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May 27, 2011

Five things to do outdoors this (holiday) weekend

Hard to believe, but this weekend is Memorial Day, the starter's pistol of summer. When you look at a calendar, it seems like a long stretch, summer does.

But the 13 weekends that are the stepping stones to Labor Day really gallop by. Then all of the sudden, you're trying to jam feet back into shoes and the blender onto the shelf behind the harvest gold-colored fondue pot.

Not fair. The fight against fall starts this weekend. You won't be alone. The Department of Natural Resources says all 2,100 cabins and camping spaces across the state have been taken. Last year 362,714 people visited Maryland’s state parks during the Memorial Day weekend, so plan and leave early for the day use areas. 

1) On Saturday and Sunday, beat  the heat with a pontoon boat ride at Seneca Creek State Park's Clopper Lake. The 45-minute rides cost $2 per person and will be offered at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. You can buy tickets in advance at the boathouse and then take a walk, play disc golf or picnic. The Montgomery County park is 6,300 acres, so you won't feel crowded. Call the park (301-924-2127) for more information.  

2) Also on Saturday, take a 4-mile hike in the McKeldin area of Patapsco Valley State Park with the Sierra Club. The walk will take you along the river and past the soothing sound of McKeldin Falls. Optional restaurant lunch after the hike. Meet at the Bagel Bin off U.S. 40 in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center, for a 9 a.m. departure. Contact leader James Perschy, 410-964-1902 or

3) I'll be at this one on Sunday, for sure. The naturalist at New Germany State Park will be giving free fishing lessons at the lake for an hour, beginning at 1 p.m. Bring a rod and reel and bait and catch dinner. Then, it's back to my camp site--JUST KIDDING! Details: 301-895-5453.

4) On Sunday, take the kids to Elk Neck State Park in Cecil County for a reptile program at 4 p.m. There will be guest appearances by live critters. The program is free; the park entry fee is $3 per person.

5) Elk Neck also is having canoe trips on Saturday and Sunday for adventurers 6 and older. Trips cost $10 per person plus the above-mentioned park entry fee. Equipment will be provided. There's fine print regarding boating rules, some semi-heavy lifting is required and you must be OK with getting wet. Call 410-287-5333 to reserve a spot.

Posted by Candus Thomson at 7:00 AM |
About Candus Thomson
In a world of paper vs. plastic and candy mint vs. breath mint, my early memories involved a debate about the merits of freshwater vs. saltwater.

On the one hand, a great uncle’s fishing cabin on the Susquehanna River beckoned, but so did family gatherings on the Jersey Shore.

The correct answer, thankfully, was, “both.”

As The Sun’s outdoors writer for more than a decade, I’ve fished across Maryland in one day, hiked the width of the state in one hour, camped overnight in the median of I-95 to experience the wildlife between the fast lanes and chased mountain bikers in a 24-hour marathon race.

Those are some of the highlights. I’ve also fallen in a raging Gunpowder River during a trout survey (photo available upon request), had a shark spill its guts on my clothes and been stuck in a sub-freezing Vermont wilderness with men armed with flintlocks and hatchets, shuffling along on ancient wooden snowshoes.

And, in my travels I’ve met lots of you, who share a love of the outdoors and the good times and mishaps that go along with it.

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