Find­ing new out­door ad­ven­tures

Maryland Independent - - Sports - Jamie Drake jamiedrake­out­doors@out­

This col­umn is the last one of 2016. That’s 52 weeks, 104 col­umns, and at least 83,200 words in this space. It feels like one year has gone by as quick as a flash.

Back when I was just grad­u­ated from col­lege and an en­sign in the navy, I was “stashed” as a com­puter teacher for a cou­ple of months in Rhode Is­land. There was an older, re­tired chief who was my men­tor at the school, and he took me un­der his wing those first cou­ple of weeks be­fore classes started and taught me ev­ery­thing I needed to know about com­put­ers (re­mem­ber, this was 1999, and tech­nol­ogy wasn’t quite so com­pli­cated back then).

There was a phrase he was fond of say­ing that drove me crazy. He would pref­ace ev­ery les­son with “You prob­a­bly feel like you’re drink­ing through a fire hose” and then launch into what­ever was that day’s topic. And, hon­estly, none of it ever felt like drink­ing through a fire hose. It was pretty ba­sic stuff, and although I’m not a dig­i­tal na­tive like kids to­day, none of it ever felt over­whelm­ing.

But writing this col­umn can some­times feel that way. While I still don’t know ev­ery­thing about the out­doors, thank­fully I had a teacher who taught me a great deal and in­stilled in me a love for the natural world.

This col­umn in­spired a lot of out­door ad­ven­tures for my fam­ily this past year, many of which prob­a­bly wouldn’t have hap­pened with­out a deadline. We haven’t been to ev­ery no­table place in South­ern Mary­land yet, but we crossed quite a few off our list of places we’d never been be­fore. From fos­sil hunt­ing at Purse State Park, to a mid­night horse­shoe crab beach walk at Flag Ponds, bird­watch­ing at Bat­tle Creek Cy­press Swamp and fish­ing at Lau­rel Springs, we’ve tra­versed Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s coun­ties to learn about wildlife, ap­pre­ci­ate Mother Na­ture, and have fun to­gether in the sun­shine and fresh air.

There are many more things yet to be tried that are on our to-do list for 2017. I sin­cerely wish you and your fam­ily a Happy New Year and look for­ward to shar­ing more about our ex­pe­ri­ences right here and hope­fully in­spire a few of your own in the com­ing year.

Christ­mas ac­tiv­i­ties

The kids will be home from school for a few more days. Why not make the Christ­mas Spirit last a lit­tle longer by head­ing out to see one of the dis­plays in our re­gion that are only avail­able this time of year?

One of our fam­ily’s fa­vorites is the Gar­den in Lights at Ann Marie Gar­den in Calvert County. We like to head there in the sum­mer­time, to walk the path un­der the cool canopy of trees and play in the fairy lolly. But, at Christ­mas­time, the kids’ faces light up when they see the woods trans­formed into a lighted won­der­land.

A leisurely stroll down the path will take you un­der the sea, into outer space, and through a land of myth­i­cal crea­tures. Some of the lights even cel­e­brate our her­itage of har­vest­ing food from the sea with “light sculp­tures” that in­clude a wa­ter­man tong­ing for oys­ters, the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay re­triever, and, of course, some Old Bay.

There are only three more nights to en­joy the lights. The event is free for mem­bers and costs $6 per per­son for non-mem­bers. Chil­dren un­der 4 are free. There’s even a coupon for $1 off each ad­mis­sion on their web­site (http://www. an­n­mar­ie­gar­ an­n­marie2/con­tent/gar­den-lights-mag­i­cal-light­show). And on Jan­uary 1st, you can bring your well-be­haved dog on a leash for $2 more. The Gar­den in Lights is open from 6-9 p.m.

The Hol­i­day Café serves drinks and snacks nightly. It wasn’t quite cold enough on the night we went to drink hot co­coa af­ter­wards, but we did en­joy some countr y and folk mu­sic by Pat Wil­lis and Friends. A list of en­ter­tain­ers is also avail­able on the web­site.

The Christ­mas Doll and Train ex­hibit at the St. Cle­ment’s Is­land Mu­seum is open Dec. 30 through Jan. 2 daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. While the dis­play is in­doors, there’s cer­tainly a lot to look at in the mu­seum re­lated to the out­doors.

Kids can learn about the in­ter­ac­tion be­tween the Na­tive Amer­i­cans and set­tlers and touch ar­ti­facts that have been found in South­ern Mary­land. They can learn about the Po­tomac River re­gion’s her­itage of hunt­ing, crab­bing, fish­ing and oys­ter­ing and the his­tor y of Black­i­stone Light­house. And right next door, they can mar­vel at the “Lit­tle Red Schoolhouse,” an ac­tual one-room school that was once lo­cated in Char­lotte Hall.

And the mu­seum is lo­cated in a beau­ti­ful spot right on the Po­tomac Riv- er. If the weather holds up, bring some sand­wiches and en­joy a lunch with a spec­tac­u­lar view on the pic­nic ta­ble out­side. The cost is $3 for adults, $1.50 for chil­dren ages 6-18, and free for those un­der 6. There is a mil­i­tary and se­nior cit­i­zen dis­count as well.

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