A gem along the Potomac
I logged many hours riding around Charles County in my dad’s truck when I was growing up. He drove a lot for work, and more often than not, had a second (or third) job that required him to work evenings and weekends, so my sister and I often tagged along on his journeys. While I’d been to almost every nook and cranny of Charles County during my childhood, it had been at least 10 years since I had been through Nanjemoy.
Our destination last weekend was a place I had never been as a kid, or even heard of until a few months ago. You might remember that I am a big fan of paper maps. I always enjoy looking over them, and, no matter how many times I scan maps of Southern Maryland, I always come away with some new tidbit of knowledge or a renewed curiosity about our region.
This last time, I noticed Mallows Bay, a small Charles County park in Nanjemoy, and a real gem along the Potomac River.
Although the weather was far from ideal on Saturday, Sunday’s sunshine and, albeit cooler, temperatures made for a great family outing. We left the house before noon and drove west, and during the trip I had a few flashbacks to riding the winding country backroads with my dad.
I realized that I had forgotten what Nanjemoy feels like. It’s hard to believe it’s just 15 minutes away from all the traffic and hustle and bustle of La Plata. You can stand by some roads in Nanjemoy and not see a car for 20 minutes.
The skeletons of nearly 200 ships reside at Mallows Bay. Their hulls span the period from the Revolutionary War to World War I. It’s a ship graveyard, teeming with wildlife, and has become a popular place to go kayaking or canoeing. In fact, Mallows Bay contains the largest number of shipwrecks in the Western hemisphere.
It was a bit of a drive for our family to get there, but as soon as we got out of the car, our patience was rewarded. We stepped to the edge of an overhang and looked out over the bay below us. Immediately, we noticed several ospreys flying above the water. One hovered in the air and dove, then flew out to its nest clutching a fish in its talons. We hadn’t been there 10 seconds and already we had seen nature in action.
The kids were fascinated by all of the wrecks. Artifacts such as old nails and engine parts were strewn along the beach, and the kids found treasures every couple of feet. As we passed the skeletons of old ships, the kids had questions about the rusty parts and machinery I was glad to try to answer. The tide was out and the sand was spongy, definitely a place that calls for wearing old shoes. White sneakers are overhyped anyway. Dirty shoes are the badge of a good adventurer.
No one wanted to leave the beach after we’d walked end to end. As we stood on another overhang for one last look, a train whistle sounded in the distance. It’s been years since I’ve heard that sound. This day was truly a trip down memory lane for me.
While we were out that way we decided to head by Purse State Park, another place I’d never been, and only a few minutes from Mallows Bay. It was a little difficult to find, given that there aren’t many signs and it’s just a parking area next to the road. You have to cross the road to get to the trail that leads down to the water.
Purse State Park is known for its fossil hunting, a pastime young and old can share alike. We’ve been to Calvert Cliffs Park a few times, but the trail to get out to the water is a bit daunting with little kids. The trail to the water at Purse State Park is much more manageable, about a half-mile from the entrance at the road.
While the trees were almost bare of leaves still, several dogwoods and many wildflowers were already blossoming. We marveled at the sheer height and girth of some of the older trees around the path
and could only imagine how cool and inviting the canopy of leaves would be once the hot summer settles in. A few fiddleheads were emerging from ferns and some stalwart butterflies flitted along the trail in search of nectar.
While we didn’t find any shark teeth, the beachcombing was amazing. There were shells of all sorts, and although I’d never been much of a sea glass collector, we must have found
20 pieces. The best find of the day was a large piece of blue sea glass with a few letters still visibly etched onto the surface. I walked right by it on the first pass, thinking it was a piece of blue plastic the color was so brilliant. From a little research, it looks like it came from a Bromo Seltzer bottle.
Between Mallows Bay and Purse State Park, we spent about four hours walking the beaches along the Potomac. If it wasn’t for time getting away from us, and Monday being a school day, we could have stayed longer. We
didn’t encounter another person at either park that day, although there were a few other cars besides ours parked in each lot and a fishing boat in the distance at Mallows Bay. It felt like we were a world away from the worries of everyday life. And don’t you know the kids went right to bed after dinner that night. They were worn out in the best way.
There will be a clean-up at Mallows Bay from 8:30 to noon April 16 as part of the Alice Ferguson’s Foundation 28th annual Potomac Watershed Clean Up. Sadly, there was a lot of garbage along the
shore, and I’m sure they could use all the helping hands they could muster up.
Turkey hunting season is upcoming
Spring turkey hunting season is upon us. I’ve seen quite a few wild turkeys, more than I normally do, on my travels around Southern Maryland the past few weeks.
Maryland will have a special Junior Hunt Day on April 16 on all public lands and on April 17 on private lands only. Turkeys
taken on Junior Hunt Day count toward the entire Spring Season Bag Limit.
Junior Hunt Days are for hunters 16 and younger and they must be accompanied by a licensed or exempt unarmed adult 21 or older.
Spring turkey hunting season runs April 18 to May 23. The limit is one per day, bearded turkeys only. The season limit is two. Sunday hunting is on private lands only in Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties.