Our Janes Island State Park primitive kayak camping trip paid off with great photography experience
Most of the time, I'm a photographer with a lot of equipment in tow, a pretty detailed shot list and a schedule to meet. It's often challenging, but usually rewarding. But how about a few days without a lot of equipment, no schedule (except for knowing the tides) and still have the goal of capturing some great images.
We're campers, kayakers and photographers. My photography gear for this weekend needed to be compact and fit into my small, waterproof boat bag. No luxury of multiple lens, tripods, filters on this trip.
Just one extremely compact, hardy Panasonic Lumix ZS30. It's fast, small, great zoom even to macro focus. It's even good with low light. The only caveat is it shoots only JPEG and not RAW.
With the goal of enjoying a wilderness experience but also capturing photographs of this little used destination on the water in Maryland (we couldn't find much information online) we set off in our boats to primitive camping at Long Point Campground in Janes Island, Crisfield, Maryland for the weekend of Oct. 14-17th. It ended up being through the 18th, but more about that later......
Long Point Island camping is one of three primitive campsites available off the main camping area at Janes Island State Park.
It's located on a small island at the southern tip of the park, where Daugherty Creek empties into Little Annemessex River, near the Chesapeake Bay.
It's about a 5 mile paddle via kayak, taking about 1 hr and 20 minutes to complete.
The paddle to the campsite is fairly easy, starting in the protected water of Daugherty Creek to the wider expanses of water as you get father south. We took two kayaks and I had my camera in easy reach as I paddled. While you anticipate shots of the landscape and the boats, it's nice to be surprised and ready to get photographs of eagles and egrets when you get a chance.
You're never out of sight of land though. We did see other kayakers returning to the Janes Island Marina after Striped Bass fishing. Most caught fish, but no keepers. More than a few small gas powered fishing boats coming and going as well.
The weather was good with about a 5 knot wind out of the north/northwest, creating a small chop on the water. Very easy paddle and with plenty of light left, we were in no hurry.
Arriving in early afternoon, we pulled our gear off, brought the boats up a ways onto shore and set up camp.
I couldn't wait to walk around the area and get some shots on the beach. You'll see that for a basic little point and shoot (if you want to shoot IA) camera, the Lumix ZS30 has some great zoom capabilities and you are able shoot manual as well, setting aperture and shutter speed.
Long Point Campground is primitive in every aspect with the exception of the tent platforms. There are 3 raised 10' x 10' platforms approximately 2-1/2' high to pitch your tent on. They are located very close to each other and at least one (which we chose) is easy to see from the water.
Located on the southern side of the last island on the right as you paddle in a southern direction, each of the platforms has a view of the water, with the other two set a bit back, a more obscured by vegetation.
The treated wood planked platforms are in good shape with stainless steel eyelets on the sides to secure your tent. Two sides have 2 eyelets and the other sides just one. They worked great for us, but seemed to be a bit close together for anything but a small tent.
We use a Bibler Ahwahnee, a small, 2 person, mountaineering, single wall tent with one vestibule. If you have an opportunity to look at more of my work on my website, you'll spot this tent in many of my other photographs, on overlooks and other beaches and woods across the country.
Back to the set up-a suggestion would be to bring a few stainless eyelets to accomodate a larger tent being tied down, if necessary. (these could be easily mounted with a multi-tool.)
You'll also need some additional line to tie your tent down, ours taking about 3 feet at the four
corners and another 3-4' for the vestibule. It all depends on which tent you use and it's relative size, but bring additional line that can be cut for sure.
We chose the platform closest to the water. It was located about 4 feet from a sandy beach strewn with many oyster shells and more than a few downed trees, with easy access to/from the water. I love that I could grab the camera at any moment of the day and be near the water for the ever changing light and sky.
The camping area has many trees and would be very conducive to hammock camping and/or hanging a tarp.
We had a 8' x 10' silnylon tarp hung behind our platform and it was a great place to sit especially during some off and on rain showers.
The platform was large enough to accommodate a few small chairs along with the tent. We appreciated the platform too since there was no picnic table. The platform acted as our dining table (and of course no dining table is complete without a vase!)
While it's really important to me to be able to take many photographs on any of our trips, comfort, food and wine (I know....) are priorities too. Air mattresses are suggested to make your sleeping more comfortable on the wood platform. I am a huge Big Agnes fan. Awesome products and even better, customer support is outstanding.
Tim did most of our cooking on the edge of the platform, moving from corner to corner depending on the wind direction. It was extremely windy everyday except the day we departed and so a proper-sized windscreen is a must for your cooking stove, no matter where you locate it. We also cooked on the ground several times due to the wind.
You could also set up under the tarp and cook if needed.
While no open fires are permitted, we were told that cooking is permitted with a raised fireplace or grill and you can even use charcoal. No fires on the ground. A Bushbuddy stove would work really well here, as there is plenty of downed wood.
Although we had an 8' x 10' tarp, the space right behind the platform where we hung ours, could definitely accommodate a 10' x 10' and probably a 10' x 12' or 12' x 12' tarp as well.
We were on the western most platform and the others had trees but maybe not enough open space to hang a tarp. Standing on our platform, I was able to get up close and personal with this pretty juniper tree.
This being a primitive site, you need to bring everything in with you, including water. We carried 14.5 gallons of water for a Saturday afternoon to Tuesday afternoon stay. We did stay to Wednesday afternoon due to the high winds. We used approximately 10 gallons of water between us and didn't skimp on usage. This included one shower each @ 3 liters per person. Plan accordingly.
Janes Island Park Service doesn't tell you till you get there and check in that everything in must also come out, (everything-if you get my drift.)
Be prepared for that.
We brought both some fresh food as well as freeze dried.
What you bring really depends on what you like and what you're capable of carrying on your boat. Arriving via powerboat is also possible.
We spent about 4 full days at the site without seeing any park personnel at all. (btw, no alcohol is allowed in Maryland State Parks.)
Many working boats as well as sailboats passed in front of the site daily.
There is no resupply unless you are willing to go into Crisfield.
We experienced high winds most of the time we were there (they were not forecast) and yet there were still plenty of flying bugs. It would probably be worse if less windy, so prepare for that too.
Fishing in the area is good but we didn't get to do much due to the winds.
Don't be fooled into thinking you'll be bored. I walked quite a bit. It was fun to discover the wildness of this place. I think having the camera keeps you excited about visiting new places.
The minute the winds died down enough to take my boat out, I paddled up and around the island.
The northwest corner of this small island had a nice beach that could be reached via a short paddle or by walking to it on the beach, but you could only do that if the tide was out due to the significant vegetation.
Open fires are not allowed on the island, a disappointment especially with the availability of so much downed wood, you can imagine watching the beautiful sunsets in front of a beach campfire, but.......still, the sunsets are outstanding and you soon get past this small thing.
We had an extremely good time, so relaxing! We even listened to the Ravens game via transistor radio on Sunday.
Better weather would have made more fishing possible as well as visiting some of the other nearby islands.
Because we visited in October, it still didn't get dark until well after 7 pm. This made for some great evenings watching the light change. I don't think I will ever get tired of taking sunset photos until the light disappears and the stars come out. No tripod needed.