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Travels by Canoe

Student Leadership Blogs: Mountains to the Bay


Day 1: Sunday, July 24

After meeting the other campers in the parking lot, we started our drive to Weaverton Cliffs. About halfway there, we took a short stop at Harper’s Ferry to look at a map and learn where we were and what we were planning to do shortly before starting off again. We arrived at the base of the cliffs, took a quick snack break, and began our hike. It seemed a lot longer than it really was; but after a lot of switchback and sweating, we finally made it to the top. The view over the Potomac was amazing because the highway next to it was blocked by trees. Ready to learn more about our week, we gathered around a few maps while the leaders pointed out some key points on our journey. A while later (after some more sightseeing), we started down the mountain. Everybody agreed that the hike down was definitely easier! We reached the cars and started the drive to Watermelon Park.

When we arrived, the leaders taught us ho  w to set up our tents, and we began immediately building “shelter.” We definitely enjoyed our time in the sun but it was nice to sit in front of a warm meal (courtesy of the CBF staff!) and relax. Pic 2
Our lovely dinner consisted of fried chicken, potato salad, and a dinner roll or two. Dessert was a slice of watermelon...not grown from Watermelon Park (ironic, isn’t it?). Afterwards, the leaders gathered us in a circle and introduced to us The Group Contract, full of traits and rules that we each deliberated on and agreed to follow. Last but not least, we brushed our teeth, changed our clothes, and went to sleep after watching the sunset. A great ending to our first day!

                                                         —Sarah Kemp

Day 2: Monday, July 25

Pic 3 We started our day to a musical wake-up call (Aretha Franklin) at 6 a.m. A few people woke up quickly, but most had trouble getting out of bed that early! We packed our bags for the canoeing trip and went to breakfast (a cereal, bagel, and oatmeal buffet). We took a shuttle to the put-in site where we got assigned to canoe groups based on experience and talked about the topic for the day: Tolerance for Adversity & Uncertainty. Knowing that it would be a long, hard paddle, but excited anyways, we pushed off and began.

The river was mostly smooth, with some small rapids. Everyone learned quickly to “read the river” and find the V’s in the water that signified safe passage around the rocks. It was exhausting, but exciting work, as we shot bilge pumps and splashed each other with water on our way down the river. After canoeing for around three hours, we stopped for sandwiches and some wading in the river before continuing on. Finally, after about four and a half hours of intense work, we arrived back at the camp site. We had gone 10 miles, and seen somewhere around 12 blue herons, seven bald eagles, cows, two red herons, and tons of geese. The sense of accomplishment everyone had was enormous, and we went into town for ice cream to celebrate. It was too rainy to hike to an overlook of what we had done, but we went back to the campsite and surveyed the stream for macro invertebrates to determine water quality. Lastly, dinner was prepared by the cook crew, and it was stir fry veggies, chicken, and dinner rolls with watermelon and a cookie for dessert. The perfect second day.  

     —Valentina Lohr

    Pic 5                                                                                                                                              

Night 2 and Day 3: Tuesday, July 26

As the night continued, we assembled our belongings, preparing for our departure from Watermelon Park the next day. Organizing our clothes and wet bathing suits, we grew sad because so many memories had already happened at that campsite. Then, we gathered in our nightly circle, and began reflecting on the adventures of the day. Our leader Christy asked us to list our “snapshot moments,” and we began to speak about the cattle in the water, Pic 10 the Blue Ridge Mountains lying in front of us, and the expressions we made when finding something cool in the water. We described the numerous ways that we represented “Tolerance with Adversity and Uncertainty,”  which was the day’s leadership theme. We stared at the amazing moonlit sky, and we made a makeshift fire with a citronella candle. Although we had only met the day before, we already felt like family. Heading into our tents, we slowly, one by one, fell asleep, listening to the river flowing and the crickets singing in the trees.

The next morning, we woke up to the joyous tunes of “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid. Although it took a very long time to finally open our eyes, we quickly broke down the tents and packed our belongings into our duffel bags, loading them into the truck.  Since this was our ticket to breakfast, upon completion, we devoured our cereal, bagels, and bananas. Making sure we had left Watermelon Park exactly as we found it, we walked around the campsite, picking up all leftover supplies. After piling into the “Truck Duck” and “Party Roadkill Van” as the two cars are named, we drove away from the last two days of camping. Then, we came to a pavilion located near the Blue Ridge Mountains, where we are about to learn all about this new landscape and its animals, before settling amongst one. 

 Jackie Siegel


Afternoon of Day 3: Tuesday, July 26

As we sat on the paint-splattered picnic tables and felt the shade of the forest, Amber, from the Blue Ridge Mountain Animal Refuge, sacrificed her own time to show three of the animals IMG_1539
from the rehabilitation center. Our group fell in love with Sugar the flying squirrel, Lucy the red-shouldered hawk, and Sheldon the Eastern Shore box turtle. During Amber’s presentation, we even witnessed a rescue when a baby blue jay landed on Christy’s arm begging for food. As a few campers went to the outhouse, the group discussed the leadership trait of the day, “Self-awareness.”

We finished our discussion on empathy and the definition of self-awareness while our leaders assigned cook crews for the rest of the week. We’re all looking forward to all the delicious dinners that are going to be devoured by our hungry group. We climbed into our cars and prepared for the long two-hour trip to Uncle Ed’s Farm which is also known as Mulberry Grove, the birthplace of U.S. President John Hanson (President of the Continental Congress in 1781).

Eventually we reached our destination where we quickly set up tents, something we’ve all become quite good at. As we sat and talked in the shade and looked out at the amazing view from the yard, we prepared for a trip to the grocery store for the meals we’ll all be making. Our cars pulled into the hot asphalt of Safeway Pic 7 where we were all so glad for the air-conditioning, and the food in the aisles made all our stomachs grumble. We split up along the aisles, grabbing the necessary ingredients for all of our dinners and paid for our many groceries. We stuffed our cars with our items and drove back to our campsite where a cook crew made a dinner of barbeque chicken sandwiches, baked beans, and green beans. The hot chicken slipped out of our fingers as we took in the beautiful view of the white picket fence and the rolling hills. We quickly cleaned up dinner and settled back in for a group discussion for our evening plans. The majority voted for a night canoe and so we grabbed our headlamps and bathing suits and headed out for a beautiful night-time paddle.

As we took the short ride to the push-off in Nanjomoy Creek, we used all of our five senses to revel in the beautiful sights and sounds. The scene seemed so beautiful, like a painting. Pic 9 The water seemed to take the form of glass; the beautiful dark blue sky was with scattered stars; the trees appeared black in the shade; the croaking of the green tree frogs and the musty smell of mud and water mixed with rich,  fresh air. As we sat in silence, our paddles rippling in the water, we ate our dessert and learned about the marsh grasses. We quietly paddled back and put the canoes back by using our teamwork and cooperation skills. The cars quickly pulled out and we headed back to camp where we all immediately dozed off with our arms still sore. As we laid in our tents, we all fell asleep to the crickets singing.

 Alice Yang


Pic 8

Day 4: Wednesday, July 27  

We never thought that 7:30 a.m. would be sleeping in until this trip! As the wake-up calls came, we packed up camp, ready for a new destination. We loaded in to the Duck Truck and Party Road Kill Van, and we headed to the Zekiah Swamp to explore. Pic 4

We paddled through twists and turns and, finally, we were blocked by a fallen tree. Thinking we were only going wading, we explored the swamp in waist-deep water, not knowing we were getting a big surprise...SOAP! Before embarking on this adventure, we never imagined taking a bath in a swamp with biodegradable dish soap would be so refreshing.

We got back in the cars and drove to Colton’s Point. When we arrived on the beach of the Potomac River, there was another surprise in store for us. They told us we were releasing a wild bunny that was given to us at the Blue Ridge Mountains Animal Rehabilitation Center but instead it was...SODA! After the sweet treat, we paddled across the Potomac River and arrived at St. Clements Island. We set up camp on a beautiful bluff. Watching the sun set on the beach, we prepared a delicious dinner of Mac&Cheese and chicken. Now we are sitting on the pier, overlooking the mighty Potomac River.

 Meg, Jackie, Cassidy, Kayla, Nora


Morning of Day 5: Thursday, July 28

Today we woke up with the sun at 6:30 a.m. We broke down camp, and had a nutritious breakfast of bagels and cereal and last night’s dessert! We canoed back to Colton’s Point, and got in the Roadkill Party Bus and Duck Truck for the last time. We traveled two hours in the car to Point Lookout State Park to eat lunch (tuna fish, make-your-own sandwiches, and a snack buffet) and then boarded the Bay Eagle with Captain Larry. After loading the boat, we cranked up the radio and headed to Fox Island, all the while everyone was dancing and singing along! We’re looking forward to our stay at Fox Island, with actual beds and running water! 

 Valentina Lohr and Kayla Paxton


                                                                                                                                     Real fox


Afternoon of Day 5: Thursday, July 28

Retreat 081 After we arrived at Fox Island, we met the CBF staff and unloaded the boat. But almost as soon as we were on land, we got back into the Bay Eagle. We looped around the island and did some crabbing. We had to fit dead fish into the bait box of the crab pot, so we kissed them (eeewww!) and then ripped them in half so they fit inside the crab pots to attract crabs. There were blood and guts everywhere! Next, we drove around to the front of the lodge, which stands in the middle of the water. From there we filed into our dorms, where they actually had beds! It was our first time on the journey not in a tent. Then we learned about the safety of the island.

Following that, the cook crew made a pasta bar, which was delicious. A bit later, the Fox Island Program Manager Matt suggested we go outside. We didn’t really IMG_1724 know what to expect, but as soon as we got outside, we saw tons of comb jellies in the water, which light up in the water at night. They looked like underwater fireflies! Some of them washed up on the beach, and we were able to pick them up because they don’t sting. When we got inside, we did a fun activity about natural resourses and respect for our peers. After that, we were all so exhausted that we collapsed into bed.

  Liam Thomas and Tripp McGuire


 Day 6: Friday, July 29

We started the day bright and early. As we watched the sun come up we all had no idea what time it was because we were on island time! After we watched the sunrise, we got right to our last day at Fox Island. This was our fullest day so we had to eat a big breakfast consisting of cereal, bagels, oatmeal, and anything else that was in the kitchen.

After breakfast we all boarded the Jenny S and headed to Cedar Island and went proging. While we were proging we saw a black widow inside a dead horseshoe crab. We then headed back to Fox Island and ate root beer floats prepared by our great leaders. Afterwards we boarded the Jenny S and headed out with the scraper and caught lots of little critters (northern puffer fish, soft shell crabs, and a baby speckled trout.) We then headed in and had our last lunch on Fox Island.

After lunch we put on our dirty clothes and walked across the canal to big island (an island made completely of marsh land). We all knew this meant time for MARSH MUCKING! Our first obstacle course was known as ankle break alley. After we had survived the holes and mud of ankle break alley we were in mud neck high. Our second obstacle was making canon balls. We had to run and jump into a huge hole of mud. Everything from head to toe was covered in mud! We then walked through the marsh to belly slide hole. This is where we had to run and slide on our bellies, and then a lot of us just played in the mud (Tripp even lost his shoe!). When everyone was done playing it was time to declare marsh king and queen...this is where you had to make your way somehow or another across a pond of mud. It was a very close race but Kayla was declared Marsh Queen and Tripp Marsh King. 

As we headed back across the canal we scrubbed all the mud off and then continued to a bay shower on the dock where we had SOAP! For dinner we had tacos. Afterwards we had a graduation where we all received a T-shirt and a nice comment from one of our peers. After graduation, we did a little star gazing. All of us changed into our pajamas and headed to bed on our last night on Fox Island knowing how early we were going to have to get up to pack and check crab pots.

 Kayla Paxton


Travels by Skipjack

Summer Student Leadership Blogs

CBF's Education staff run week-long student leadership trips over the summer, where students can get up-close and personal with the Bay and their environment. This summer, some of the courses involve the students blogging about their activities. Here is the first.


Click here for Google Map

Sunday, June 26

We are spending our first full day of the trip learning the basics of Coastal Piloting and Navigation. Our destination tonight is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD. The boat was anchored in Harness Creek off of the South River last night, so we have quite some distance to cover.

One of our discussion topics for the evening was the leadership traits that we will be working on during the week. There is a full list below. Today we worked on Expedition Behavior and Monday will be Competence.

The entire crew slept on the deck of the skipjack last night. The forecast was for a cool night, light breeze, and clear skies. Never trust the weatherman! Some of us awoke around 1 a.m. to some very light sprinkles; enough to annoy, but not to get wet. A few tarps were hastily hung and we were back to bed.

Check out Google maps to watch our progress. 


Leadership Traits

  • Expedition Behavior
  • Competence
  • Communication
  • Tolerance for Adversity and Uncertainty
  • Self Awareness
  • Vision and Action
  • Judgement and Decision Making


Monday, June 27
Written by Maddie

Our route Day 1We made an early night of it and snuggled into our sleeping bags expecting darkness to creep over us and a full eight hours sleep. Getting used to sleeping on the boat was hard—especially because many of us had to deal with light, even all through the night. We also had to deal with the hot stickiness and bugs—monsterous amounts of bloodsuckers. Then the unexpected hit and rain fell. A positive for the rain was that the bugs disappeared—but at 1:30 a.m.  Dave, Paul, and Christy all set out to raise tarps, waking half of us up, but keeping us dry.

The day got off to a great start, after waking up in Harness Creek. We learned navigating skills from Dave and calculated our own routes for the trip to St. Michaels. Gathering the gear and bringing us back to work, today's student navigator Kayla, skipper Taylor, and mate David, all started to learn how to steer the skipjack. At first we traveled in multiple circles—soon we got on our way.

Hauling in oystersWhen we arrived at the Maritime Museum we set up camp and were already looking forward to the running water and flushable toilets in the AIR CONDITIONED buildings. We grabbed all the gear off the boat and threw it in our tents. We started to make dinner, helping out our kitchen crew, because there was a lot to do in order to have stir-fry. We sat down to a huge amount of food which we all enjoyed before Paul talked to us about competance. After our team talk, we ran over the next day's schedule and now are all excited for activities to come. We are starting to settle down once more, taking showers and changing—all waiting for what comes tomorrow.

Check out Google maps to watch our progress. If you zoom in on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum you can see our skipjack at the dock.


Tuesday June 28 - AM edition
Written by Rachel
The "Village" at the Maritime MuseumLast night we camped out in a field at the Maritime Museum at St. Michaels. We awoke bright and early (7 a.m.) because we had to eat breakfast and be out of the area before a bunch of kids came in for their sailing camp that started at 8 a.m.

Sprucing up a boat for the Maritime MuseumNext we headed out to do some work for the Maritime Museum to thank them for allowing us to stay on their grounds and also to get more experience/ideas for our action projects. We ended up helping paint an old steamboat named "Thor." Thor was rescued from underwater and restored by the museum. We helped re-paint (well, actually re-stain) the boat to make it more presentable for the rapidly approaching 4th of July celebration that the museum hosts every year.

At the top of Hooper Straights lighthouseAfter working on the boat restoration, we explored the museum. We did a scavenger hunt where various clues lead us to different locations and parts of the museum. We learned more about oysters and oyster depletion, the crabbing industry, different types of boats, etc. The museum also had many hands-on exhibits such as boats we could climb in and explore. Lastly, most people explored the Hooper Straight lighthouse, which is also part of the museum.

Tuesday June 28 - PM edition
Written by Mason 

Learning about lighthousesWaking up on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum grounds was different than our first morning on the Stanley Norman. I myself liked how the tent prevented us from getting rained on like the previous night. After breakfast we went over our leadership trait of the day—communication. Then we got ready for the day, putting on clothes that we could get dirty. We walked over to the boat restoration house and learned that we would be painting part of a buy-boat's edge red, white, and blue colors for the upcoming 4th of July celebration at the museum. After about an hour, we were content with our work and "tried" to wash the paint off our hands, arms, and even hair. We were then given a scavenger hunt with cards that gave us hints on places to search for things in the museum. We explored the lighthouse, steamboat house, oyster house, and the crab house. I liked the crab house because we got to look at crabs and pick them up. Oyster tonging off the dockWe even got to use tongs to pick up oysters out of the water.

After lunch we did a town tour of St. Michaels. We were given a list of questions to ask three townspeople about the area and the bay. We split up into groups and were off roaming the town asking people for information. We learned how the town was given the title of "the town that fooled the British." This is because when St. Michaels was being approached by the British soldiers, the townspeople put lights up in the trees. So when the soldiers fired upon the town, they hit the trees and not the houses! Only one house got hit by a cannon ball. The house was then appropriately given the name "Cannon Ball House."  After we gathered our facts about the town, we all met up at Justine's Ice Cream. We were each surprised with a single scoop of ice cream.

Crab dinner on the dockWe then decided what our next two dinners would be, and we went to the grocery store to buy the supplies. We decided on taco night and spaghetti night. When we got back, we had an hour of free time. Most of us went to find air conditioning. We are now making dinner and then we are getting ready for bed. I am excited to be back on the boat tomorrow.


 Cleaning our catch  Rounding Bloody Point
Bucket O' Eels Pulling up a crab pot

Wednesday June 29
Written by Paul 

Fixing our position above Poplar IslandWaterman’s breakfast! In preparation for our longest day on the water (36 miles), we started with donuts and scrapple and egg sandwiches at the local breakfast/seafood/tackle shop. There were a few locals, but most were already out crabbing.

The wind was a little too light for sailing, so the motor pushed us at a steady seven knots. The two decision points came when we decided to run the shallows in between Poplar Island and Tilghman instead of going the long way around and to cut through the Knapps Narrows on Tilghman Island on our way to the Choptank River and Horn Point near Cambridge.

Plotting the course through the NarrowsIn the Knapps Narrows we saw two abandoned skipjacks rotting away in the marsh. On the Choptank River, Captain Wade Murphy was out sailing in his skipjack the Rebecca T. Ruark. After dinner on the bluff of Horn Point we saw another skipjack sail out of Cambridge, most likely the Nathan of Dorchester.

The wind finally picked up as we went to bed, finally a cool night. The crackle of VHF radio woke us around 4:30 a.m. as a waterman trotlining for crabs eased past our campsite. We have just finished breakfast and are preparing for a tour of the oyster restoration hatchery at the Horn Point Laboratory followed by some labor to help with the restoration effort. After that we set sail for Severn Marine in the Knapps Narrows, our last night spent on the Eastern Shore.

Thursday June 30
Written by Paul Bayne

Today, the students are involved in their "challenge" day. The crew left the Knapps Narrows on Tilghman Island this morning. Once the boat was just south of Poplar Island, Captain Dave handed the boat over to the students. It is their job to navigate and sail back to Tolly Point, just outside of Annapolis. They have been practicing all week; they are ready and excited!

Written by Rachel
Sorting oysters at Horn PointToday we camped out on the grounds at Horn Point. We were right on the edge of a bluff and we had an absolutely amazing view. We could see a wide panorama of the Chesapeake and apparently the sunrise was amazing though, sadly, I missed it. We had one minor adventure relating to this camp site. While we were sleeping, raccoons ate some of our food! But we still had plenty and we bought more later that day.

After we finished packing up our tents and personal stuff, Captain Jessie (the CBF island center manager) gave us a ride from the camp site to the boat because it was a long walk and we had lots of heavy stuff. Because we had some extra time before our tour of the Horn Point Laboratory, Captain Jessie entertained us with some of his escapades. 

Once we were done listening to Captain Jessie's stories, it was time for our tour of Horn Point! They showed us around the laboratory and explained all of the equipment to us. Essentially, their mission is Sorting oysters at Horn Pointto produce large quantities of oysters that they can introduce into the Bay in order to increase the oyster population and thus improve the health of the Bay. Oysters have many benefits including their filtration capacity. One statistic says that one oyster can filter 50 gallons of water every day! So they contribute to the ecosystem and help filter the bay. But as we also learned, today's population of oysters is only two percent of the original oyster population in the Bay, so there's still much work to be done.

The technology at Horn Point is rather impressive. Everything is run by a huge computer system and they have a lot of technology that they use to reduce the amount of labor necessary. For example, they have machines that move larvae into the tanks with the oyster shells that they attach to. I thought the scale at which they were doing their work was really fascinating; they are able to produce an amazing number of oysters.

Sorting oysters at Horn PointAfter our tour, we did a small action project for the museum. We helped sort and count dead and live oysters. It was nice for us to be able to help them out and also to see and participate in some of the work they were doing. Overall, I think it was a good combination for us to learn some and to get some hands-on experience.

Once we were done at Horn Point Laboratory, we sailed to Tilghman Island where we were staying that night. It was a boat yard and there were lots of crabbing and fishing boats there. Alana and I actually got to help some crabbers pack clams into bags to use as bait! It was a fun place to stay because it was pretty different from everywhere else we stayed.

Friday, July 1
Written by Rachel

Today was the day! It was the day we were all supposed to work together and sail/motor without the help of Paul, David or Christy. We started off the day by plotting our course from Tilghman Island to Tolly Point Shoal. We figured out that it was approximately fourteen nautical miles, which takes about three hours when driving at five knots. We started motoring at nine in the morning and we were told we needed to be at Tolly Point by three o'clock, so we thought we'd be totally fine. After all, when using the motor, we can go up to about six-and-a-half or seven nautical miles.

Setting the mainBut right at the beginning of the trip we had one small technological malfunction; our GPS suddenly died. (Well actually, Dave covered it with a paper bag and told us that it wasn't working, but same difference!) Luckily, we had practiced navigating a fair amount, so we were fine doing that. So we navigated our way past a few buoys and were doing great. I was so excited; I had almost reached our second to last buoy. But right before I got there, our motor "suddenly died." (Again, Dave reached down and turned it off). So we had to rely on our sails. When Dave turned off the boat, the wind was eleven or twelve knots. But by the time we had (almost flawlessly, I might add) raised both sails just a few moments later, the wind was down to three or four knots. And sadly, it was going in the wrong direction. So we ended up trying to tack, which is when you drive somewhat to the left of where you want to go and somewhat to the right of where you want to go with the purpose of trying to go towards your destination. Sadly, we had some issues with this, and ended up drifting backwards somewhat. Luckily, about an hour later, our motor was magically repaired! So we ended up motoring the rest of the way to our destination.

Setting the jibOverall, I think everyone enjoyed working together and controlling the boats all by ourselves. We all did a really good job of coming together as a team and using our group knowledge to accomplish our tasks. And we didn't even make any major or even minor mistakes; there were merely a couple questions that we had. It was a really great culmination of our trip for us to be responsible for the boat and getting to our destination.


Saturday, July 2
Written by Rachel

Sniff. Sniff. Sniff. It's hard to believe that today is our last day together on the Stanley Norman. Even though we've only been together for a week, I know I've had a great time working together with everyone as well as of course hanging out and getting to know each other.

This morning, a bunch of us got up at 5:30 (no one should be up at that hour, but it was worth it) to see the sunrise. We all went down to the dock right near where we were sleeping and watched the sunrise. It was really pretty and we had a great view. Plus, I was all snuggled up in my sleeping bag out there, which was nice and comfy.  It was fun to see the beautiful view and it was a great way to start our last day.

I have had an amazing time and we've gotten to do a ton of really cool stuff! We are going to go learn our last leadership trait, so this is all I will say about today!

Photo of the Week: Sunrise on the Bay

Photo by Dixie Hoggan/CBF Member

"For much of the year, I live on the Chesapeake Bay. The view from our house on Stove Point is unencumbered by land—just a jut of Gwynn Island to the right and Stingray Point to the left. In the distance almost directly in front of the house is Marker Number 6, a small black channel marker that blinks a red light at night. This marker is a beacon—a constant in an expanse of ever-changing light, wind, and color. Several years ago I decided to take a photo of this panorama every morning at dawn. While undertaking this project, I found that my long-time fascination with observing water and weather and sky turned into a fixation. This particular scene was shot early on a September morning. Several years ago in late summer, the morning skies were spectacular. But then, most mornings on the Bay are gorgeous, no matter the season.”

Dixie Hoggan, Deltaville and Richmond, Virginia


Where’s your favorite sunrise spot on the Bay? Join the Chesapeake Bay Foundation photo group on Flickr or post to our Facebook wall to submit yours!