Last week I took my lab Tucker on his first off leash adventure other than our large backyard. We went to Quiet Waters Park dog beach, where they allow you to let your dog off leash and romp around with other friendly canines on the shore of the South River. He had a heck of a good time.
The park is very large and excellent for dog walking, hiking and biking… and also has a fenced “dog park” as well, which we didn’t try out. Tucker was ready for a nap when we got home, but first he needed a shower with our hose. The River had to be removed! 😊
The advice below are excerpts from WebMD’s “Health Benefits of Getting Outside.” WebMD is a popular resource for medical facts about healthy living. More and more, doctors are recommending that people get outside to improve and maintain good health… a simple walk or bike in the park for as little as 15 to 30 minutes is excellent for both our body and mind. Here’s why:
Walking outside makes you more likely to exercise, especially if you’re a kid.
It helps you get Vitamin D, which is important for your bones, blood cells, and immune system. It also helps your body absorb more of certain minerals, like calcium and phosphorus. Your body needs sunlight to make it, but you don’t need much. In the summer, just getting sun for 5 to 15 minutes, 2 or 3 times a week, should do it. In the winter, you might need a bit more.
Imagine what a walk will do when even a simple plant in the room, or pictures of nature, can make you feel less anxious, angry, and stressed.
When you get outside your house, it’s not only Mother Nature you see. You also connect more with the people and places in your community.
The outdoors helps set your sleep cycle. Cells in your eyes need enough light to get your body’s internal clock working right. Early morning sunlight in particular seems to help people get to sleep at night.
Outdoor activity can help improve your self-esteem and fight anxiety. More relaxed activity like a walk, bike ride, or work in the garden seems to work even better than hi-intensity exercise. Exercising outside is superior to inside a gym: Sunlight helps keep your serotonin levels up. This helps raise your energy and keeps your mood calm, positive, and focused.
In one study, kids with ADHD were able to concentrate better on a task after a walk in the park than they were after a walk through an urban area.
Sunlight also seems to energize special cells in your immune system called T cells that help fight infection.
Studies show that time in nature can boost your creative problem-solving abilities.
One last tip about the sun and safety: “Protect yourself from the sun with long sleeves, sunglasses, and a hat. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, even when it’s cloudy. Try to let people know where you go, especially if you’re going alone into a wilderness area,”… but it is a good idea even for a park.
I had the opportunity to dedicate my afternoon to a little outdoor recreation, so I picked the B&A Trail to log some serious seat time on my mountain bike. This paved trail is the pride of Anne Arundel County Parks and Recreation and is part of the National Rail-Trail Network. The B&A Trail is the location of the old Baltimore and Annapolis railroad line, which was very popular before the aggressive growth of automobile transportation. Just think, all the talk today is of “sustainable” transportation… and here we have the perfect little path for that.
The trail head is located just outside the City of Annapolis, near the World War II Memorial and Jonas Green Park on Route 450 and the Severn River. I was tempted to start at Jonas Green Park, but I wanted to keep today’s ride pure B&A, beginning and end. The maps show the trail as 13.3 miles from the start at Boulter’s Way “mile marker 0 mile” until end of the line on Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie. I started from the “south parking lot” off Route 450, so my app recorded 13.97 miles.
Long winding road
This asphalt trail is really perfect for road bikes, but I don’t have a road bike (and probably never will), so I slugged it out on my ancient Trek mountain bike… and made sure the tires were fully inflated for a smooth and efficient ride. When starting from the Annapolis area trail head, you really don’t encounter many interruptions to the speedy momentum you gain on this paved trail. As you get closer to Glen Burnie, there are firm stops at lights and the car traffic starts to slow things down. The majority of the ride is straight ahead, as you would envision a railway to be, but here and there you have wooden and concrete bridges, little bends and a few blind curves – so you have to be aware and pay attention for others on the trail.
The Ranger Station at Earleigh Heights is the perfect half time pit stop if you need it. It’s an old railway station and really looks the part. The bathrooms are clean and modern – not your usual public park restroom fare. Inside the station, there is supposed to be a display of the history of this building, which includes a store and post office, but alas, the office was closed. In addition to these amenities, there are many benches, picnic tables, working water fountains to hydrate and fill your bottle, and even a bike repair kiosk. It is a perfect place for a break on this long trail ride.
The county considers this long trail a park, and indeed it is. There are benches all along the trail, with little enclaves of park-like settings. In fact, it is so park-like, you will encounter all types of wildlife along the way. The first animal I saw along the side of the trail was a rabbit, and then counted three more as I road to the end and back. There are many birds at the various wet-land areas. The most interesting encounter was a big buck deer, with antlers, that jumped across the path in front of me and then ran off into the woods. I kicked myself for not having my phone ready to record this event, since I was taking photos and video along the way. Towards the end of my ride, I came across, of all things, chickens. They were running about, pecking at the grass, as if they had just escaped from their pen in someone’s yard.
The B&A Trail is not just for bikes. Half the people I saw on the trail were walking or jogging. It is a nice tree-lined park for a quiet walk, if that is all you want. This trail connects to the BWI trail and there are connections to other trails, such as the East Coast Greenway, as well as groups who advocate for connections – like BikeAAA* for the Anne Arundel Trail Network. I am just discovering all the connections, but it seems that if you really wanted to, with the right map, you could just ride on forever… or until you get a flat or get hungry. I will leave this exploration for another blog post!
*BikeAAA provided the repair stand/pump at the Ranger Station and holds an annual event called the Lifeline 100 (Oct. 2, 2022).
After our naturalist session, I went on to walk further inside the Greenbury Point Conservation Area to take more photos and enjoy the sunny morning. My slow and observational walk made me think of this John Muir quote:
I don’t like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not ‘hike!’ Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre’, ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.
The collection of photos below are some for the iNaturalist project and then others from my leisurely saunter around Greenbury Point.
Today we had a pre-planned visit to the Nature Center, which is open to the public and was scheduled with Katharine Seguin, the NSA Annapolis Natural Resources Manager. The Greenbury Point Nature Center, adjacent to and at the entrance of the gated Chesapeake Bay-front Greenbury Point Conservation Area, is an important resource that supports the conservation area and the natural resource mission for the entire Greenbury Point peninsula. The purpose of the center is to document and display Greenbury Point’s wild plant and animal habitat, educate young and old about environmental management and provide a space for visitors to learn about the present-day natural landscape and cultural history of the peninsula. It is essential that this center remain open and accessible. Below are photos of the center, taken with permission from Seguin.
“The Greenbury Point Nature Center is a 2,400 square-foot structure housing 16 exhibits on cultural and natural resources. Since opening in 2000, the nature center has offered programs for scouts, school children, and volunteer organizations. Over two miles of walking trails and a bird-watching platform located near the nature center are two of the key features of outdoor recreation and environmental awareness at NSAA North Severn.”
The gated conservation area, which features miles of access road, forest, wildlife, wetlands, trails, bench areas, fishing spots, and the famous communication towers, has been closed for maintenance Monday to Friday during the month of June.
Center Trails are Open
The Nature Center trails, behind and nearby the building, have been open. One very special feature of the trail system is the “Poet’s trail” behind the Nature Center, with several loops and two observation buildings along Carr Creek. This can be seen in the photos below, and one of the loops opens next to the main Navy Rugby field before continuing along the creek. These peaceful trails have been populated with signage, displaying quotes by well-known poets and naturalists who thoughtfully wrote about the natural world and our place in it. A contemplative walk here is open from dawn to dusk (times are posted) for those who want to escape the noise and hassle of everyday life.
A Central Hub
The center itself may be visited by appointment with the Natural Resources Manager. As seen in the photos and info below, the Nature Center has been the central hub for Naval Support Activity Annapolis’ environmental stewardship for the entire Greenbury Point peninsula. Here, midshipmen, Navy families, and the public can learn about the local ecosystem and how to protect and maintain it.
Natural Resources Management
From the Naval Support Activity Annapolis Environmental Management Guide (in photos below) available at the Nature Center:
“Implemented in 1960, the Sikes Act Requires each Military Department to manage their natural resources in a way that does not negatively impact the military mission. In the case of NSA Annapolis, preservation of natural resources actually plays an important role in the base’s mission by providing a healing environment for our injured service members.”
“What Natural Resources are found at NSA Annapolis? Over 300 acres of forests and streams occur on the Installation. These forests are all different ecosystems including coastal pine woods, edge forests, wetlands, streams, and others. Greenbury Point also contains a network of trails, providing recreational opportunities for personnel and visitors on base.”
The photos below are from inside the Nature Center and then behind it on the Poet’s Trail, June 23, 2022:
“Greenbury Point Peace”
Celebrating Greenbury Point Conservation Area: As of June 1, 2022, the Greenbury Point Peace prints and imprinted products are an approved fundraiser to support the Chesapeake Conservancy and Severn River Association in their fight to #savegreenburypoint from becoming a second Navy golf course.
SALE: For a limited time, save $10.00 off the regular price for 8×10 wall art prints of Greenbury Point Peace or Greenbury Point Peace Esprit De Corps (with text).
This is by far one of the top 10 parks in Maryland. Why? Location and management. Situated next to the Bay Bridge on Kent Island, this park features oyster shell pathways, woodlands, wetlands and a beach with views to die for. Brand new bathrooms for visitors and an attentive and friendly ranger staff are icing on the cake.
This award-winning 276-acre nature park features a 3.25-mile oyster chaff walking trail, which meanders through wildflower meadows, wetlands, tidal ponds, woodlands, and sandy shoreline. The trail provides a unique vantage point for viewing an incredible variety of waterfowl, wildlife, and plant species. A gazebo is located along the sandy shoreline afford a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Park benches located along the trail provides a brief respite for the weary. The trail, which wanders over several bridges, across marshlands and through woodlands, features two observation blinds overlooking the tidal ponds. The trail connects to the County’s Cross Island Trail system. Nearby parking for the Cross Island Trail system is available at Old Love Point Park. Read more…