Overnighter to James Island
Launch from Taylors Island Family Campground
June 30-July 1, 2007

Paddlers in Sea Kayaks:  Kara Brown & Chip Walsh

Taylors Island Family Campground was…how to put it? Interesting. The tent sites were serviceable and the folks standing outside the cramped trailer-camps for a cig were so, um, ...Maryland ?

We hugged Taylor's Island on our way north.

We paddled clockwise around the center island looking for a sandy beach.  We almost went all the way around before we found what clearly was a sandy beach
This view from the beach looks north towards the northernmost part of James Island.  These two islands were once part of the same island.

Spinning 180 degrees, here is the beach view looking south.  We camped back of the tree line just past the red Carolina.

A grove of pines on the west side of the island concealed a picnic table.  This grove became the kitchen.  It was so nice to have a table!

The northernmost James Island is visible over the beached Azul Sultan, as is Kara, floating on her PFD

This eagle wasn't flustered when we stopped to beachcomb near Oyster Cove.
Oyster-shell-strewn beach near Oyster Cove provides firm footing.  But it is not the kindest surface to land a glass kayak on.






July 5, 2007
Words and pics by Chip Walsh

Text of Trip Report Posted to P-net, Jul 2, 2007:

Taylors Island Family Campground was…how to put it? Interesting. The tent site wasn’t bad. The site had a table and fire pit, was in thinned grove of trees, and the ground was level and clear. Vehicle access to the site was through what was basically a trailer camp, only these were not modern mobile homes, but older travel trailers that had become permanently fixed in place and many had been expanded with additions that looked a lot like prefabricated sheds. The view from the tent site was wooded to the rear but was otherwise a view of accumulated junk stored outside and behind the nearest (10 yards) row of trailers. The bathrooms and showers were clean and functional and are located within the centrally located building that serves as store, campground headquarters, and tackle shop. So while not the most pristine and bucolic campground, it is more than adequate on the essential elements campers need.

It’s all about fishing and boating at Taylors Island Family Campground. It’s on the Bay, and the shoreline is lined with seawalls and massive concrete blocks. We decided our best option for launching was to use the busy, concrete boat ramp. We positioned the kayaks off to the side of the ramp while we stuffed them with gear, and when all was ready, risked our healthy backs by carrying the gear-laden kayaks down the ramp and launching.

A fish-cleaning station stands atop the seawall near the canal that leads from the boat ramp out into the bay. There is a 6-inch waste pipe that services the fish-cleaning station and ends just above the water. If the station has been recently used, kayakers can expect to see floating fish heads and other fish waste floating in the waters near the Campground.

The canal from the Campground outlets to the open Bay. As we turned north towards James Island, there was a modest swell, modest north wind, and waves that would not have been a problem, and we sort of regretted not bringing the canoe. James Island(s) (all three of them—apparently it was once a single island) was immediately visible, so we didn’t need compass headings or maps to find our way. We hugged Taylors Island until we reached Oyster Cove on the north end of the Island, and then paddled northwest to cross about a mile of water to approach the southern-most end of James Island.

The southern-most James Island rises up several feet above the surface in one step and there is no apparent, easy, landing spot. All the James Islands are tree cover with some low-lying grassy areas. The western side of the Islands have been eroding and the Island’s edges are cluttered with downed trees, many of which rock back in forth in the waves and current, giving an eerie, “it’s alive,” appearance, and making it impractical to land kayaks. We passed the southern Island on the east side and made for the center island, which our host had recommended be our destination. We circled clockwise around the island, looking for the sandy beach and picnic table our host said we’d find there. Much of the center island also has the one-step rise from the water, but there are several sandy areas suitable for landing. The largest beach is a over a hundred yard, curving, northwest-facing stretch of sand that was sheltered from the day’s weather and backed by woods. We landed and began to explore the small area, looking for both the picnic table and a good spot to pitch tents.

Our host had mentioned the picnic table, but we didn’t quickly find it. We surveyed the beach area looking for a clear, high spot with some wind protection, and had selected a nice spot on the southeast end of the beach before I found the picnic table in a grove of pine trees near the western edge of the island. There is a path leading back about 50 paces from the beach we landed on to the pine grove and table. The grove offered good wind protection and enough clear space to tent near the table, but we thought it would be less buggy at the spot we picked near the beach, so we set our tents just inside the tree line near the beach.

We spent a pleasant afternoon beaching and kayaking on and around the island. I circled the northern most island and the beach where we landed is definitely the nicest place to land on any of the islands.

The beach is also a spot well-known to the local power-boating population, many of who were stopping by, anchoring, and joining us in swimming and cavorting on the beach. One group anchored hundreds of yards offshore and deployed inflatable kayaks and an inflatable dinghy (with outboard) which they used to ferry in passengers and several loads of beach chairs, umbrellas and gear. Fairly certain that we were alone in having secured permission to use the island, I found the boaters to be a bit presumptuous. I know that below the tide-line, there’s little a land owner can do about visitors dropping in. But bringing in several loads of people and gear…well, that seemed to be stretching it.

One grand-parentish-looking couple brought a dog and a couple kids on a pontoon boat and came in and landed almost right on top of us. Kara fumed and wanted to know why, given that there was plenty of vacant beach available, these people needed to land so close to us. I told her, “they probably think it’s their beach and are peeved that a couple of kayakers are in their spot.” Out of curiosity, I asked the elderly woman who owned the islands. She told me, very matter-of-factly, “the State.” I pointed to some signs that read “no trespassing – private property,” and told her I didn’t think state property would have signs like that. She told me she’d heard somebody had bought it, didn’t know if it was true, “but we’ve been coming here for years.”

They’d been coming since James Island was two islands, and she pointed out where the islands used to be connected. That explained why James Island shows as two islands on some maps. Currently, there’s a quarter to half a mile of water between the middle and north islands.

The power boaters cleared out by late afternoon and we were left in sole possession of the Island. We left our tents near the beach, but carried our kitchen gear back to the picnic table for cooking and dining ease. After dark we sat on the beach for a spell and watched the full moon emerge from clouds as the sky cleared.

A squall came through during the wee hours of the night. I remember waking up and hearing a distant roar. It reminded me of the trains that rumble through near some spots I had camped on the Potomac above Hancock. For a minute I wondered what it could be, but then fell quickly back asleep. Shortly thereafter a squall struck with an amazingly abrupt intensity. There had hardly been a breeze when we turned in for the night, then suddenly the tent was blasted, and then pelting rain pounded the tent. Earlier, it had been so pleasant I had considered leaving the rain fly off the tent. The wind direction was directly onshore, and the gentle lapping sound that had lulled me to sleep quickly became the noise of pounding waves. I had not guyed out the tent, and it was being blown almost flat. All in all, it was unnerving, and I slept fitfully after that as the tent flapped and flattened. The roaring train sound? I think it was the sound of the wind when the squall hit one of the other islands on its way to knocking down my tent.

Kara and I were both awake early. The sky was clear blue and the wind didn’t seem as strong, but Kara took one look at the two to three foot waves rolling in and announced “I can’t paddle in that.” I had to admit it looked somewhat daunting. We retreated to the kitchen area back in the woods were things were much more pleasant. After some coffee and breakfast it seemed like there were not as many whitecaps out in the open part of the Bay we could see looking west through the trees. A few fishing boats started to appear. The wind was slacking and by this point I was sure I could paddle out but was wondering if I’d need to send a rescue boat for Kara. We agreed to beach it for awhile, then break camp, pack the boats, and think about leaving after lunch. As we packed, there were more fishing boats and several power boats came out of the Little Choptank to anchor and join us on the beach. I figured that was a pretty sure sign of a good weather forecast.

Waves were in the 1.5 to 2-foot range when we launched and the wind was down to 10 – 15 mph from the north again, so we at least didn’t have to paddle into the wind. But waves from the stern is one of the most unnerving paddling conditions, IMHO, because you don’t see them coming, you just all of a sudden feel the lift and sideways push. Kara was nervous and tentative to start, but quickly gained confidence as she discovered the stability of the Carolina. The wind continued to abate and probably got down to the ten knot range the two-day old forecast had predicted. We were having a lovely paddle.

Back at Taylors Island, we stopped near a Bald Eagle’s perch on the oyster-shell and sand spit that separates the Bay from Oyster Cove and beach combed along the tidal pools there. We were fascinated by the territorial displays of the crabs in the pools. Kara corned a 1.5-inch wide crab and we almost split a gut laughing at the fearsome display of menacing claw and pincer waving the little guy used to try and intimidate us.

Back in the boats, we had to agree the afternoon had turned into perfect paddling weather. Too bad our trip was ending. We followed some cow-nosed rays that were wing-tipping for a while, but too soon reached the fish-head-laden inlet to the boat ramp at Taylors Island Family Campground. Boats were soon racked and another paddling trip concluded.