My bicycle at the 1200 foot long Meredith Tunnel on the MCTrail



Bicycling Adventures 2011

Last updated November 12, 2011



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Patapsco Valley State Park
On November 12, 2011, Norma and I did a ride I've done many times before...but this was her first time. It took us through Patapsco Valley State Park, a place I've hiked and biked through more frequently than I can remember. As best as I can recall, she has never been there. It is so close to home that we treat it like a wild card in will always be there if we need it but we shouldn't waste it. In other words, we've been exploring places further away and thought this might be a better place when we had less time on our hands.

This was a last minute bike ride. Last night, Norma returned from spending a week-and-a-half in Slovenia and Germany. I expected her to suffer from jet lag so I didn't plan anything for the day after. However, this was not the case and she felt like getting out and enjoying the sunny weather before it got cold. Having done so much traveling, she wasn't up to a long drive so I planned a bike ride close to home. I figured we could do a modification of the Hanover, Elkridge, Patapsco Valley State Park - Avalon Area, and Jessup ride I had been doing regularly after work about once a week.

We started at the Villages of Dorchester Community Center. From here, we biked into Jessup and looked at a house that had been up for sale that we liked but thought was too expensive. This is back when we were house hunting in 2009. It was right across from some horses on a very quiet street. It would have been much quieter than where we live now but also not as good for Norma's garden since it was very shaded. As we continued onward, we passed more horses, some miniature horses, and a couple of goats.

Leaving Jessup, we rode into Elkridge and along Piney Run. This is the same creek that flows right through the Villages of Dorchester. A river cleanup had recently been completed so there was lots of trash neatly piled up along side the road, waiting to be hauled away.

In Historic Elkridge, Norma and I stopped at the Elkridge Furnace Inn. The two of us walked around and caught a nice view of the Patapsco River.

As we approached the park, we came to a huge stone bridge. We walked up the staircase (first photo) as a train passed overhead (second photo).

Riding through the park, we had a nice view of the Patapsco River. I figure we passed about 4 trailheads that all terminated in the valley. I hope to return in the not-so-distant future and take Norma hiking on the 2.2 mile Cascade Falls Trail which starts on the south side of the river near the 300-foot long Swinging Bridge at the site of the old mill town of Orange Grove. This trail leads to the scenic Cascade Falls.

On the bridge (third photo), I stopped to take a westward (upstream) view. See fourth photo. My plan is to come back in the spring, launch near the bridge, and paddle towards the mouth. I'll definitely need high water for that.

On the north side of the river, we biked eastward, crossing back over the river, then leaving the park.

The fun part was now over. We made our way up the steep Lawyers Hill Road where we saw some snake roadkill. There were a few big, old, well maintained homes along the way.

Back in Elkridge, we biked past the part of town that I once lived. The rest of the ride wasn't quite so scenic.

We finished, having completed 24 miles. On this Saturday afternoon, traffic wasn't so bad and the temperature was comfortable (in the low 60s, I think).

Our post ride meal was at Five Guys where I ate both a bacon cheeseburger and a hot dog. We split a large order of fries with me eating most of them. I was quite hungry.
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Harford County
On November 2, 2011, Norma and I did a ride in Harford County. We both like this area because so much of it looks rural yet it isn't very far from us. We started late because the previous day, the forecast said it was supposed to rain in the morning. Of course that all changed on the day of the ride.

We did a slight modification of a Bikely 38 mile hilly tour of north Harford County. As the name suggests, it was hilly but also scenic with lots of farmland, trees, and streams. It went right by Deer Creek and Rocks State Park, which we visited on October 28, 2007.
  • First photo: Norma contemplates going for a swim in Deer Creek.
  • Second photo: Me with a more serene view of the creek behind.
  • Third photo: If you cross this bridge, you're going the wrong way.
  • Fourth photo: Time for a snack.

  • Unfortunately, there was a lot of traffic. I think this is largely because Harford County doesn't have many highways so folks use the smaller roads quite a bit. Getting a late start probably didn't help either.

    We were pretty comfortable except for maybe the last hour when it started to mist. Then it got very cold.

    The official route called for us to cross over the bridge at Saint Clair Bridge Road. But this bridge was under major reconstruction so we took a detour. On this altenate route, I shaved off a few miles by avoiding the northernmost section.

    By the time we finished, we had completed riding 34 miles on pretty hilly terrain.

    One word of caution, if you do this route, note that businesses near the start area don't seem too willing to let folks use their restroom. I suggest finding a place on the way there.
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    West Fork Rail Trail, MCTrail, and Mon River Trail South
    On Friday afternoon on July 1, 2011, Norma and I drove out to Fairmont, West Virginia. That night, we did a little scouting to find the trail head for the 16 mile long West Fork Rail Trail/Ralph S. Larue Trail.

    The next morning, on July 2, we woke up at 0500 and started riding at about 0700. It felt good to be out moving on that cool, foggy morning. It seems like we were the only ones out. We biked west. The rail trail was mostly paved, very flat, and well maintained. Within about 3.5 miles, we came to a restroom just before our first bridge (see first photo).

    We rode out onto the Nick Chickerell Bridge (second photo) to get a view of the West Fork River.

    At another bridge, we rode across to check out the small town on the other side. We ran into an old man who had set up several American flags on the bridge to celebrate Independence Day. He was sad that many of the flags he erected were missing. Each was fastened to the bridge by a strong bolt and a thick PVC pipe so they couldn't have come off so easily. He told us that the day would be hot so it was good we were getting an early start.

    As we continued to ride, the fog lifted. Unfortunately, much of the humidity remained.

    Most of the trail was tree-lined and in several sections, we had a nice view of the river to our north. On our south, we sometimes saw water dripping down from rocks. There was one very small waterfall (third photo) which I suspect might be pretty impressive in the early spring. In one particularly scenic section, water dripped over a very long rocky section, maybe 30 meters long. Some moss grew on the rocks but little else. The water really brought out some interesting colors. See fourth photo.

    Eventually, we came to our non-climactic end of the trail at the town of Shinnston. We biked around this small, peaceful, Mayberry-like town then commenced our return trip.

    It was now starting to get hot. I think the forecast called for high humidity with temperatures in the low 90s or high 80s.

    While we had most of the trail to ourselves on the ride out, we now shared it with several others on the way back. Due to its short length, flat terrain, and facilities, it is well suited for families.

    The only interesting wildlife we saw was a box turtle with a 6 inch long shell. He seemed quite content to rest just an inch off the trail in the grass. See fifth photo.

    We rode east, past where we accessed the trail to the terminus. This was just past a bridge over the West Fork River. Naturally, I kept an eye on the river to see it if would be suitable for kayaking. I deemed it to be. In several spots, it was shallow, but it was suitably wide to avoid downfalls and not too wide to be uninteresting. There were some riffles and at least one small dam but I saw nothing that wouldn't be a problem for a plastic sea kayak with paddlers willing to make a few portages. I think that paddling this area in the spring would be lots of fun and I hope to return to do just that.

    Norma and I were back at the car by lunchtime, having biked 29.5 miles. But it was still early and I was wanting to get in more biking so we were far from done.

    After a short nap, we drove to the trail head of the MCTrail, where "MC" stands for Marion County.

    By the time we started, it was uncomfortably hot (for Norma) and humid. So it was quite refreshing to bike through the 1200 foot long Meredith Tunnel which was significantly cooler. See sixth photo.

    After 2.5 miles, we came to Prickett's Fort State Park. See seventh photo. There was a fee to enter the fort but none to access the visitor center so we spent our time there, checking out the exhibits and hiding from the heat. From the second floor, we had a nice view of the fort.
    Perched on a small rise overlooking the confluence of Prickett's Creek and the Monongahela River, this rustic log fort is a re-creation of the original Prickett's Fort of 1774, which served as a refuge from Native American war parties on the western frontier of Colonial Virginia.
    - from Prickett's Fort State Park pamphlet

    After leaving the visitor center, the woman who works there took her Black Labrador puppy out. It was teething on a Japanese beetle.

    Continuing north, we caught the Mon River Trail South. This took us north along the Monongahela River from Marion County to Monongalia County. How did the river look for kayaking? I am certain it is paddle-able all year round but it is big and wide. Not sure how interesting it would be. Probably not very.

    At Opekiska, we turned around. We were running out of time and still had other things to do. Also, the heat was kicking Norma's ass. But just before we started heading back, we heard an unusual bird call. It was up above us behind trees on private property so we couldn't get a view but we are pretty sure it was peacocks.

    There were lots of large, red, conically shaped fuzzy flowers growing in trees. See eighth photo.

    I saw a 2.5 foot long black snake scurry from the edge of the trail into the trees.

    Back at Prickett's Fort State Park, we drank our fill at the chilled water fountain.

    By about 1530, we were done, having biked an additional 15.5 miles for a day's total of 45 miles.

    But our day still wasn't over. We had to explore some of the trails at Coopers Rock State Forest. See July 2, 2011 hiking.
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    Great Dismal Swamp
    On April 24, 2011, Norma and I biked in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

    Away to Olney
    March 20, 2011 was the first day of spring. To celebrate, Norma organized a trip described in her Greater Washington Area Bicycle Atlas. This route, called Away to Olney took us 35 miles from Montgomery County to Howard County and around the Triadelphia Reservoir.

    We started at Sherwood Elementary School. From here, we headed east on Olney Sandy Spring Road (route 108) through the historic town of Sandy Spring. This turned into Ashton Road (route 108) which led us into our own Howard County. On Sunday morning at 1030, traffic was pretty heavy and there wasn't much of a shoulder on which to ride away from traffic. Fortunately, we only remained on this for 3 miles. After that, the rest of the ride was much less dangerous.

    We turned left (north) on Mink Hollow Road and followed this to Highland Road and Ten Oaks Road. This took us to the town of Dayton, Maryland. We saw numerous bicyclists along the way. Unlike us, on our hybrid bikes and cotton clothes, these were serious cyclists with curly handle road bikes and spandex clothes. All were quite fast compared to us.

    Soon, we came to Glenelg, the town where I ran a 5k race back around 1997. Back then, I managed to set off a burglar alarm by showing up at the wrong school and opening an unlocked door to the men's locker room as I looked for a restroom.

    I was amazed at how much open land we passed. It is hard to believe we were so close to two big cities. Lots of the land was cleared farmland. There were quite a few older homes along with many newer McMansions that appeared to be million dollar homes. This was definitely an area of transition from rural life to suburban. One community name said it all: Dunfarmin.

    As we crossed the county line from Howard to Montgomery County, Norma and I briefly rode through Patuxent River State Park though we didn't even know it. We crossed over the Patuxent River (see photo), which drains into the Triadelphia Reservoir just a short distance downstream.

    In Montgomery County, we passed through Unity, Sunshine, and Brighton.

    The high temperature was in the mid-50s. Fortunately, there was almost no wind. On the downhills in the shade, we were cold but there were plenty of uphills to keep us breathing hard and warm. I was surprised as to how hilly our ride was. Though it was only 35 miles, we felt like we had pedaled further.

    We stopped for Italian Cold Cuts at a little cafe/convenience store about 7 miles from the end. I forget the name of the place.

    It was a good day to get out. We spent the previous day getting stuff done around the house so this was our day of leisure. Not quite rest and relaxation but we did manage to catch a few winks as soon as we got home.
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    Queen Anne's County
    On February 6, 2011, Norma and I headed out to attend the contemporary worship service at the First Presbyterian Church of Howard County. She was a wee bit slow in getting ready which got us off to a late start. Then I missed the exit. So rather than show up late, we went biking at the Cross Island Trail on Kent Island.

    We started at the Terrapin Nature Area in Stevensville. This is at the west end of the island, just north of highway 50. From here, we biked out of the park the way we drove in then headed west on Main Street (route 18). There were signs that said "bike route" but clearly, we were not on the trail.

    On our right, we passed Rams Head Shore House. This is not to be confused with the more popular Rams Head Tavern just a half mile from our house. But they are related. I've been to the Rams Head in Baltimore, Annapolis, and Savage. So when I get a chance, I'll return and hit the one in Stevensville on Kent Island.

    The day was sunny and the expected high temperature was 45 degrees...downright balmy for this time of year.

    Eventually, we caught the trail at Castle Marina Road. Continuing west, we biked through short sections of pine forest and near some roads. On the trail, it was a pleasant ride. Unfortunately, it ended too soon.

    Norma and I came to the west end of the island then crossed Kent Narrows. That was it for our 6 mile trail which we didn't catch until mile 2.5. The rest of our ride out would be on roads.

    Continuing west on Main Street (route 18), we biked through Grasonville. Two miles after Kent Narrows, we turned right (south) on Perry's Corner Road. A half mile later, we turned right (east) on Discovery Lane/Entrance Road. This took us on a dirt road surrounded by trees that led us past several swans (first photo) then to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center.

    I had been to this location about 9 years ago, when I was looking for places to launch a kayak. I believe back then it might have been more commonly known as the Wildfowl Trust of North America. I didn't find any place to launch so I didn't bother to explore further. But today was different. Exploring was our goal.

    The place was very inviting. There was a nice visitor center that was constructed using some of the latest "green building" technologies: dual flush toilets, waterless urinals, bamboo flooring, solar tubes, and a Windspire wind turbine that spun rapidly in a 7-10 mph wind that was partially deflected by tall trees (second photo). After talking to the people in charge, I estimate that the wind turbine generates about 500 kilowatt-hours per month. Impressive...and very quiet.

    We also learned about vermicomposting, something Norma and I might try in the not-so-distant future.

    The center had some raptors living outside in cages (third photo): barred owls (fourth photo), hawks, and a pair of great horned owls (fifth photo). These were birds that could not survive on their own due to an injury or other health condition.

    After exploring the building and the nearby grounds, we walked on the trails through bay grasses to a beach (sixth photo) at Hog Bay, then to an observation deck (seventh photo). Next we headed west, past Lake Knapp and through a small pine forest where I spotted a large bird nest about 3 feet in diameter (eighth photo). At the west end, we found the kayaks they rent out for $10 per day, May 1 through October 31. The boats were set up next to Marshy Creek and the submerged aquatic vegetation research area.

    After having spent a couple of hours at the environmental center, Norma and I resumed our bike ride. But there was one more detour. I picked up a map at the environmental center that listed a kayak launch site I had never seen before. I just had to check it out. So we got back on Perry's Corner Road and biked south for 0.2 miles to Cabin Creek Road, which we followed to the end. Here, we found a lousy launch site called Cabin Creek Landing. Launching here will put one on Cabin Creek which is part of the bigger Prospect Bay. The part of Prospect Bay northwest of the line defined by Piney Point and Bryant Point is an oyster sanctuary.

    We continued south on Perry's Corner Road for an additional 2.6 miles then turned right (south) on Bennett Point Road. Traffic was light and the road was in good shape. The homes on either side of us were very expensive. Some looked like mansions. But at least they didn't all look the same.

    Between the trees, we could see the Chesapeake Bay to our east and Wye Island to our west.

    Around 1530, we reached our destination, Bennett Point...or at least as far as we could get without trespassing. It would have been great to sit and look out over the bay from this southern terminus but unfortunately, this view was all in the hands of private homeowners.

    Norma and I retraced our steps to try and make it back to the car before dusk and before getting a fine for parking in the Terrapin Nature Area after closing. Naturally, we skipped the turnoff to Cabin Creek Landing and the environmental center.

    Turkey vultures rested on an old rooftop. Some of them aired out their armpits. See ninth photo.

    We would have loved to have stopped at the Chesapeake Exploration Center at Kent Narrows but like I said, we were short on time. Plus, it was getting downright cold as the sun sank lower.

    Rather than bike the last 2.5 miles on a road, we picked up the first part of the Cross Island Trail that we missed heading out. This was a much nicer ride that went past a school and through some wooded areas.

    Back at the parking lot, I realized that the trail started just 40 feet from where I parked. Silly me. I should have looked at the map on the sign at the northeast end of the lot which uses a red arrow to denote my location. See the tenth photo. We finished at about 1710. Had we more time, we would have checked out some of the short walking trails, especially the ones that led along the bay. The last time I was here was September 16, 2006 for a trash cleanup event. I hope to return before another 4.5 years absence.

    Soon after we left, the sun set over the Annapolis area. See eleventh photo.

    Biking 37.5 miles and walking perhaps another 2 built up our appetite. So we drove out to Carini Pizza & Pasta at 356 Romancoke Road (route 8) in Stevensville. It was only about 0.6 miles south of highway 50 on Romancoke Road. I had a medium meat lovers pizza. I should have gotten a small with 2 or 3 toppings instead. The crust was thin, a little soggy, and couldn't support the weight of all the meat. It was like having a thin walled house with a heavy slate roof.

    When we arrived home, I was thrilled to find that my solar panels (activated December 7, 2010) set a new one-day record of generating 16.49 kilowatt-hours. I wasn't kidding about the day being sunny.

    It actually turned out good that Norma and I missed church on that Super Bowl Sunday. Had we gone, we wouldn't have been able to accomplish all that we did. And as far as the football game goes, we didn't watch it, except for part of the pre-game festivities that were showing at the restaurant. Football just ain't our thing.
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