Fossil-hunting between the storms

CALVERT CLIFFS STATE PARK, MD. – The rain arrived at Calvert Cliffs about five minutes before we did. We sat in the truck and listened helplessly as giant drops pummeled the roof and greyed out everything beyond the windshield.

We’d just dropped our $5 into the honour box at the entrance and didn’t want to miss our chance to hunt for fossils, especially since a good rain washes them off the cliffs and onto the beach, where treasure-hunters are permitted to scavenge. We waited. And waited. And once it tapered to a sprinkle with the promise of slightly less dark skies blowing our way, we set ourselves to it.

Preparing for a rainy hike through the forest – with a couple of north-of-40 moms who aren’t going to strap on a baby for four miles – is quite an ordeal. Mel and Trev slipped on beach shoes and put the rain cover on the stroller. Baby crackers and bottle-fixings went in a Ziploc; my purse in a plastic bag. We switched the SD card into the crappy camera. With thunder rumbling in the distance, we decided against the tall metal umbrella.

It stopped raining.

There are several paths that lead from the duck pond to the ocean – we chose the red because hikers before us had seen stroller tracks – “Hunting strollers in the wild!” I’d said, but they didn’t find me funny – so we figured it would be smooth sailing. But those humourless trailblazers didn’t warn us of the tiny lakes the rain had made over the trail or about the ancient roots that snaked across the path along the way. We have, thank goodness, the jeep of strollers and a very good-natured baby.

We didn’t see any wildlife on our way to the cliffs. Our constant nattering and joking at each other might have been a factor. But when the land beside the trail got boggy, the forest got louder. Even our bad puns couldn’t drown out the frogs. I recorded this video in all its Blair Witch glory, to share the symphony.

It was high tide when we got to the water, leaving us a narrow strip to sift through rocks and shells, to navigate away from jellyfish in the warm water. It was beautiful and quiet and calm and worth every step we’d taken and every stumble I’d made in my bare feet and worth the clay between my toes.

Of course, the muscles in my legs realized what I’d put them through when it was time to head back. Two miles in means two miles back, but it seemed a lot longer – and it absolutely was a lot quieter – on the march back.

The growling thunder kept pace with us the entire way, but the rain held off. Thanks, Mother Nature. You rock.

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