A gem along the Po­tomac

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake

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.

jamiedrake­out­doors@out­look. com

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