Bay Journal


Warm air masks coldwater dangers for paddlers

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Parts of the Chesapeake region experienced expectedly warm weather recently, with some days in February feeling more like April. For paddlers, those first bursts of warm weather awaken the call of the kayak. If you count yourself among them, Moulton Avery, director of the National Center for Cold Water Safety, has a message for you: stop and think.

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West Virginia’s Dolly Sods: If wind doesn’t take your breath away, the view will

Far down a dusty dirt road, atop an Appalachian mountain ridge, vehicles were jockeying for any available piece of dirt on which they could park their cars. A fierce wind was blasting across the Dolly Sods, stirring dust and rocking the vehicles.

We finally pulled into an ad-hoc parking space near the Bear Rocks trailhead, but when the driver of the car to our right tried opening his door, the wind yanked it from his hand and it slammed into the side of our car. The driver sheepishly glanced at us as he tried to regain control of the wayward metal.

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Experience Alexandria’s maritime past

The developers of a luxurious waterfront hotel in Alexandria, VA, put construction on hold for several months last year after their shovels struck the wooden hull of a ship. The city’s team of archaeologists sprang into action, unearthing part of a 50-foot vessel scuttled into place around 200 years ago that contained a special kind of treasure: a piece of Alexandria’s maritime past.

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Kilns may again draw people to Cromwell Valley

Cromwell Valley Park near Towson, MD, has always seemed a place apart, a throwback to the days when this corner of Baltimore County was an agricultural valley. After passing the Big Screen Store, a beltway intersection and a busy high school, visitors are presented with 460 acres of trails, meadows and the Mine Bank Run stream valley.

This tucked-away getaway is popular with hawk- watchers and geocachers. Now, a piece of local heritage is providing another reason to visit: three newly restored lime kilns, located along a popular walkway that leads to a meadow filled with sycamore trees and deer. Stonemasons and brickworkers have repointed the brick and restored the beautiful domed arches and ironwork.

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Cross markers show extent of John Smith’s voyages

Ed Haile and Connie Lapallo, authors and historians who specialize in English explorer John Smith and the colonial settlement at Jamestown, VA, are following in Smith’s footsteps. Where Smith traveled with American Indian guides and a few fellow colonists, Haile and Lapallo arrive with concrete mix, a heavy granite marker and a water pail.

They are visiting 24 sites — as precisely as possible — where Smith marked the extent of his explorations with a Maltese cross. And they are replacing those lost markers with new ones. Eleven have been installed so far, with eight in Virginia and three in Maryland. Delaware will join the list soon.

“I like to think of it as restoring John Smith’s waypoints around the Chesapeake Bay,” Haile said.

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Herds of visitors love Pennsylvania’s Elk Country

On many days each year, Rawley Cogan can gaze out his Pennsylvania office window and see something that would have been impossible a little more than a century ago — grazing elk sauntering through the meadow and along the tree line in groups small and large, some with huge antlers that can measure 4 feet across.

“We have elk up close and personal lots of the time,” said Cogan, president of the nonprofit Keystone Elk Country Alliance. “It is a unique experience.”

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Spot waterfowl from a warm car at Merkle sanctuary

Nothing says winter like a V-shaped formation of Canada geese winging across a steely sky, their honking carried on a chilly breeze. Cold weather brings tens of thousands of geese, migratory ducks and other waterfowl to the Chesapeake Bay region as the birds seek warmer (or at least less frigid) places to await the return of spring.

The Bay is a relatively balmy refuge from the ice and snow that buries all food sources in their Canadian nesting grounds during the coldest months of the year.

There are many places around the Chesapeake region to view wintering waterfowl, and one — the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary — is just a short drive from populous Baltimore and Washington, DC.

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Skunk cabbage rules the winter wetlands

The annual “swamp stomp” at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary is a wet, midwinter hike along the forested edge of the Patuxent River in Anne Arundel County, MD. For hike leader and sanctuary volunteer Siobhan Percey, it’s a pilgrimage of love — for the quirky, cunning and sometimes malodorous wetland plant known as Eastern skunk cabbage.

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Patuxent Research Refuge serves humans, flora and fauna

The Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, MD, is a wonderful surprise, a 12,841-acre nature preserve tucked between two major cities that is a world unto itself.

A turn or two off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway puts visitors on Scarlet Tanager Loop, a tree-lined winding road that leads through mature trees and ends in about two miles at a beautiful, interactive visitor and conference center.

Miles of trails meander around several lakes, where lilies bloom and Canada geese feed.

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Loudoun County state park new but not unknown

Robert and Dee Leggett wanted to buy a little natural land in Virginia, to preserve it and provide a local campground for Boy Scouts. But, in 1998, they ended up with closer to 900 acres of deep woods, babbling brooks, wildflower meadows and historic farmsteads after finding land that might be developed without their intervention.

And, this year, that property became the first state park in Virginia’s Loudoun County.

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First Day hikes

Expect a rustling in the woods across the Chesapeake Bay region on Jan. 1. Along with shuffling in the sand and, depending on the weather, some sloshing in the snow. That’s because more than 10,000 people will likely be out for a First Day Hike at state parks in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia alone.

First Day Hikes are a nationwide program sponsored by America’s State Parks, an association of state park directors. “The new year is a great opportunity to invite people to our state parks, whether they want to get a new start for their lifestyle or an environmental understanding of the great outdoors,” said executive director Lewis Ledford.

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Magothy River map, videos reveal ‘hidden gems’ for paddlers

If your spring plans involve finding new places to kayak along the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, the Magothy River Association has some suggestions. They have a new map highlighting 30 points of interest, and 8 “hidden gems” along the water. To find them, they’ll hand you a copy of their new water trail map. Then, they’ll suggest you find a computer or smart phone.

That’s because the Magothy River Association has taken a unique approach to creating their map, released in honor of the group’s 70th anniversary with funding from the Chesapeake Bay Trust. The printed map is artsy, with a hand-touched feel, but it’s paired with a series of short YouTube videos that use drone technology to provide a fast and effective aerial view of the routes you want to travel.

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Travel: Archives


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