Hiking in California
For a trip report that includes some hikes in California, see December 26, 2011 to January 1, 2012.
Susquehanna State Park Revisited
The forecast for December 3, 2011 was to be sunny, dry, and cool. Excellent conditions for nice, sharp views from overlooks. So I contacted about 8 people to see if they would join me for a 9 or 12 mile Stony Man hike or a 7.5 mile White Oak Canyon hike. Nobody was interested or could make it. So I changed my bait at the last minute and got a bite. Instead, I proposed a shorter hike closer to home with a bike shuttle.
As recently as November 20, 2011, a mere two weeks ago, Norma, Janie, a few others, and I did a hike at Susquehanna State Park. But there was a good bit that we didn't see then so I though it would be good to see it today. So Norma and I met Janie and her husband Mark a little after 0900 at the Lapidum Boat Launch Facility, locking up our bikes. Actually Norma and I were early so I read some of the signs near the boat ramp which provided information about the Chesapeake Bay.
The Bay is fairly shallow. A person 6 feet tall could wade over 700,000 acres of the Bay without becoming completely submerged.
During the 1600s, wolves, elk, cougars and buffalo inhabited the Chesapeake Bay region.
Oysters were once so plentiful, they could filter the entire volume of Bay water - in a few days. This process now takes over a year.
True or false: The Chesapeake Bay is more polluted today than it was ten years ago.
FALSE - Years of hard work by citizens and government are paying off, but we still have a long way to go. The good news is sewage treatment has improved, the release of toxic chemicals by industry is down, acres of underwater Bay grasses are up; the population of bald eagles has rebounded; and rockfish are back.
True or false: Industrial pollution is the most serious problem for the Bay.
FALSE - Nutrient pollution, caused by the everyday activities of ordinary people - including the use of cars, fertilizer, pesticides, and toilets - is the major pollutant of the Bay.
So I guess it is good to piss in the woods...then you don't use a toilet.
We were curious about the average depth of the Bay.
The Bay is surprisingly shallow. Its average depth, including all tidal tributaries, is about 21 feet.
- from "Facts and Figures about the Bay" (a broken link as of 2017)
But exactly how much of the tributaries are included is a bit confusing. Another source said
Average depth of the bay is 46 feet (14 m) and the maximum depth is 208 feet (63 m).
- from Wikipedia - Chesapeake Bay
So much for the Bay. Next, we drove to Conowingo Dam (first photo) to commence our hike which is a modification of both the Mid-Atlantic Hikes: Susquehanna State Park route along with an exploratory walk I did 6 years ago at the park.
Before the four of us actually started, we checked out the area immediately downstream of the dam. It is known for having a huge bald eagle population. The numerous birders with their spotting scopes, huge camera lenses, and expensive cameras certainly supported this claim. We saw a few of these and other large birds on the power line supports that span the mighty Susquehanna River just downstream of the dam. See second photo. There were also a couple in the trees overhead (third photo) and on the boulders (fourth photo). I saw a juvenile eagle snatch a fish out of the water, only to lose it a second later. Numerous vultures were also present.
Conowingo is truly indeed an eagle-lover's paradise.
During the 20th century bald eagle populations have declined due to shooting, habitat loss, and pollution. However, recent measures to protect the species have begun to take effect, and the bald eagle is making a comeback.
Today, the Susquehanna River serves as one of Maryland's major concentration areas for the bald eagle. Eagles are attracted to the river by the abundance of fish upon which they feed. As many as 250 eagles have been counted along the Susquehanna River and at Aberdeen Proving Ground during the winter, with lesser numbers occurring at other seasons of the year.
The abundant forest cover paralleling the Susquehanna River provides excellent nesting opportunities for bald eagles. The eagles normally build their nests 80-100 feet above the ground in mature trees such as tulip poplars and oaks.
The massive nests, built of large sticks and plants, are often used year after year, growing to 6-8 feet in width and as much as 10 feet in depth.
A long-time birder came by and spoke to us. He pointed out a heron rookery directly across the river in Cecil County. The numerous black dots in the trees were heron nests! See fifth photo. I thought of how I could get to them. While I could indeed launch a kayak from the Conowingo Dam boat launch, it would be very difficult to fight the downstream current and get to the rookery unless the water was low and the dam was not releasing. But perhaps I could get there on foot from the other side. Studying satellite photos, it looks like I could park on the side of the road near where Susquehanna River Road (route 222) and Moore Road meet (see Cecil County ADC map 2 D12). Then I could walk under the power lines to the water then turn right to walk upstream along the shore. Yeah, I think I'll check this out in the spring and maybe also look to see if there is a launch site off Moore Road to access Octoraro Creek, just a tenth of a mile from this location.
The old birder also told us about the fairly new Conowingo Visitor Center on the upstream side of the dam on the Harford County side. I definitely want to check that out.
After getting our fill of eagles, we started hiking southeast on the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail which some maps show as being part of the Mason Dixon Trail. This is an extremely flat, wide route with an occassional boardwalk (sixth photo). We were told to look for an eagle nest at the third trail marker but we didn't find it.
If I had to do this route again, I might want to go the other direction. In the winter, the sun is low and to the south so we were walking into it. But the nice thing about starting where we did was not having to pay a fee (there is a fee at Lapidum) and being able to use my binoculars then stow them in the car once I was done.
A trail sign informed us of the origin of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail.
The small quarry openings seen in the valley walls were for stone used in the construction of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal in the 1830's. The canal towpath, which now serves as this trail, was used as a roadbed for a railroad to transport materials for construction of the Conowingo Dam in the 1920's.
After a little under 2 miles, we were walking on some of the same trail we walked on November 20, though nobody seemed to notice until were were back at the Stafford Flint Furnace.
We crossed over Deer Creek, walked up the elusive Trail Spur #2, climbed up Deer Creek Trail, then headed southeast on Susquehanna Ridge Trail. The Susquehanna Ridge Trail is nice because, as the name implies, one walks along a ridge with some spotty views of the river below. But there really isn't any vista to get an unobstructed view. Just too many trees.
At Trail Spur #4, we headed west for a tenth of a mile then had lunch at an old barn. See seventh photo. We investigated it along with the silo and a stone-wall building for animals mostly made of hand hewn logs (eighth photo). There was some rather artistic graffiti on some of the wood. It was here that we got to see some more interesting birds. Janie and I heard what we thought were woodpeckers but they ended up being bluebirds that were pecking into branches aligned horizontally. Then Norma spotted a vibrantly red male cardinal. See ninth photo.
Back on the Susquehanna Ridge Trail, we crossed Rock Run, walked northeast on Rock Run Road, then stopped at the Archer House Mansion and the Carriage Barn. Following the driveway to the mansion led us to a big parking lot and the trailhead for the Land of Promise Trail.
Walking on the Land of Promise Trail took us to the Steppingstone Museum. Actually, it was supposed to take us near it but I made a wrong turn and instead we ended up at the museum, which wasn't a bad thing. The place was pretty busy and there was a lot to see. We had limited time so we didn't stay for long but I am sure that Norma and I will return with our parents who will certainly appreciate the old relics.
Tenth photo: Walking to the museum.
Eleventh photo: Cooper shop. Looking at the photo, can you guess what a cooper makes? If you said iPods, you are wrong.
Twelfth photo: Tool shop. If they had a 12" DeWalt double-bevel compound sliding miter saw, they wouldn't need so many hand saws.
Walking to where the museum driveway meets Quaker Bottom Road, we picked up the Land of Promise Trail again and followed it east, back to the Susquehanna Ridge Trail. It was only the last quarter mile that had unobstructed scenic views. We could see the river, some islands, and the town of Port Deposit in Cecil County just as clear as day. Norma spotted another male cardinal.
We unlocked the bikes then rode back on Stafford Road and Shuresville Road back to our cars. It was a little more hilly than we remembered on the drive over.
Our 6.5 mile hike and 7 mile bike ride was over at 1510. It was a nice, short, interesting, and scenic day. I was glad to spend some time with Janie and Mark, get outside, and see something new.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Scouting in Garrett County
For a trip report that includes a short walk on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath and a walk on a trout fisherman trail along the Youghiogheny River in Garrett County, Maryland over the Thanksgiving break, see November 24-27, 2011.
Susquehanna State Park
Norma asked me to organize a hike for her and a few of her co-workers. I planned to invite a few of mine too. We tried to sign up for the November 20, 2011 The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group: Eagle Spotting, River Trails, and Dam - Susquehanna State Park hike but it was full. So we put our names on the waiting list but by November 17, there were still not enough openings to accommodate us all. Hence, we decided that it would be best for me to organize a hike just for us.
At 1000, Norma, Janie, John J. (Janie's office-mate), Carolyn (Norma's intern), Stacy, and I met at the parking lot next to Rock Run Mill. Stacy doesn't work with either of us but she really rocks so we decided to invite her.
The route that I chose was taken from Mid-Atlantic Hikes: Susquehanna State Park. I had never done this route but I had hiked a bit in Susquehanna State Park about 6 years ago. Stacy, on the other hand, had done the Mid-Atlantic Hikes route not quite so long ago. Between the two of us, I was certain we could figure it all out. We were both armed with the Susquehanna State Park Trail Guide, which I highly recommend if you try this route.
When I was reading about the hike, I noticed lots of interesting information so I put together some facts to deciminate to my fellow hikers. I started by telling them about the mill.
The Rock Run [Grist] Mill was built by John Stump and in operation by 1800.
Following his death in 1816, the Mill and surrounding lands passed into the Archer family by way of Stump's daughter Ann who married Dr. John Archer Jr.
The mill was operational until 1954.
The Maryland Department of Forest and Parks bought the land 6 years later and after renovations, the Mill was again operational for public demonstrations in 1965.
On a more interesting note, I learned that
Due to the combustibility of the flour dust, milling was done in daylight hours to ensure the dust did not come in contact with candle flame.
- from Self Guided Walking Tour of Rock Run Historic Area
Just west of the mill (across Stafford Road) and up the hill were various structures within view. Nearest us was the Spring House.
Constructed between 1801 and 1804, the main purpose of the spring house was to provide drinking water for the Rock Run Mansion. Because refrigeration as we know it did not exist, the spring house also served as cold storage for foods that spoil easily. Perishable items were placed in sealed containers and submerged in the 50įF water. Although this water isnít as cold as our refrigerators, it served itís purpose in extending the life of the items.
- from Self Guided Walking Tour of Rock Run Historic Area
At about 1015, we started walking northwest on some old railroad tracks. To our right, near the Rock Run Road and Stafford Road intersection, layed the Toll House.
In 1808, the first bridge to span the Susquehanna River in Maryland was proposed and construction began in 1817. With the construction of a new bridge came tolls. The Toll House was constructed for the toll keeper as a residence and location to
collect the tolls from bridge travelers. The bridge was washed away in 1856.
- from Self Guided Walking Tour of Rock Run Historic Area
As we continued heading northwest along the train tracks, we noticed a ditch separating us from Stafford Road. This was the Susquehanna Tidewater Canal.
This relatively insignificant ditch represents the remnants of the once important Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal which extended from Havre de Grace, MD to Wrightsville, PA, a distance of 45 miles. Upon initial operation in 1840, the canal was 15-20 feet wide with a depth of 6-12 feet. The canal was built with 29 locks which raised the water level from 20 feet at Havre de Grace to 1000 feet above sea level at Wrightsville.
A boat progressing up river would be pulled into a lock by mule teams of three or four. The gates behind the boat would be closed and water allowed to rise until it reached the required depth. This process was repeated 29 times during the voyage. In 1889, a flood did so much damage to the canal that it was put out of business for several weeks. From that date on, the operation company suffered a financial decline. In the early 1900ís, this once flourishing trade route faded into history.
- from Self Guided Walking Tour of Rock Run Historic Area
I didn't find any information about the tracks but I am guessing they were built after the Tidewater Canal ceased operation. Perhaps like the C&O Towpath, the canal was made obsolete by the railroad. The level, solid terrain needed by the mule teams would have also made good rail land so maybe the transition from towpath to train track
was a natural one.
Stacy identified chickadees and made bird calls to attract them. I spotted a woodpecker.
The morning started out sunny but soon into our hike, it became overcast. The forecast via National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) read as follows:
Mostly cloudy, with a high near 63. West wind between 6 and 9 mph.
There was a significant amount of beaver-chewed wood along our path. Some were small 2-inch diameter stumps while others were 12-inch diameter trees that had only been partially chewed. See Stacy and Carolyn in the first photo. We saw no lodges or dams. Nor did it look like there was anyplace in the immediate area that a beaver would want to construct such an abode. So why then did the beavers chew on trees in this area?
Well, beavers, also known as part of the rodent family, have two sharp front teeth, and like all rodents, those teeth never stop growing, thus, showing that when they get overgrown, they will start to curve, causing the beaver pain, so what the beaver does is remarkable, they chew wood, so their teeth are rubbed down!
Why Do Beavers Chew Wood?
The next question is "Do beavers actually eat wood?"
Beavers are vegetarians (herbivores). They donít eat any meat. The prefer to eat herbaceous plants, such as clover, raspberry canes and aquatic plants. They also enjoy eating bark, leaves and twigs of aspen and willow trees. Beavers also eat all sorts of grasses. The American beavers favorite food is the water lily.
- from What Do Beavers Eat?
Not quite being satisfied with that answer, I continued my research.
...it depends on what your definition of wood is. Let's take an aspen branch for example. The beavers absolutely love the leaves, small twigs, and bark. But as soon as the twigs get to the diameter of a baby pinky finger the beaver starts to peel the bark off, leaving the white twig behind...So the answer is more or less no, they don't eat wood. This makes sense when one looks at what food value wood has to a beaver. The wood is mostly indigestible cellulose bound together with lignin. Great fare if you're a termite, but not so much if you're a beaver who has trouble digesting cellulose.
Are the leaves, twigs, and bark much better? Well yes they are. They contain most of the nutrients in the aspen branch and there is much less cellulose. Probably they taste better too, at least to a beaver. A beaver's stomach has lots of bacteria that help to digest their food but even so it's a tough job to digest coarse plant material. The first time through the digestive system produces a soft pellet which the beaver eats. A second digestion pass extracts more nutrients before the final pellet is produced.
- from Beaver BoardWalk Blog: Do Beavers Eat Wood?
Walking on the old railway was a little slow so we crossed through the Tidewater Canal (at a dry spot) and climbed up onto Stafford Road.
Soon we came to a foot bridge over Deer Creek. Back on October 28, 2007, Norma and I padded on an upstream part of the creek. Looking down from the bridge, it looked like the downstream section was just as scenic.
Deer Creek was once unique because it was the home to a very special animal.
The Maryland Darter is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered in Maryland, where it was last seen in a single small creek in Harford County. This is said to be the world's rarest fish (indeed, it may even be extinct), and it is Marylandís only endemic (found only there and nowhere else in the world) vertebrate...As the region was developed over the last three centuries, this [its] habitat was lost, and the fish is apparently unable to adapt to different habitat. The Wildlife and Heritage Division...is working on protecting the entire watershed of the Maryland Darterís last known home stream, Deer Creek.
- from "eNature.com - Maryland Darter" (a broken link as of 2018)
I looked around for more recent information about the Darter. I wanted to find something positive but I did not.
The elusive little fish, one of the rarest in the world, hasn't been seen in 21 years.
- from The Baltimore Sun - Search May Be Last For Md. Fish Not Seen In 2 Decades, October 16, 2009
After crossing over the creek, we walked northwest on the Alternate Greenways Route. At one point, we were able to see Conowingo Dam off in the distance. If we were to continue north on the Alternate Greenways Route then continue on the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail, then in about 2 miles, it would end less than a half mile south of the dam. This dam releases fresh water from the mighty Susquehanna. As the mercury drops, fresh water freezes faster than salt water. However,
the water passing through the turbines [of the dam] creates an ice-free spot even in the coldest winter.
As a result, the area around the dam
is the best public place in Maryland to see bald eagles
in winter since they are
attracted by the large numbers of fish and the ice-free fishing opportunities. The colder the winter, the more birds you're likely to see.
- from Hiking, Cycling, and Canoeing in Maryland by Bryan MacKay
Just before turning west onto the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail, we turned to say a temporary good=bye to the Susquehanna which had accompanied us up to this point. It seemed only fitting to say a few words about it before continuing. The Susquehanna River is
the largest river on the Atlantic Coast of the United States. In terms...of freshwater discharge, it is larger than the Connecticut (the second largest) and the Hudson (the third) combined.
- from Exploring the Chesapeake in Small Boats by John Page Williams, Jr.
How is this river defined? Looking at a map, it seems obvious where the river ends and the Chesapeake Bay begins. But
The Indians, without meaning to, played a trick on us when they decided that the big river should have one name, Susquehanna, while the estuary down below it should have another, Chesapeake. Their brethren on the Potomac did not make the same distinction, giving that river the same name all the way from its source in the mountains down to where it joins the Bay.
- from Exploring the Chesapeake in Small Boats
As it turns out, the Susquehanna River and what we now call the Chesapeake Bay did once follow an indistinguishable path. At
the end of the last ice age, some 15,000 years ago...[the] sea level was about 100 meters (330 feet) lower than it is today. The coastline was out near the continental shelf, and the mouth of the Susquehanna was at what today we call Norfolk Canyon, a groove on the continental shelf off the Virginia Capes.
- from Exploring the Chesapeake in Small Boats
Near our westernmost point on the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail, we came to the Stafford Flint Furnace on our left. See second photo.
Not only was the furnace one of the area's first structures, it's all that remains of the once thriving town of Stafford, established in 1749 and destroyed by an ice gorge in 1904.
The Stafford Flint Furnace was built from granite, stone and brick. It's 30 feet high, and the upper section is made of brick and shaped like a beehive. Centuries ago, white flint was quarried north of Stafford and brought to the furnace by wagons or canal. Then it was layered with wood and set afire, the heat driving the water out of the flint, reducing it to pebbles. These remnants were then ground into a fine powder, washed, bagged and sent by canal to Trenton, N.J., where it was used to make porcelain pots, pans and china, according to the Historical Society of Harford County.
- from In the Shade
At a little information sign with photos showing various local raptors, Stacy told us a little about each. I filled in with my limited experience working as an animal care assistant with owls, eagles, vultures, and hawks at what was once the Sacramento Science Center.
The six of us crossed over Deer Creek again on an upstream section. Still quite scenic (third photo). If it had a voice, it would have been calling me, telling me to return in the spring to paddle on it. Perhaps Norma, Stacy, and Janie will join me.
Looking back, we had a different view of the furnace. See fourth photo.
headed southwest on Deer Creek Trail, gradually gaining elevation. Off to the right, we saw a huge American Beech tree. Unfortunately, its days may be numbered as it has suffered from decades of graffitti being carved into its smooth bark. A most impressive sight, I am guessing it was well over 100 years old. See John with the beech in the fifth photo.
A little further ahead, we spotted another impressive sight...a giant white oak. Here were stopped for lunch just after noon. We took a direct overgrown route to it but had we stayed on the trail, we would have seen a side trail off to the left marked by a sign leading us to the tree (sixth photo).
The White Oak is the Maryland state tree. It is a hardwood tree, valued for its strong wood and attractive grain. This tree began growing from an acorn around the time of the Revolutionary War. It has survived the hazards of nature and man for over 200 years.
- from sign in park
In comparison, the Wye Oak in Talbot County was a 500 year old white oak.
- from Maryland State Tree
During lunch, I told a joke about a woodpecker, a beech tree, and a birch tree. Up to now, we had seen the first two and before the hike ended we would see a birch. So it was fitting. If you see me in person, maybe I'll tell the joke to you.
A lot of work has been done on the trail in the recent past. New signs made confusing intersections much more clear.
Janie found some osage orange (hedge apple) fruit on the ground. I cut one open. It smelled like a citrus fruit.
After a short jaunt on a trail spur, we headed southeast on Farm Road Trail. This took us past a big field. I was certain we would see some deer frolicking abuot but we did not. Perhaps it was too midday-ish for them. But Stacy did spot some bluebirds (seventh photo).
Eventually, we headed west then south on Ivy Branch Trail. I got a little confused with the trail directions around the maintenance complex but Stacy kept me on track.
After crossing Wilkinson Road, we continued south then east on Ivy Branch Trail. This led us to Farm Road Trail once again. This is where things got confusing. My Susquehanna State Park Trail Guide doesn't quite show high enough resolution to indicate what goes on at this trail junction and the notes on "Mid-Atlantic Hikes: Susquehanna State Park" weren't clear. In short, at this three-way intersection, we turned left when we should have gone right. Both Stacy and I thought left was correct while John suggested we go right. But he was out-voted so we went left. This is what happens when you put two former Marines in charge of navigation.
This led us to a road. We thought it was Rock Run Road. Here, Janie and John decided to take the short, paved route back to the car while the rest of us would complete the 8.7 mile circuit. I told them to head to the left and make the first right to get back to the start. Norma, Stacy, Carolyn, and I crossed the road and continued on the other side. But after awhile, I noticed that our route was not matching the terrain features on the map. I stopped to check and realized that instead of crossing Rock Run Road, we crossed Wilkinson Road and were heading north instead of south. I called Janie to tell them to turn around while the rest of us headed back. We ended up meeting each other where the trail meets the road.
At this point, we decided to call it quits and all walk back on the paved road. We had seen what I thought were the highlights of the trip. Though we didn't walk on the Susquehanna Ridge Trail, I figured that maybe we could do that and the rest of the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenways Trail on another day...possibly a one-way with a bicycle or car shuttle.
The six of us walked back to the start on Wilkinson Road and Rock Run Road. Along the way, we passed the Mill Dam (eighth photo) which diverted water into the Mill Race.
In order for the water released from the Mill Pond to reach the Mill itself, a ďraceĒ was constructed to control the water flow to the target location.
The Mill Race is a man-made stream that allows the water to flow from the dam through the culvert at the driveway to the Mansion onto a large dip in the lawn. This 'dip' is known as the holding pond. The water from the Mill Race accumulates in the holding pond [(ninth photo)] then travels through the forebay (iron pipe) and exits onto the wheelís buckets, turning the wheel.
- from Self Guided Walking Tour of Rock Run Historic Area
We got a chance to see the Archer House Mansion (tenth photo) and the Carriage Barn up close. The latter was turned into a restroom.
Though we couldn't see them, I felt it was essential to mention two key features to our south. The first was Garrett Island which lay at the mouth of the river, about 3.5 miles downstream of us. The below-the-surface geography in this area is particularly interesting. The tidal (lower portion) of the Susquehanna
is a mile wide, and in one place it is over 80 feet deep...on the back side of Garrett Island near Perryville. Just below Garrett Island, the Susquehanna opens out onto the flats, and its currents slow down. Centuries of riverborne sediments have collected here, so that the depth goes from 50 feet to only 2 feet in a mile.
This area is prone to drastic changes in water levels as
a major storm is capable of making the water rise over 20 feet.
- from Exploring the Chesapeake in Small Boats
The other feature is the town of Havre de Grace. Not only is this a quaint and scenic little tourist attraction but it is also the city that physically marks the modern-day transition between Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. How and when did it start?
During the Revolutionary War the small hamlet known as Harmer's Town was visited several times by General Lafayette, who commented that the area reminded him of the French seaport of Le Havre, which had originally been named Le Havre-de-Gr‚ce. Inspired by Lafayette's comments, the town was incorporated as Havre de Grace in 1785.
- from Wikipedia - Havre de Grace
We finished our 8 mile hike a little after 1515 back at the mill (eleventh photo). I gave the group a little quiz based on the information I relayed to them and they passed with flying colors. Stacy gave me a quiz on the bird calls she pointed out and I failed miserably. I guess I talk better than I listen.
Janie, Stacy, and John said their farewells while Norma, Carolyn, and I headed into Havre de Grace. We at at the Tidewater Grille. We found it easy to get nice water view seating with the Ravens football game in progress. Folks wanted to be closer to the television at the bar.
We walked through the historic district where we saw lots of old buildings, nice homes, and a Mississippi river boat (twelfth photo). Then we drove to Tydings Park and Promenade where we strolled along the boardwalk and saw the Concord Point Lighthouse. There were a few drops of rain but that was it. I was last in this area on September 13, 2008 for kayaking.
At the end of our full day, Norma and I drove Carolyn to the Metro station and wished her a happy rest-of-the-evening. We originally planned to head out to Annapolis but decided that should wait for another time.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
American Chestnut Land Trust
After completing a nice November 5, 2011 hike with the The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group, I decided to sign up for another event.
Thus, I signed up for the American Chestnut Land Trust: North Tract hike. I figured it would be good to meet some good people with common interests that lived close to me. But it seems like members in this group tend to live closer to Washington D.C. There were two carpool sites: one in Washington D.C. and the other in Savage. I asked if anyone wanted to meet at the Savage location. Nobody replied but there were numerous replies for those wishing to catch a ride in D.C.
A whopping 30 people were signed up for this November 13, 2011 hike which was to be led by Kellie C. and Justin C. With such a big group, they definitely needed two leaders. But only Justin showed up. I never got word as to why Kellie could not attend. The original plan was to break everyone up into two groups with different paces/distances for each. But with one leader, this was no longer an option. Justin asked what distance we wanted to do: 3, 4, or 7. Folks said 4 or 7 so the plan was to do the 4 mile route and if anyone wanted to do the extra 3 miles, they could.
Hiking clubs and organizers do things differently. I am used to the Sierra Club or Mountain Club of Maryland structured leadership style. For these clubs, the leader
Introduces himself/herself and the event.
Tells us about the area (i.e. history, geography, mission, etc.).
Has everyone introduce himself/herself.
Takes a head count prior to the hike and at stops.
Designates a sweep.
This is what I do when I lead an event. It seemed a little unusual that much of this wasn't done on this hike but like I said, clubs and organizers do things differently.
I never knew how many people were actually on the hike and I only knew the names of 4 people: Justin (the leader), Andy M. (who I already knew), George, and another Andy. George brought the biggest Doberman I'd ever seen in my life (Blitz is his name). I thought Blitz was part Great Dane because he was so big. But he seemed like a loveable dog. Andy introduced himself to me. He's a very friendly guy who's done lots of hiking in interesting places like New Zealand, Nepal, and South America.
I've participated in lots of outdoor club events and generally, I see a large number of the same faces. But out of 20-something people, Andy M. was the only familiar face. Around new people, the statistician in me kicks in. I look at demographics. This group seemed about equal in terms of men and women. I find this generally true of the easier hikes with much fewer women for the longer hikes. But what I found most curious was the racial distribution. Even though most of the participants were from the Washington D.C. area, the racial mix did not reflect the Washington D.C. area at all. I wonder why that is.
We started our 1000 hike at 1015.
There was what appeared to be a small farm or a community garden (first photo) near the trailhead. I also spotted what I think was a bee apiary.
As the name of the hike implies, I expected to see numerous American chestnut trees. But I saw none. I saw no chestnut trees period. I asked Andy M. to point out any that he saw but he did not find any either. He's quite observant and knowledgeable about anything ourdoorsy so if there were any to be seen, he would have noticed.
We walked on Turkey Trail, Parkers Creek Trail, Bridge Spur, and Double Oak Lane.
The hike took us near Parkers Creek which on the map looked like it might be an interesting place to paddle. See second and third photos. The map at the trailhead (see fourth photo) indicated that there was a launch site but it didn't show a road that connected to it. The creek flows into the Chesapeake Bay but I know of no place to launch nearby on the bay so I'm not sure how I would get there without a long portage. Still, it seemed like it might be an interesting place to explore:
Parkers Creek is unique; within its 2.5 mile length and 7000 acre watershed it is the whole Chesapeake Bay in miniature. It is also one of the last pristine creeks on the western shore of Maryland. The creek drops 167 feet from its uplands to the bay. Its topography, hydrology, and geology vary so much, in such a short distance, that it provides distinctive habitats for a diverse variety of plants and animals. The American Chestnut Land Trust, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and The Nature Conservancy have permanently protected almost 3000 acres of this watershed.
- from land trust sign
If you want to explore the creek via kayak or to hike the south side trails,
Access to the lower areas of the Creek is possible through ACLT's guided canoe trips. For access to our south side trails go to Scientists Cliffs Road in Port Republic. Visit American Chestnut Land Trust, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 410-414-3400 for more information.
- from land trust sign
We passed an old uprooted tree that looked like it would have fit in at the Delaware Natural History Museum - Nature Inspired Art exhibit. See fifth photo.
I wore my Mid-Atlantic Hikes hat which was given to me by Mike J. I figured someone would ask about it since the club name (The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group) is so similar. Seems like it would be a good conversation starter. But nobody seemed to notice...at least they didn't comment.
The trails had signs at the intersections with some blazes on the trail but it was a little hard to follow with so many leaves on the ground. There were some views of Parker Creek but no vistas that I saw. The creek was narrow and marshy. It might be nice in the spring but in November, it didn't look particularly interesting.
There were lots of downed trees that volunteers cut through with chain saws. They obviously put a lot of work into maintaining those trails but clearly there was more work to be done.
As one would expect at this time of year, the fall colors were looking rather autumn-ish. See sixth and seventh photos.
By noon, we had completed the 4 mile section. I originally planned to stay for the 7 mile route but the event was not holding my attention so I left as did several other people. I thanked Justin for organizing this event then left. I think the place would be much prettier in the spring.
I saw no wildlife on this hike but I did see about 25 black vultures devouring a deer on the drive home. There were numerous deer roadkill (an unusually large number) but this was off the highway just enough so that they felt safe eating.
After I got home, I read a little about the American Chestnut Land Trust.
The namesake American chestnut tree has generated new seedlings, but most die after a few years. American chestnut tree
has been found nearby and has been flagged. This may be the best place to interpret the land trust name.
- from page 12 of the 105-page long Master Plan for Facilities and Interpretation
It sounds like there is only one American chestnut tree there. I was expecting to learn how the Trust is working to preserve and protect American chestnut trees but based on the information I found, it sounds like their purpose is much broader:
We promote land conservation throughout Calvert County, Maryland. We provide environmentally sustainable public access to our preserved properties for educational, scientific, recreational and cultural purposes. We protect the natural and cultural resources of the Parkers Creek and Governors Run watersheds for the benefit of this and future generations.
- from Mission Statement (broken link as of 2017)
So don't expect to see chestnut trees if you hike here.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Marys Rock and Buck Hollow
I was free on the November 5-6, 2011 weekend. The weather was good and Norma was out of the country. I figured I'd spend one day getting stuff done and use the other day for something fun outdoors. First, I checked with a couple of co-workers to see if they wanted to join me for a hike or a bike ride. Neither was interested. Then I looked to see what the various hiking groups were doing. The clubs I've hiked with previously were doing hikes that I've already done and I was wanted to do something new in the 9-13 mile range.
About a month ago, I joined The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group. This is a "meetup group." When I first heard this term, I thought it was a singles group but later I found out that it was just an organization for folks with similar interests. But it wasn't until I organized my August 13, 2011 lotus kayaking trip that I found out just how interesting some of their trips actually are. I did some web searching to find out where the lotus flowers are, when they bloom, and where I could launch my boat to see them. Google took me to The Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group and a very descriptive trip. As I often do for many of the trips I organize, I based some of my event on theirs. Except for the torrential thunderstorm that terminated my paddle early (read the trip report for details), everything worked out fine.
So now I had another club to consider as a source for hikes. This meetup group had a multitude of interesting hikes over the November 5-6 weekend. Unfortunately, like the Maryland Outdoor Club (MOC), members had to sign up and each event could only allow a limited number of participants. The rest of us would be put on a waiting list. As with the MOC, events fill up fast. So I put my name on several waiting lists, not expecting to get in. But much to my surprise, there was an opening for Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group - Marys Rock in Shenandoah National Park.
On the day of the hike, I drove all the way to the Savage MARC Station (just 3 miles from home) to meet the Baltimore carpoolers. This consisted of just me and Brian of Catonsville. Brian did a few events with the club so on the 2 hour drive to the trailhead, he told me about some of the previous group events he participated in. Based on his descriptions, I was really looking forward the hike.
We arrived at the Buck Hollow Trailhead at about 0935. The parking lot was near full.
I met Delmar, the hike leader. With a name like Delmar, I expected him to be from Delaware or Maryland. After all, if someone is named Tex, you'd expect them to be from Texas. But no, he was from SoCal (southern California). Go figure.
There were 14 people who committed to attending but only 8 showed up. This is a pet peeve of mine. There were a few people on the waiting list that might have been willing to come on this hike had there been an opening. For whatever reason, 6 people just decided not to show up. Hardly seems fair. But I was glad to see the bright and shining faces of the folks who did show up: Brian, Paul, Cass, Lina, Derrick, and Amy. Paul, Cass, Lina, and Derrick were from the Washington D.C. area so they carpooled in Paul's pimpin' set of wheels...a 2006 cherry red Ford Mustang. If I had known that and if I could have ridden shotgun, I might have been willing to drive to the Centerville Park and Ride to join them...just kidding...well maybe not.
We started our 1000 hike at 1025. Our starting elevation was about 1050 feet above sea level.
This is similar (maybe the same as) the route described in Mid-Atlantic Hikes - Marys Rock. Despite the almost identical names (Mid-Atlantic Hikes versus Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group), the two websites are two totally different animals. I think the former (run by Mike J.) came first. I wonder if the latter made use of the name recognition of the prior. If so, that was a smart move.
Early on, we encountered one moderately difficult stream crossing (see first photo) followed by lots of smaller ones. Nobody fell.
The first part was somewhat challenging with about 900 feet of elevation gain in about 0.75 mile heading southwest on Buck Ridge Trail.
There were some pretty fall colors. I could really appreciate them from the vistas. There wasn't a cloud in the sky so visibility was perfect. The air was a crisp 50-something degrees.
It is interesting how folks in hiking groups mention Old Rag so much. I suppose it is the Mecca for folks in the Mid-Atlantic area. Well then, I can brag that I've completed the pilgrimage three times!
We saw no interesting critters...not a one though Lina thought she saw a bear footprint in the snow. In some areas, there was a good bit of snow. See second photo.
If you use map 10 of the "Appalachian Trail and other Trails in Shenandoah National Park Central District," note that it doesn't quite show what to do when Buck Ridge Trail comes to a T. Make sure to turn right. This took us to the parking lot between mile 33 and 34 on Skyline Drive (in case you want to get to Marys Rock without hiking on the "Buck" trails) then to Meadow Spring Trail. After staying on this for awhile, we turned north on the Appalachian Trail. We passed an old stone chimney where we posed for a group photo (third photo). Why is it that whenever I want to take a group photo that includes me, I never have my camera tripod?
There were some good scrambling rocks and nice views of the valley to our northwest.
Fourth photo: Left to right: Paul, Delmar, and Cass take in an eyeful of scenery.
Fifth photo: A rocky view.
After several "It's just around the corner" remarks from Delmar, we finally came to Marys Rock and a crowd of about 20 people. But Paul, Delmar, Derrick, and I climbed and headed southwest to get away from everyone and eat our lunch in a more remote location. As it turns out, this also had some of the nicest views since we could see not just to our northwest but also to our southwest. This was the high point of our hike, both figuratively and literally.
Sixth photo: Looking west from Marys Rock.
Seventh photo: Northern view.
Ninth photo: Derrick sings "I'm on the top of the world looking down on creation..."
Tenth photo: Delmar and Paul with a view to the south.
Eleventh photo: Paul and Delmar with mountains on the southwest.
It was interesting seeing vultures flying below. We wondered if the ones flying above were waiting for one of us to fall and die.
I ate a chicken and salsa Meal-Ready-to-Eat (MRE) that was long past expiration.
Delmar and I flirted with...I mean spoke to a couple of women, one of which was a fellow Californian. Actually, I think they were flirting with him.
Before leaving Marys Rock, I just had to get at least one more group photo to prove we were there. I'm so used to balancing my camera on something then setting the timer that I forgot that there were two dozen people around me that I could simply ask to take our photo...that is until someone reminded me.
Twelfth photo: Left to right in the back: Amy, Lina, Derrick, Paul, me. Left to right in the front: Cass, Delmar, and Brian.
Thirteenth photo: Paul auditions for an Oh what a feeling, Toyota commercial. Lina, gives him a perfect score of 10.
I found a nice rock outcropping to practice my royal wave. See fourteenth photo.
On our return trip, we walked along Buck Hollow Trail. There were some lovely water views. See fifteenth and sixteenth photos. This was a fast and easy walk that was almost downhill the whole way.
Paul found a nice fallen tree over troubled waters to practice his yoga. See seventeenth photo. Next time, he promised to demonstrate an inverted reverse lotus headstand with a half twist.
We finished long before it started getting dark or cold...sometime around 1700. We hiked 9.63 miles and climbed a total of 2919 feet. Our maximum elevation was 3529 feet.
On absolutely no part of this hike are there any facilities. How the chicks managed to not pee this whole time is something I find impressive. Actually, did anyone pee besides me?
After the hike, Amy of La Plata, Brian, and I went to Sperryville and ate cheeseburgers (mine was a bacon cheeseburger) at Thornton River Grille. The last time I ate there was after a September 19, 2010 hike at Little Devil Stairs. The burger was good but not as good as Five Guys. As I often do, I tried to convince Brian and Amy to take up kayaking.
The drive home was a bit slow on route 29 but once we got to 66, we were cooking with gas. Brian is a good and safe driver. Sadly, he doesn't drive a cherry red Ford Mustang...at least not yet.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
Kumbrabow State Forest, Gaudineer, and Dolly Sods North
On Columbus Day weekend 2011, Norma and I did two short hikes on day two and one long one on day three. See October 8-10, 2011.
Swallow Falls State Park
On September 17, 2011, Norma's family hosted a bluegrass farm bash. They've done this previously with great success. This year, as in years prior, the event began with a potluck feast (first photo), music by Heaven's Gate, and a hay ride (second photo). However, unlike previous years, the weather for this event was quite cold. But that made us appreciate the bonfire all the more.
After the event, most of the folks that Norma and I invited went to Hazel's (Norma's mother) house where we pitched tents.
The next morning, we went out for breakfast at Denny's then did a short hike at Swallow Falls State Park. This walk is only about a mile long but it is probably one of the most scenic and family friendly walks in the state.
Norma and I were at the falls back with Hazel back on Christmas Day, 2008. We were also out there on August 8 or 9, 2009 for a little swim but I don't think I posted photos from that. But with today's chilly temperatures, nobody, not even Stacy dared to brave the water.
Norma led us on a wooded trail then down to the Youghiogheny River. We posed for a group photo at Tolliver Falls. From left to right in the third photo are Norma, Molson, Sylvia, Teresa, Stacy, Jergen, Finn (on Jergen's back), Terra, Bob, and Jenn.
There were plenty of rocks near Upper Swallow Falls (fourth photo) where one could walk out and get a great view of the river. See fifth and sixth photo.
I think the fact that our hike was so short made folks want to savor every moment, take in the sights, and listen to the rushing water. See seventh and eighth photos.
But the views along the water weren't the only nice ones. Some of the trail passed by big vertical rock walls (ninth photo).
As we neared the end of our walk, we came to Muddy Creek Falls, Maryland's highest free-flowing waterfall at 54 feet (some sources say 52 feet). See tenth and eleventh photos. This is not to be confused with Cunningham Falls, which is Maryland's highest cascading waterfall at 78 feet.
Having completed our little walk, we bid "auf Wiedersehen" then commenced a long drive home.
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Deer Isle, Maine
For a trip report of a week comprised of several short, easy, scenic walks in Maine, see August 29 to September 3, 2011.
Coopers Rock State Forest
After having biked 45 miles (see July 2, 2011 bicycling), Norma and I stopped in for a brief
visit at Coopers Rock State
Forest. We had limited time but wanted to check this place out
for a possible return visit. She had read good things about it in the
Highlands Voice - Hiking in Coopers Rock State Forest while I
heard similar reports from one of my rock climbing co-workers.
After stopping by the visitors center, we walked out to Coopers Rock Overlook. The view wasn't so
great...mainly because of all the haze and humidity. See first photo. I expect that if
we returned in October as the colors changed, things would be much
The rhododendron were in full bloom. See second photo.
There were several rock climbers in the area. They had a look about
them that made them stand out. Generally, they were young
(twenty-something), slim, and sometimes looked a little
Next, we walked on the blue blazed, one mile long Rock City Trail. This was a spectacular trail that led
us along steep, rugged rocks that jutted straight out of the ground
and towered over us like little skyscrapers. At first, I thought the
trail would lead us to the area called Rock City but instead, the whole area along the trail was the "city."
I saw about 5 climbers sitting around but nobody actually climbing.
It was probably too late in the day. I played around on the rocks,
being a climber "poser." I have no real climbing skills.
Third photo: Norma makes her way into Rock City.
Fourth photo: Me displaying my lack of climbing skills.
Fifth photo: This is about as far up as I'm willing to go.
picnic shelter, we walked back to the main road then to the car. Along the way, we saw some bright orange mushrooms. See sixth photo.
We would have loved to have spend more time there but it was getting
late. Hopefully, we will return, either when the humidity is lower or
in the winter to do some cross country skiing. I think the place has
lots to offer.
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Great Falls - Billy Goat Trail
After Norma and I showed Kina both Savage and Annapolis yesterday (June 17, 2011), we decided we should take her on a real hike today. It had to be interesting, nearby, and scenic. So what better place than the Billy Goat Trail?
We drove about an hour to Great Falls Visitor Center where we accessed the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath. From here, we walked south then west on the Olmsted Island Bridges which took us to the Great Falls Overlook.
Next, we walked south on the towpath to Bear Island where we picked up the Billy Goat Trail - Section A. This 1.7 mile rocky path gave us some nice views of the Potomac River and some kayakers (first photo). Across the river, in Virginia, we saw several rock climbers (second photo). There was some easy to moderate rock scrambling along the way that made it fun. See third photo. We saw couple of toads and a lizard (fourth photo) that was quite cooperative in posing for the camera.
All the big boulders sometimes made me feel like I was back west. See fifth and sixth photos. The three of us walked back on the towpath. In one of the pools to our left, we saw a northern water snake swimming and a black rat snake sunning itself (seventh photo). To our right, we saw numerous turtles (eighth photo).
The locks, towpath, canal, and small waterfalls alongside the locks were rather picturesque. See ninth photo.
Near the visitor center, volunteers in attire from the 1800s loaded people on a canal boat and took them through a lock. The boat was pulled by mules. See tenth photo.
Kina seemed to have a good time and we enjoyed having her with us...so much so that we'll be seeing her next weekend for kayaking.
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Savage Mill Trail
I enjoy showing far away visitors the sections of Maryland that I love. On June 17, 2011, I had the opportunity to do just that. Norma's intern, Kina, stayed with us for part of the weekend. After taking her out to eat at the Ram's Head - Savage (first photo), we went for a short walk on the Savage Mill Trail.
This trail lies just south of Savage Mill and across the Little Patuxent River. It is wide enough for a vehicle (which are not permitted) and almost completely shaded by the trees in the spring and summer. It is a favorite spot for many locals who want to go for a short walk/run and/or beat the heat by taking a dip. We walked down to one of its beaches and saw fish, numerous tadpoles, and a crayfish. A little further down, we walked down to a rocky area that is a popular swimming hole. I'm not sure exactly how deep it is since I've never swum in it but I think it is probably the deepest section for miles around on the river. Unlike much of the area, there are a significant number of large, exposed rocks, that provide for some dramatic views.
Second photo: Kina and Norma on the river beach.
Third photo: Rocky area near the swimming hole.
Fourth photo: The potential start of Kina's modeling career. I think she looks like a young version of Kirsten Dunst.
After our walk, we headed out to Annapolis where we walked around the City Dock area and the Naval Academy. We rode a water taxi, stopped in at Middleton Tavern which dates back to 1750, then walked by the Maryland State House.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
For a trip report of a short 4.5 mile hike on the Loblolly Trail in Trap Pond State Park, see May 21, 2011.
For a trip report of a day hike in the German Alps near the Austrian border, see May 13, 2011 (Friday the 13th).
Overall Run Loop
On the days leading up to Saturday, March 12, 2011, there was a considerable amount of rain. Kayaking on a normally low stream was an option but it was expected to be a bit cold on Saturday. Hence, Norma and I chose to go hiking and see some of the waterfalls of the Shenandoah area. After last week's short hikes, it would be good to get out and get some real exercise. So I packed my Map 9: Appalachian Trail and other trails in Shenandoah National Park North District map and we left Savage on a cool but sunny morning at 0720.
It took a little over 2 hours to get from our home to Thompson Hollow Trail/Overall Run. I was prepared to show my Shenandoah National Park annual pass but this was not needed as there was no entrance fee. We simply parked on a widened side of a road that had space for about 4 vehicles. From here, it was 0.18 miles to the trail head.
All the rain meant we were walking in a small stream. Surely the falls would be packed to the gills with water. But so were the streams which meant many difficult stream crossings. See first photo.
We followed Thompson Hollow Trail south until we got to Overall Run Trail. On some maps, it is also labeled Big Blue or Tuscarora Trail. From here, we headed clockwise, paralleling Overall Run.
After 3.1 miles, we came to the 93 foot Overall Run Falls which has the highest drop of all the waterfalls in Shenandoah National Park. As expected, it was really flowing. The view was spectacular.
Second photo: Me at the first vantage point.
Third photo: Second vantage point.
Fourth photo: Resting my legs after a good bit of uphill walking.
But the falls weren't the only thing worth seeing. The valley below, which was illuminated by the morning sun, was also impressive. See fifth and sixth photos. Mere pictures couldn't do either justice...unless your name is Ansel Adams.
Continuing our climb, we saw smaller falls just below the trail. So we ventured off the path (yes, I know we aren't supposed to do that), to get a better view. This was a good choice as these views were also quite impressive. The cold, clean flowing water down the rocky face reminded me of the Coors commercials from the early 1980s.
Seventh photo: Doesn't Norma look refreshing?
Eighth photo: Can't quite get you in the photo...take 2 steps back.
Ninth photo: These trees make a good window.
Tenth photo: A view from our lunch stop, a bit further up the trail.
It was here that we finally started to see other people. Being the only ones in such a beautiful place is a neat feeling but it would also be a shame knowing that nobody else is out enjoying the nice views and sunny weather. So yes, there were others out and about but not so many as to detract from the scenery. I figured we only saw 8 other hikers all day, 6 of which were within the first third of the hike.
Eventually, we came to the top and crossed over the stream. It was here that the landscape changed. The fresh flowing water was no more. It was still winter so the trees were mostly bare and there was no wildlife anywhere to be seen. The next few miles on Weddlewood Trail and Heiskell Hollow Trail was mostly uninteresting by comparison to the falls.
There were several large downed trees. This wasn't recent. I'm guessing they fell during the Thanksgiving 2006 blizzard which took me to the area on January 6, 2007 to do some volunteer trail maintenance. The amount of damage was severe. I'm sure it took many people hundreds of hours to clear the trails. We were thankful for their hard work. See eleventh photo.
No snow was to be seen. But there was some ice. One particularly large chunk (which I called a small glacier) prompted Norma to investigate. She was not able to determine why such a large block of ice remained where no others were present. See twelfth photo.
We crossed East Fork. This is where things got confusing. As with some of the previous crossings, we hopped across rocks and walked across slippery logs. See thirteenth and fourteenth photos. To do so on this stream, we had to walk a good ways upstream to find a suitable place. Then, after making is to the other side, we got back on the trail. Walking a little further, we came to a junction with trail name markings. It didn't make sense. It indicated that the place we just came from (Heiskell Hollow Trail - east/west) was where we wanted to go (Heiskell Hollow Trail - north). After heading west for a bit and realizing that the stream paralleled the trail, we decided that our last stream crossing was actually a good bit away from the trail where we initially left it and that this junction was really a totally different part of the trail and another stream crossing. So we crossed and continued north, eventually catching Beecher-Overall Connecting Trail.
At another stream crossing, we lost signs of the trail. No blazes to be seen. Again, we had to walk for awhile before we found a suitable crossing. Then we had to find the trail. Eventually we did. Looking south, we saw the blazes but they could not be seen when heading north across the stream. We lost some time on that one too.
I am surprised that neither of us fell in any water. In fact, we managed to do most of it without any help from the other. A few times, Norma showed me a good place to cross that I failed to see and once, I gave her a hand when the jump was just a little too far. See fifteenth photo.
Soon we came back to Overall Run Trail. Walking uphill, along side of it, we saw some interesting vegetation. It was a tree whose flowers looked like hanging yellow caterpillars. See sixteenth photo.
Just a tenth of a mile west of the Thompson Hollow Trail intersection, we saw the 8 foot deep swimming hole we read about in Mike J.'s web page. But it was a bit cold for swimming. See seventeenth photo.
Heading back on Thompson Hollow Trail, we noticed that there wasn't as much water flowing down it as there was in the morning. So maybe there wasn't as much water flowing down the falls either. And maybe we saw it at the ideal time...or maybe not.
We finished our 11.65 mile hike at 1715, after 7.5 hours. It was an easy pace with lots of sights that couldn't be rushed, difficult stream crossings (more than I could remember...perhaps 8), and a few confusing spots. I'm glad we started when we did.
On the way back, maybe 0.8 miles north on route 340, we passed the turnoff to Shenandoah River State Park which we visited on September 28, 2008.
About 4 miles north of the road to the state park, we turned west on a small road that led to a boat launch. This was on the north side of the mouth of Gooney Creek/Run where it flows into the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. Gooney Creek was calm and narrow while the mighty south fork was really moving and wide. There was some whitewater too though I couldn't tell how difficult it was. Perhaps I'll return with my boat. Maybe I'll spend the night at Gooney Creek Campground which is right near the launch site.
Norma and I explored the town of Front Royal, Virginia for a bit then ate dinner at the Main Street Mill Restaurant and Pub on 500 East Main Street. She had the cod and I had the BBQ sampler, both of which were good. Then we finished it off with a strawberry cheesecake, which was quite fattening and flavorful. But after all our walking, scrambling, and stream crossings, I figured we deserved it.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.
For a trip report of some short walks in Blackwater Falls State Park with lots of scenic views, see March 4-6, 2011.