Close Encounters

Photo courtesy Anne Arundel County.

Appreciating nature, the Bay way 

By Meg Walburn Viviano 

“But will there be rocks and roots and climbing!?” demanded my 5-year-old as we ventured into the woods at Lake Waterford Park in Pasadena. 

On a humid morning, the little guys and I explored the park’s trails, which wind above and around the 12-acre Lake Waterford. We ducked onto a dirt path just behind the sprawling playground and began to follow it. I knew we weren’t far from the lake as the crow flies, but my sons wanted to try all the paths, so our progress was far from linear.  

We quickly learned that, yes, there were rocks and roots and some climbing, as the trail nears the lake and gets steep in spots. We followed along the edge of the lake, through mud and over small boardwalks that straddle wetlands. Eventually we came to the dammed side of the lake, at the headwaters of the Upper Magothy River where yellow perch come to spawn each year. 

Though it was muggy, buggy, and both little boys were noticeably sweaty, I heard no complaints during the hike—a rarity when you’re in the company of people ages 3 and 5. They were so enthralled with the adventure that they forgot to be tired, hungry or hot. Even though we were probably, at most, a half-mile from the parking lot, we encountered nobody except a lone mallard duck at the quiet end of the lake. The trail, overgrown in spots, felt like a place we were first to discover. 

Spending time along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries can be a totally immersive experience—one of our region’s most appealing qualities. America’s largest estuary never seems to run out of fascinating encounters with nature, whether you’re 3, 5, or 97 (more on that later). 

In this week’s issue of CBM Bay Weekly, we look at several of those encounters. In the first, Chesapeake Country beachgoers hoping to feel the sand between their toes instead got cicadas—by the thousands—which had washed up along the shore. A leading expert explains how they all ended up on the beach, a bizarre scene we won’t see again for 17 years. 

Another unexpected sighting: cownose rays, flapping their “wings” at the water’s surface close to shore. This is prime time for their Bay migration, much to the chagrin of our resident angler, Dennis Doyle, who would rather catch something else

For a natural encounter steeped in tradition, we go to Jefferson Patterson Park with Bernie Fowler, 97 years young, as he “tests” water quality by wading into the Patuxent River in white sneakers and measures how deep he can go before losing sight of his sneakers on the bottom. How is the water clarity looking this year? 

That’s just one of the questions that can be answered by immersing oneself in the Chesapeake’s natural areas (in Fowler’s case, quite literally). Perhaps, before the 2021 cicadas are gone, I’ll take my boys to one of the beaches blanketed in crunchy carcasses. Now that’ll be an encounter to remember.