Visit to the Eastern Shore

Saturday, October 17th, 2009
With fall break affording some time for adventuring, we decided on a trip to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, camping at Pocomoke River State Forest, visiting some of Fran's old haunts and having dinner with a friend who dates back to playgroup days. The weather forecast was for a Nor'easter with temperatures near freezing, but we weren't about to let that stop us. We arrived on Monday, at dusk and with threatening rain, to an empty campground, but the rain did hold off until we were fully set up. The warm temperatures and wet weather of the past few days had us hopeful for some good mushrooming, and find them we did! Even in the dark we spotted mushrooms around the campsite and along the road to the bathhouse. (Read about mushrooms we found around the campground.) That raised our expectations for the next day when we planed to hike along a portion of the Forest Trail, and we weren't disappointed, finding over 20 different species of particular interest. (Read more about our first hike on the Forest Trail and the campsite lab.) In spite of the constant drizzle, Paul was able to start a fire (thanks, wax logs), so we cooked a filling, if not exciting, meal, over the campfire, and toasted marshmallows late into the night.
Laetiporus sulphureus

On Wednesday, after a rainy morning spent trying to identify some of the mushrooms collected the previous day, we set out on the Bald Cypress Trail where we found some edibles as well as a few more species we, being novices, weren't familiar with. (Read more about Bald Cypress Trail mushrooms.) One of the reasons for this trip was to slow the pace, so although we didn't really do much, we spent nearly the whole day doing it. Then we celebrated with dinner in Snow Hill. We didn't have a particular place in mind, but found a new contemporary restaurant, The Pallette, on Green Street in the heart of town. Wednesday was "build-your-own pasta night," so we both were able to find something to suit our own tastes. A very nice treat.

We had set aside Thursday for the Salisbury portion of the trip, and in the morning, after picking some of the chicken mushroom we'd found the day before, we headed in that direction on the back roads. We were "winging it," turning either west or north at each intersection, just to see where the roads would lead. I had thought we might end up at Princess Anne, but we actually came upon Route 13 at Fruitland. From there, we headed towards Upper Ferry where we crossed the Wicomico River, which was as high as I'd ever seen it due to all the rain. We spent a couple of hours at Pemberton Park, where the boys and I had taken many a hike when we lived in Salisbury. Playgroup also sometimes met at Pemberton, and the visit brought back many fond memories of the boys and their playmates as toddlers and young children. (Read about the mushrooms we found at Pemberton Park.)

Ben's Red Swings

It's a short distance from Pemberton to Salisbury, where we drove past our old house and then along the Wicomico River to City Park and the Salisbury Zoo. Before heading to my old playgroup friend's for dinner, we had time for a quick tour of the Zoo and, also at City Park, the wonderful community playground "Ben's Red Swings." The playground was inspired by the courage and faith of little Ben Layton who was a member of our church in Salisbury and who was being treated for cancer at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia at the same time as William. Ben lived barely four years, but he touched many hearts.


It was wonderful to see my old friend and catch up on current happenings. Of course there was a lot of reminiscing too. She was a very good sport about the mushrooms, which we cooked up and added to the grilled vegetables that would fill the giant panini, which was the main course. Years ago we took the kids strawberry picking, getting huge amounts we would make up into preserves. If we lived closer today, we'd go mushrooming, she volunteered. Yep. Good sport, good cook, good friend.

The next morning would be our last opportunity to explore this mushroom paradise along the Pocomoke River, so we again went out on the Forest Trail. We chose a different section, where we made note of about twenty species that we had not seen just two days earlier. (See Forest Trail revisited.) After returning to camp to dry out, we drove up to Salisbury for a celebration of the anniversary of the Great Salisbury Fire of 1886. The major attraction was the informative and well-presented display of photos and artifacts from theĀ  Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture, where I had volunteered for a couple of projects while a student at Salisbury U. My favorite history professor, who now heads the center, was on hand to talk to visitors. It was very good to see him, but bittersweet for me, as my life now is so different from how I imagined it when I was a student at SU. We then stopped at the university campus for a tour of the grounds, which are still lovely, and some of the buildings. The last stop was the Gull's Nest in the Guerrieri Center for coffee, where I was able to show Paul each of the booths where I regularly sat. I even remembered where I sat with specific people and during some specific conversations. Back at the campsite, we ended the evening with a walk to the fishing pier where we watched moonlight reflect off the black water of the Pocomoke, a nice way to bring our mini-vacation to a close.

The next morning we hurried breaking camp, because we had planned to attend the Associates' Fall Festival at Scott Arboretum in the early afternoon. There we listened to a great talk by an internationally recognized garden planner and picked up our member's plant dividend, Scilla bifolia, and, although I had felt quite nostalgic on the visit to the Eastern Shore just a few hours earlier, I smiled thinking of the blessings we have in our little slice of Pennsylvania.