Beach Camping Through a Derecho

I recently planned a trip to the beach for my friends.  We wouldn’t be able to check-in to the Ocean City condo till noon on Saturday… so I booked us a beach front campsite on Assateague Island.  Sounded like a wonderful idea, until I realized as we were driving down that a huge storm system was headed our way.

 
We arrived late to our campsite, around 11pm and saw people tacking down their tents and battening down the hatches.  We hurried to our site and got our tents setup and started a fire.  We made s’mores, drank beers, and started to enjoy our evening.  
 
I’m sitting on the picnic bench in front of the fire when all of a sudden the wind rushes at me, picking up hot coals out of the fire and spraying them in every direction, including my face.  
 
I screamed!  And ran for my tent.  The wind was howling all around us, waking up campers that had already laid down for the night.  I unzipped the door to my little 4 person Coleman tent and the wind flew in the door, knocking me inside, ballooning the whole tent in different directions, as the fly flew in the air!  
 
Help me!  
 
My friend grabbed my fly… and I asked him to help me break down the tent so I could just throw it back in the car.  I guess you can call me a fair-weather camper.  
 
We hustled a big wad of tent back to the parking lot and shoved it in the trunk.  I told him I would be fine and just stay in the car.  He ran back to join my friends in the other tent, that also wasn’t holding up very well, but it was weighed down by their bodies, and they weathered through the storm.
 
I, on the other hand, setup camp in the back seat of my friends car.  I waited for the rain to start and turned on my little portable ipod speaker.  The car started to get hot inside… I started to get bored…


The storm wasn’t as scary as the first burst of wind.  But the lightening was breathtaking.


As I moved to the front passenger seat to charge my phone, 2 guys rolled up in a Land Rover next to me.  I saw them hop out and admire the storm.  One of the guys had the storm on radar on his phone screen. 


I perked up, because that’s exactly what I had been trying to do with my phone.  I hopped out of the car, “Hey do you have the storm on radar?!”


They immediately welcomed me and explained that they had been in the off-road section of the beach, drinking around a fire on the beach when the wind started and did the same thing to their fire!


So they packed up as quick as they could to get back to the camp ground where they had a very sturdy REI tent setup on their site.  


We hung out in their car, drank Captain Morgan, admired the lightening, all while sharing travel stories.  These guys had a couple years on me and I admired their level of outdoorsiness.  They had 2 sea kayaks strapped to the car right above me, I was sitting next to their fishing poles and a surf board.  These guys loved the outdoors and turns out they have a camp site booked in Assateague for every weekend of the summer.


For those of you who don’t know, Assateague books up months in advance.  The only reason I was able to book a site at the last minute was because campers cancelled in anticipation of the storm.  These guys are Assateague die-hards, which is part of what contributes to the difficulty in getting a site there. If you want to go, book in April.  


OK, back to the story… We continued to drink as the storm mellowed down.  We finally decided the rain was light enough to go check on their tent.  I walked with them to their site, a few sites down from my friends.  While they investigated how their tent weathered the storm, I walked over to my friends tent to find them all asleep.  


I told them I made new friends and walked back to the guys.  What I learned later, was that my statement freaked out the girls in the tent, imagining the worst…


The guys had a broken pole in one spot that had ripped through the tent, but for the most part the tent was solid and dry.  I left them to their tent repair and walked back to my car.  


I got in the front seat and started to play with my phone, when I noticed one of the guys walking up to my car.  I opened the door and he said he still wanted to hang out.  I was tired, had no idea what time it was, but the adrenaline from the storm was still in me, so we went for a walk.


We talked and talked and walked and ended up on the beach.  Next thing I know, my guy has stripped down to his boxers and he’s running into the surf!


It’s pitch black on the beach… the clouds are blocking out any ounce of moon or starlight so it’s hard to see anything except the water line and the splash of white on the breaking waves. 


“Fuck it!”  


I took a layer of clothes off and ran into the water.  The water was warm and we had a blast.  Every once in a while a wave would wash me out pretty good out of nowhere, but aside from that it was fun.  


It even got a little romantic when we noticed we were circling around in a cloud of glowing algae.  The more we moved our arms on the surface of the water, the brighter the algae became.  It was beautiful and I’d never seen anything like it.  


It’s amazing how a series of events can occur sometimes, from a collapsed tent to a romantic swim in the Atlantic….


The next morning, we all woke up at the crack of dawn.  What my friends didn’t realize is that I only got 30 minutes of sleep.  But I was excited for the beautiful morning on the beach.  


We packed up the car, stopped by the beautiful bayside nature walk on the island before we headed to Ocean City, Maryland for breakfast.  

Bayside of Assateague Island




Camping in Assateague with the Wild Ponies

I recently had the pleasure of going camping at Assateague Island National Seashore.  I went with a hiking group off meetup.com and we had over 100 people.  We took over one group site and had a bunch of individual sites on the same ocean front loop.  

The ocean front camp sites are the perfect location, tucked behind the dunes which protects you only slightly from the constant breeze blowing off the ocean.  You can hear the waves crashing in the background as you enjoy the wildlife around you at these sites.  There are plenty of interesting birds that love to chirp and visit your site, and they aren’t sea gulls!  

We went camping in late April to beat the mosquitoes.  There can be a mosquito problem if you go later in the summer, so just come prepared!  

Paddling through the mist on the bay side.
It was misty and foggy the first day I arrived.  It was not raining, but it was like the clouds had dropped from the sky and were floating across the island.  

I made friends with some of my camp neighbors and we decided to explore the island and see what there was to see.  We walked over to the bay side and found beautiful views from a boardwalk trail.  We could see people in the distance on stand up paddle boards.  

In the distance behind the paddle boarders we could see wild ponies on the narrow peninsulas.

We saw a pair of mother and child ponies.

Itchy ponies

A cloudy misty beach.  

Dogs were having a blast on the large open beach.  After exploring the island, I setup my camp chair on the beach and enjoyed the beach as well.  


Later that night, we all go together for a bit of a potluck and everyone grilled their meats on one big grill.  We enjoyed a beautiful night on the beach under the stars.

Camping under the stars!

I couldn’t help but wake up and watch the sunrise, with my tripod in tow.  

Our tents for the “group” camp site were nestled among the dunes.

Sunrise over the dunes from my camp site.

Beautiful boardwalk trail leading to the bay.

Kite Surfer enjoying a perfect day on the bay.


At the end of a perfect day, hiking and socializing with the group I headed south for a journey to the Low Country, but that’s another story!

C&O Canal: Billy Goat Trail, Section C, Carderock

Billy Goat Trail, Section A is one of the most popular hiking trails in the DC area.  But this post is about Billy Goat Trail, Section C which I like equally as much.  The closest parking lot for this trail is 2 miles from the beltway at the Carderock Recreational Area on the C&O Canal.  Here are some pictures from my recent hike:

Billy Goat Trail – Follow the blue markers
Learned how to climb with ropes when I was younger here.
Views of a quiet side stream of the Potomac River
Follow the markers!
Beautiful overlooks all along the trail.
The sweeping current of the Potomac River
Rushing rapids
Rapids in the Potomac River provide beautiful background sound while hiking!
Woodpecker – I had to super zoom to get this!  Disclaimer: I am not a bird watcher.
Tidewater pond
The DC Beltway!
Me :o)
Unofficial east end of Billy Goat Trail, see the Beltway down the towpath.
Lock 14 just north of the Beltway
Lucky Lock 13 is under the Beltway!  All the times I’ve driven over it and didn’t know…
Official East End of Billy Goat Trail, Section C.  I followed the trail further to an unofficial exit along a creek.

C&O Canal: Swains Lock to Great Falls

Growing up in the Washington, DC area has given me the pleasure of a lifetime of memories at the C&O Canal.  This canal is 185 miles long and it starts in Georgetown and goes all the way along the Potomac River west through Maryland.  
 
I’ve learned how to canoe, bicycle, and rock climb along the different section of the C&O Canal’s towpath.  I would love to eventually share information on all the different sections of the canal.  There is so much history to see and experience in addition to all the different sporting activities you can do along the towpath.  
 
Here are a couple winter time pictures I took walking along the section from Swains Lock to Great Falls.  There are nice opportunities to view the Potomac River along this section.  Swains Lock has free parking and is around 2 miles from Great Falls where the parking costs money.  So if you’re a walker and you want to see the falls for free, park here and hoof it!
 
 
Lots of Ducks!
 
Duck Bums!
An odd patch of bamboo… ??
 
Bald Eagle
Rocks along the canal
Birds
 
Thanks for reading!  If you have a National Parks Passport Book, then you should visit the Great Falls Visitor Center for a stamp.  
 

For more information about visiting the C&O Canal: http://www.nps.gov/choh

Catoctin Mountain Park

I recently went hiking with some friends at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland.  I had never been before, but had always thought about going as I would drive by the entrance on my way to Cunningham Falls.  It was MLK Day weekend, so entrance to National Parks was free, but it looked like the park doesn’t charge for entrance anyways.  Also, just as an FYI, they close the park road during the winter so you can only park at the Visitor Center and hike up the trails from there.

So we started at the Visitor Center and hiked up, up, up to the Thurmont Vista.  The vista is like 600 feet up the mountain with a beautiful view of Thurmont, MD.  During the summer you can drive up the mountain and park closer to the vista, which would allow you to avoid the 600 foot, one mile climb.

Here are my pictures from the hike:

Mossy Green Hillside
Enhanced Hillside
Trail to Thurmont Vista
Snack Break at the Vista
View from the Thurmont Vista
Sign
Me and the Vista
Hiking Girls
Summit! LOL
Trail options
Sun and Shadows on the Mountain
Greenery in the Winter

Fun in Ocean City, Maryland

The mid-Atlantic beaches may not have crystal blue water like the Caribbean with palm trees, but when I think of going to the beach, this is where my mind goes.  I’ve grown up with these beaches.  On occasion I have been to prettier beaches, warmer beaches, with fancier hotels and restaurants.  But Ocean City, Maryland is what I’m really familiar to.


For those of you who turn your nose up at Ocean City, I’d like to share what I think is fun about the place.  Maybe there are too many rowdy teenagers on the boardwalk at times, but Ocean City is a big place, with lots to do!

Enjoy the view from an ocean front balcony!  Share a couple drinks with friends and soak up the sun.  If you don’t mind the sand, then go set up camp on the beach instead.  There’s something about sitting at the seaside, watching the waves.  

Go fishing on the bay with friends.  It’s pretty inexpensive to go out on a head boat on the bay or ocean, you just have to wake up early!  However, it’s never too early for beer.  Whether you catch a fish, a stingray, or nothing but seaweed, the boat ride is a blast all on it’s own.  

Wasn’t allowed to keep this one…

Seeking some faster paced thrills?  Check out the rides on the boardwalk.  They have a mutli-loop roller coaster and a bunch of other rides that swirl you around and get you dizzy.  Day time has shorter lines, but at night you get to see all the lights.  Both times of day you can get a good view from some of the rides.  

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Drop into one of the corny hotel bars and dance the electric slide!  If you don’t feel like waiting in line at Seacrets, there’s nothing wrong with checking out one of these bars.  They usually have live music or a DJ.

But if you don’t mind waiting in line, Seacrets is a good time!  Grab a seat at one of the many beach bars or bay side tables to watch the sunset.  You can also take your drinks out to their tables or floats in the water.  This place is fun no matter what time of day.  They have multiple stages and different music in the different areas.  I would say the crowd is younger at night, but in general everyone loves Seacrets!

 

Wine Tour at Linganore Winecellars

    Who doesn’t love a good wine tour?  You get to drink and learn about what you’re drinking.  And usually wineries are set in beautiful locations, with sweeping views of fields with vines and farms.  


    I recently took a tour of Linganore Winecellars near Mt. Airy, Maryland.  I had a Groupon!  I had been there in the summer for one of their famous festivals before.  This time I was going on Halloween weekend and the weather had taken a freak twist of fate and decided to snow…  Very odd for Maryland on Halloween.

    I realized that snow and autumn leaf colors make a beautiful picture!  You just don’t see it very often. 


Linganore Winecellars is located in the Linganore  American Viticultural Area, which means it’s a very good place to grow grapes for wine.  So they have estate wines there and none estate wines.  If you haven’t had their wine before, they have a variety of regular dry reds and whites, in addition to a popular line of fruity wines.

The tour of the facilities is free to all visitors.  I was told if you take the tour on a weekday, you’ll see the magic at work, with workers processing the grapes after harvest.  I recommend a visit to Linganore if you haven’t been before.  It looks like they have a lot of outdoor seating for the warm months, but there aren’t many seats inside.  For more information, visit their website: http://www.linganore-wine.com/

Lake Churchill

Lake Churchill is a small lake, but a beautiful walk.  The paved trail that circles the lake is only a mile and a half long.  It’s the perfect place for an after dinner stroll.  It’s a favorite among locals.


The lake side path also connects to the Black Hill Regional Park trail as well, making it a nice extension if you’re already walking on that trail.  Just across the street from Lake Churchill is Little Seneca Lake, which is actually a very large lake despite the name and it’s part of Black Hill Regional Park.

Cozy spot to sit overlooking the lake.

 
Lake Churchill is the perfect place to catch the changing leaves of autumn reflecting off the glassy water.  As I walked around this lake recently I could see the beginning of the colors coming through and I know it will only get better in the next couple days.  Fall can pass by quick so don’t miss it!


Here’s the website for more information about Lake Churchill: http://lakechurchill.com/