The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery

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POKIN' AROUND ON THE POCOMOKE

Pocomoke River State Park, Maryland

April 15-17, 2005

I was sick with fever, chills and severe body aches for about 5 days and right up to two days before this trip so I was very thankful to feel well enough to continue my plans to attend.  After leaving Ocean County, NJ on Friday at about 10:30 am, Frank Davis and I arrived in Ocean City, MD at around 3:30 pm to meet the rest of our paddling buddies from the Jersey Shore Sea Kayak Association.  After checking into the Harrison Hall Hotel on the boardwalk, we took a short ride down to the inlet to check out conditions in the surf.  The Great Atlantic was very choppy with huge whitecaps and a thundering surf.  Winds were blowing at a sustained 40-50 mph with some gusts even higher.  During a short walk on the beach, we were pelted with sand.
 
After meeting up with Mike & Barb and Blair back at the hotel, we headed over to a place on the  boardwalk called, ominously enough, "The Broken Oar" for dinner. Craig Gaudreau met us there. After dinner, a few drinks and some planning of an alternate paddle for  next day, we headed back to the hotel.  Corey soon arrived at the hotel.  While the rest of the gang retired to their rooms, Corey and I took a short walk up the boardwalk to a small pub.  We downed two pints of Guinness each before calling it a night.  
 
A call to the
Assateague State Park ranger station on Saturday morning did not result in good news.  The winds were still very high and they were not allowing any paddlers to paddle out to any of the back country camping sites.  Luckily, we had an alternate plan, so we checked out of our hotel and headed for nearby Pocomoke River State Park.

After about a 25 minute ride from Ocean City, we arrived at Pocomoke State Park and caught up with Eric Fleming and Bob Smith.  We set up camp at the Shad Landing area of the park which was situated on the Pocomoke River.  This made launching our kayaks very easy. After our camps were set up, we talked to the ranger, acquired some maps and got ready to launch.  
 
By
11 am, we launched into the dark tannic waters of the Pocomoke River.  We paddled upriver along the mostly undeveloped shoreline. The sun was shining bright and although the narrow river was relatively protected from the high wind, there were a few portions where we did paddle into the wind.  On the stretches of the river where we paddled into the wind, we struggled to maintain a paddling speed of  2 miles per hour and worked hard at that. Our muscles burned as we anticipated the river's bending to again shelter us from the wind. We would get only temporary breaks from the rigorous paddling into the wind as the river was a continuous series of bends and turns.

    

Other than some turtles, mallards and geese, we saw little wildlife along the shores of the Pocomoke River. After about 2 hours of paddling, we landed at a small park along the shore and had lunch at a small picnic table. Across the river from the park we could see and hear a number of screaming goats. It was a bit strange. After a little exploration by kayak, we realized there was a landing area for small boats, canoes and kayaks and with a sign that read Goat Island.  Barb yelled at some children for harassing the goats and after a short intervention, she agreed not to hit them with her paddle.
 
After lunch and snapping a few pictures of the screaming goats, we continued our paddle up the river until we arrived at the Route 12 Bridge in the town of Snow Hill. The bridge was very low but a few paddlers made it underneath.  Some of the paddlers with higher volume kayaks didn't even attempt it.  At that point, after chatting for a few minutes with a local couple up on the shoreline, we decided to make our way back downriver and back to the landing.
 
The return trip was made a bit faster as we paddled some of the turns of the river with the winds at our backs. We easily maintained speeds of about 3-4 miles per hour, sometimes without even doing any work!  We were back at the landing by
3:35 pm and after about 8.5 miles of paddling.
 
Within an hour, we had a nice campfire going to keep us toasty warm and we gathered for dinner.  Dinner entrees included steak and marinated grilled chicken breasts with baked potato wedges and rice. Others ate tuna on pita bread while some others simply ate powdered camp meals which only needed some boiling water to become edible.
 
At night, we chatted, drank hot chocolate to keep warm and ate home made chocolate brownies courtesy of Barb.  After a day of rigorous paddling and a nice camp meal, we were all  retired to our tents by
11 pm.  The temperatures had dropped off into the low 40s into the night but most of us were well prepared with very warm sleeping bags, long capilene underwear, wool hats and gloves. From the sounds of the campsite, our Pocomoke Paddlers were sleeping good. There was plenty of loud snoring heard!

[Part 2: Paddling Assateague]

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