The remains of an ancient settlement are located only 3 miles from my house. Well, maybe not ancient, but by USA standards it’s pretty old. 1634 to be exact. St. Mary’s City was the fourth permanent settlement in the New World and the first capital of Maryland. It is supposedly one of the best archaeological sites in the nation because although the whole city dissolved when the capital was changed to Annapolis in 1695, the site was then left undisturbed for ages.
Originally I thought that touring St. Mary’s City would have the same feel as visiting Williamsburg or Jamestown but no. Although there are some folks wandering around in colonial garb there is no Disney-like feel to the place. It’s quite calming and relatively unchanged so it is possible to stand on the cliff overlooking the St. Mary’s River and imagine that it’s really 400 years ago, just you and the water. Structures have been erected where the remains of dwelling places have been found- rather ghostly silhouettes of a place that once was. There are trails, a museum, a plantation, pigs (at least I’ve heard tell), and a visitor’s center. It’s certainly worth a look.
An added bonus for those of us with small kids at home is that there are special programs. Little Explorers focuses on kids age 3-5 and although my child is only 2 years, 4 months sometimes I get desperate enough to sneak into places I shouldn’t. This was one of those times. Looking back on our visit last Wednesday it occurs to me that the focus was most likely more specific than “dug-out canoes”. However there were so many children present and so many strollers with younger tag-along siblings that I would be hard pressed to tell you what the whole purpose was. Looking back I mostly see flashes of color and chaos.
There was a mini parachute, this I know. There were bins of sensory activities to keep the kids busy before the main event occurred. It seems to me there was a story at some point. Can you tell it was a bit chaotic? My kid was happy so I was happy. Eventually we were asked to paddle pretend canoes out to the woods where an actual dug-out canoe was stationed still smelling like the fire used to break down the interior wood. Then it was a mad scramble for an oyster shell in order to scrape, scrape all the soot out. Did my child have any idea why she was scraping soot? No. Did she care? No. Did I care? A little bit. But with 50 toddlers maybe I should have just been grateful to get out of there alive. Besides, my daughter was happiest spending her time jumping from one canoe support beam to another.
Well, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make ’em drink”, I guess. 50 soot-covered toddlers then paddled their way back to the visitor’s center to create toilet paper tube canoes. Yes, it’s possible.
There is a great picnic table set-up so many groups stayed for a picnic lunch. Now that fall is here I think there are only one or two more of the Little Explorer events until Spring. I’m ok with that. By then maybe I’ll be brave enough to go back:)