Tag Archives: Hiking in Maryland

Hiking, Beaching, & a Little Fossil Hunting at Calvert Cliffs State Park

 

One might hear Calvert Cliffs State Park and immediately think awesome shark tooth hunting.  After all, the features for which the locale is named are well known as the source of millions-of-years-old fossils along Chesapeake shores.  However, in our experience, fossil finds are not what make the park an excellent day trip destination; whenever we have visited, we’ve found just a few small shark teeth at most. [Note: The pics here are from a visit this past summer… ’cause I have to keep the theme going of posting months after our visits. 😉]

What is more appealing about Calvert Cliffs State Park are its other main recreational activities: Hiking, beaching, and swimming.  There are 13 miles of trails total within the park, including one that is the direct route to the beach. It’s pretty evident where to catch the Red Trail from the parking lot, then it’s a two-mile ramble to reach the sand and surf, but a fairly easy and very scenic one.

The route is flat and mellow for the most part, so little ones can tackle it, and stretches through woods and along edges of marshes. Part of the trail is a wide dirt path shaded by tall leafy trees and part is a boardwalk that extends along wetlands.  You can walk and take in expansive views of the marsh areas filled with lily pads and aquatic plants.  In a few places, the boardwalk extends out into them for a closer look, and there are a couple of benches on the way to sit and enjoy the scenes.

When you come to the one fork in the trail, there’s a sign that points the way to the beach.  Follow that and you’ll eventually hit the stretch of sand where you can find a place to park your stuff and hang out awhile.  It’s not a huge area as barriers are in place to keep people from accessing the actual cliff areas.  Expect to share the space with a good amount of other people on nice days, especially weekends, though not too many that it’s crowded.  The park limits capacity, even more during Covid, so it’s not overwhelming.

Swimming is permitted, and the water is shallow and calm, but look out for jellyfish.  If you’re into fossil hunting, definitely do some searching for relics — like I said, I have found some small pieces there — but don’t be disappointed if you don’t find much.  And what you don’t find fossil-wise, you’ll make up for with a nice little hike and beach fun.

Calvert Cliffs State Park is located at 10540 H. G. Trueman Road in Lusby, MD, about a one-hour drive from DC.  Entry to the park is $8/vehicle, and it’s open sunrise to sunset.  Bring along a picnic as there are no concessions in the park, just keep in mind that whatever you pack you’ll be carrying two miles.  And make a stop at the bathroom near the parking lot as there isn’t one at the beach area.

As mentioned, the park limits capacity, so have a Plan B in mind in case you get there and it’s full.  Annmarie Sculpture Garden is just a few minutes down the road and just a bit further is the Calvert Marine Museum.

 

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Filed under All ages, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Nature & Recreation in Annapolis at Quiet Waters Park

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We discovered Quiet Waters Park in Annapolis by accident — literally, you might say. On our way out to the Eastern Shore for a Mother’s Day hike, we got word of a wreck on the Bay Bridge that brought traffic to a stand still. Our destination, which was still a 30-minute drive from where we were, would now take over three hours to reach, according to Waze.

Luckily, we realized this before getting stuck in the snarl and got off Rt. 50 at the next exit to do some revamping of our day. After a quick study of the map and a simple Google search, we were on our way to Quiet Waters, a nearby park that sounded like it would be a good substitute for our original plan.

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The last minute change turned out to be a seredipitous one. Quiet Waters Park is 340-acres of recreational bliss. There are hiking and biking trails that wind through the woods and paved paths that stretch along large grassy fields and other areas of the park. There’s plenty of room for picnics and pick-up games, a garden adorned with sculptures, a Visitor Center with art galleries, scenic views of the water, and perhaps best of all, paddling opportunities on the South River.

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We didn’t cover nearly all of the grounds while we were there, but we did view works by local artists, got in some nice hiking, and enjoyed a kayaking excursion on the river. Along our hiking route, we saw old farm equipment and a composting exhibit with different kinds of equipment and processes on display. We also saw lizards, deer, picturesque river views, and a woodpecker merely a few feet away.

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After our walk in the woods, we headed for the dock, just a short way down a paved path from the parking lot. Kayaks, canoes, paddle and row boats, and stand up paddleboards are available for hourly or daily use. The kayaks worked best for our crew of two families, and getting set up with our vessels was quick and easy. Within no time, we were all paddling and basking in the beautiful day. (Remember that one nice day amid a stretch of lousy ones? It was like a gift for all us mamas.)

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Our venture on the water capped off our great time at Quiet Waters Park, but we’ll be going back. Not only was it a fantastic day, it was also a nice reminder to go with the flow (see what I did there?) when plans don’t pan out as expected. You never know, things may just end up working out even better.

Quiet Waters Park is located at 600 Quiet Waters Road in Annapolis, MD. Hours are 7am – dusk daily, except for Tuesdays when the park is closed. Admission is $6/car.


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Filed under All ages, Animals, Art, DC, Maryland, Nature, Ongoing, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Outdoor Recreation & Historical Explorations at Harpers Ferry

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Autumn in the Mid-Atlantic region is sublime, in my opinion. The weather is generally glorious, cool and crisp with lots of sunshine. The brilliant hues of fall foliage make everything seem to glow, like an Instagram filter has been applied to the landscape. It’s at once exhilarating and cozy, a perfect time to indulge in outdoor adventures — then nestle in back at home with warm food and snuggly kids.

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We recently took advantage of the season on a day trip to Harpers Ferry. Just over an hour’s drive from DC, where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet, the West Virginia locale is a nice escape from the bustle of the city. And while fall is an excellent time to go, it’s a great destination any of time of year, with a pleasant mix of active recreation, historical explorations, and small-town site-seeing.

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It had been quite a few years since we’d been to Harpers Ferry, Owen still a toddler the last time we visited. But it was a go-to for active fun back in the pre-kids day, especially for tubing excursions on the river. The shallow water, mellow flow, and adventure outfitters in the area make it a perfect place to spend a day on the water.

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This time, though, we went for the exploring and hiking. Located along the famous Appalachian Trail, there are a few good options for tramping with the kids that wind through the woods, lead to overlooks with stunning views, and offer some active recreation in a pretty, rural setting.

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We arrived in town, but immediately drove up to the parking area located about five minutes up the road. Part of the National Park System, it costs $10 to park (but if you have a 4th grader and the free National Park Pass, you don’t have to pay). A shuttle took us back into town, where many of the “shops” along the main street are actually museums offering a glimpse into the town’s past. There’s a clothing store, blacksmith, boarding house, industry museum, and more. You can walk into John Brown’s Fort, learn about the Civil War in Harper’s Ferry, and see the oldest surviving building in the town among many other historic sites.

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Several eateries are located in the area for a meal or snack pre- or post- hike. We stopped for some fuel before walking across the bridge, the B&O Railroad Potomac River Crossing, to Maryland for some hiking. There are several trail options, from easy, flat nature walks to more strenuous uphill hikes. We opted for the popular Maryland Heights Overlook Cliffs Trail, about a three-mile ascent to the cliffs overlooking the river and the town of Harpers Ferry. It was a bit challenging for the kids, but not too difficult. And the views at the top were a fantastic reward!

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After hiking back down, we stopped for an ice cream treat, walked around a little more, then caught the shuttle back. While we headed back home that evening, Harpers Ferry also makes for a nice weekend trip to experience even more activities. There are many options for lodging, from quaint inns and chain hotels to cabins and campgrounds. During the warm months, tubing and paddling on the river are popular pursuits. And hiking and biking can be enjoyed during most of the year. The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center also offers zip line tours (as well as tubing and rafting excursions).

Still, I highly recommend going in the fall — and planning on chili for dinner after.

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Harpers Ferry is located in Jefferson County, WV, about 70 miles from DC. The park is open daily from 9am – 5pm with the last shuttle bus departing Lower Town for the parking lot at 6:45pm. There is parking in town, though it’s restricted. Parking in the lot is $10; otherwise, admission to the park is free.

 

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Filed under All ages, Destination from DC, Educational, Exhibit, Fall, Maryland, Museums, Nature, Outdoor, Park, Weekdays, Weekend

Savor a Day at Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard

Cheers to a perfect day at Sugarloaf!

Cheers to a perfect day at Sugarloaf!

You know those days that are just kind of perfect? Schedules line up, the weather is sublime, everyone is in good spirits, there’s a dose of spontaneity, the stars seem to align…and something about it all just feels extra special.

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We had one of those days recently. It was over Labor Day weekend, after the second week of school, which Owen missed because he was out sick (after not missing a single day last year, go figure). Anyway, it was the first day he was really feeling better, and we were all ready to get out and enjoy the beautiful day.

As we were deciding what to do that morning, my friend Margaret texted asking what we were up to. We threw out a few ideas, and I mentioned Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, which I’d heard about from my friend Besa of Mom in DCity.

Long story short: Within a couple of hours, we were at the Dickerson, MD, locale enjoying the lovely scenery, awesome company, picnic lunch, relaxed family-friendly vibe, and a couple of bottles of the house special.

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So, a vineyard may not be the first type of place that comes to mind when you’re planning a day out with the kids. But one visit to Sugarloaf, and you’ll understand why it’s a great option for a family outing.

For starters, they welcome children. Our crew was among many with kids in the mix, and they even have a designated Play Area for running around, kicking balls, tossing Frisbees, and other kinds of all-ages fun.

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There are a few areas where you can set up camp for the day. We opted for one of many big round tables with umbrellas for shade in an open grassy space between the parking lot and grape fields, behind the big red barn. A wine tasting tent is also there, and you can sample a variety for $10. A level below that area is a patio with more tables. It’s closer to the road, but also where live music is performed — a guy on guitar entertained the crowd for hours that day. Behind the patio and next to the Play Area is a long stretch of grass, and folks are invited to bring blankets and chairs to hang out there, too.

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The barn is at the center of it all — that’s where they make and sell wine and snacks, and indoor seating is available. Crackers, cheese, and summer sausage are the only munchies they have for sale (all of it the packaged, grocery store variety), but you can BYO food for a bigger picnic. That’s just what we did — a couple of coolers full of food made for a nice feast and nibbling throughout the day. Of course, we also purchased wine — outside alcoholic beverages are not permitted — and they also offer sangria by the glass.

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There is terrific hiking nearby, and many folks actually make a stop at the Vineyard a reward after summiting Sugarloaf Mountain, located less than a mile away. It’s about a six-mile hike total up and down the mountain; we decided to skip it since Owen was just back to good health. Something to save for next time, as I hear it’s a great hike with fantastic vistas from the top.

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Along with the picnic, we played games with the kids in our field, threw a Frisbee in the play area, spent some time on the patio listening to the music, and just relaxed, hung out, and savored the day.

A perfect day, at that.

Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard is located at 18125 Comus Road in Dickerson, MD, less than an hour’s drive from DC. Hours are 12-6pm daily, and last call is at 5:30pm. Admission is free, but plan on spending anywhere from $19-30 per bottle of wine or $6 a glass for sangria. There are some tips and policies to be aware of before you go, which you can read here. Sugarloaf occasionally hosts special events, including a Grape Stomp coming up October 3-4 and 11-12. And, generally, fall will be a great time to go when you can enjoy both the foliage and the fun.

Wait, it gets even better! On the way back to DC, we stopped at Honey Pig in Germantown. If you haven’t been to the authentic Korean barbeque, I highly recommend going. The food is delicious, and it cooks on a grill right in the middle of your table. Plus, kids love the variety of fruity drinks and Korean pop music videos playing on TV’s around the restaurant.

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Honey Pig in Germantown is located at 19743 Frederick Road. There are also a few other locations around the area.

 

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Filed under All ages, DC, Farm, Free, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Music, Outdoor, Weekdays, Weekend