Welcome to Chesapeake Bay summer, where the livin' is easy, the fish are jumpin' and the sweet corn is high. Summer on the Bay is magic, the time when rewards come our way for work and perseverance all year long.
Summer is the time to grab hold of life's great offerings. Once more this 21st-century summer, Bay Weekly's "Indispensable Guide to Summer on the Bay" brings you 101 ways to harvest the delicious pleasures of summer, including the series Savor Summer Specialties. We've not only enumerated the positives but also wrung fun from the negatives, so even the bugs of summer have their place on our list.
Everybody believes that kids have more fun. This year, we want everybody to have more fun, so we've made every fifth Way Not Just for Kids.
As you'll see, you don't have to travel far and spend big to enjoy the Bay. So read on, make your plans and plunge ahead into the wonders that await you along the beautiful and beckoning Chesapeake.
1. Read Bay Weekly
Look for new installments of Bay life, lore and pleasures weekly in Bay Weekly, the newspaper for people committed to the Chesapeake. Pick up your copy, free, at any of over 400 distribution points, from Pasadena to Solomons in Anne Arundel and Calvert and counties.
Or pick us up in your mailbox. $30 for one year or $50 for two years or two subscriptions (by check or credit card): Bay Weekly: P.O. Box 358; Deale, MD 20751. 410/867-0304 or 800/579-0304.
2. Greet a Sunrise
Sunrise to sunset, summer days can be filled with all that is wonderful. To begin summer with a quiet moment to reflect, get up one morning before the early sun does. Grab a cup of your favorite coffee or juice and sneak away.
Sunrise on the Bay is always impressive. The sky glows with color and the silhouettes of the crab boats pull your thoughts out on the water with them. Take in some deep breaths and just relax. Don't think about the workday ahead, or all that you have to do. Think about the water and the sun and how you are so lucky to be a part of it this morning.
Water is not the only canvas for a sunrise. Your own back yard at daybreak can awaken your soul too. You may find spider webs glistening with dew in places that afternoon hides. You also will be surprised to see how much of Mother Nature's world is already up and chirping. No wonder bird watchers are out at this time of day.
No matter what, you've gotten the best of the day.
3. Become a Bay Naturalist
It's easy to appreciate the beauty of Chesapeake Country, but how much do you really know about this natural wonder we call the Bay?
Chesapeake Bay is actually a wide stretch of river, the southern run of Susquehanna. Its watershed is so huge that it includes large parts of six states plus the whole of Washington, D.C. The ecosystem is unique in the world, making our little piece of Bay Country a naturalist's haven.
You can start down the road to becoming a learned naturalist by joining field sessions hosted by several groups throughout the region. Calvert Marine Museum hosts paleontology lab sessions complemented by field trips to the fossil-rich Calvert Cliffs for first-hand research of natural prehistory (June 30 and August 4; $15; rsvp: 410/326-2042).
The Academy of Natural Sciences Estuarine Research Center at Jefferson Patterson Park hosts monthly First Friday tours of its labs to see first-hand how scientists study the Bay. If it inspires, new volunteers can sign on to help out with future projects (410/586-9700. www.anserc.org).
Edgewater's Smithsonian Environmental Research Center wises you up on local and global ecology in a monthly series of free evening lectures. By day, guided canoe trips take you by research sites while introducing you to animals and plants of the tidal wetlands (June 30, July 7, July 21, August 11 & August 25; $5; rsvp: 443/482-2200 www.serc.si.edu). The center also trains volunteers for duties like leading ecology trips for visiting schools or testing water quality.
Local parks such as B&A Trail Park, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp, Flag Ponds Nature Park and others host regular field expeditions guided by naturalists and rangers to introduce you to the natural world. Whether you're looking for life in pond muck or learning to tell trees by their bark, it's an easy way to get naturally smart. Jug Bay in particular has many volunteer ecology surveys and even hosts occasional training workshops for aspiring volunteer naturalists (410/741-9330).
As usual, we'll keep you informed with weekly updates of any ecological happenings. Watch "Eight Days a Week" for the latest.
4. Discover a Bay Beach
Bay beaches lack the great sweep of their ocean cousins. Cut to a human scale, most can be measured in footsteps. They're scarce, too, for nowadays development has closed up most Western Shore waterfront. So when you've found a Chesapeake beach, you've found a treasure.
Bay beaches are most accessible by water. Cruise the shore till you find a sandy, deserted strip. If your boat is big then swim, raft or dinghy in. In kayak or canoe, where you're already close in, help yourself. Beaches belong to all of us up to median hightide line, but be a gentle, considerate beachgoer.
By land, at the head of the Bay, Elk Neck State Park offers gorgeous beaches. So does Sandy Point State Park, right under the Bay Bridge (you'll pay park admission).
Many mid-Bay beaches are in Calvert County. The twin beaches boast two free public access beaches. Sun-worshipers may drive to Bay Front Avenue to find their place in the sand beside the popular North Beach Boardwalk. To locate Chesapeake Beach's hot sandy spot, you'll have to go to Bay Front Park on the west side of Route 261 and walk a short distance to the small beach and boardwalk that locals call Brownies Beach.
Farther south, visit a pair of Calvert County parks - Breezy Point (six miles south of Chesapeake Beach on Route 261) or Flag Ponds Nature Park - or private Matoaka Beach Cabins (Calvert Beach Road). At all three, you'll pay a small admission fee. The lovely Flag Ponds Nature Park has not only a substantial beach but also a fishing pier.
Or take a longer walk to Calvert Cliffs State Park, passing from the woods to the wide-open spaces of a Bay beach. Hike 1.8 miles through woods, walk the boardwalk and look down on the work of the busy beavers. Mountain laurel, tulip poplar and sassafras rim the trail that leads you out to the magnificence of the Bay. But don't walk on or beneath the fossil-laden cliffs. They're very unstable.
Adventuresome beach-goers can trek to the southern extremes of the Western Shore in St. Mary's County. At Point Lookout State Park, you'll find tall pines, fishing areas, campsites, Civil War historic sites and a lighthouse in addition to sandy shores.
If you like what you find on your daytrip, you can pitch your tent at Breezy Point or Elk Neck or Point Lookout State parks. Or you can rent a primitive Matoaka Beach cabin.
Where ever you find it, treat your treasure with loving care. Leave no litter behind!
5. NJFK: Collect Shells and Bay Treasures
Once you've found a Bay beach, you'll find a million things to catch your eye: bivalve shells delicate as the wings of moths, iridescent mussels, old-gold oyster and tiny crab shells, barnacles looking like the hungry beaks of young birds, bonsai-twisted splinters of driftwood, the segmented limbs of dried sea grasses, ovoid clay pebbles, amorphous anthracite lumps, beads of quartz. All are polished to gemlike smoothness by sand and sea.
Bring a pocket or pouch to stash your treasures. You don't want to take a chance of losing anything before you can get them home.
Calvert County beaches are loaded with prehistoric sharks' teeth and bone fragments that tell a story of an ancient ocean teeming with brutes and monsters. Teeth top off at seven inches, which means the Great White Shark that grew them was as big as a box car. But even an ancient tooth as tiny as a rose thorn can be a thrilling discovery. Learn about these treasures from Calvert Marine Museum's pamphlet Fossils of Calvert Cliffs (410/326-2042).
6. Do a Scenic Byway Around the Bay
Faraway places are fine, but there's no tour we enjoy more than an auto trip 'round the Bay.
Don't have time to do research, layout routes and find places of interest? Not to worry. Maryland has done the work for you. Planning an auto tour is as easy as a phone call.
Maryland Scenic Byways program has chosen 31 roads across the state as scenic tour routes. Each Byway has a unique story to tell and a place in our state's history. A 191-page book describes the historical significance of each road, and a map helps navigate. The designated roads are marked with Maryland Scenic Byways signs sporting black-eyed Susans.
Seven of those routes, totaling 317 miles, run along the shores of the Bay. Give yourself time to look around, breathe in the smell of Chesapeake country.
To start, you may wish to stay close to home. The Anne Arundel Colonial Tour follows various roads, including Routes 2, 468 and 256. This 40-mile, one-hour tour, which celebrates the region's maritime and colonial history, takes you through Annapolis, London Town, Shady Side and Deale. As a side tour, you may want to visit the Banneker-Douglass Museum or London Town House and Gardens.
The Western Shores Beaches Tour runs from Friendship in Anne Arundel south to Calvert's Route 263 and Route 2/4 junction. This 17-mile, 30-minute tour follows the eastern edge of these two counties and the Bay. Quaint beach communities, boardwalks and the Chesapeake Railway Museum await you along this route.
The Chesapeake Beach Scenic Drive winds along Routes 261 and 263, to Route 2 north through Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties. This 20-mile, 40-minute drive highlights historic communities and areas along the way. Historic Lower Marlboro, once a shipping port, makes a nice stop.
The Calvert Maritime Tour, a 25-mile, one-hour drive through Calvert, carries you from the Patuxent River via Route 231 to routes 2/4 and south to Solomons Island. Jefferson Patterson Park and Calvert Nuclear Power Plant are potential stops.
Venture further away and you'll find a 30-mile span of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that takes you through Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties and Baltimore city. You may take in the Baltimore Civil War Museum or the National Aquarium on this excursion.
If you can't resist crossing the Bay Bridge try combining two Eastern Shore tours.
One from Chesapeake City to the Bay Bridge and the other from Route 50/301 from Crisfield through Eastern Shore counties This a 178-mile, four and a half hour drive makes for a perfect day outing
So let the adventure begin. For a free book and map call 877/mdbyway.
7. Charter a Fishing Trip
What better way to learn about fishing than in a hands-on approach from a seasoned angler? Chartering is also a way for those who don't have boats to get on the Chesapeake complex . Prices range from $250 upwards for a half day, $300 up for a full day - and that usually includes six fishermen so you can share the cost.
Many charter boats are called Six Packs because they're limited to six fishermen, so don't on the spur of the moment invite a seventh - unless you know the charter boat you have booked is licensed to carry more than six. The skipper cannot bend the rules; it's a strict Coast Guard regulation.
When on a charter boat, pay attention. Observe and learn from what the captain and the mate (most charter boats have mates to assist you) does. Don't be afraid to ask questions, but don't ask for GPS locations when fish are found. Every skipper has his own honey holes, and wants to keep them to himself.
A charter trip or two will prepare you for fishing from your own boat, even if it's a rag mop. Also, charter skippers know where fish are, they talk to each other and help each other. Chartering can't be beat for locating fish - and you're the one to catch them.
Look over our regular editions. We carry ads for charter skippers in our area. Fleets of charter boats go out of Breezy Point; Chesapeake Beach (Fred Donovan at Rod 'n' Reel: 800/233-2080); Deale (Bobby Sturgell at Happy Harbor: 410/336-7271), Solomons (Kathy Conner at Bunky's Charters: 410/326-3241) and other points in between and farther away daily.
Independent captains with great reputations include Capt. John Deering out of Shady Side (410/867-0605 [email protected]); Capt. Jim Brincefield on Jil Carrie out of Deale Beach(410/867-4944 [email protected]) and Capt. Rick Blackwell on Hexbuster out of Town Point (310/855-4112).
Weekdays are the best bets, for there's less crowding at the fishing grounds.
When you make the call, ask what you'll be fishing for (or you can express your preference) and how many fishermen can board (some smaller boats only accommodate four anglers). Realize that when the skipper or fishing center stipulates a certain time, that is an order. Much fishing is planned on time of day and tide, and a skipper who starts out late because you are will not be a happy camper. Any problems enroute, call ahead.
If you can't find five other people to fish with you, call to ask if "make-up" parties are available. These lump anglers like yourself together to fill the roster. Many a long-lasting friendship has been made this way.
If you like a crowd but hate planning, book passage on a head boats. Carrying up to 100 passengers, these fishing party boats will get you onto the water for a half day, a day and often a night - with a fishing rod in your hand and bait for its hook. Try the Tom Hooker or Lady Hooker out of Rod 'n' Reel (www.rodnreelinc.com); the Elizabeth S out of Harbor Island Marina in Solomons (410/474-0281) or, new this year, Vamp IV out of Happy Harbor in Deale (301/725-0412).
8. Stock Up at a Farm Market
Nothing says summer like corn on the cob, and you can get it fresh and local at the farmers' markets come the end of June. You can also find berries, beans, peas and squash with plump juicy tomatoes just around the corner.
Stop by a roadside stand or visit one of Anne Arundel County's four "growers only" markets - including the new one in Deale -where the farmers who grow the earth's goodies also sell them.
Annapolis Farmers' Market: Truman Parkway and Riva Road in Annapolis: Tuesdays and Saturdays (and Sundays starting July 1) 7am-noon, 410/570-3646.
Severna Park Market: MTA Park & Ride Lot at Rt. 2 and Jones Station Road: Saturdays 8am-noon, 410/841-5770.
Deale Market: Cedar Grove United Methodist Church at 5965 Deale Churchton Road: Thursdays 4-7pm, 410/974-8313.
Piney Orchard Market: Visitors' Center Lot at Stream Valley Drive off Route 170: Wednesdays 2-6pm, 410/841-5770.
Get your taste buds ready for the Calvert County Farmers' Market season opening on June 30.
Calvert County Market: Route 2/4, south of Prince Frederick at the barn beside Adam's the Place for Ribs: Saturdays 9-6pm and Sundays 11am-6pm, 410/535-4583 and 800/331-9771.
9. Wet a Fly
Fly fishing is spreading through Chesapeake Country, winning the favor of anglers who set as much stock by the art of fishing as the good luck of catching.
So popular is fly fishing nowadays that it's joined spincasting as a charterable Bay sport. Hook up with one of these captains, and you'll learn not only the wrist action to tame that long line but also how to manage it by boat on our beautiful Bay. All gear is provided, so beginners will learn what to buy before getting tangled in confusion at a sporting store.
You can't do better than booking your trip with Bay Weekly's own outdoors columnist Capt. C.D. Dollar on Osprey Expeditions (410/757-0130 or 410/991-8468 on the water [email protected]).
Capt. Dollar also recommends Capt. Joe Evans (410/280-2046 [email protected]) and Capt. Bo Toepfer on Witch out of Solomons (800/303 4950 [email protected]).
10. NJFK: Create Bay Art
Spread out all your Bay Treasures. You've collected sea shells, driftwood, stones and beach glass rounded by the water's tides. You may have the odd metal piece (did you find an old spoon?) or part of an old plastic toy. An especially long feather from a gull is a nice touch. Now let your creative juices flow like the Bay waters, and become an artist.
Buy some jewelry findings at the craft shop, and glue shells and glass onto pin backings. Look for shells with natural holes in them, and string them with beads for a necklace or bracelet. Wear your jewelry at every outdoor event this summer. Create some pieces to give as holiday gifts next winter.
Create a mobile, using a long piece of driftwood or a tree limb. String from your wood whatever you've found that tickles your fancy. Oyster shells make a nice clinking sound, and mussel shells are a fainter noise. Hang your mobile on your porch or inside your home to enjoy. Feathers are silent, but lovely to watch in the breeze.
Create a desktop sculpture to play with. Fill a small basket or wooden bowl with seashells, beach stones, small wood pieces and other treasures you find pleasing. Next time you're in a thoughtful mood, pick up and touch the pieces in your basket. Your mind will stay focused and calm. This really works!
Make a candle from clear or light-colored wax. Before pouring into the mold, drop some seashells or stones in. When you remove the cooled candle from the mold, you can add additional shells on the outside by using a little bit of molten wax to 'glue' them on. Set your candle in a flat dish filled with sand and surround it with more of your treasures for a romantic summer centerpiece.
Paint driftwood in a folk art style. Using acrylic paints, let the natural design of the driftwood suggest the painting. Some pieces of wood look like fish, others like birds or people. What do you see? Can paint bring out your vision? Or paint a scene on a flat piece of wood, like a piece of a boat or a crab basket bottom. When you're done, spray on a clear acrylic coating to protect your art.