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Maryland's Real Life Jungle Ride

By Susan G. Sharp-Anderson

The cicadas were loud, that kind of buzz that puts you on the “Jungle Ride” at Disneyland.  We were in our kayaks, Elisabeth and Marcotte in singles, and I in a double with Dan.  The creek was as wide as the length of one and a half kayaks.  The trees hung low over the water, so that we had to push the branches aside to pass.  We told stories of alligators and hippopotami surfacing to upset our kayaks.

We were traveling down a creek to the Pocomoke River in eastern Maryland, one of America’s most scenic.  It’s Indian name means dark water, and is colored very dark brown by the tannin from the cypress trees along its banks.

Fortunately, this ride was sans dangerous wildlife.  However, the creek teemed with such abundance as fish, turtles, reptiles, otters and birds, living in this “real life jungle”.  We found turtles sunning themselves on waterlocked logs and branches, only to see them jump into the water, as they heard our “silent” approach.  Hawks flew overhead, and egrets waded through shallow water amongst the lilies.

We were alone, listening to nature’s symphony, adding only the sounds of our paddles and speech here and there.  We saw no one, imagining ourselves millions of miles away in the jungles of ??????, but knowing that civilization was only a few miles away.

As we floated down the creek, we explored tiny inlets, finding dead ends and channels around small islands.  One time, Marcotte, a tall Viking-looking young male, who was well ahead of us, managed to hide behind the growth in an inlet while we passed by chatting about the birds overhead.  Suddenly, he was there behind us overtaking us with racing speed.  I let out a cry of surprise, and then laughed, as none of us could figure out how he had successfully hidden from us, since his kayak was red and stood out amonst all the green.

Farther down as the creek widened, we paddled against a breeze, which made it invigorating.  Additional creeks added to make our waterway a wide river, flowing slowly down toward the Pocomoke.  We saw our first sign of civilization when we passed a house, which had lawn sloping down to the banks of the stream.  A car drove by ahead, as we realized we were approaching a low bridge.  Scrunching down, we passed gracefully under as more homes came into view.

We soon heard a terrifying noise, which first sounded like a dragster on a road.  But when it continued to get louder, we realized that it was on the river.  Suddenly, a “bullet boat” appeared, and without slowing, passed us by, passengers waving.  We were happy when the deafening sound faded away.  We had reached the Pocomoke, and this was our turning point.

If we went right, we would approach Pocomoke River State Park/Shad Landing.  We could call Canoe Country in Snow Hill from which we rented the kayaks, and someone would pick us up.  Elisabeth, a strong and energetic woman, tanned with long, blond hair had spent the summer working for the National Park Service on Assateague Island and had been kayaking several times. She wanted to go to the park.  If we went left, we followed the river upstream back to Snow Hill, where we would paddle right into Canoe Country.

We had been told that slack water, when the tide changes, occurred about 2:30 pm.  Since it was after that time, if we went right to Shad Landing, we would be going downstream, but bucking the incoming tide.  If we went left, it would be upstream and with the tide.  Elisabeth was outvoted 3 to 1, and we went upstream.

We had our last chance at examining large hawks perched high on dead limbs of a large tree, and I regretted leaving my binoculars at home. Then we easily made our way along the river, keeping to the edges to avoid the occasional speedboat.  We passed a couple of fishermen, quietly minding their own business.

By the time we reached the last bridge before the end of our jungle journey, the current was swift.  We all held on to the underside of the bridge, which was just inches above our heads, and listened to the cars pass overhead.  The current was trying to flush us out, and when we finally let go, it took all our strength to paddle across stream to the landing. 

We had been on the river for 3 hours.  The sun was bright, and we felt the effects of it.  All but the driver, fell instantly to sleep on the ride back to Assateague.  But we all were serenely happy to have spent the time fighting off the “jungle” and floating down the peaceful waterway.

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Email:  Susan G. Sharp-Anderson


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