Monday, June 22, 2015

Flag Ponds Nature Park

By this point in the summer, we've usually been to the New Jersey shore at least twice. But with new school schedules, extracurricular activities, and my attempt to right the disaster created by sending the kids to only two weeks of summer camp last year, we just haven't been yet. But I wanted to go to a beach for my birthday and I wanted an adventurous day trip. I started researching around a bit and then I remembered that my friend Darcy (from No Monsters in My Bed) had blogged about a super cool beach in Maryland where you can find fossil shark teeth: Flag Ponds Nature Park. When I realized it was only about an hour and a half away and close to Solomons Island (which has been on my list for a while), it was a go.

We packed a bunch of snacks and hit the road. There is a whole stretch of shopping (grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.) once you get close to the park, so we made a quick stop at everyone's favorite WaWa for a to-go lunch and another at a Rite-Aid for beach supplies (you'll want to bring sifters to look for shark teeth!). Even though it was a weekend, there was no line to get into the park (I'd read that the park limits the number of people it admits during a certain time period, so you can get stuck waiting for people to come out before you are allowed it). We paid our $6/car entrance fee and were in.

I knew that we'd have to walk about 1/2 mile to get to the beach, so we decided to eat lunch at the picnic area near the parking lot. That way we only had to haul snacks and beach supplies down with us (be forewarned, the walk to the beach is beautiful, which means you hardly notice you are really walking downhill much of the way. I guarantee you'll notice when you have to walk back from the beach). The kids were so excited that they willingly carried their own beach supplies, leading the way through the forest in search of water. It was a reallllly hot and humid day, and everyone was ecstatic to pop out of the woods onto a REAL beach. I had no idea a real beach was this close to DC, but it was awesome.

It was busy, but not "on top of you" busy. We found a nice spot on a curved stretch of shore and plunged right in the drink. It was a little cold, but it felt amazing on such a hot day. Plus, the water was shallow way out, which was perfect for our still beginning swimmers. They would not get out of the water. Well, until I asked a local for some advice on finding shark teeth and then Kane joined me as we started sifting them out of the sand left and right. You can read more about it here, but essentially the cliffs along the state park contain the most complete deposit of Miocene fossils in the eastern U.S., including plenty of shark's teeth. It was so, so cool.

I tried to get everyone on a hike around the shoreline, but no one wanted out of the water. That is until a nice wrestling match resulted in (finally! finally!) knocking out Kane's disgustingly loose front tooth and he hauled himself out of the water, streaming blood from his face and laughing hysterically. We got lots of funny looks from people who couldn't understand why we were all losing it -- but the juxtaposition of us sitting there sifting for shark's teeth and Kane's losing his was just too funny.

Eventually we got too hungry and hot to stay and we headed back to the car. There is a little outdoor shower for rinsing off, but we thought it would be futile given that we had to hike back through the woods in humidity anyway. So we waited until we got back to the car and used the available restrooms to change. Easy peasy. Then we headed about 20 minutes further south to Solomons Island in search of dinner. It's a cute island town full of sailboats, with a little boardwalk and line of restaurants, art galleries, and ice cream shops. Perfect. We ended up at Stoney's Kingfishers at a nice outdoor table overlooking the Patuxent River inlet. It was typical seafood house, but I thought the meal was solid and you can't beat the calming view. Just down the street, right along the boardwalk and in front of a nice little playground, we grabbed ice cream for the kids from Cone Island. A great birthday trip!

If you live in the area, I highly recommend heading to Flag Ponds this summer. In addition to the beach, there are a whole slew of trails we didn't get to explore yet. Click here to get all the info on visiting. 

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