Tuesday, July 29: After leaving Solomons, I drive north a short distance and enter Calvert Cliffs State Park. I pay a $5 fee and ask the ranger if the path to the cliffs is safe for a woman hiking alone. I’ve heard it’s a 1.8 mile hike each way to get to the beach and cliffs, partly through forest and partly through freshwater and tidal marshland. He assures me the park is well used and I should be perfectly safe.
I actually do feel a little nervous while in the forest, as I find myself alone for some long stretches. I’m used to traveling alone, but when hiking in wilderness areas, I usually have someone with me.
Once I emerge from the forest to the more open marshland, I feel safer. I don’t know why that is, as there are still long stretches where I’m alone. I guess I feel safer because I can see for a long distance and could spot anyone who came after me!
I come across a boardwalk that is quite dilapidated. A tree has fallen on part of it, but it seems to be caving in elsewhere too. The boardwalk is chained off to the public.
I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with man-made things that are ruined and overrun by nature. Maybe I find these ruins especially poignant in light of the recent deaths of my mother-in-law and my dog. It brings to mind the phrase: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” which comes from the Anglican burial service, referring to total finality. That phrase is based on scriptural texts such as “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return” in Genesis 3:19 and “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.” (Ezekiel 28:18)
Or maybe I just find them interesting subjects for photographs.
It’s strange. I’m not really afraid of death, but I am afraid of the manner of death. I know death is the nature of things, but I can’t help but wonder what becomes of us, if anything, after death. I’m afraid I’m not a very religious person, though I go through periods where I’m a spiritual person.
Man-made objects that fall into disrepair and are overrun by nature remind me that all of us will leave this earth, and our existence as we know it, at some point.
By the time I get to the end of the trail and the beach, I’m exhausted. That’s quite a hike!
Calvert Cliffs State Park is known for its cliffs, of course, but the main draw is its fossils. People trek here to search for fossils on the quarter-mile-long sandy beach between the cliffs found at the end of the trail.
The massive cliffs for which Calvert Cliffs State Park was named dominate the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay for roughly 24 miles in Calvert County. They were formed over 10 to 20 million years ago when all of Southern Maryland was covered by a warm, shallow sea. When the sea receded, the cliffs were exposed and began eroding. Today these cliffs reveal the remains of prehistoric species Including sharks, whales, rays, and seabirds that were the size of small airplanes.
Over 600 species of fossils from the Miocene era (10 to 20 million years ago) have been identified in the Calvert Cliffs. Chesapectens, Ecphora, Miocene era oyster shells, and sharks teeth are common finds. Sieves and shovels can be used to sift the sand for fossils.
Off the beach, there is a huge pier/factory of some sort. It looks abandoned. Maybe it’s still operational, but I don’t see any activity from the beach.
The area beneath the cliffs is closed due to dangerous land slides and the potential for injury. It is illegal to collect fossils beneath the cliffs.
The beach area is very small and I have to say the cliffs are a little disappointing. Maybe I could see them better if I were in a boat, but as I’m on foot, I can only see tips of them. The White Cliffs of Dover they’re not.
I don’t bother looking for fossils, as I came primarily to see the cliffs. I head back down the long trail back to the parking lot, passing the same scenes I passed on the way in.
At one point, I pass a family with several kids on bicycles. As I walk by, one of the boys yells out to me, “My dad says your name is Stranger!” I am so surprised by this that I laugh out loud. “Oh, really?” I say, laughing again. I continue walking past a little girl. She says, “What did he say your name is?” I say, “He said my name is Stranger.” She says, “What’s your name, really?” I laugh again, and tell her, “I’m Cathy.”
I’m tickled by the whole exchange. If I hadn’t been caught off guard, I might have had a more clever response like, “If I’m stranger, then you shouldn’t be talking to me! Didn’t your dad tell you not to talk to strangers?” Or, “I could say that from my point of view, your name is Stranger!”
I continue back through the marshland, past the ruins, and through the forest. I’m exhausted after the whole expedition! And though I don’t feel the cliffs are worth all that effort, I do enjoy the wetlands, and especially my ruined boardwalk. And I’m tickled to know my name is Stranger!