Six Ways to Celebrate the Last Gasp of Summer

SeanPelan_Kidswithnets_695There are only a few weeks left to soak up every last inch of summer, and we're here to help you do just that . . . Chesapeake style. While opportunities are endless when talking summer on the Bay, we know that unfortunate thing called "time" can be limiting. That's why we've compiled this quick list of last-minute summer musts:  

  1. Call it vanity, call it confidence, call it your love for the Bay . . . we want to see your #BaySelfie! Send us a selfie next time you're out enjoying these final summer days on the Bay and its rivers.
  2. Work on your tan while shaking shell at our Oyster Restoration Center, or talking clean water restoration at our booth at Norfolk's RIVERFest, or planting shrubs and wetland grasses along the Patuxent River. We don't care how, just get outside with us! Sign up to volunteer.
  3. There's still time to pick up that book you've been meaning to finish. Or if you're looking for a good Labor Day weekend read, check out this list of recs from notable CBFers.
  4. A particularly steamy day on the Bay? Take a break under the shade of a tree and watch Will Baker's inspiring TEDxTalk from your phone about the three little words that changed his life (and maybe yours, too).
  5. OK, this one you can (and should) do all throughout the year. Commit to saving the Bay and its rivers and streams by signing our Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint pledge. It's our best chance for a healthy Bay, economy, and quality of life. 
  6. Find a dock on the Bay or a cool bank along a river. Sit down, lean back, breathe in, stare out. 

Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


L’Hermione Returns to the Chesapeake

New2Annapolis City Dock can be an eerily empty place at dawn. But that was hardly the case last Thursday when a French frigate readied to sail north. A replica of the 18th-century, square-rigged vessel that carried Revolutionary War Hero Marquis de Lafayette to the Americas 235 years ago, L'Hermione is the largest and most authentically built tall ship in the last century. And she is currently (June 6-July 15) touring 12 iconic Revolutionary War ports from Yorktown, Virginia, to Castine, Maine. The voyage, which originated in Rochefort, France, celebrates the extraordinary French-American bond and Lafayette's indomitable spirit of adventure (as exemplified in his motto: "Cur Non" or "Why not").

Roughly 10 months before I found myself on City Dock that morning, my sister, who has the unfortunate burden of living in Paris, City of Light, with her French husband and two young daughters, stood along the shores of Île d'Aix to bear witness to the historic moment when L'Hermione sailed for the first time. The ship that took 17 years to build uses the same materials and techniques (such as oak timbers, linen sails, and hemp lines) that were available in the 18th century. And she's gorgeous—155 feet high, 217 feet long, drawing 16 feet, powered by 17 sails and two electric propulsion engines (connected to diesel generators), and intricately detailed with yellow trim and ornate carvings.

 

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The Marquis de Lafayette's Chesapeake route in 1781.

L'Hermione as Science Lab
Not only does L'Hermione serve as a history lesson, she also serves as science lab and research vessel. Throughout the ship's Atlantic crossing, the Director of Maritime Operations for the Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America Marc Jensen worked with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its global counterpart, the Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography and Marine Meteorology (JCOMM), to deploy a series of 11 climate buoys (one of which he placed about 100 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake).

These buoys join a network of hundreds of others that collect and transmit data like water temperature, barometric pressure, position, and salinity back to the Global Drifter Program website. "There's no doubt that we as human beings are having a huge impact," says Jensen. "The trade winds are farther south than they are normally; we had our first tropical storm May 7 instead of June 1." This network of buoys provides the critical information needed to study the long-term trends and possible effects we're having on our oceans and weather patterns. While crossing, Jensen and his team also collected 13 water samples to be tested for levels of microplastics with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation. The results are forthcoming.

In addition to better understanding our environment and the ways that we can protect and restore it, Jensen has other aspirations for what this L'Hermione voyage can teach us: "I certainly hope that when people walk aboard the ship [they realize that] the reason this is all happening is that a young man convinced his king to support a revolution. [He had] the understanding that an individual's freedom is a right that you're born with . . . We can't ever underestimate the power of what young people can do once they set their mind to something."

 

IMG_0735Lafayette and the Chesapeake
What would Lafayette have eaten on his voyages in the Chesapeake? That's what CBF's Senior Naturalist (and all-around Bay/History/Life Expert in my mind) John Page Williams and I find ourselves discussing the day that L'Hermione leaves Annapolis.

"It was a different Bay, for sure, back then," Williams says as he waxes poetic about the spot, croaker, sheepshead, American shad, salt herring, and rockfish (some averaging 60 pounds!) that swam thick and healthy across the Bay and its rivers in Lafayette's time. Not to mention the massive, vertical oyster reefs that grew so abundantly in the Chesapeake that they posed navigational hazards to passing ships.

"Our ability to alter the system was much lower [back then]—we didn't have the tools to do it," says Williams referring to trawl nets, dredging, and clear-cutting machinery. "The worst damage we did came in the last 180 years," Williams continues, "[when we were] beating up the land without realizing it during the Industrial Revolution and the 20th Century." The numbers speak for themselves. Since Lafayette's time, we have lost:

  • more than 40 percent of our forested buffers that once grew deep and undisturbed across 110,000 miles of rivers and streams and that filtered and cleaned our water;
  • roughly 80 percent of our underwater grasses that once flourished across 400,000 acres, sheltering sea horses, juvenile fish, blue crabs, and more;
  • more than 90 percent of our water-filtering oysters.

New"But this is not the way it has to be," Williams insists. Perhaps he, in persistent Lafayette fashion, cannot lose hope that that we can impact powerful, lasting change on the world around us—whether it be the birth of a nation or the rebirth of the Chesapeake.

"We've seen improved sewage treatment bring the Potomac and James Rivers back from the dead," says Williams. "Bald eagles and ospreys rebound; and Atlantic sturgeon begin to spawn again in several of the Chesapeake's rivers. There are still plenty of problems, but improvements like these tell us that the Chesapeake system wants to live, and that with a lot of thought and effort, we can restore more of its riches than any of us has seen in a long time.”

 

"Cur Non"
Back at City Dock on that early morning, as the rain starts to fall and a small crowd of Annapolitans gathers to wish L'Hermione adieu, a strange thing happens. A girl, not so unlike my eldest French-American niece 20 years from now, clambers up the ratlines—why exactly, I can't be sure. She climbs higher and higher, with determination and perseverance, throwing leg over leg, hand over hand, refusing to look down. She climbs high above the heads of her crewmates who serenade us with loud French sea chanties as they leave the dock. And I imagine her still climbing in the distance as the ship passes by the old Naval Academy transmitter towers, where, rumor has it, the D-Day orders were sent across the Atlantic. She keeps climbing as high as she can possibly go because . . . Why Not?

—Text and photos by Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 Sign up to learn more about our Bay, rivers, and streams, and how you can help save them now and for generations to come.

 


The Return of the #BaySelfie

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Today is Memorial Day—the unofficial start of summer! And what better way to celebrate than by sharing your #BaySelfie with us. Last summer, more than 150 people shared their love of the Bay and its rivers and streams through these "selfies." And we couldn't get enough of 'em! 

A happy dog and his owner swimming the mouth of Dividing Creek. Friends camping at Janes Island State Park. A father-daughter duo fishing for white perch on an unusually cool Saturday morning in July. These were just a few of the pics that your fellow water lovers shared with us last summer. 

Now it's your turn! Click here to submit your own #BaySelfie.

These photos of the extraordinary people and places along the waters we all love remind us why we do the work that we do. Our memories of these moments—and those to come—are worth fighting for. And with your help, that's what CBF is doing every day. 

Now get out there and enjoy it . . . 

—Emmy Nicklin
CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media


Floating Classrooms Foster Love of Nature

The following first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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CBF's 42-foot, Coast Guard-inspected boat, "Baywatcher"

Many RVA residents have become spoiled by living near the James River and its wonderful amenities: stunning vistas, fishing, paddling, swimming, hiking, birding, and wildlife watching.

But imagine if the closest you ever got to the James was in a car driving over a Richmond bridge. What if you'd never dipped a toe in the river, cast a line to fish, or rock-hopped across the rapids to picnic or sunbathe? What if you'd never seen a great blue heron stalking the riverbank or touched the whiskers on a blue catfish? What if you'd never, ever seen a bald eagle soaring over the James?

Believe it or not, thousands of Richmond-area youngsters have never had such experiences. They are among a growing number of children suffering from nature deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv, author of the 2005 book Last Child in the Woods. It refers to a near-total unfamiliarity with the outdoors caused by a preoccupation with indoor electronic devices — televisions, computers, cellphones, electronic games and other gadgets. On average, kids 8 to 18 years old spend more than 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. That's more than 50 hours a week.

Fortunately, a beautiful natural world still awaits anyone willing to disconnect from electronic gizmos and venture outdoors. And this year, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation celebrates 30 years of unplugging Richmond-area students and taking them outside onto the James to explore nature and the river.

Since CBF launched its James River Education Boat Program in 1985, some 55,000 students have participated in these hands-on, get-wet-and-dirty environmental education experiences. The kids board Baywatcher, a 42-foot, Coast Guard-inspected boat and one of CBF's many "floating classroom" vessels, and spend three to six hours on the water. There they read maps, identify landmarks, note shoreline land uses, take water samples, fish, crab, and ooh and aah at the critters they find.

But the boat trips are more than just fun days on the water. These science-based discovery experiences are led by professional environmental educators who reinforce knowledge and skills in Virginia's Standards of Learning and complement teachers' own classroom studies.

For many students, the CBF field experiences represent the first time they've ever been on a boat. For still others, the trips are watershed experiences that spark a lifelong love of science and nature. Many teachers have confided they were inspired to be science educators by a CBF discovery trip they took as youngsters. For testimonials and more about CBF's outdoor education experiences, go to cbf.org/education.

But environmental education provides other big benefits as well. Studies demonstrate that it:

  • Generally improves student achievement in science, likely because it connects classroom learning to the real world.
  • Improves student interest and engagement in the classroom. Students just seem to like environmental studies, opting to focus science fair and service projects on environmental topics more than any other.
  • Boosts reading, math and social studies achievement when integrated into other school subjects.
  • When used as a common thread in all classes, reduces student discipline problems, increases student enthusiasm, and generates greater pride and ownership in accomplishments.
  • Teaches critical thinking and basic life skills necessary for a 21st-century workforce.

All of which is why CBF encourages the McAuliffe administration and the Virginia General Assembly to make environmental literacy a priority in Virginia. A new Chesapeake Bay Agreement, signed last year by Governor McAuliffe and the other Chesapeake Bay partner states, includes an important environmental literacy goal: "Enable students in the region to graduate with the knowledge and skills to act responsibly to protect and restore their local watershed."

CBF urges the private and public sectors to work together in planning and funding a bold vision for all Virginia students to have the opportunity to become environmentally literate. Armed with this knowledge, Virginia students can become tomorrow's leaders, making sound decisions to restore the Chesapeake Bay and to protect Virginia's precious natural resources.

Still, it's hard to imagine the commonwealth will achieve these laudable environmental literacy goals unless more kids get outside and experience the wonders of nature. You just have to be there.

So during this Earth Day season, consider taking a young person you know to a park, on a hike, to a lake or stream, or just out into the backyard. Look around. Smell the air. Touch. Explore. You might even see a bald eagle and change a life.

—Ann Jennings, CBF's Virginia Executive Director


Oyster Migration: Fact or Fiction?


ShellyOyster Shelly is on the move! After vacationing in the Caribbean Sea for the winter, she, along with the osprey, have come back home to the Chesapeake. We've been tracking Oysters Shelly, Rocky, and Pearl throughout their migration. Check it out . . .

APRIL FOOLS!!! While we know our favorite Chesapeake critters don't go far, there is actually a period of about three weeks when oyster larvae can indeed move around. As Dr. Elizabeth North, Associate Professor at the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science says: 

"Although adult oysters remain fixed in one location, their eggs and larvae spend ~3 weeks as free-swimming plankton in the water column. During this planktonic stage, the young oysters pass through different stages of development, growing from fertilized eggs, to trocophores, to veligers, and finally to pediveligers. The pediveliger stage is the stage at which larvae search for suitable substrate to which they cement themselves, leaving the water column and becoming fixed on the bottom. This "settlement" of the larvae signals the end of the larval dispersal stage and the beginning of the juvenile stage. A suite of physical and biological factors influence larval dispersal and subsequent oyster larvae settlement. Circulation patterns are controlled by tides as well as freshwater flow and wind which can change between years, months, weeks and even days. These patterns, and differences in larval behavior, influence the direction and distance that larvae could be transported and the location where they ultimately settle.

"To predict oyster larval dispersal, we used two numerical models (i.e., computer simulations): a particle-tracking model and a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model of Chesapeake Bay. The coupled bio-physical modeling system has the ability to move particles due to currents velocities and turbulent mixing, and includes algorithms that give the particles "oyster larvae-like" behaviors. We use circulation predictions from five years in order to capture a range of physical conditions that likely influence larval dispersal. In addition, we used the best estimate of suitable present-day oyster habitat (oyster bars) and information from laboratory studies on larval behavior."

Visit Dr. North’s website to see her model of oyster larvae distribution in wet, average, and dry years. Note that she developed these animations seven years ago, when Maryland and Virginia were wrestling with the question of whether to introduce a non-native Asian oyster to the Chesapeake. Dr. North's research played a valuable role in the decision to concentrate restoration efforts on our native Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. Thus the Eastern Oyster Animations are the only ones that apply to our Bay today. Remember that female oysters spawn huge numbers of eggs, and that larger oysters, clumped together, send out exponentially larger numbers. Mortality is high, but the more we concentrate their numbers, the faster the stocks increase.

The good news in these simulations is that they give us a flavor of how resilient our oyster can be if we understand its behavior and habitat needs as a species. With intelligent restoration efforts, we can once again rely on its reefs for natural water filtration, rich fish/crab habitat, and succulent seafood. 

John Page Williams, CBF’s Senior Naturalist

Wanna see some real migration? Check out our osprey tracking project! Now those birds travel far—some from as far away as South America! 

 

The Bay Offers Up the Perfect Valentine

101423-1285Photo by Donnie Biggs.

I must be the only person in the entire Chesapeake Bay area who doesn't know how to serve an oyster on the half shell. Butter? Lemon? Old Bay? I'm embarrassed to say I have no idea. But it's time I learn. My husband loves them, and I'm planning to buy a dozen for Valentine's Day.

In this, at least, I am not alone. Oyster sales spike on Valentine's Day alongside chocolate and bubbly. Seafood shops are stocking up, and restaurants are adding the epicurean indulgence to their Saturday night lover's menus.

Kevin McClaren who runs Marinetics, Inc., home of the famous Choptank Sweets oysters, has been hustling since last week to fill all the orders that have come in. He likens the work to a well-coordinated dance. "It's like a ballet," he says, "Taking them out, washing them off, getting them on ice, packing them up. Over and over. All day." A manly ballet, he adds.

Kevin says his business more than doubled this week. Whole Foods alone ordered 6,000. Most of his sales are to local and regional restaurants that will be serving them up roasted, fried, dusted with chocolate, and of course, raw on the half shell.

Long considered an aphrodisiac, the humble oyster was said to have given the 18th Century Venetian playboy, Giacomo Casanova, his swagger. In 2005, Italian researchers claimed they had the proof to turn the myth into a reality. Their work showed that Mediterranean mussels contained two amino acids associated with amorous behavior in animals. In the end, however, mussels are not oysters, and their study subjects were not human. More recently, it's been said that a high concentration of zinc in oysters could induce a romantic response, but one would have to gobble them down in gluttonous quantities more likely to induce vomiting than romance.

Myth or not, oysters remain high on the list of essentials for gastronomic courtship. Behind the seafood counter at Whole Foods in Annapolis, Lamont Jackson expects to shuck nearly 600 of the stony Bay jewels on Saturday. Normally oyster sales hover at around 50 per day. I asked him why he thought so many people bought oysters on Valentine's Day, and his answer was probably the best I'd heard so far: "I think they add something fun to the table."

That's what I'm hoping for when I serve them up tomorrow tonight. After all, it has been scientifically proven that fun is the best recipe for a long, happy marriage.

Kimbra Cutlip, CBF's Senior Multimedia Writer

Learn how we're restoring these beloved creatures of the Chesapeakeand perfect Valentines.


Riding for Clean Water

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Why go to France when you can go to Talbot! Join us this fall in a ride across Talbot County, Maryland, to benefit the Bay. While steep climbs through the Alps and rolling vineyards may not be on the agenda, salty Bay breezes and watermen's villages certainly will.

On September 7, 2014, hundreds of cyclists will take in the scenic beauty of Maryland's Eastern Shore and support clean water while riding in the 10th Annual Tour de Talbot. More than just a bike ride, the Tour de Talbot gives back to local rivers and the Chesapeake Bay by supporting the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy (MRC) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF).

Register as an individual, join a team, or create your own team—there are many ways to participate in this fun event that brings together cyclists of all ages and abilities. Last year's 375 registrants included pro riders, kids, and everyone in between.

Registration includes lunch, a drink ticket, and a T-shirt; rest stops on the banks of the Wye and Choptank Rivers with food and drinks; fully marked routes of 20, 62, and 100 miles; and cheering crowds at the finish line! Kids under 16 ride for free.

The ride supports the work of MRC to preserve and protect the Miles, Wye, and Choptank Rivers, and Eastern Bay. And this year for the first time, it also supports CBF's mission to Save the Bay. Once you register, you can raise funds using the event website, and win prizes, too. The rider who raises the most money will win a Diamondback road bike that retails for $2,200! Don’t miss it!

Event sponsors for the 10th Annual Tour de Talbot include Bicycling Magazine, Calhoon MEBA Engineering School, Bay Pediatric Center, Bike Doctor, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Dock Street Foundation and Tuckahoe Strategies.

—Brie Wilson


Photo of the Week: Show Off Your #BaySelfie!

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A happy dog and his owner swimming the mouth of Dividing Creek. Friends camping at Janes Island State Park. A father-daughter duo fishing for white perch on an unusually cool Saturday morning in July. 

These are just a few of the recent "Bay Selfie" photos that fellow water lovers have sent us this summer. And I'm sure you have quite a few of your own, too—we'd love to see them! 

Take a moment now to check out our "Bay Selfie" photo album on Facebook and be sure to "like" your favorites. Then, show off your love for the Bay and its rivers and streams by sharing your own selfie or favorite photo of family and friends enjoying our waters. 

These photos of the extraordinary people and places along the waters we all love remind us why we do the work that we do. Our memories of these moments—and those to come—are worth fighting for. And with your help, that's what CBF is doing every day. 

Enjoy the last gasp of summer this coming Labor Day Weekend, preferably out on the water. And don't forget your camera or smartphone!

—Emmy Nicklin, CBF's Senior Manager of Digital Media

 Send us your Bay Selfies! Show us the places that mean the most to you, and tell us why. 


Pennsylvania Discovery Trips: What's in Your Backyard?

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Photo by Kim Patten/CBF Staff.

Pennsylvania has more miles of rivers and streams than almost any other state in the nation, and summer is a great time to get out and experience the tremendous beauty and unique habitats our waterways have to offer.

CBF invites you to join us on an upcoming "Discovery Trip" for members and friends.

On our June trip, participants enjoyed all the wonder of the Yellow Breeches. Fantastic weather set the stage for sightings of deer, wood ducks, egrets, kingfishers, and several wood turtles.

There are two more opportunities to get out on the water--join us if you can:

    1. Thursday, July 24 on the Swatara Creek in Dauphin County, 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

    2. Saturday, August 2 on the Susquehanna River near Port Treverton, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Participants paddle a three- to five-mile stretch of a local creek, stream, or Susquehanna River. Each trip is led by CBF's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program (SWEP) staff, who provide everything you'll need for a fun and safe adventure. This includes, but is not limited to, canoes, paddles, lifejackets, snacks, and an introductory paddling instruction. Any paddling skill level is welcome, no experience necessaryThese are family-fun events!

Click here to learn more and to register. We'll see you out on the water! 

—Kelly Donaldson and Kim Patten, CBF Staff

 


The Two Chesapeakes

BySam ChambersPhoto by Sam Chambers.

The following first appeared in 
Bay Journal earlier this month.
 
Two lanes of traffic bake in the summer sun, immobile. Engines idle while passengers sit inside their cars, sweating in the tepid air of an overtaxed air conditioner. They are headed to the beach, suspended 186 feet over the Chesapeake Bay on the William Preston Lane Memorial (Bay) Bridge, part of the vast exodus to Ocean City.
 
The thick, fleshy pads of water lilies bob as kids wade in with a seine net along the shoreline, looking for silversides and translucent grass shrimp. They’ve been at it all afternoon, and their fingers are puckered. Just up the bank, a few others dangle their fishing lines into the water in what they hope is an irresistible fashion—they have the serious job of catching fish for dinner.
 
These are today’s two versions of the Chesapeake. One is known by the water-dwellers, chaperoned in their adventures by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Echo Hill Outdoor School, Sultana Education Foundation and other like-minded organizations. Representing the other is the great, ocean-oriented car caravan that mobilizes from Fridays through Sundays. Cars creep forward in Bay Bridge traffic, the passengers inside unaware that the same salty, sun-glazed magic they’re struggling toward is on offer, right under their tires.
 
A few generations ago, when the sun balefully scorched the summer, the Bay’s shorelines would teem with people seeking relief. Only a few decades later, those same beaches are empty as people drive for hours to claim their gull-buzzed, crowded square foot of sugar-fine sand. We’ve read the headlines and heard the reports: “Dead Zones,” “Pollution,” “Not Safe to Swim.” This, we believe, is our current Chesapeake: past all hope. Pretty sunsets, though.
 
But every summer day, Chesapeake environmental organizations are disproving these misconceptions. They show our children the experiences that earlier generations enjoyed as their Bay birthrights: trot-lining for crabs, swimming for hours where fish wink like coins in a wishing well and falling to sleep lulled by the broken bass groans of bullfrogs. These halcyon days along the Chesapeake aren’t gone. They are happening even as we flee our suburbs and cities for the ocean, dismissing the Bay that still has so much summer’s essence to be savored.
 
Admittedly, the Chesapeake is no longer the clear water refuge of the past. As our population grows along its shores, the Bay’s quality attenuates accordingly. But to hold the Chesapeake Bay to a past standard is an effort in futility. That old Bay, the one my grandfather progged for softshells in 6-foot visibility, probably isn’t coming back.
 
Our nostalgia for the past, though, shouldn’t prevent us from appreciating the Bay we have before us, even if our grand cleanup efforts have not yet yielded the pristine results we are striving for.
There are problems with this modern Chesapeake Bay—places where we can’t swim or fish. In the thick fug of the summer, it has algae blooms. But these issues are not universal. A short drive can lead to a shady swimming hole, an osprey-circled fishing spot or a quiet stretch of sand, loblollies and dunes.
 
Within Maryland parks alone, there are 16 public swimming beaches, 27 spots with canoe and kayaking facilities and 48 anglers’ paradises. Watershed wide there are hundreds of such sites.
But too often, our kids grow up spending summers at the ocean because we are so poisoned by the bad news we read and hear that we’ve dismissed the Bay, whole cloth. If we no longer introduce our children to the Bay, there will be a generation that is oblivious to the Chesapeake’s many charms, and doesn’t care what it becomes. For them, it will be just another landmark to tick off on their way to the ocean, which seems safe, for now.
 
For the Bay to have a fighting chance, we watershed residents have to care about it. And that can only come from positive experiences. Those can be fostered in a camp kayak, but better yet, on family trips where old and young wade in and squish the mud between their toes, hear cicadas singing in a cypress grove, and swim with breath held and eyes open, watching minnows part fore and aft to make way.
 
So, pack some sandwiches and sunscreen, and head toward your local swimming hole, whether it’s Flag Ponds Nature Park, Betterton Beach or Sandy Point. You’ll cut the ocean driving time, and best of all, you’ll get to see firsthand the pure undiluted joy our Chesapeake can still create.
 
—Kate Livie