I remember like it was yesterday riding past this place with my father last summer. Instantly drawn to the calming peacefulness the sight of it brought to me, I searched for street names and landmarks to remember. How is it possible that there was no one there? This tiny little community park just outside the city limits of a popular eastern shore town in Maryland was my definition of a kayakers’ dream. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of a busy ocean-bound highway I had unknowingly driven past this hidden gem a hundred times. It was a picturesque discovery and as we drove by, my mind slowed everything down as they do on car commercials when the stylish roadster snakes through town. I recall the warm sun filtering through the trees and the sweet aroma of brackish water mixed with honeysuckle tickling my nose. The gentle slope of the ramp fading into the brown water longed for a vessel to launch or collect. The loan maroon pier reaching out into the creek and dropping down to mere inches from the waters’ surface was perfect for a kayak. The empty (EMPTY!) stone and grass-covered parking lot with a few park benches scattered about broadened the smile on my face. A scene that took possibly 3 seconds to drive past was now slowed down to a dozen or so slides burned on my brain. The moment I returned home I jumped on Google Earth and planned my escape.
Pushing away from the end of that pier almost a year later, my daydream had finally become reality. The Tuckahoe creek lay before me and I briefly wondered if I should go upstream or downstream. Talk about a win-win situation! I paused for a moment to glance back at my lonely truck in the little parking area and smiled; still amazed that I was the only one here. I chose upstream and steered my favorite mode of transportation in the direction of the many twists and turns I had seen on the bird’s eye view of the creek. My views from the surface did not disappoint. Passing under an old railroad bridge, two water snakes slid off a splintered timber cross member and slithered across the water to the opposite bank. A neat sighting but glad they didn’t decide to join me! This part of the creek had many old blown over trees reaching out over the brackish water and under the surface. This offered a perfect spot for the turtles to catch some rays. Many I encountered had washed out gray shells from hanging in the sun all morning. The shells turned back to a more natural black as they dropped from a log into the water. Many surfaced a few feet away to check on my progress up the creek. As the creek grew narrow and the limbs too numerous to navigate, I ducked into a secluded pool and turned around to paddle downstream. A great blue heron and a crane lifted off from a nearby tangle of limbs and squawked in annoyance as I retraced my path through the limbs and logs.
Crossing back under the bridge and past the ramp, a 90-degree bend to the right in the creek revealed a large carpet of green lily pads to my left. I angled over to the edge of the carpet looking for fish. Plenty of minnows darted in and out of the jungle of pads but the big fish hid their escape in swirls of clouded water when I got too close. Around the next bend, the creek widened a bit and I was treated to a multicolored landscape. The bright blue sky with a few wispy white clouds blended into trees with vivid green leaves that reached down to meet the equally luminous green lily pads lying in wait to catch them. My intense red kayak piercing this scene made for some inspiring photographs. It was one of those days where the only plan was to just go around one more bend then head back. Four miles later my growling stomach made me turn back. Forgot some snacks!
On my return trip, I paralleled the opposite bank to explore a few old duck blinds I had noticed earlier. Drifting past I could imagine the hunters in there with a black retriever, watching the sky and cutting up on each other while waiting to ambush a few ducks or geese. The screech of an osprey diverted my attention skyward just in time to see a bald eagle lift off powerfully from a nearby tree. His white tail feathers, glossy black body, white head, and sharp yellow beak glistened as he soared up and around the bend. Seeing eagles always gave me a thrill and chill and I paddled swiftly around that next bend to keep him in sight just a few seconds longer. Paddling towards me from the direction the eagle departed was an older couple in kayaks who were excitedly sharing my joy in viewing our majestic national bird. As they drifted by we chatted briefly about what we had experienced so far this beautiful day and agreed it doesn’t get much better. The ramp and pier reappeared around the next bend and my truck was still the only vehicle there. This must be the best keep secret in Maryland I thought. But thankfully, I’m beginning to discover many sites like this. My home state has too many for all of them to be crowded. A warm feeling of satisfaction and gratefulness soon replaced my sadness of reaching the end of the days’ excursion. Loaded up and pulling out of the park and back toward the concrete jungle, another truck with a kayak in the back pulled in. We smiled knowingly at each other and gave a thumbs up. Enjoy my friend. It doesn’t get much better.