Last weekend, I managed to persuade my good buddy Frank into joining me for an overnight paddle on the eastern shore of Maryland. It just so happened to be my birthday, and also one of the coldest bits of weather we have seen this year so far. We met late friday night at Janes Island State Park, in Crisfield MD. I reserved a site at the mainland campground, so could get an early start the next day. I pulled in around 1030 that evening, and promptly built a raging fire to try and keep warm - the temp was 28 with a wind chill of 19 - it was cold, really really cold. As I set up camp and waited for Frank to arrive, I burnt through almost all of the wood I had brought along trying to stay warm. Frank arrived around 1130 and we immediately scavenged for more wood to keep the fire going. This was going to be a long night. After discussing the trip and burning the rest of the wood - we turned in. That night we put the rating system of sleeping bags to the test, both of us having 20 degree bags were more than a little uncomfortable - but we managed to get some sleep by layering up.
We were both up early the next day to get warm by the fire once again, luckily the wind had died down during the early morning and it was not as bitterly cold. After a few hours of fire sitting, tea drinking, tearing down camp and packing gear - we were ready - for a warm breakfast. We headed to the local golden arches in Crisfield and had our selves a caloric feast of breakfast sandwiches and hash browns.
After tracking down the park ranger and securing our permit for the backcountry, we headed to the landing at the park and began the process of loading our gear. I helped Frank assemble his boat, a Cooper on loan from the nice folks at Folbot in Charleston, SC.
Assembly of this 16.5 foot touring boat takes about 20 minutes with some practice, and I have a fair amount of experience so we got it together quickly.
The Cooper weighs a mere 39lbs and can handle a payload of 275lbs - so it is great for multi-day trips. You can fit a ton of gear inside of this beast - and it is a very fast boat, even loaded down.
The gear stuffed into the boat : 2 person tent, 20degree mummy bag, extra layers for emergency and sleeping, water, a full size coleman lantern (for heat - no fires in the backcountry) sleeping pad, tripod and camera, boots for dry land, rain gear and food.
Our general feeling of being cold led to a very slow pace on this morning, and we were finally ready to head out at noon. We set out for our 5.5 mile paddle to the south end of Jane's Island State Park, under sunny skies and a graciously calm wind. Rather than take the direct route, we decided to take a few small creeks that wind their way through the island - which would prove to be very scenic and greatly reduce the amount of wind we encountered.
We ate lunch aboard the boats while we drifted slowly towards our destination, thanks to a north wind directly at our backs. Beef jerky, triscuits and laughing cow cheese, a staple of our adventures, filled our grumbling stomachs. Afterwards, we got back to pushing water, with the wind at our backs and the sun in our faces. The temp maxed out at 45 Saturday, but combination of sun, layers and paddling kept us incredibly comfortable.
We arrived at the Long point campsite around 330 in the afternoon, and had plenty of time to unpack, get camp set and enjoy some sunshine before the cold set back in for the evening. Wooden platforms are provided on the island to place tents and gear on, to minimize impact. We set our gear up, and enjoyed the sunset.
After the sun went down, the temps dropped rapidly - and we huddled around our make shift fire - a coleman lantern burning full bore. The lantern put off enough warmth to take the edge off as we prepared our delicious MRE's. Some people think we are nuts, but we both love those things, which is good if you camp in the backcountry as much as we do. Maybe its because we are always starving when we eat them, but man - dehydrated beef stroganoff in a bag is to die for after a long day of hiking or paddling. We prepared for another cold night, although not nearly as chilly as Friday, by boiling water and placing it in Nalgenes in the foot boxes of our sleeping bags and putting on pretty much everything we had brought clothing wise. We both slept much better this night, I was up to watch the sunrise on dawn of my 32nd year on earth, which was pretty cool.
After a breakfast of BlueBerry muffins and precooked bacon warmed over the camp stove, we torn down camp, set about cleaning up trash around the island, and packed our gear once again.
Before heading back to the landing, we took a field trip to the south of our campsite, to visit an island that had an enormous old chimney on it. We found out later that it was part of a fish packing plant built in 1871.
We headed back for the landing around 10, after our excursion to old house cove. The sun mostly disappeared behind the clouds for our trip back, but the wind was from the south, so we had that to our advantage. We chose a different route back through the marshes, which reminded me of paddling in Charleston - where my 'yaking addiction began. We arrived at the landing around 1230 where we met the ranger once again - who was eager to hear how our trip went. He was convinced we were insane for going out on such a cold weekend. We let him know about the trash we couldn't bring back, and discussed all the gear we had used to keep warm, his days in the Coast Guard, and some history of the area. We unloaded all our gear, broke down the Folbot and were on the road by 2. It was a great trip, and I am very grateful to have spent another birthday on the water with a good friend.
This adventure was brought to you by Folbot.