Kate and I had nothing planned for Sunday. It would have been a great day to take the boat out, but with the predicted heat and humidity, it was just too much to be enjoyable. So, on a whim, we decided to scout out some fishing and boating locations in the north end of the Chesapeake in Maryland. Its a massive fishery, and its actually closer than the Jersey shore. There’s excellent freshwater that flows into the bay, from the Bohemia River, the Susquehanna, the Northeast River, and countless other creeks, rivers, and streams.
Most interesting to me, is an area called the Susquehanna Flats, where the Sunsquehanna empties into the north end of the bay. Word has it from a few folks I’ve spoken to that the area is a couple square miles in size, 2-3 feet deep at most, and loaded with fish, including plenty of large, healthy striped bass. And, of course, to the south there is the massive bay itself with crabbing and all manner of fish that thrive in brackish water.
We headed down I-95, got off at exit 100A, and headed all the way down 272 until we ran out of a road on the penninsula.
But before we got to scouting out the state park at the south end of the land mass, the first thing we happened upon was a town called “Northeast”. Very lovely town, very dumb name for it. If you’re from the Philly area, I gotta say, it sort of reminded me of New Hope before New Hope was taken over by consumers whose base salaries are multiples of mine. There several large, well-organized antique shops thatÂ were bursting with fairly pricedÂ goods for just about every type of collector. Also, plenty of restaurants and odd little boutiques. But my favorite, without a doubt, was Herb’s Bait & Tackle, which has been run by Herb, aged 77, since 1964.
I struck up a conversation with Herb about my boat. I started off by telling him that it was too small for the bay. Before I could get to mentioning my interest in the freshwater rivers and streams nearby, he paused briefly, gave me a good strong look and said, “what you need is a LARGER boat.” The wife was thrilled with Herb’s advice. Herb didn’t want me to spend the $50 on the freshwater license. He was all in favor of me getting a larger boat and a $15 bay license.
Kinda made sense to me too. After all — it would be an investment, as Herb and I agreed. Again, the wife was not amused. Herb did end up giving me some good advice on nearby boat launches so I’m pretty much set for when the heat dies down and the bass bite turns back on. If I’m going to drive an hour west to Marsh Creek to catch bass, there’s no reason not to drive an hour south to catch bass in the Bohemia River or the Northeast River.
After a brief visit of Northeast, we continued down 272 until we reached a parking lot at the south end of the penninsula. From the lot, it was nearly a mile to a light house that overlooked the bay. It seemed like the perfect hike. When we started out, the air was hot, still, and just hung heavy all around us. It was awful. But it was only a mile and we travelled all this way. It seemed silly not to go that last little bit on foot. I took out my Droid and fired up an app I have that pulls my GPS location and places it on a map with satellite weather data overlaying it. In the parking lot, and every time I checked along the way, i got nothing but a “data loading…” message.
It was only a mile hike — what could possibly go wrong?
When we got to the lighthouse we were both totally soaking with sweat. A couple of other people were milling about the clearing where the structure stood.
I took a few brief photos, got a shot of Kate overlooking the bay, as it streteched on forever, and took another peek at my weather app on the Droid. Suddenly, my GPS location was set and just a smidge to theÂ north of where we were sipping on a water bottle, stood a massive line of thunderstorms. I suddenly remembered the tornado warning for Lancaster County, PA that was on the TV in one of the antique shops. Whoops.
I told Kate, “We have to leave. Immediately.”
“But we just got here!”
“By my math, we have seven minutes to get back to the car.”
She was obviously perplexed and asked further, “What happens in seven minutes?”
“You’ll find out in three and a half. LOL RUN!”
I took a look around at the other visitors and thought for a second, how am I going to tell them, “You all have to leave right now. Or else.” But it just seemed so strange — especially if nothing would have happened by the time we got to the parking lot. The whole thing really hung on the storm happening immediately. If it were still another 20 minutes away, well, then I just awkwardly ruined the hike of several different groups of people and I look like a moron. I noticed the person who operated the little souvenir stand had a fixed structure, there were a couple of cars, the lighthouse itself, and some other small structure that accompanied it. I figured, if I’m right, and these people don’t leave, they’ll all figure something out — they’ll just have to be resourceful, I thought. (After all, I bought a Droid.)Â I opted to not play the part of lunatic stranger. And so we immediately left.
My main concern was a particular 1/2 mile stretch of the walk. It was pretty much an open field and NOT the place I wanted to find myself once the lightening started. Given the geography, we would have been in quite a heap of trouble. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going tell Kate it was going to be safer to hide under some brush for 20 minutes in the rain along the side of the field, than to actually walk across it in 5 minutes. That would have been an AWESOME conversation.
Luckily, we made it out of the clearing before the storm hit. And just as nearly as we left that clearing, the silence of nature was replaced by the sound of a large cool air mass pushing its way across a bay at a very high rate of speed. A very loud SWOOOOOOOSH came from nowhere and rose to a near-defeaning level. The world, without warning, turned itself inside out. There was no small, rising wind or drip-drop of rain that told us what was coming. There was no preface. The storm just simply announced itself to the world all at once. Wind rushed up the cliffs and pushed trees sideways. The gravel and dirt path was swept up in the wind, producing a cloud of debris all around us. As soon as I noticed the previously placid bay turning into several dozen square miles of danger off to my left, the taste and grit of dirt found itself between my teeth. It was time to run. For real.
Having already been witness to two tornados in my life, I couldn’t resist stopping about 20 yards short of the car to sneak a little bit of video from the cliff overlooking the bay. We jumped into the car just as the first big, heavy drops of rain made their way to the ground. Lightening, thunder, rain,Â and light flooding accompanied our journey north, off the penninsula, and back to Pennsylvania.
All in all, the northern bay is a great place to explore. We’re headed back to Chesapeake City, or possibly Havre-de-Grace next weekend for another adventure, hopefully this time with better data access to weather info and a wife with approprirate shoes. And then, maybe in September, I’m gonna talk someone into an epic bass adventure on one of those waterways. Stay tuned.