In March of 2020, when the COVID-19 lockdown came along, I was not terribly concerned. I felt safe in my apartment, in my car and taking long walks. Those walks turned into explorations–first of downtown Chestertown, then the riverfront and the Gilchrest Rail Trail.
Having grown up in the country, I wanted to walk in the woods and open fields–kick up some dust, throw a rock in a mud puddle or find a tree or plant I couldn’t identify. That’s when I started walking at Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge. That was also about the time I started offering stories for The Kent Pilot.
It was later that spring I was told about Turner’s Creek Park. I was told to go to Kennedyville, turn left on Kennedyville Road and follow my nose until I came to the water. What I found was a 147-acre park I didn’t know existed.
I parked at the wharf on Turner’s Creek next to an old building that appeared to be on the verge of falling down. I later learned it was a granary dating back to the 1800s. There was also a boat-launching ramp and a couple of commercial boats at the dock, but not a living soul around.
I started investigating. There were signs telling the story and history of Turners Creek. It had been a sheltered deepwater port surrounded by a small village. I assume the settlers brought the usual skills and trades. Looking around, I could imagine a general store, a blacksmith and maybe a tannery–boats coming and going.
Following the signs, which were informative–but poorly maintained–they led me to discover facts about the founding of what was the village supporting the surrounding farms and watermen.
Another sign told the story of the British landing during the War of 1812 and their attempt to continue on upriver to capture Georgetown. Looking around there were still no other visitors, which I marked up to COVID-19.
Having a park to myself, I set out to explore on foot. A pavilion for public use is perched on a ridge overlooking Turner’s Creek. The Yeates House was one of the first homes built in the village and had originally stood on this site.
I took a marked trail east and down to the creek where there is a narrow beach. Going back south away from the creek, I found a well-hidden trail marker entering a thick forest. That trail continues along a ridge for a quarter mile or so. The trail was not easy walking with downed trees, washouts and exposed roots. Under one large tree, I picked up a handful of osprey feathers. There was also a lot of English ivy and even a few daffodils–both, I had been told, were signs of a long-ago homesite.
In hiking trails in the mountains of North Carolina and here in Maryland, I am continually irritated by how much people miss. If you are speed-walking for exercise–fine–but if you are out walking for your health and enjoyment–slow down and smell the flowers. Look at what you are stepping on, what’s growing in the shaded woods, sunny fields and even roadside ditches. What’s flying overhead or jumping along ahead of you? Stop and look at a plant that seems different from its neighbors and wonder how it got there. Let your curiosity take over and guide you.
At the end of the trail I came out in a clearing, crossed through to a hedgerow and found myself in the front yard of a three-story brick house. I wasn’t sure if it was private property or occupied, until I found a couple of signs and a kiosk with the now familiar “CLOSED – COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS.”
The house was “Knock’s Folly.” With a long history, it now serves as the park’s welcome center–that is, when COVID restrictions allow.
Across the road, I found more signs–mostly unreadable. I did not know it at the time, but this area is known as “The Grove,” a wonderful open grass park setting of its own with a variety of specimen trees. I could just see families with their picnics spread out and children chasing one another around.
That was about it for my first visit to Turner’s Creek Park. On the way back I did stop at the Sassafras National Resource Management Area for a quick look.
I was back the next day and many days after. The whole area had opened up a whole new adventure for me.
That’s about all I have time for this week, but there’s plenty to follow. Please don’t wait to investigate on your own. You are never too old to enjoy the easy walking trails or to introduce your kids or grandkids to the wonders of nature all around us.
You can be safe on an open-air walk, but keep those masks on where required. Thanks.