Baltimore is bustling with preparations for a massive bicentennial salute to the 1814 British assault that birthed the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
One celebrity guest is a marble lady who arrived at the Maryland Historical Society and Museum in October. She’s 8 feet tall, nearly 200 years old and weighs 2,750 pounds.
The calls start coming in around Valentine’s Day. The question is always the same: Are the birds there yet?
So it goes at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, an oasis in the middle of the farm belt that stretches across Pennsylvania’s Lebanon and Lancaster counties.
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Are you going stir crazy? Need to get out of the house and shake your bones? Out of ideas for where to go or what to do? The National Park Service in the Chesapeake Bay region has many friends connected to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network. We asked three friends to share their ideas about favorite things to do in the winter.
A winter visit to Virginia’s Lower Eastern Shore may not be on everyone’s “bucket list,” but without the distractions of swimming and beaches, winter visitors can get a feel for what makes “the Shore” a special part of Virginia.
Start at the visitor’s center at the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge in Cape Charles. Exhibits highlight bird and butterfly migrations through the refuge. Plus, there’s an indoor viewing area with binoculars and scopes for watching raptors working in the fields outside.
On a bright crisp morning, while paddling the Potomac River above Washington, DC, Byron Bradley took a detour. Bearing off through a break in the trees, he launched his kayak on a playful ride down an intimate wooded corridor that looks like a stream but isn’t.
Bradley rode the current with a nearly constant grin. He nudged his kayak through rocks and ripples with fast, firm strokes before spilling back into the main river channel about a mile downstream.
There’s no getting around it: The caverns of the Chesapeake watershed have an exit-though-the-gift-shop veneer.
At Shenandoah Caverns, a large Statue of Liberty replica greets visitors and flags flap in the mountain winds around a giant Cootie bug. A few miles down the road, Endless Caverns has imitated the Hollywood sign. Visitors to Luray Caverns end their tour with a peek at beautifully restored antique cars and a museum of farm equipment — after, of course, a stop at the fudge counter.
Instead of a ring, Jared Parks gave his partner, Tara Holste, a pair of binoculars at their commitment ceremony in August. “We’re not going to spend a lot of time together if you don’t bird,” he told her.
Bird watching is more than a hobby for Parks, a land protection specialist with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in Queenstown, MD. He leads bird walks on properties the Conservancy has helped to preserve throughout the Shore and approaches the sport he practices every day with boyish fascination.
Looking for something a little different for a winter getaway this year? Why not rent a state park cabin?
Many state parks in the watershed clear out in the winter, making them ideal places for visitors seeking solitude and views through the bare trees. The pools are closed and the kayaks are on the rack, but some offer snowshoes and cross-country skis for rent. Bring the extended family for Christmas break or leave the children at home and enjoy an adults-only weekend. Either way, you’ll find a lot to enjoy.
Otsego Lake and the hills around Cooperstown, NY, don’t look anything like the salt marshes and sand dunes of the lower Chesapeake Bay, but in my mind, I think of the almost 650-mile stretch of water that connects the two as one big river — the Susquehanna.