EXPLORE MARYLAND ADVENTURE SERIES – BLACKWATER REFUGE
Let the 2019 Adventure Series begin! – By Paul Fowler
I was excited to see Capital SUP continue with the adventure series this year, the third year running. I signed up immediately, and couldn’t wait to go! What was the destination that had me so excited you ask? Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. A venture with serene landscape, beautiful birds, and always a little mystery. As anticipated, I was not left with any disappointment.
Jumping to the morning of the trip. I left my house heading to the Capital SUP shop to hand off my trusty old paddleboard, Poe, to Chris Norman for transport. I remained behind with Kevin Haigis awaiting the arrival of my fellow adventurers. Before long all had arrived; we had a crew of 13, including @huckthepaddlepup and we were on our way!
The van ride was pleasant. Lots of chatter, excitement in the air, and getting to know new friends. The drive took a little over an hour, and was worth every second of waiting. As we got to the refuge, the scenery was resplendent. Tall trees with orange, yellow and red of every shade. Almost immediately, we started spotting wildlife taking sanctuary. Bald eagles in the tree tops, gulls, swallows, and crows flying around. We pulled into the parking lot and began to unload from the van. It was a cool fall morning. Crisp fresh air, bright sun, and a slight breeze. A perfect day!
Everyone began preparing to get on the water, and we hit our first surprise of the day… the port-a-jon door was broken off, leaning on the doorway. Simple solution, we take turns as lookout for the person in front of us.
As Capital SUP coaches and tour guides finished unloading and preparing the gear, Chris gathered the remaining of the 35 adventurers for a safety brief, route details, and schedule of the day. Now off to explore!
No sooner than we got on the water, everyone relaxed into a state of peace and tranquility. Chatter of the breathtaking beauty, the hopes of spotting particular birds and mammals. We leisurely made our way down the orange trail, marked by orange buoys and signs. We arrive at our first intersection and turn right, followed by a left a few hundred meters up. As we made our way through the path, we spot a log that looks like an alligator head floating on the surface of the water. I made my way over to explore, only to find the water getting shallow; I nearly got stuck. This was our first sign of the difficulties ahead.
As we progressed down the path, the recent drought in rain became more apparent. The water was shallow, and eventually forced us to turn back as Chris and Sarah, our tour guides began to get stuck, taking on mud through the drain hole of their kayak. Their trusty passenger @maveric_norman, simply napped as they maneuvered back to deeper water. This was our second obstacle of the day.
We made her way back down the path to the first intersection we had passed, taking the then right turn through the larger body of water. Certainly no disappointment to be had, as this brought us to viewing more eagles, blue heron, gulls and more amazing views. Eventually, we made it up to the point where the small path would have connected into this larger body of water. This became our turnaround point. We paused for everyone to gather, and began sharing in our individual mishaps of the shallow waters. After a nice break while enjoying some snacks and water for replenishment, we were off again. The return trip down the waterway was uneventful, for most. Unfortunately, as many have thought to be true, occurrences tend develop in 3s. We had our third and final incident of the day, back at the starting point. One individual was caught up in the current as the wind had picked up a bit on our return. He passed by the exit, and went under the bridge. Quick reaction on his part enabled one of our tour guides, Mary, to quickly jump into action and help him back to the launching area. This was only the gentleman’s 2nd time in a kayak, and his reaction to the incident afterwards was befitting to our day. No sooner than he was out of the water, he smiled and cracked a joke to me as he handed me his paddle.
Our trip through the waterway was complete, but our fun was not over yet! Most of our adventure mates joined for lunch and refreshments at RAR brewery. We ate, we drank, we shared our stories, laughing and memorializing the day. All were in agreement, Capital SUP knows how to put together the perfect pairing of adventure and relaxation.
The return trip back to the shop was quiet as many of us were tired. Some napped, some quite chatter, and tunes playing in the background. The day was done. Another adventure in the books, captivating as always! Lucky for us, Capital SUP already has the next venture planned.
Next in the series is Mallows Bay, which is regarded as the “largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere” and described as a ship graveyard. If you have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it!
See you on the water!