by a fallen tree's stump:

Due to the moisture and the forest duff, a variety of mushroom and other fungi graced the trailside.  David couldn't resist taking his obligatory fun guy photo:

The Red Trail runs alongside a stream drainage that has created a massive bog.  Consequently, parts of the trail were supported by boardwalks.  Some of the sections were anchored on sandy soil; others almost floated on wet, boggy bottoms:  

The sandy trail was distinctive the entire length of our hike:

We had some views of the bogs, which in places were almost ponds or lakes:

Speaking of fungi...

We spotted the remains of an old boardwalk that probably led to a viewing platform over the bog.  Now, all that is left is the twisted first section of the boardwalk:

Our boardwalk continued winding loyally toward the beach:

Occasionally, we spotted some lily pads and flowers gracing the boggy waters next to the trail:

A beautiful gold-and-black butterfly landed in front of us and posed until we were able to snap its portrait:

We happened upon an old, vacant beaver lodge and dam.  Clearly, a beaver had been active here for years, but -- now -- the beaver has vacated the premises and we wonder what will happen to this part of the bog once the dam breaks:

After two miles, we reached the beach.  If we expected a socially distant experience, we were mistaken -- even though we got out early and reached the beach by 11 am or so.

Kathy chose to put on her mask and brave the crowds to look for fossils and sharks' teeth, while David opted for solitude along the cliffs.  Here was the view north up the Chesapeake Bay:

David found a trail up the edge of the near cliff and climbed to the first height of land, where he got a better view of the easternmost-jutting cliff:

Kathy found one fossilized shell, and eventually followed David up the cliff.  We sat and relaxed, happy that we didn't have lots of other people around.  However, we soon had to don masks because some young boys climbed up toward us and passed nearby along the trail.

After a little rest, we worked our way back down to the trail and headed back toward the trailhead.  On the way, we got this pretty view of the bog:

Most of our hike back ran along the Orange Trail along higher ground, so we lost sight of water; but early Fall leaves added some color to our passage:

Little did we know how rewarding our hike back on the Orange Trail would be, because, we got the rare opportunity to spot the mythical Calvert Culvert!

With that, stay lively my friends, and find more ways to enjoy your socially distant life!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Finding Lostland

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Hi Blog!

We've been full-time RVers for over 8 years. When we move to a new area, we try to drive less than an hour to a trailhead for a hike. Today, we broke that rule. We usually check the weather to make sure we get the best weather for our hike. Today, we broke that rule. With temperatures over 100 degrees, we've been starting our hikes early. Today we broke that rule. When hiking in a new area, we usually print out directions and maps to the trailhead. Today we broke that rule. They say adventure happens when your plans go awry! More on that later.

Yesterday, we spent the day with Weina and William. Their travels from Myanmar were long, but mercifully uneventful. We brought them emergency supplies to hold them over while they recover from jet lag. We promised to leave them alone today so they could get settled in.

This morning we slept in as much as Ruby would let us. We turned on the news just in time for the weatherman to tell us it would be another 100+ degree day. When the weather map popped up showing all the excessive heat warnings, we notice it was only going to be a high of 78F in Oakland, Maryland. We both agreed that 78F would be much nicer than 100F. Turns out, Oakland is only two and a half hours away! By 9:30 am we were winging our way to cooler climes!

A quick check of the AllTrails web page revealed a highly rated 7 mile out and back hike just outside Oakland in the Potomac State Forest. The Lostland Run winds through the forest and leads to the Potomac River. We scribbled down the GPS coordinates, packed our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and started driving.

Our journey took us west on I-66 to I-81 and then across US 48. We crossed the Appalachian Mountains into West Virginia. It wasn't until we got to Mount Storm that we began to wonder whether or not we made a mistake. Mount Storm was named for its inclement weather. At more than 2,000 feet about sea level, it bears the brunt of cool winds sweeping in from over the Ohio Valley. These cool winds were exactly what we were looking for. We just didn't count on the torrential rain that came with them.

Once we were up and over Mount Storm, the weather began to brighten. We were only a few miles from our trailhead when the GPS took us on a local farm road that soon changed to a two track ATV trail. Luckily, we were able to find a turnaround spot and sort out another route. This is what happens when you break rules.

When we arrived at the Ranger Station for the Potomac State Forrest, the weather was clearing. We ate our lunch while reading the bulletin board with information on the area. The Potomac State Forest contains 11,461 acres situated between the towns of Oakland and Westernport and partially bordering the Potomac River. The forest drains into the Potomac River Basin, and features the highest point in any Maryland state forest -- Backbone Mountain, elevation 3,200 feet.

As we started our hike, we could hear a distant rumble of thunder. We had hoped that it was from the storm we drove thru and it would soon be gone.

There are often maps of the hiking trails at the trailhead. However, we've never encountered one as unique as this one. Notice the white squiggly line. Each one of the those curves is the trail crossing Lostland Run.

At the start of the trail, you can still see some of the amazing stone work done by the Civilian Conservation Corps back in the 1920s.

As we entered the forest, the rhododendron greeted us with cheery smiles.

As we walked along this beautiful mountain stream, it was hard to imagine that this crystal clear stream valley was once a toxic wasteland. Lostland Run was polluted by acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines in its upper watershed. Once coal was extracted, many of the areas were abandoned. Drainage from these abandoned mines is dangerously acidic and contains high levels of iron oxides and sulfates. As a result, many streams in western Maryland were affected by acid mine drainage (AMD), creating inhospitable conditions for aquatic species. To remediate the effects of AMD, devices called lime dosers were installed along waterways such as Lostland Run. The lime doser periodically adds pulverized limestone to the water. As a result, the pH of the water has increased and fly fishermen are once again plying the pools and riffles for brookies.

We found these unusual round plant balls. We thought they might be either in the fern family or cedar family, but we couldn't identify them. If you know what they are, let us know.

After about a mile in, that thunder we were hearing was getting closer. Rain began to fall. We put on an extra layer. The forest canopy protected us from the worst of the rain, so we decided to continue. If we hadn't we would have missed these pretty flowers.

The Lostland Run Natural Area reflects how this rugged mountain country looked and felt 500 years ago. The folded landscape of ravines and coves and sandstone outcrops supports a blend of old-growth eastern hemlock, hardwood forests, dry oak-pine habitats and deciduous forests. The ferns are pretty, too.

The thunder never got close enough to be a real bother. On the bright side, because of it, we had the whole trail to ourselves. There's no problem social distancing when there is no one to distance from. After fording the stream 8 times, and climbing over boulders too numerous to count, it was a pleasant surprise to find a set of stairs leading up a short hill.

We also found the swinging bridge over the South Prong of Lostland Run. As rustic bridges go, this one is a work of art. However, holding onto the metal cables in a thunder storm to keep ourselves from slipping on the ice-slick wet boards did give us pause.

It probably would have been easier to just rock hop across the stream, as the bridge was so slippery from all the rain, it felt like we were ice skating! Slow and steady wins the race.

Because we got a late start, we were not able to hike all the way to the Potomac River. After two miles, we turned back to the trailhead. No sooner did we start back than the rain stopped and the skies lightened up again. The change in lighting made our second waterfall photos much brighter.

After finishing our hike, we decided to drive down Lostland Road to see the Potomac River. This is a favorite spot in spring and fall for fly fishing. 

It was a great way to end our adventures in the Potomac State Forest. On they way back from the River, we did encounter one other vehicle driving down Lostland Road.

On our way back to camp we stopped at Shaffer's BBQ in Middleton, VA. If you are ever near I-81 and I-66, it is worth a little side trip for some really good BBQ. What did we ever do before Yelp?