Check out Point Lookout this month
I once heard a comedian compare life to a bus ride.
It made quite an impression on me, as I was much younger then, and couldn’t relate yet.
In his view, during our youth we’re riding the local bus, moseying along each street and making lots of stops. We’re taking our time and seeing the sights. Time passes slowly and each occasion leaves a distinct impression upon us.
By middle age, however, we’ve switched buses and are now riding the express bus. Each year comes and goes before you know it. Time feels like it’s passing in an instant.
I think I’ve finally reached the express bus-stage of life, and I wish I could slow things down a bit. I’m not sure how to do that for everyone, but for me, getting outside and in touch with nature seems to help.
It doesn’t much matter what I’m doing: walking, biking, gardening, kayaking watching the birds. Contemplating the lilies of the field. Stopping to smell the roses. Feeling the sunshine on my face and breeze at my back. Getting in touch with nature is my way to feel more centered, and when I get outside with my family, I feel more connected to them, too.
I took my own advice this past weekend and drove down to Point Lookout with the family. We invited some friends who just moved into the area to join us and share with them what makes this part of Maryland so special.
I visit the park frequently and often talk to people who have lived in Southern Maryland for years, maybe even their whole lives, who have never visited the park before. They are always glad they took the time to drive down and check it out.
As I’m sure you know, there’s been a lot of rain recently, so it was a treat to have a dry weekend without a cloud in the sky. The temperature was what I’d characterize as perfect at about 75 degrees, and when there’s none of that Southern Maryland humidity, the air can really feel refreshing and clean.
The ticket stub from the attendant booth at the entrance always prints “Another beautiful day in Southern Maryland” across the receipt, but it was an accurate statement for certain that day.
Point Lookout is a top destination if you like birds or butterflies. One of the highlights of our trip was seeing a bird I’d never seen before, the blue-throated black warbler.
We were eating lunch on one of the picnic tables in the beach area when my daughter spied some small black birds examining the bark on a tree trunk. They were about the size of a goldfinch or chickadee and traversed the tree trunk like a nuthatch. I quickly used the Merlin Bird ID app on my phone to identify it. It’s migration time for a lot of birds and other creatures, and Point Lookout is a place where you can see a lot of transients come through.
We also spent a good amount of time examining each tuft of goldenrod growing alongside the park trails for butterflies. This time of year is perfect for seeing monarchs and cloudless sulphurs, but the kaleidescope of buckeyes stole the show this visit.
The buckeye is a medium-sized brown, orange and white butterfly with eyespots on each wing. They are common butterflies, and just like the popular monarch, journey southward as the weather cools to overwinter in warmer locales. The clear bright sunlight of a low humidity day painted quite a picture, with butterflies of many colors dancing around the goldenrod and honeysuckle patches in the park.
October is the perfect month to visit Point Lookout State Park. The beaches aren’t crowded, the weather is just right for spending the day outside, but the variety of birds and butterflies is the best reason of all.
A history lesson given at Point Lookout
Another highlight of the visit was observing the historical interpreters on hand at the Civil War fort doing demonstrations and answering questions, portraying everyday life at Point Lookout during the 1860s.
My daughters and I settled quickly under a tent dedicated to women’s roles at Point Lookout during the Civil War and got into a robust conversation about the women who ser ved in the hospital.
We got a history lesson about the Emancipation Proclamation and how it didn’t much help the slaves that braved the wide expanse of the Potomac River and swam from Virginia to Maryland in hopes of freedom. Our conversation was punctuated with several
loud booms as the cannon was fired.
Although I’ve visited the park for a variety of events at the fort, I’d never seen the cannon live fired. The story of how the park acquired the cannon is an interesting one, a true Southern Maryland legend.
Martha, as the cannon is known now, was built in the 1840s at an arsenal in Ohio. That much can be ascertained from the serial numbers engraved on it. Around the time of the Civil War, 6-pounders were going out of style, but this cannon wasn’t scrapped and melted down to be recycled.
Since it was a special walking stick design, meant for longrange firing, it was still an effective weapon and was kept in service during the war.
Now you might wonder, what happened after the Union victory? No one is sure how Martha found her way to Newburg, but one of the fellows who took part in reenactments had often noticed the twin cannons decorating the front entrance of the White House Motel that was once located at the intersection of routes 301 and 234.
One day, he took a closer look at the two decorations on the front lawn and realized they might be actual cannons
after all and made the owner of the motel a deal he couldn’t refuse. And that is how Martha came to reside at Point Lookout.
If you’d like to learn more about Martha and other weaponry of the 19th century, you’ll have another opportunity later this month.
Mark your calendars for Oct. 27 and 28. On both days, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you can visit the fort and find out about Point Lookout’s role in the War of 1812. And make sure to spend a little time enjoying the views at the park, so bring along a picnic lunch and a pair of binoculars, for there might be some interesting birds and butterflies still around.
Kids get into state parks free
All Maryland fourth graders are invited to visit https:// ever ykidinapark.gov/ to print a pass that entitles them to free entry to every Maryland state park, 16 national parks, six natural landmarks, five national wildlife refuges and two federal heritage areas in Maryland.
Families, including all children up to age 16 and two adults, will receive free admission, too. The passes are valid through Aug. 31, 2019.
Susan Youhn of Hollywood is showing a young visitor to Point Lookout how women carded fiber for yarn. Youhn has been a historical interpreter for the past 28.5 years.