I’m no horticulturalist or anything, but I loves me a beautiful flower bloom. It’s not just the dramatic vistas they create as brilliant bursts of color stretch across landscapes; something about the annual recurrence — the concept of renewal — is at once comforting, uplifting, exciting, and hopeful. (Why, hello, my inner cheeseball.)
This was the first time we went to see the sunflower bloom at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, MD. I’d actually never heard about it before and have the Montgomery County Tourism Office on social media to thank for the heads-up this year. It was one of their Instagram posts that alerted me to the peak dates, which are right now through next weekend.
So, this bloom is amazing! The thirty acres of tall yellow flowers is such a happy sight, like a big congregation of smiling emoji sunshine faces. It was a crazy hot day when Owen and I went to see it, but I’m so glad we braved the temps. We didn’t stay too long, about 20-30 minutes, but it was enough time to take in the sublime scene. I recommend wearing hats, close-toed shoes, and sunscreen, and bringing along a bottle of water.
I couldn’t find an exact address for McKee-Beshers, but put the location in my phone GPS and followed the route. It led us to a small parking lot just off River Road, and a sign there confirmed we were in the right place. (There’s no admission, just park and head to the fields.) It’s just a few minutes down the road from Homestead Farms, so I recommend planning a visit there, too, to make the most of your time while you’re out that way. We did some blackberry picking and enjoyed a picnic lunch that we brought along. Just make sure you go soon, because the bloom (and blackberries!) won’t be there for much longer.
The first glimpse beyond the trees
There’s some room to walk among the flowers,but be careful!
A shorty among the tallies
The flip side…sunflowers turn slowly throughout the day, so they’re always facing the sun
Matching bumble bee
Stop and smell, though there’s not much of an aroma
Owen just returned from a few weeks of sleep away camp, and this is our week to hang out together, as Sasha is busy with Adventure Theatre acting camp, and he doesn’t begin Camp Arena Stage until next week. We spent yesterday at Purse State Park with friends, wandering the shoreline hunting for fossils, picnicking on the beach, and swimming in the Potomac (the kids did, anyway).
A lovely view of the Potomac
We first visited Purse a couple of years ago after my friend Jody heard from a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum that it was a great place to search for fossilized shark teeth and other prehistoric marine life remnants. It’s one of the best adventure tips I’ve received for KFDC — we love visiting and always come home with a good haul of fossil finds, occasionally with some pretty interesting pieces. In fact, yesterday Jody found a very rare pygmy white shark tooth (confirmed on The Fossil Forum)!
Jody’s rare pygmy white shark tooth
You can read more about the locale in Charles County, MD, in this post, which also has logistics for visiting. If you like a little adventure in your beach outing, this is a perfect place to go; it’s actually more about fossil hunting than beaching, but there is sand and surf to enjoy during the warm months — just be sure to check the tide table to make sure there is enough sand! Get a look at it all in these scenes from yesterday.
Fallen trees add some obstacles (and climbing ops for kids)
The squish of toes in the sand
Crouch anywhere by the water, and you’re bound to find a fossil
More swimming than fossil hunting by these kids – they were so happy the water was warm enough!
Fossilized shells embedded in the cliffside
Can’t beat a beach picnic!
Not the usual wildlife you expect to see at the beach
Sightings of these little guys are more common
Another friendly critter
I always bring a container with a hole in the lid to stash my finds
The boardwalk to the beach after a half-mile hike from the car
Happy first day of summer! Images of the beach seem like a perfect way to welcome the new season, so here are some scenes from our outing to Flag Ponds Nature Park yesterday. It was a nice time to be there — the sun was shining, the breeze off the water kept us cool on a hot day, and the water was calm (though unfortunately filled with jellyfish, so we didn’t go much more than ankle deep in it). But it was so nice to enjoy the sun, sand, and, of course, some shark tooth hunting.
You can read more about Flag Ponds Nature Park in this KFDC post. And a few new things to note: The admission fee is now $8/car. And we learned the hard way yesterday that they only accept cash at the entrance (luckily, there is an ATM about a 5-minute drive away). But put it on your summer to-do list. Just an hour’s drive from DC, Flag Ponds makes for a great day trip!
Looking for shark teeth on the shoreline
Colors of summer
Lounging in the sun
Beach goers bring fossil hunting gear here
There’s about a mile stretch where you can hang out by the Chesapeake
Shark teeth and fossil finds
The landscape is different every time we go as inlets change with the tides
The walk there and back winds through a pretty wooded area
A shark tooth find on one of our summer adventures
It seems I’m not the only one who gets excited about shark teeth and fossil hunting along Maryland shorelines. When I posted about the pursuit over the summer (here, too), there was a such an enthusiastic response. Some of you had already been and shared bits and tips about your experiences. And even more sent messages to let me know they went on my recommendation and loved it.
So, when Ruddy Duck Adventures in Solomons, MD, introduced me to their Shark Teeth & Fossil Hunting Adventure Packages, I knew it was something I had to share with the KFDC masses. Their adventures sound amazing — these are fossil hunting excursions enhanced.
They day starts on the Chesapeake shores to search for shark teeth and other millions-of-years-old fossils, an expert on hand to help with the hunt and hot cocoa to keep folks comfortable during the cool seasons. The fun continues at the Calvert Marine Museum, where guests can compare their findings with ancient fossils and giant shark teeth. A gourmet lunch is included, as are dinner and a chance to sample local craft beer later.
A megalodon tooth at the Calvert Marine Museum
Don’t worry about lunch (or dinner) – it’s included!
I love that the package is offered through fall and winter for those who enjoy outdoor adventures year-round. (There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.)
Package rates start at $89/adult, and $20/child. This includes a lot — admission to all activities and equipment, lunch, dinner, snacks, bottled water, beer tasting or first wine/beer for adults, and a guide. And it all makes for an amazing adventure for the whole family.
[2020 Update: Purse State Park is now known as the Purse area within the Nanjemoy Wildlife Management Area in Charles County, MD. And since this post was first published in August 2015, it has grown greatly in popularity and is not quite the special find it once was. The small parking lot is now often full on weekends, with cars are parked down the side of the road near the trailhead that leads to the beach, and many more people fill up the narrow stretch of sand along the river. It may not be a bad idea to check out some alternative places to find fossils around the area.]
You’ve got to love when a recommendation for a great adventure comes straight from an expert. I also appreciate when friends think of KFDC upon finding out about cool places to explore. Those two things combined are exactly what what brought us to Purse State Park (now the Purse Area of the Nanjemoy WMA) in Charles County, MD, a couple of weeks ago.
On a recent visit to the National Museum of Natural History, my friend Jody got into a conversation with a paleontologist about searching for fossilized shark teeth (a random obsession she and I share), and learned that Purse is known for yielding excellent fossil finds. Once she shared that information with me, it wasn’t long before we made a trip out there with our kids for a day of digging, swimming, picnicking, and exploring.
Purse State Park is just over an hour’s drive away from DC along a part of the Potomac River called Wades Bay, where woods meet water. There’s a very small parking lot across the street from the trailhead that leads to the pretty and peaceful beach area about a quarter of a mile away.
A narrow strip of sand stretches along the shoreline, tree branches from the woods overhanging in a few spots. But the “jewels” of the locale are hidden among the piles of shells and small rocks at the water’s edge, where you’ll easily find fossils from sharks, fish, shells, even crocodiles, many of them over 30 million and some up to 60 million years old.
It’s important to check the tide table (search Potomac River/Liverpool Point, MD) when you plan a visit, since the already narrow strip of sand thins out even more at high tide. Not only is it easier to sift through the piles of shells and rocks, but the kids have space to play in the sand and spread out a bit. The water is also nice and shallow for swimming (yes, in the Potomac!) at that time.
Having those extra activities for the kids was ideal, since they did their fossil hunting in short spurts, though Sasha found one of the larger shark teeth of our stash. Jody and I, however, were crouched by the river for long stretches of time, plucking all kinds of fossils from handfuls of sand and shells. A small area at the end of a little stream trickling from the woods to the river was a boon for shark teeth of all sizes, dental plate fragments, shellfish molds, fossilized shells, and possibly part of a turtle shell (this website is great for helping identify fossils). We met an Arlington woman there who does a lot of fossil hunting, and she said Purse is by far one of the higher yielding spots for shark and occasionally crocodile teeth.
We both left with nice stashes of fossils, and back home I added our new findings to a collection in a mason jar, save for a few teeth that Sasha included in birthday cards for friends. And I have to confess: I’m already jonesing for a fossil hunting fix — it’s that addicting! — and the nerd in me really, really hopes to score a crocodile tooth next time.
Jody’s findings from the day all cleaned and sorted
Purse State Park (now the Purse Area in the Nanjemoy WMA) is located in Charles County in Nanjemoy, MD, according to GPS. It’s open sunrise to sunset, and admission is free. There are no concessions or facilities, so plan accordingly.