Evidence of beaver activity near Piney Run


Hiking Adventures 2009

Last updated November 11, 2009


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Tri-State Hike
For a trip report of my famous Tri-State Hike with Sergeant Mike, see November 8, 2009 Platoon Mini-Reunion Hike.

Green Ridge State Forest
On July 28-30, 2007 Norma and I paddled from Paw Paw to Pearre. We drove through parts of Green Ridge State Forest but didn't take the time to stop and explore the trails. That would have to wait for another time. November 1, 2009 was THE time.

On our way back from her mother's farm, we stopped at the northern parking lot in the forest, just south of the Former Twin Oaks Schoolhouse. Though the state forest maps shows the icon for a parking lot, this is really just an area where Double Pine Road (a dirt road) meets the trailhead at a gate on the east side of the road. It is about an eighth of a mile south of the east intersection of where Old Cumberland Road meets Double Pine Road. I don't think more than 2 cars can fit there without blocking the road. Fortunately, Norma's vehicle was the only one there. If we had to get there again, we would take Fifteen Mile Creek Road to Old Cumberland Road.

We walked a short 4.2 mile loop comprised of Twin Oak Trail and Pine Lick Trail. Unfortunately, the hiking trails in the forest aren't very well set up for other loop hikes. But the area does have a lot to offer. There is a mountain bike loop trail, an all terrain vehicle (ATV) trail, several campsites, a backpacking shelter, and kayak launch sites. The Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath also runs by and it should be easy to do a kayak trip down the Potomac and bike back on the towpath.

The trail was moderately scenic. There were no vistas or anything particularly interesting. But it was a bright, sunny day and a great day to get outside, even if only briefly.

We spotted a witch hazel plant. See first photo at left.

Most of the leaves had fallen and there was no chance of sneaking up on wildlife with all the noise we made walking through it. But we did manage to see about a dozen walking stick insects. See photos two, three, four, five, and six. Walking sticks are my favorite insect and in my life prior to this day, I had only seen about 5. I don't believe there are any in California. About 3 pair of the walking stick insects were mating. Most were on the trailhead sign. I guess they must have liked the way the metal warmed up because it certainly didn't offer any camouflage for them.
Click thumbnail to enlarge.

Colton Point State Park and Leonard Harrison State Park
For a trip report of a couple mini-hikes in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon area, see Pine Creek Rail Trail 2009.

National Public Lands Day
Being out in nature helps enrich my life. It only makes sense that I should volunteer some of my time to help preserve it. On September 26, 2009, National Public Lands Day, that is exactly what Norma and I did.

Last week on September 19, 2009, I helped with the International Coastal Cleanup. I didn't get much sense of satisfaction from that. I was hoping National Public Lands Day would be better.

At 0900, we met at Magruder Park at 3911 Hamilton Street in Hyattsville, Maryland. There we met Dr. Marc Imlay, a conservation biologist with the Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS). He spoke to us about the problem of invasive plant species, how it affects the environment, and how it has become a problem both overseas and locally.

Dr. Imlay got us motivated about the project and eager to work. Then he led us in removing the invasive Asian Honeysuckle which
...grow so densely they shade out everything on the forest floor, often leaving nothing but bare dirt. This means a great reduction in the food and cover available for birds and other animals. Some species release chemicals into the soil to inhibit other plant growth, effectively poisoning the soil.
- from Asian Honeysuckle

Armed with tools that looked like small, rugged pitchforks, saws, and loppers, we cleared out this invasive species from a section of the park. We removed the entire plant when it was small. For the larger plants, we cut them near the base so Dr. Imlay could put Roundup herbicide on the stump, thereby killing the plant.

We only removed the Asian Honeysuckle from less than an acre of land but it took 2.5 hours for about 10 of us to do so. In the end, we had a huge pile of plant debris about 30 feet long, 15 feet deep, and 8 feet high in the center! We also removed a good bit of trash. Norma and I were quite proud of what we accomplished.

Our last invasive species removal was at the Jones Falls Restoration Project on March 10, 2007. I am sure we will help out with other similar efforts in the future.

Shortly after the cleanup, a re-dedication of the Trumbule Nature Trail took place in the park, just a short distance from where we worked. The Mayor of Hyattsville, the Honorable Mr. William F. Gardiner, recognized the efforts of several people and organizations in completing this approximately quarter mile boardwalk that passes through the swampy section of the park. These volunteers saved the city several thousands of dollars in completing this trail. A local troop of Boy Scouts, the Masons Lodge, and Navy Seabees were mentioned along with our own Dr. Imlay who has done a considerable amount of work over a long period of time to ensure the park is comprised of mainly native species.

The rain held out while we worked and during the ceremony. Unfortunately, it rained later that day during the town's International Festival.

Virginia Triple Crown
For a trip report of my backpacking trip on a part of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia known as the Triple Crown, see September 5-7, 2009.

For a trip report of my July 30, 2009 hike at Reversing Falls Park and Quoddy Head State Park in Maine, see Maine 2009: Day 6. For a trip report of my August 2, 2009 hike near Cutler, Maine, see Maine 2009: Day 9.

Monroe Run
It was a fun-filled weekend...or at least as much fun as one can have without a kayak. On Friday, July 18, 2009, Dr. Chuck and I went over Cindy's place for a cookout. The next morning, we met Norma at her family's farm in Garrett County, Maryland. We ate well. That night, the three of us plus Norma's sister, Joyce, and her mother, enjoyed the 45th Annual Friendsville Fiddle and Banjo Contest. There were some awesome musicians of all ages. The next day, Norma, Chuck, and I hiked 6.4 miles on Monroe Run Trail in Big Run State Park.

We awoke on Sunday, July 19, 2009, to a sunny, dry day. Visibility was excellent. I think the high temperatures in Baltimore werein the mid or high 80s but I don't know if it even got to 80 in Garrett County. In Garrett County it is almost always a bit cooler than the lowlands and there are fewer mosquitos...just what the doctor (Dr. Chuck) ordered.

Norma and I hiked Monroe Run Trail two years ago on July 1, 2007. Unlike our previous hike, we made this trek a downhill walk.

Before commencing the hike, we made a quick stop at the Monroe Run scenic overlook, just a half mile or so west on New Germany Road. See first photo at left. Here we saw numerous chainsaw carvings into stumps. This included two bear and one eagle sculture. See Chuck in the second photo at left.

Our hike began at around 2500 feet above sea level. It was a gradual and easy downhill. No hiking poles needed as it was once a road.
Crumbling bridge abutments are the only remaining evidence that this scenic trail was formerly a connection road built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s. There are plenty of chances to cool your feet along this trail, which has frequent stream crossings (no bridges). To avoid the uphill trek at the end of the trail, begin your hike at the trailhead on New Germany Road.
- from park sign

Though it was sunny, there was no need for sunscreen as we were almost always in the shade.

We saw a deer and a fashionably marked catepillar which found its way onto Chuck's shirt. See third photo.

There were numerous stream crossings over Monroe Run...too many to remember. The water was quite low. I wonder how these crossings would have been in the winter. See fourth, fifth, and sixth photos.

The trail was blazed with dark red markers which I had a hard time seeing (I am red/green colorblind). But I was able to appreciate the beauty of the numerous bee balm flowers. See seventh and eighth photos.

Some interesting Smurfish mushrooms were found growing on a fallen tree. See ninth photo.

Our hike ended at the campgrounds in Big Run State Park. This park
is surrounded by Savage River State Forest. The forest's more than 54,000 acres of rugged terrain challenges hikers, hunters, anglers, and mountain bikers alike. The tranquility of the secluded forest provides shade during warm summer months for native brook trout streams and a cool place to camp at night. Each season brings the forest to life with delightful colors and sounds, like bright white trillium on a sunny slope, mountain laurel opening in large clusters of pink in the spring and the sounds of migrating warblers making a brief stop to rest in the forest.
- from park sign

It was a good day to be outside with good friends...but what day isn't?
Click thumbnail to enlarge.

Pine Creek Gorge
For a trip report of a brief July 3, 2009 hike in the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon area, see Pine Creek Gorge 2009.

Grayson Highlands
For a trip report of my June 13-15, 2009 hike in the southern Virginia highlands, see Grayson Highlands 2009.

Trail Maintenance at Greenbelt Park
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, May 2, 2009 is Volunteer Trail Work Day. What better way to celebrate than to volunteer my time for a trail maintenance project?.

I signed up with the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC) for a Greenbelt Park Trail Restoration event. This is one of the closest parks to my home, yet I had never been there...until now.

The MOC event page listed this event as starting at 0830 but the leader sent out an e-mail stating we would begin working at 0800. Hence, I showed up at 0750, ready and willing to work. The event didn't actually begin until 0900! I could have used the extra sleep after having gone to see 24 Karat (a rock band) play at Perry's in Odenton the night before.

Seven people from the MOC were registered for this event but only four actually showed up: Glenn P., Pamela F., Sally S., and me. Unfortunately, a 43% flake-out rate is not the least bit unusual for this club. I was glad to see Glenn who always brings a good sense of personality to the group.

We met at the ranger station which is near the south end of the park, near the campgrounds. I knew where that was because I picked up a map of the park several months ago, but most of the other MOC volunteers had a more difficult time finding the meeting place since we only had directions to the park. Apparently, there were other volunteer projects going on so some asked around and almost got stuck with the wrong group.

We met Ranger Robin who introduced us to Bill W., the task lead. In addition to Bill, there were three other non-MOC volunteers in our group. These three along with Bill were all seasoned outdoor volunteer veterans.

We each grabbed a wheel barrow, shovels, and McLeods.
The McLeod with its large hoe-like blade on one side and tined blade on the other is a forest fire tool common in America's western mountain ranges. It was originally intended for raking fire lines with the teeth and for cutting branches and sod with the sharpened hoe edge. The McLeod is useful for removing slough and berm from a trail and tamping or compacting tread. It can also be used to shape a trail's backslope.
- from Grubbing and raking tools, for trail building and maintenance

Next, Bill led us to the vehicle barrier at the south end of Park Central Road. Here, there was a pile of small rocks, sand, and gravel that stood about five feet tall. Our mission was to fill the wheel barrows with this rock, sand, and gravel mixture then use it to fill the low spots in the Perimeter Trail.
The six mile Perimeter Trail used for horseback riding and hiking, circles the park's western section and leads to some of the most picturesque scenery in the area.
- from Greenbelt Park Official Map and Guide

While horses are permitted on the Perimeter Trail, Bill claims he has hardly ever seen any except those used by the park police.

Our work would only encompass about a fifth of a mile on the trail, from the Park Central Road vehicle barrier at the east end to the first major fallen tree at the west end. Bill said we could use a two man hand saw to cut through the fallen tree but it would also take a very long time to do so. He figured our efforts would be best spent working on filling the low spots and leaving the tree cutting to the folks with the chainsaws. By filling in the low spots, we would prevent water accumulation on the trail, thereby prolonging its existence.

First, we worked on filling some of the drop-offs near the roots on the trail. This made it easier to move the wheel barrows. After dumping our load, we spread it out then tamped it down with the McLeod. Pamela and Sally primarily worked on filling the wheel barrows while the rest of us mainly shuttled the rock, sand, gravel mixture back and forth.

I learned that if more of the mixture is shifted forward in the wheel barrow, the load will be better balanced since the wheel will carry more weight...which means I will carry less.

The weather was cool and overcast. It had rained a bit during the previous night but things were not muddy.

By 1145, we were done and the mound of rocks, sand, and gravel was no more. It was a fairly easy day.

We posed for a group photo (see photo at left) then went our separate ways. From left to right are Sally, ?, ?, Pamela, Glenn, me, Bill, ?.
Click thumbnail to enlarge.

Otter Creek Wilderness
For a trip report of my April 12, 2009 hike in Otter Creek Wilderness, see Easter 2009.

Piney Run
Some people spend thousands of dollars to visit places halfway around the world yet they don't even explore their own back yard. This is not the case with me. I have made numerous trips to visit Piney Run, a north-flowing stream that runs just east of my community, the Villages of Dorchester in Hanover, Maryland. It is about a sixth of a mile from my house.

Over the last two years, I've seen this area change with the seasons. There used to be a well defined dirt road that was starting to become overgrown. Now, it really is overgrown which may be a good thing if it keeps the off-road vehicles away. I've walked near Piney Run when it was lush and green and I've walked it when the grass was brown and the trees were bare. Today, March 2, 2009, I hiked it after a heavy snow. See first and second photos at left.

I have never been one to like the snow but after my second attempt at cross country skiing on February 15, 2009 near the similarly named Pine Creek, I've been considering buying used cross country skis. After today, I'm considering it much more seriously. We had several inches of snow and my office was shut down. I couldn't go to work. While government folks may applaud when such an event occurs, I have to either use leave, or just make up the time later in the month. Clearly, it was too cold for kayaking or bicycling. I could have done a longer hike but for much of the day, it really wasn't very safe to drive at normal speeds. How convenient and fun it would have been if I had my own skis. I was a bit jealous of Lucas, my housemate, who owns cross country skis, downhill skis, and snow shoes. I posted want-ads on Craig's List, DC Ski Club, and the Columbia Ski Club asking for someone to sell me used cross country ski equipment. I was hoping I could find an upcoming ski swap event but it seems like they typically take place in October.

Not having snow toys didn't keep me inside sulking. I walked down to Piney Run with my camera, made it through all they breyers, hopped across the creek, the walked south on what used to be the dirt road (see third photo). The area looked considerably different than it did on previous visits:
  • March 11, 2007
  • Living in Hanover, July 21, 2007
  • History of Hanover, September 27, 2007
  • January 11, 2009

  • In the warmer season, ticks are the biggest hazard in this area with the thorns a close second. But after a big snow, the vegetation that normally sticks up starts to bend and it supports a good deal of snow. Hence, when walking, it is easy to think you're about to step on a 5 inch thick covering of snow but instead it ends up being a 2 foot drop before anything solid is reached. I don't think snow shoes or skis would have been good in this area because of all the vegetation and the fact that the snow wasn't terribly thick. I was fine in my knee-high gardening boots.

    Much of the snow was wet and it clung together on branches, making for a thick white covering. See fourth photo.

    Several small birds fluttered from one twig to another, rarely posing long enough to me to get a shot with my camera. See fifth photo for a Dark-Eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) which is in the American Sparrow family. Special thanks to Mike J. for identifying it. Sometimes these Juncos would hide inside a miniature snow cave created by snow covering bent grasses. Then they would fly out as my footsteps came within inches of their little hideaway.

    I've seen as many as three deer at once running through the woods behind my neighborhood. Today I found their tracks near the stream. Clearly, these footprints were not very old. Literally a stones throw from the tracks, I saw a tree stand (sixth photo). I expect it was left over from before the neighborhood was built. I wondered if I might come back after the melt and see other artifacts from the pre-construction. Maybe arrowheads?

    Rather than walk back the way I came, I walked to the paved foot trail. I was pleased to see numerous footprints, indicating several of my neighbors took the time to get outside and enjoy our winter wonderland. One neighbor was out walking her dog. She dropped the leash accidentally and the dog ran to greet me. Then the dog picked up the handle of the leash in his mouth, causing the rope connecting the handle and his collar to entangle him. He seemed oblivious to this as he was just wanting to say hello to a new face.

    A little closer to the main road, I saw evidence of children playing on some of the hills, sliding down on their sleds. In my hometown, we would have had to drive for about 2 hours to reach a place where we could enjoy such activities.

    I wasn't very happy about having to take the day off and make up the hours. But perhaps it was a mixed blessing. The last time I hiked in the snow, I drove for 4 hours to reach the destination. Today, I walked a sixth of a mile to see an area that is more meaningful to me. My area gets a heavy snow about once or twice a year. If I wasn't forced to take the day off, I probably wouldn't have seen the woods behind my neighborhood through wintry eyes for quite some time. While I may not be pleased about having to make up a snow day, at least I have a job for which I can make up hours. In our tough economic times, I am better of than many and for that I am thankful.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Pine Creek
    In the last few years, it seems winter has arrived later and later. A white Christmas is rare and snow on Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the exception rather than the rule. There were some nice snowfalls in February but in Maryland some of that cold weather was followed by sunny California-esque weekends. This meant that if Norma and I were to enjoy a true winter weekend, we would have to drive north a good distance.

    On Sunday, February 15, 2009, Norma and I drove 4 hours to the 62 mile long Pine Creek Rail Trail which passes through Tioga County and Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. Along the way, we passed the 444 mile long Susquehanna River. We generally prefer the small, narrow creeks and the mighty Susquehanna is anything but this. However, many parts are lined by trees and cliffs which often give it a woodsy feel. I definitely plan to return this summer to explore some of its smaller tributaries via kayak.

    Unlike most of our multi-day trips, this one was thrown together at the last minute. Tomorrow would be our ski day while today would be reserved for a short hike. We didn't have much daylight after our late start and long drive but we had enough time to do a little reconnaissance.

    We parked at the intersection of Ramsey Drive and Route 44 in Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. To our north, the rail trail paralleled the river on the east side. At the small parking lot, it turned westward and crossed the water. About an eighth of a mile to our south, we noticed that an orange blazed dirt trail led up the hill on the east side of Route 44. It seemed this location offered a variety of opportunities for the outdoorsman. This assumption would only be solidified as we continued to explore.

    Norma and I crossed the bridge. See first photo at left. Below, Pine Creek flowed at about 5 mph (see second photo). This tributary of the west branch of the Susquehanna River was lined in some parts by giant chunks of broken ice, some as much as foot thick! The volume of water in this creek made me think that the name "creek" was inappropriate. I expect that even in a dry summer, one could paddle down it easily though I might be wrong.

    After about a third of a mile, we came to permanent toilet facilities. None of that porta-john stuff out here. These crappers could double as a bomb shelter!

    As we walked to the southwest, a dirt trail branched from the gravel rail trail on the left (south side). This led to the Bonnell Flat Comfort Station and Campground which had shelters, cabins, and a water pump. Permits are required to use the area but I didn't see any contact info for making reservations. This scenic and convenient area is sandwiched between the rail trail and Pine Creek.

    At the west end of the campground, the trail took us back to and across the rail trail. Literally a stone's throw away was a hiking trail junction. Here, several blazed trails joined, including the Mid State Trail and the Tiadaghton Trail.

    We walked on the Mid State Trail for a short distance then took a detour that led us along a small stream (see third photo) then back to the rail trail.

    Some parts of the trail were completely clear of snow and ice while other parts were quite icy. See fourth photo. The conditions varied widely depending on the shadows and the position of the trail relative to the hills. The north side retains more ice and snow while the south side tends to be clear.

    We spotted a good number of chipmunks and quite a few animal prints. I found what I believe is the one inch shell of a Gypsy Moth pupa. See fifth photo.

    Norma and I also saw a small grove of plants resembling bamboo. See sixth photo. None had leaves and they were all about the diameter of a pencil. I later learned from Mike J. and Ken D. that it was Equisetum hyemale which is also called equisetum, horsetail, or scouring rush. It was previously used for cleaning cookware.

    It was getting dark so we turned around and headed back to the car. Our little walk was only 6 miles but this place is one which we will certainly return when we have more time to cover significantly more distance. This place seems to have everything: a scenic river suitable for kayaking with multiple launch sites, a 62 mile long rail trail, numerous campgrounds, and several hiking trails. Given several days, I wouldn't mind starting at the north end, paddling downstream a few miles, biking back to the car on the rail trail, exploring the dirt trails, camping, then packing up everything the next day and driving south only to do it all again on a different section until the entire rail trail is covered.

    The next day, we got in 3 hours of cross country skiing at Crystal Lake Ski Center. This is another place which we've never been. It was only our second time cross country skiing but we made considerable improvements after reading parts of The Anatomy of Skiing by Richard J. Saunders. Maybe next time we'll pay for a lesson.

    It was a short weekend of big exploration. There are so many outdoorsy places Norma and I want to explore in depth. It is nice to know we won't be running out of adventures anytime soon.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Patuxent River Park - Governor Bridge
    On Friday night, I watched comedy movie Harold and Kumar go to White Castle. While unable to directly relate to the "marijuana munchies," their craving for burgers was one that I could relate to since I frequently desire red meat after a physically active day. Saturday, February 7, 2009 would be just such a day.

    With a high temperature forecast of 50 degrees and clear skies, I was eager to get outdoors. It was still too cold for me to go kayaking on a sit-on-top boat without a dry suit but it was a perfect day for hiking. I contacted Marge of the Mountain Club of Maryland to inform her that I planned to join her group for their Patuxent River Park hike.

    Now I may not know much but if there is one thing I know it is the Patuxent (Pax) River area, both for hiking and kayaking. But my knowledge is limited to the sections downstream of Queen Anne Bridge Road. Today's hike would take me to the Governor Bridge area, just east of Bowie. I never explored these parts and was eager to see if the river was paddle-able this far upstream.

    To say I was pleased to find a canoe launch near the trailhead is a gross understatement. I will definitely return and paddle down to Patuxent Wetlands Park in the future.

    Greg Lewis, the director of Patuxent River Park, spoke for a few minutes about my favorite park. He mentioned that the park
  • has purchased adjoining farms to increase its size,
  • is building new trails, and
  • has a crew to keep the river clear for boaters.
  • All good news.

    Twenty of us began hiking. There were a few familiar faces including Rueben D. who led the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail hike I did on December 7, 2008. I also saw Jodi which always means homemade baked snacks.

    Quite a bit of the hiking was along tributaries that feed into the Pax. See the first photo at left for one of the short leaf-covered descents. The water carved out quite a bit of land, making for some steep drop-offs. In the second photo, Emily observes a tree growing on the edge of one of these drop-offs.

    The most memorable thing about this hike was the clarity of the scenery. The humidity was low, the sun was bright, and unlike most hikes, much of the terrain was open so there were many times when harsh shadows were absent...great photography conditions. I had an eye test a week prior and my vision with corrective lenses measured 20/15 (better than normal). But with the conditions on our hike, I felt like my sight was even better! See third and fourth photos.

    There were only a few patches of snow but much of the non-moving water was still frozen over. See the fifth and sixth photos. We stopped at a large pond for lunch (seventh photo). The brownies Jodi made were delicious!

    I spoke with quite a few friendly, interesting people. Some, like me, also enjoy kayaking, bicycling, cross country skiing, and backpacking.

    Our 7 mile hike finished with enough time for me to do a little bicycling. See my February 7, 2009 biking trip report if you have nothing better to do.

    After hiking and biking, I was ready for some White Castle burgers...just like the ones Harold and Kumar ate. But with no such restaurants in the area, I bought a Five Guys bacon double cheeseburger. Yum!
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.

    Piney Run
    Back on March 11, 2007, Norma and I explored Piney Run. This little north-flowing stream runs just east of my community, the Villages of Dorchester in Hanover, Maryland. I explored it a few more times and took plenty of photos which can be seen at History of Hanover and Living in Hanover. It is definitely prettiest in the spring and summer but there are also more thorns, ticks, and poison ivy at that time of year.

    On January 11, 2009, we set out once again to explore. What made this trip different? A few weeks prior, I studied satellite photos of the area. The overgrown road that runs parallel to Piney Run on its east side appears to continue northeast of route 100. We had only explored to route 100 previously. Today we would venture further. I loaded up my big backpack with our tall rubber boots. It had rained a good deal in days prior and I didn't know if we would need to wade through the creek when walking under route 100.

    As usual, the thorns were a bit of a problem. I knew enough to wear rugged clothing. Under Armour or fleece would snag too easily so I left them behind. However, I didn't bother to cover my head and once the thorns got caught in my hair. Had Norma not rescued me, I would still be there.

    Two years ago, the overgrown dirt road was fairly well defined but this time, it was much more overgrown. See first photo at left and compare it to the photo I took on July 21, 2007. Apparently, from lack of use, it is now returning to its natural state. But even after a few more years, it will still stand out (at least in satellite photos) since what was once a road will still be devoid of large trees.

    Along the way, we found several commercial signs that seem to have blown into the area. We also found a toilet which did not blow in. See second photo.

    Two deer were seen along with several deer tracks and deer scat. Just two weeks prior, I saw three deer run by our community trail. Today, we also saw what looked like little yellow tomatoes with dimples but they were actually fruit growing on the breyers. Seems like an unusual time of year for any plant to be growing fruit, except maybe holly.

    After a little more than half a mile, we came to a break in the breyers that took us east and to the big drainage area (third photo) just west of the Muvico building at Arundel Mills Mall. This large man-made pond has become a trash magnet. Plastic bottles blow or wash in and settle at the lowest point. After a few years, the sides of the pond become littered with debris. See fourth photo. Almost nobody sees it so no effort is made to keep it clean.

    We checked out the overflow device at the pond (fifth photo). The manhole cover on it was missing so I climbed up and took a look inside to see how the excess water gets diverted to the Chesapeake Bay. See sixth photo.

    Just southwest of route 100, we began to see evidence of recent beaver activity. I don't remember seeing any of this before. See seventh photo at left and the photo at the top left corner of this page.

    The tunnel under route 100 was built in 1993, according to some lettering above the entrance. It is divided into two sides. The northwest side (left) is deeper and water flows through. The southeast side (right) is just damp so we were able to walk through without getting our shoes too wet. We saw raccoon prints in the wet sand.

    On the northeast side of route 100, there was some graffiti at the tunnel entrance. We saw an old shack on the northwest side of the creek along with more beaver activity. Though I didn't find a well defined old dirt road, I did find a break in the trees where a road might once have been.

    We trekked northeast to Dorsey Road (route 176). After crossing the road, the amount of beaver activity increased significantly. Large trees had been gnawed and several smaller ones had been chewed through.

    There was a pretty field just northeast of Dorsey Road between Piney Run and Airport 100 Way. Much of it was swampy. It seemed like a good place for beavers, frogs, and turtles to live.

    While Norma and I didn't see any land critters after the deer, we did manage to see some interesting plant and fungal life. See eighth, ninth, and tenth photos at left. We also saw a bird nest (eleventh photo).

    A break through some pine trees formed a trail that led to the east. We didn't explore it but probably will in the future.

    All the rain we had in the last few days made Piney Run a bit murky. See twelfth photo.

    I found a skull. Ed C. and Mike J. identified it as a white tailed deer. In the photos I took, I show it with my eight inch long Benchmade Emerson Spec War Model CQC 7 knife (my favorite knife) to indicate its size. See thirteenth and fourteenth photos.

    As Norma and I continued north, the amount of beaver activity increased even further. See the fifteenth and sixteenth photos. We saw areas in the ground that connected to various bodies of water. They appeared to be beaver trails. Then we saw a dam (seventeenth photo). The water on the upstream side was about 2.5 feet higher than the water on the downstream side. We weren't sure if it was made by beavers or if it was created naturally by a log jam. But after we walked a little further north (downstream), we noticed that almost all evidence of beaver activity came to an abrupt stop. The dam must have been their work! Upon closer examination, we did indeed see that several ends of branches that stuck out from the dam were gnawed. I expect we'll return to this place located at Anne Arundel County ADC map 6 F1 when it warms up to try and see this industrious rodent in action.

    A policeman saw us walking in the field but didn't say anything. I guess he just wanted to see if we were poaching.

    Norma and I walked back to the neighborhood along the paved roads then stopped in at Maiwand Kabob for a late lunch/early dinner. Good Afghan food at a reasonable price.

    After our little 3.5 mile hike, I learned a little more about our wood chewing friends by doing some on-line searching. According to Wikipedia - Beaver:
  • Beavers do not hibernate, but instead store sticks and logs underwater to feed on during the winter.
  • The American beaver's preferred food is the water-lily (Nuphar luteum), which bears a resemblance to a cabbage-stalk, and grows at the bottom of lakes and rivers.
  • They fell large mature trees, usually in strategic locations, to form the basis of a dam. They fell small trees, especially young second growth trees, for food.
  • They are crepuscular rather than nocturnal, which means they are active at dawn and dusk.
  • Beavers subsist chiefly on bark and twigs or the roots of water plants. They have also been known to eat grasses on the banks of rivers and streams.

  • It is always good to get out and experience nature. It is even better when it is so close to home. I can now brag to my fellow hikers that I have a beaver dam that is a mere one mile from my house.
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    Rachel Carson Greenway and Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park Trails
    After attending the January 4, 2009 Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church service, Norma and I met up with Todd and Bernadette for a short recon hike at the Rachel Carson Greenway and Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park Trails.

    I first learned about this nearby little gem on October 27, 2008. I was carpooling from a backpacking trip with Betty. We passed the trailhead and she pointed it out to me. I figured it would make for a nice winter hike when the days are short. Then when Todd told me he'd like to join me on a winter hike and Norma said she wanted to go to church, I knew the timing was right.

    We met a little before noon in slightly overcast weather. After Norma and I changed out of our church clothes, the four of us started walking north on the blue blazed Rachel Carson Greenway Trail. This dirt trail meandered on the east side of the Northwest Branch stream with Montgomery County homes to the right. See the first photo at left for the dam at the trailhead.

    A few squirrels were seen, some woodpeckers were heard, and a significant amount of beaver gnawed stumps were seen. But no beavers or dams were seen.

    The trail was a bit muddy but it was an easy walk with a nice view of the water.

    The place is a haven for dog walkers. There were an unusually large number of black dogs out that day.

    About a third of a mile east of Wheaton Regional Park, we stopped at a bridge over the stream (see second photo). Then we headed south on the Northwest Branch Trail which is more of a jeep trail than a hiker trail.

    On the southwest side of the dam, we posed for photos. See third and fourth photos.

    After our short 5.5 mile circuit hike, we went out for a late lunch/early dinner. We went to Tiffin which is an Indian restaurant that serves meat. Unfortunately, they were closed (we arrived between lunch and dinnertime) so we walked to the nearby Udupi Palace, a southern Indian vegetarian restaurant. Now anyone who knows me is probably shocked that I would lower myself to eat at a vegetarian restaurant. Well, you'll be equally shocked to learn that I really enjoyed the food. I still hate the vegetarian food that tries to imitate meat but this stuff wasn't trying to imitate anything. These are recipes that have been around for hundreds of years. It was tasty and satisfying.

    Perhaps 2009 will be a year of discovery. Only 4 days in and I've already met someone new (Bernadette), hiked on a new trail, and found a new good restaurant that serves food that I enjoy. It was a good way to start out the new year.
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