Escapes Within Easy Reach – Part 1
A calm starry Southern Maryland night. The gentle lapping of the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River at their point of confluence. The gentle rustling of the breeze through marsh grass and pine needles. A symphony of shorebirds sings you to sleep and wakes you in the morning.
In order to experience these natural wonders firsthand, one has to venture to the southern-most point in Maryland. Point Lookout State Park plays hosts to these and any number of other magical outdoor experiences.
While this is certainly a doable day trip, contending with traffic on the DC beltway almost begs an overnighter. Just a few years ago, a cabin tent provided that escape. A half hour of prepping the site and erecting the tent, and then a day or two of relative peace and quiet, not to mention relative comfort thanks to cots or air mattresses.
Not today, though.
No tent, no tarp, no poles, bungees and stakes. Age and wisdom allowed replacement of the ripstop nylon walls of a tent with a fully-outfitted 24' class c motor home. Capable of sleeping four adults comfortably, it really only needs to accommodate two. Two people who would always take the quiet dribble of a mountain stream over the hustle and bustle of an urban street.
While destinations like Glacier, Yosemite, Monument Valley or Grand Canyon National Parks beckon with their vast and bountiful natural wonders, amazing sights and experiences are within an easy day’s drive of Frederick.
Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive are a few hours away. In our last outing to the central portion of the park, we encountered a black bear as we rounded an Appalachian Trail bend on a day hike. The bear was no more than 20 feet away, happily munching on some wild berries when we turned the corner and interrupted his snack. The bear stood on its hind legs, stared for a second, then turned and bolted, desperate to add distance between us.
We stood speechless for minutes, first a little shaken, but then left in wonder at the ability to experience the majesty of nature in its natural state, with no zoo fence or concrete trough to separate us.
We stayed in the Big Meadow Campground, several thousand feet up on the Shenandoah ridgeline. White-tailed deer seemed to have as much right to the camping facility as their human counterparts, although experience must have proven the inherent danger. They were at their skittish and cautious best, but comfortable enough to graze as close as they could get to the camp sites.
Chipmunks were less fearful, happy to dart in and out of the trees and ground cover. Their loud chirping in the early morning signaled their daily assault, and the brazen manner in which they'd approach kept both rodent and human on constant alert. My favorite game was to sit completely still until one got close, then to shift in the chair, watching the chipmunk stop, spin, and zip off to the nearest cover, angrily chirping their discontent the whole time.
For those of us who prefer the peaceful silence of a starlit summer sky and the crackle of a campfire to a crowded music-filled nightclub, parks and campgrounds connect us with our inner core in a manner that's tough to explain. It isn't that we feel superior, not by any means. It's just that we find solace and comfort watching a burning ember float skyward, carried by the warming heat of the campfire on a lazy journey into the night sky.
It doesn't really take much effort to find this peace, either.
Next week, we'll look at local outdoor escapes, and the ease with which you can satisfy your own wanderlust.