Personal Journeys


November 23, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Kayakers greet morning on the bay

By Rebecca Motil


We woke before dawn -- four adults and three teen-age girls -- to take a sunrise kayak tour of Oyster Bay, a wide body of water between Chincoteague and Assateague islands. By 6:30 a.m., we were helping our guide from Oyster Bay Outfitters unload the kayaks. As we waited, the late- August sun came up in the east, painting the clouds in delicate shades of pink, melon and gold.

After a thorough safety lesson, our guide, Ray Miles, led his intrepid kayakers out into the bay. We headed for 427-acre Morris Island, gliding across the calm water like swans. The three girls, fully awake now, chattered and called to each other, filling the early morning with happy noise.

Morris Island is part of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Tidal waters cut several passages through the island, some just large enough for a kayak. We paddled single file through one such passage as birds swooped overhead.

The refuge's location along the Atlantic Flyway makes it a vital resting and feeding spot for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, songbirds and seabirds like the oystercatchers, gulls and pelicans we saw that morning.

As we passed through Morris Island, we came close enough to touch the rough shells of the oysters that cluster along the shoreline. A discussion ensued as to why oysters are traditionally eaten only during months whose name contains the letter R. (The best reason seems to be the biological explanation. Oysters spawn in early summer, after which they become thin and watery as they use their stored reserves to make spawn. As the weather cools in fall, they regain their robust girth and become delicious eating again.)

Near the oysters were fiddler crabs, the males sporting one remarkably large claw, with which they fight off intruders or move in a fiddling motion to attract a mate. The females have the last word, though -- the claw makes it difficult for the males to feed, which gives the females an advantage in scooping up a tasty dinner of algae or decaying marsh plants.

After passing through Morris Island, we came upon open water. Before us was Assateague Island. We could hear the booming Atlantic Ocean surf from the other side of the barrier island, and we saw a few of the famous Assateague ponies foraging along the shore. It had taken us more than an hour to reach this point.

Ray turned us back toward the Chincoteague shore, and we skimmed back through the island. The sky was blue, and white clouds scudded overhead, reflected in the lovely water before us. I was tired and hungry from the paddling, and a bit sore across the shoulders, but my spirit felt as if it were soaring with the clouds.

Rebecca Motil lives in Havre de Grace.

My Best Shot

Michael Clemens, Crownsville

On high in Hawaii

While visiting the Hawaiian island of Kauai, I found a rugged path high above the ocean. After hiking for 1 1/2 miles, I turned the corner and glimpsed this sight. The trail becomes narrow, and farther down is a spectacular beach. The blues and greens that one sees on Kauai are varied and rich, and they are everywhere.

Readers Recommend

Little Platte Lake, Mich.

Vickie Gray and Al Spoler, Baltimore

This year we stayed at Little Platte Lake, one of the many picturesque lakes surrounding Lake Michigan in the state's lower peninsula. The vacation was reminiscent of the days before stores and restaurants became cookie-cutter franchises, when wholesome activities were the norm and we always had time to enjoy beautiful, tranquil sunsets on the porch.

Kilkenny, Ireland

Lois Bedell, Pikesville

While visiting Ireland this summer, we stopped at Kilkenny, a town known as the center for arts and crafts in the country. In the medieval churchyard, a group of 200 "garbage-clad marauders" were making camp on the church's grounds. This "army" is the creation of conceptual artist HA Schult. He uses green foam to shape the bodies, and tin cans, computer boards, tinfoil and other throwaway material to make the men. The artist has taken consumers' trash and created these figures to exemplify our demise into a "trash" culture.

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