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Monday, September 17, 2012

Cliffs Notes

The weather in our area has been very nice of late, but this development has not been convincing enough to persuade my wife to join my daughter and me on our weekend walks. Her loss was in evidence today as Amber and I made our way out to Calvert Cliffs State Park in Lusby, Maryland, located on the Western Shore of Chesapeake Bay, not far from the mouth of the Patuxent River. In only 90 minutes or so after setting off from Falls Church, my daughter was ready to hit the Cliff Trail at the park, butterfly net in hand:

It was an easy walk of 1.8 miles (2.9 kilometers) from the start of the trail to Chesapeake Bay. The red-blazed path began at a small pond:

Wild mushrooms were sprouting everywhere we walked this afternoon. Although Amber loves mushrooms, she knows not to pick the wild variety:

My daughter takes a break in an armchair (including footrest) that someone had thoughtfully carved out of a felled tree:

Roughly halfway to the shore, the trail opened up to reveal a large marsh. Evidence of beaver dams could be easily seen, though the engineers themselves remained elusive:

On the other hand, the local turtles were not so shy:

It was already beginning to look and feel like fall in the marshes:

The highlight of Calvert Cliffs State Park is the cliffs that give it its name. They are 100 feet (30 meters) in height and were formed 18 to 15 million years ago during the Miocene epoch, when the southern part of Maryland was under the sea. The area has proven to be a bonanza for fossil hunters (according to the information boards), but the cliffs themselves are off-limits due to instability. On the other hand, the beach is open, and the waters of Chesapeake Bay felt warm enough that I had wished we had brought along swimming suits. That didn't stop my daughter from having fun, as she set about looking for shells to bury in the sand:

For the return leg of our walk, we opted for a longer path back to the parking lot. This route, the Orange Trail, was more heavily forested than our trail in, though it passed through Thomas Creek Bog as we set off:

The Orange Trail followed a lot of up-and-down terrain, but Amber didn't seem to mind much. Though butterflies proved to be elusive for the most part, she was happy picking up acorns from the ground, and watching Daddy longlegs crisscrossing the trail:

My child of the corn. Just before taking this picture, a park ranger came by to warn us to be careful of hunters in the woods (the very ones we had just been walking through!). Although hunting on state land is banned on Sundays, the ranger told us illegal activities do take place, and that accidents do occur. Soon after the photo was snapped, we were warned by some hikers coming from the opposite direction to beware of a copperhead snake lurking in the grass off to the side of the trail ahead. Unfortunately, we weren't able to catch a glimpse of the magnificent beast, but we did reach our parked car without having been shot or bitten:

The vital stats for today's outing include a total distance of 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers); a gain in elevation of 330 feet (101 meters); and, most importantly, one very satisfied offspring.

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