Janes Island State Park is on the bay side of the Maryland Eastern Shore, offering 30 miles of salt marsh water trails and 7 miles of sandy beaches accessible only by boat.
|Date(s)||2021-09-03 to 06|
|Activities||Beach, Boating, Car Camping|
|Transport||3 hours by Car (from DC Chinatown)|
|Conditions||Partly Cloudy – Low 66° – High 82°|
This year for labor day weekend, I returned to Janes Island State Park along with the Mid-Atlantic Hikers & Campers meetup group that I’ve been volunteering with for the past couple years. The trip was meant to be a sort of last hurrah with the mud puppo as I expect to send him off with his permanent family later this month. I wanted him to sleep outside, smell strange new things, and to put his paws in the water. I’m also hoping that having new experiences will help him with his confidence.
The excellent weather and relatively low insect activity made this a beautiful labor day weekend. It’s been months since we’ve been able to get away from home, have an adventure and sleep outside. I left home directly after shutting down my work laptop and it took me about five hours to make the three and a half hour drive thanks to the return of traffic to the Washington DC metro area. By the time I had setup my tent, cot, and the dog’s beds, it was time to turn in for the night. This was the mud puppo’s first time sleeping outside.
I didn’t prepare food for the trip as I had spent my lunch break packing my gear and loading the car the day before, so I took the dogs and went into town for breakfast. The plan for the rest of the day was to take the doggos to the beach via canoe. This would be the first time the mud puppo would be on the water, at the beach, and his first opportunity to swim. Unfortunately, quite a few people took a very keen interest in the dogs while I was setting up to get into the water. The mud puppo’s anxiety really peaked as they gathered around to ‘help.’
Bruce was so amped up at first he refused to get into the canoe, so I carried him on board. He tolerated it for about ten seconds and immediately jumped back onto the dock. Eventually all gear and doggos were loaded and Bruce settled down quite nicely as soon as we got underway. I spent the afternoon paddling around Janes Island in a canoe and running around with the dogs on the sandy beach. The mud puppo ran out into the bay, jumping into the waves and was quite surprised when he sunk into the water. I picked him up and carried him out into the water several times so he could get used to swimming back ashore.
He spent about ten minutes trying to fight the ocean (bay), offended that he could not command the waves. First, he tried beating it back with his paws. Then biting the water. Finally, the mud puppo tried to see if the waves would react to some stern barking, which of course it did not. Dog science has to be done for its own sake. Exhausted from having to constantly rebalance the canoe every time the pups ran from one side to the other, I drove back into Crisfield to find an early dinner crab cake, which was pretty great.
The second night, unfortunately, some amateur campers that couldn’t follow basic rules brought a bunch of very green firewood from home and completely smoked us out. We slept rather poorly. The next morning I stayed in rather late to the doggo’s collective dismay, but we had big plans to visit Tangier Island in the afternoon. Bruce had never been on a ship before and was extremely suspicious of the gangplank. Maggie, of course, fears nothing and went straight onto the ship. I ignored Bruce’s apprehension and went aboard without breaking my stride. Fortunately, Bruce summoned the courage to follow us, although he didn’t dither on the gangplank.
Tangier Island was pretty nice for a short visit. We did a brief golf cart tour of the island where the mud puppo tried to jump off at one point. Then we walked the length of the island so lots of things got smelled and some things got peed on. I grabbed another crab cake and split a vanilla ice cream cone with the doggos before we hopped the ferry back to the mainland.
Having not slept well, I decided to call the trip on Sunday evening – especially because the same campers were trying again to have a bonfire with green wood. I packed everything loosely into the car and we took a couple hours to hang out with the other campers and say our goodbyes. The pups even got spoiled with an entire burger patty fed to them in pieces. I left in the dark and I arrived home at a very late hour.
What Went Right
- Cots for Beach/Sandy Area Camping – this one is pretty important, you won’t be bothered by sand if you’re not lying down in it. There’s nothing quite like having sand all around you while you’re trying to sleep outside during the summer.
- Park Ranger – although I would have preferred to have quietly entered the water with the dogs the park ranger did offer to lend me a dog flotation vest, which I appreciated and accepted. Bruce didn’t really need one, but dogs do look super cute in flotation vests and in a worst case scenario like getting hit by a powered boat, it could be lifesaving.
- Rug for Beach/Sandy Area Camping – I bought a very deep pile rubber-backed rug last year for beach camping. It really traps the sand you bring in on you and it felt very luxurious to stand on in the tent.
What Went Wrong
- Getting Smoked Out by Amateur Campers – I decided not to say anything because going camping on labor day weekend you kind of have to expect things like this to happen. It was just luck of the draw that my campsite was directly downwind. I could have potentially shared someone else’s campsite that night if I had the energy to move all my stuff. I could have even worn a mask to bed.
- Missing Camper – another member of our group went out in a kayak on Sunday morning and we noticed that they had not returned by sundown. None of us asked about her plans or had any details on how to contact her. I drove down to the dock prepared to hop into a canoe, but fortunately she had just pulled into the dock. Apparently her plan was to come back in at sunset all along.
This trip was a great experience for the mud puppo. He’s found a little more confidence having seen a little more of the world. Importantly, he met a lot of new friends that showed him kindness. And now that we’ve been home for a few days, he certainly seems to appreciate things like how my home is climate controlled a lot more. Also, two dogs is a lot for one person to handle so I didn’t have a lot of photos to choose from for this post.
Finally, I consider it a big fail that I didn’t at least ask when we could expect the kayaking camper to return and I won’t be making that mistake again. While it feels like butting into other people’s business, I think it’s worth asking. People that don’t want to tell you can just not tell you.