Point Lookout State Park - Beneath the Surface - 100 Shores
Point Lookout State Park holds a lot of stories. For an inaugural story of 100 shores, I’ve been debating about where to begin. There’s a real “end of the road” feeling about Point Lookout, which is part of the reason it holds so many stories. I wondered where to focus on a shoreline when that shoreline has actual books (and video games even!) about it. So, ghosts? Wars? Fishing? How about a popular location for court ordered community service?
First off, I will say that court ordered community service isn’t the ONLY reason I spent time at Point Lookout State Park. We were all young once though. For a certain period of my teenage years, it was definitely a haunt for platoons of dumb rural teenagers atoning for their house party transgressions- and I was a fledgling lieutenant in that army. It wasn’t like I was ALWAYS there, but it was a pretty commonplace slap on the wrist for high school kids. And our stories were pretty customary.
When you were assigned community service at Point Lookout, you never knew exactly what was in store for you. You’d report to the maintenance yard at 8. There, a ranger would give you and a few others an assignment for the day. If you were lucky, they’d even drop you off in one of their trucks and tell you they’d be back to pick you up in a few hours. Or they’d tell you to make your way back on your own by lunch. Most of the work involved picking up trash or routine lawn/ maintenance.
One of the most atypical jobs I was assigned while there involved painting parking spaces on the causeway. Me and two other guys were given paint rollers and a 5 gallon drum of reflective yellow paint. We were dropped off (the paint was heavy) at the south end of the causeway and told to make our way north, while politely working around the people fishing from the rocks. The paint dried extremely quickly, so we rolled out a line, waited for it to dry, then put a second line on top.
Of course, we made it about 90% of the way north before accidentally knocking the remainder of the barrel over. I thought we were screwed, but one of my partners was not shaken. For years, if you drove down the causeway, there was an almost inconspicuous four foot wide stripe of yellow paint on one side. It was painted as a perfect rhombus, and added EXTRA emphasis as a “no parking” area in this one, seemingly hazardous spot. We did that. They say if you do something bad enough the first time…
I went back to trash duty on one of my last days there (I grew out of that phase eventually!), but I was assigned to a nice location on the bay side. They dropped me off again at the causeway, but this time at the north end. My job was to work my way up the shore to an inlet (Tanner Creek) and then make my way back down. They’d be back around lunch to pick me up at the same spot, they said. That whole stretch was less than half a mile, and I finished the job in under an hour. A diligent young man might have made the rest of the trek back on his own, but I was not so prudent that morning.
What did seem prudent was laying down for a bit in the phragmites grass along the shore. The wind can blow hard right there on the point, and the phragmites was a perfect little lodge for a muskrat in need of a nap. And nap is exactly what I did. The salty breeze that comes off the mainstem of the bay coupled with a warm summer sun was too much to withstand for a 16 year old who’d been out too late the night before. It was such a good nap that I apparently missed the pickup to go back to the maintenance yard. I guess the ranger could survey the entire shoreline and assumed I DID do the diligent thing by walking back to the maintenance yard. Which, in a way, is technically what I did. It just wasn’t on the same timeline as expected.
So there you have it. My conscience is now clean in regards to the day I only did 6 of my 8 community service hours at Point Lookout. I guess after that day I wanted a change of pace from the monotony of picking up trash in a park without trashcans, so I asked to round out my hours at a different location. I definitely regretted that decision when I was assigned to report to the laundry facility in the basement of St. Mary’s Hospital. They were definitely NOT expecting a 16 year boy who had trouble turning his socks out before washing them. Should have stayed at Point Lookout.
I was originally planning on gathering water from the point proper, but the causeway called to me. So I ended up gathering 2 samples here, one from each stop. Neither of these shirts are spoken for at the moment, so if you've been to Point Lookout and want to become part of the project, get in touch!