In Walter Neitzey’s four decades as a flight instructor and operator of Deep Creek Airport on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay 10 miles south of Annapolis, he probably never once looked down from his cockpit at the bucolic airfield below and thought it might some day be part of a nice state park.
Thirty years ago, a group of scientists and preservationists pooled their resources to save a pristine forest abutting the Chesapeake Bay from a future of golf courses, marinas and subdivisions.
The result is Parkers Creek Preserve, a 3,500-acre wonder in Calvert County on Maryland’s Western Shore. Just off MD Route 2/4, this expanse includes 22 miles of public hiking trails meandering through forested uplands and fragile marshes, past tall cordgrass and scrubby marsh flowers. There are majestic views of the ancient shoreline cliffs, which frame the winding creek as it spills across a narrow beach into the open Chesapeake Bay.
The Terrapin Nature Area in Stevensville, MD, reminds me why I’ve committed my career to conservation. This gorgeous park hides in plain sight on Kent Island, waving to everyone traveling eastward over the Bay Bridge, and offers so much to its visitors.
Anyone who paid attention in school can probably recall at least a few names, places and maybe a date from the Revolutionary War: George Washington, Lexington, Valley Forge, the Declaration of Independence, 1776. Now, a newly enhanced museum at Yorktown, VA, the site of the final battle in that founding conflict, offers Americans a fresh look at the nation’s complicated — some might say messy — beginning and how it has reverberated through the centuries.
From my campsite, I could hear coyotes calling in the mountains, as well as the eerie cry of a loon from the lake.
But I wasn’t in a remote mountain hideaway far beyond the Chesapeake region. I was camping in a Pennsylvania state park, barely two hours from downtown Washington, DC.
With more than 95 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s shoreline in private ownership, getting out on the water can be a challenge. Recently, outfitters and nonprofit groups on both sides of the Bay have tried to scale that barrier by offering more rentals for boats and paddleboards and providing maps of trails and launch sites.
Along Indiantown Road, on the outskirts of Vienna, MD, there is a place called Handsell, where three histories come together to tell tales of Maryland’s earliest peoples.
Handsell is a tidy brick house that sits on two acres of land amid farm fields edged by forest. The woods border Chicone Creek, a pretty, burbling waterway that can accommodate kayaks at high tide. But Handsell is also the name of the whole property, which now includes a restored house, a re-created Indian dwelling, a path to the creek, and a view of farmland in all directions.
High on the ridge of Virginia’s Shenandoah Mountain, I hunkered down to examine some toadstools when my eyes caught a series of regular hatch marks etched into the tree trunk just above me — the kind of marks made by large, chiseled claws, leaving rags of torn bark hanging down at about chest level.
I called back my hiking buddies, who were tramping on down the trail ahead, and we shared a hushed diagnosis: A large, male black bear had sharpened his claws and marked his territory here. It happened recently, judging from the tattered abrasions that were still bleeding sap.
If you find yourself hankering for relief from summer heat — and who doesn’t? — consider finding a tube and floating down a river.
The food truck phenomenon is all the rage. Now, those popular and convenient vehicles have led to the “Roving Ranger” — a new way to spread the word about outdoor fun in the Chesapeake Bay region.
Fort Hunter Mansion and Park is a historic riverfront center along the Susquehanna River in Harrisburg. But its name is misleading.
You won’t find a fort. It existed in colonial times, but no longer. You will find a mansion and a park, but also a a lot more than that.