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Hiking Adventures 2014


Last updated September 1, 2014


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Norway
On August 25, 2014, Norma, Carmen, and I did a hike to Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) in Norway.




Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
The original plan was to take some friends on a kayak car shuttle trip from Carrs Wharf to Galesville with a stop at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) for a hike. But I wasn't able to get any of my invitees to join us so Norma and I slept in and then ditched the kayak plan. Instead, we would just explore the SERC trails.

Looking back, I think this was a good choice. The most interesting places to paddle would have been the creeks on SERC property. This would have been most easily accomplished at high tide but low tide that day (July 12, 2014) was at 1201, which is when we would have been there. I figured we'd check those out another day when the water was high and dedicate today for exploring on land.

The forecast called for a high of 85 degrees and sunny. This was pretty accurate but it turned out to be much more humid than I expected.

We arrived at the Philip D. Reed Education Center at the SERC and checked out the visitor center. It was open but there was nobody there. The person that works there was out leading a canoe trip. They had quite a few things on display including a large aquarium with fish and a smaller one with a turtle. See first photo.

We checked out their open-to-the-public boat ramp (second photo) which overlooked Big Island. There were various science and environmental displays along with research projects. One of the displays was a "green roof" to help reduce runoff. See third photo.

Norma and I walked along the shore of the Rhode River on the Java History Trail. Judging by the signs, we were starting at the end. We walked across the marsh boardwalk (fourth photo) and to the Connection Trail. Lots of dragonflies were out, including an Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) shown in the fifth photo. There were also lots of deer flies out and they were quite a nuisance. I wore a thin Under Armour, long sleeved shirt sprayed with permethrin but this chemical did not deter them and they bit through the Under Armour as if it were nothing. Fortunately, once we got away from the water or in a place with a slight breeze, they left us alone.

We continued across the marsh walkway (sixth photo) to Hog Island and saw the mouth of Muddy Creek. Then we hiked north on the Discovery Trail to the multitude of SERC buildings. From here, we walked east along Contees Wharf Road and then caught the west side of the Java History Trail at the stop sign. This led us to the Tobacco Barn. See seventh photo.
The Java plantation flourished because of tobacco, but not without cost. This plant quickly depletes the nutrients in the soil. To solve this problem, early settlers simply cleared more land for planting. In the first two centuries of European settlement in Maryland, virtually all trees had been cut down.
Growing tobacco was hard work. Working with a hoe was tedious, but disturbed the soil to a minimal depth. The plow, invented in the 1790s made the process easier, but disturbed the soil to a greater degree. This disturbance, combined with the loss of trees which hold the soil, greatly increased the erosion of soil into creeks and rivers from precolonial times.

- from information sign

I suspect much of this erosion is largely to blame for the Patuxent River being so shallow in sections where military ships sailed during the War of 1812.

Speaking of the War of 1812,
...American naval officers were rewarded by Congress for capturing British ships. John Contee served as an officer on the USS Constitution when it captured the HMS Java. According to legend, it was with this bounty money that Contee bought this property and named it "Java."
- from information sign

Along the trail, a primitive Native American-style campsite was set up.
For over 2000 years, the Mattaponi, the Piscataway, and the Choptank people shared this area. These Native American cousins hunted and fished in the Rhode River area. A Piscataway campsite, representative of all three groups, has been reconstructed to show how these people may have lived.
- from information sign

We walked about 3.5 miles.

Back at the visitor center, I spoke to the person there who led the canoe trip. She said we should be able to paddle from the Rhode River up a quarter mile upstream of the Muddy Creek canoe shed and that paddling conditions are not very tide dependent.

The largest Japanese koinobori I'd ever seen was hanging from a tree. I'm guessing it was 12 feet long! See eighth photo.

Norma and I drove to the parking lot at the Contee Mansion Ruins (ninth photo) and explored the trails in that area.

The great thing about visiting the SERC at this time of year are all the wild raspberries that are ripe. See tenth photo. We collected and ate many growing along the trail. Had we brought a bucket, we could have easily picked a gallon. Instead, we put them in Norma's hat and a container I made by folding our map (eleventh photo), once we no longer needed it. The raspberries were delicious...and my chickens liked them too. See Raspberries are ripe for the picking.

We didn't see any interesting wildlife.

On the trails near the ruins, we walked another 1.25 miles.

I drove us to lunch at Thursday's Steak and Crab House in Galesville. It is the most dog-friendly restaurant I'd ever seen. I'm guessing we saw about 8 dogs sitting with us in the outdoor seating area on the West River.

After lunch, we stopped at Tropic Bay Water Gardens where I saw the Blue Dasher, aka Pachydiplax longipennis in the twelfth photo. We also stopped at Homestead Gardens and a couple of fruit stands.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.




Hazel Falls
To celebrate the 4th of July, Norma and I did a hike in Shenandoah National Park. I suggested the Hazel Mountain Loop hike (actually it is a lollipop hike). It is a good length, is one we haven't done before, and is shares the same name as Norma's mother. I found some nice photos of the trail at Hazel Falls - Virginia Trail Guide. Other good sources include Hazel River Circuit - Hiking Upward and Hazel Mountain Loop - Mid-Atlantic Hiking Group.

Typically, we don't do waterfall hikes in the summer but this year has been pretty wet. As I compared this hike to other waterfall hikes, I realized that there aren't many easily accessible falls I haven't seen in the area.

We drove to the Meadow Spring parking lot and commenced our hike a little after noon.

We headed east on the yellow-blazed Hazel Mountain Trail. Things were exceptionally green.

Eventually, we picked up the blue-blazed Sam's Ridge Trail. This took us on a steep downhill. Here I was feeling my age since downhills are much harder for me than the uphills.

After awhile, we came to where Sams Run and the Hazel River meet on the Hazel River Trail. We found a good rock on the Hazel River to stop for lunch and a short nap. Check out the view in the first photo. We saw a few little kids that had accessed the trail from the east.

Waking refreshed, we continued on the Hazel River Trail hiking counterclockwise on the loop. There were a few easy stream crossings. I brought water shoes but we didn't need them.

Unlike our last hike on June 14, 2014 at Old Rag, we hardly saw anyone for most of this hike. The solitude was nice. Unfortunately, we also saw no wildlife.

We caught the yellow-blazed White Rocks Trail. One might think it should be blazed white as the name implies but that color is reserved for the Appalachian Trail. We had a few glimpses of the other mountain tops but none were photogenic due to all the trees blocking our view.

Long after leaving the river, we caught a spur trail that took us down a very steep hill to Hazel Falls. There was a small swimming hole and some smaller unnamed falls. Continuing a little further took us to the actual falls (second photo) and a nearby cave. In the third photo is the entrance. I brought my flashlight so I investigated inside (fourth photo). It wasn't very big. In the fifth photo, I am looking at the entrance from near the back wall. The falls/cave area was by far the most scenic part of the hike. We liked seeing all the big rocks (sixth photo). It would have been nice to stay longer but we had to meet some of Norma's friends for camping so we kept moving.

We climbed our way up the spur trail then were back on White Rocks Trail. We walked back to Hazel Mountain Trail and then to the car. We somehow managed to complete our 10.4 mile hike in 11.4 miles.

In Sperryville, we picked up some pizza at Rudy's Pizza (3710 Sperryville Pike) then met Gary, Sherri, Ashlyn, Luke, Allison, and Viviana for camping at Gary and Sherri's place.
Click thumbnails to enlarge.




Old Rag
On May 26, 2014, Norma and I took two of the interns in her office on a little kayak outing. The original plan was to take them to Old Rag but with the Memorial Day traffic, we expected it to be less than enjoyable on the return trip. But we promised to take them there later.

June 14, 2014 was later. One of the interns, Francisca, couldn't make it but the other, Alex, was available, so we took him.

Our May 26 weekend was beautiful and so was this. In fact, it seemed most of the weekends this spring have had excellent weather. Maryland is not known for having good weather so this is very unusual. Since I have lived in the "Old Line State," I have found the nice days to typically be during the week with the bad weather generally hitting on the weekend. Scientists claim this is due to the periodicity in commuting and its effects on the local weather. Perhaps it was our unusually cold winter that altered our cyclic weather pattern. Regardless, I am thankful that the spring of 2014 has been so nice and I am doing what I can to take advantage of it.

On the drive up, I confirmed what a co-worker told me...that Germans have a hard time pronouncing "squirrel." Alex is German. He told me how to say squirrel in German and I thought it was much more difficult than "squirrel."

This was my fourth time to Old Rag. Previous trips include
  • June 25, 2005
  • June 4, 2006
  • December 31, 2010

  • This trip has a lot of fond memories because it is the hike that Norma and I did on our second date.

    The three of us arrived in the Old Rag parking lot a little after 1100. The lot was almost full. I was not surprised. When the weather is nice, it seems everyone and their dog go to hike Old Rag.

    We did the typical clockwise route. I wouldn't mind doing it counterclockwise but only if there weren't many people out.

    We walked uphill on the Ridge Trail. I tried to position us so we were not near any big groups or stuck behind slow walkers. The big groups tend to make a lot of noise and scare away any wildlife.

    Eventually, we made it to the fun, rock scrambling part. Once there, we took our time to savor the hike.

    There were scenic views all over the place. No need for everyone to congregate at a few vistas. Many of the big rocks offered 180 degree visibility for several miles.
  • First photo: Working our way uphill.
  • Second photo: Alex and Norma.
  • Third photo: Hikers on a rock found a good place to rest.

  • A lot of Boy Scouts were out. We heard one boy comment how much fun he was having and how this was a trip he will never forget.

    What makes this such a great hike is that it is like an obstacle course.
  • Fourth photo: A fat person might be stuck here.
  • Fifth photo: Tall people have to duck.

  • Just a short distance from the trail, we walked out on a secluded rock for a lunch break and so Norma could take a nap. Alex and I did a little exploring.

    While I didn't care much for having so many other people around, they did help give my photos a reference in terms of size and distance.
  • Sixth photo: Me in the foreground with lots of people in the distance on a rock.
  • Seventh photo: This guy looks like he is pondering life.

  • Even more scenic views.
  • Eighth photo: Norma and I.
  • Ninth photo: Alex strikes a pose.
  • Tenth photo: Rocks and trees for miles.
  • Eleventh photo: These rocks are "rock solid."

  • At the 3291 foot summit, we took a break, along with several other people. I saw the young men and boys all want to climb onto the rocks. Each wanted to be higher up than the next. It reminded me of my chickens and how they all like to roost in the highest perch.

    After the summit, we started our trek downhill. This is always the hard part for me. My muscles are in good enough shape to handle the uphill just fine but the downhill is harder on my joints. It is a sign of old age creeping up on me.

    Some columbine flowers were in bloom. See twelfth and thirteenth photos.

    We saw 2 snakes. The first was a garter snake, about 2 feet long (fourteenth photo). The other was something about 8 inches long. I don't know what it was but it was black. We also saw a mole (fifteenth photo), or something similar to it. The mole was on the trail. It was alive but not moving much. We picked it up and moved it to the side.

    We saw a lot of familiar plants: Jack-in-the-pulpit, sassafras, may apples, and tulip poplars. We also saw some with which we were unfamiliar. See sixteenth photo.

    On one rotting log, we saw a lot of mushrooms. See seventeenth photo.

    I was hoping to see a bear like I did on my first journey to Old Rag but we saw none.

    By the time we finished, we completed 9.9 miles.

    After the hike, we stopped in at Frost Diner in Warrenton for dinner. I had the trout which was mediocre compared to the catfish I had in Texas on April 4, 2014. But Norma and I have fond memories of Frost Diner since this is where we ate after we hiked Old Rag on our second date.

    Norma dropped Alex off at a Metro stop where we said farewell (Auf Wiedersehen).

    Sadly, I didn't get home until it was after bedtime for my chickens so they didn't get to go out of the run and enjoy the nice weather like we did.

    As much fun as we had, I don't think I will return for a few years. I am becoming a little too familiar with it so the whole novelty of adventure and exploration is wearing off.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Wincopin-Murray Hill Trail
    Norma was wanting to get out on May 18, 2014 to do a little local hike. I had just the thing in mind.

    On April 27, 2014, I did a little kayaking and during my trip, I found a new hiking trail along the Middle Patuxent (Pax) River. It seemed like an interesting place to explore so I decided we should check it out.

    Norma and I hiked to the yellow trail in the Wincopin Area. Once we reached the Middle Pax, we headed under the highway 95 bridge. This took us on a muddy road that was used for some utility work. We had quite a bit of rain a few days prior so things were really squishy. But we had a nice view of the river which was flowing very nicely.

    We saw what we think was a dogwood tree in full bloom. See first photo.

    Eventually, we saw a mountain biker wearing a bright yellow vest. We figured that he must be on a better trail than what we were on so we checked it out. He most certainly was. He led us to the dry, scenic, white-blazed trail. It was much nicer than the utility road. We followed this until it took us to Vollmerhausen Road, only about an eighth of a mile east of Murray Hill Road.

    We turned around and walked back to the utility road on a different section and then picked up the dry trail later. This enabled us to see both the utility road and the trail. Of course the latter was much nicer.

    We saw some jack-in-the-pulpit plants (second photo), some may apples, and some tulip poplar trees (third photo).

    On the return, we saw where we missed the white trail the first time. It was about a tenth of a mile after the second highway 95 bridge.

    Back in the Wincopin Area, we walked to the green trail to check out what we call salamander pond. Just three weeks ago, it was full of Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) eggs and hundreds of polliwogs (tadpoles). But today, nothing. See fourth photo. Apparently, all the eggs hatched and all the polliwogs turned into frogs. Maybe we'll return next year between April 27 and May 18 in the hope that we will see young salamanders.

    After leaving the park, we found a really nice taqueria food truck on the west side of Guilford Road just northwest of route 1 (Washington Boulevard) in Jessup in the parking lot behind 8802 Washington Boulevard. The food was very tasty.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Texas
    On March 29 to April 4, 2014, Norma and I did a few hikes and a lot of urban walking during our trip to Texas.


    Mini-Trips
    On March 9, 2014, Norma and I decided to take a couple of the interns from her office on a little outing. Both of them, Martha and Meike, are from Germany so we wanted to show them some sights very different from what they might see back home.

    Rather than take them to one place, we decided to do several mini-trips.


    Savage Mill Trail
    Our first stop was the 0.8 mile Savage Mill Trail in our town.

    While walking, we told them about the history of the town and showed them the Little Patuxent River. The early morning sun made for a nice view of the ruins of Savage Mill. See first photo.


    Weverton Cliff
    Our next stop was Weverton/South Mountain Natural Environmental Area. This is a place I've been wanting to take Norma for some time since she had never been there. In my opinion, it is one of the better overlooks in the state.

    After parking in what appeared to be a brand new lot, we climed up the Appalachian Trail. Near the top, we had a fantastic view of the Potomac River. See second photo.

    I had a chance to see how fast I could get back to the group after setting my camera on timer mode. See third photo.

    We took a break for snacks and to hear the trains pass by along the river.


    Harpers Ferry
    Just a short distance away was Harpers Ferry. We told Martha and Meike the story of John Brown and how his raid on the town's armoury was one of the catalysts that sparked the Civil War.

    We parked on the Maryland side and then walked on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Towpath. Norma explained the canal and the locks used to get horse or mule drawn boats to their destination. A lock keeper's old house ruins stood watch over the now dry canal (fourth photo). With a little work, I bet Norma and I could turn it into a bed and breakfast.

    After a short distance, we crossed a bridge over the Potomac River into West Virginia. From the bridge, we could see the stone foundations from previous bridges. Judging by the size of the trees growing on the bare foundations, it had obviously been a very long time since these other bridges were functional.

    After crossing the bridge, we were in the lower town of Harpers Ferry. Looking back, we had a nice view of the big rocky cliffs on the Maryland side. See fifth photo. If you want to see what this looks like in the spring, see my May 6, 2012 photo.

    The town was built where the Potomac and Shenandoah River meet. It was a good location for a town and judging by the number of Civil War battles that took place there, a very strategic position. It was also strategic for Appalachian Trail through hikers since this was near the midpoint of the trail. From Harpers Ferry, it is 1165 miles to Maine and 1013 miles to Georgia.

    We ate lunch at the Tavern at the Town's Inn. It seems like a great getaway weekend spot.

    In the town, we stopped at Saint Peter's Church. This was built near some old ruins from Saint John's Episcopal Church (sixth photo) that dates back to 1852.

    Higher up was Jefferson Rock (seventh photo). Thomas Jefferson visited here in 1783 and described this overlook by saying
    This scene is worth a voyage across the Atlantic.
    - from information sign

    Indeed, we had a nice view of the Shenandoah River. See eighth photo.

    We walked back to the car and prepared for our final mini-trip.


    Maryland Heights
    This was a somewhat difficult climb but one that is well worth the effort.

    Near the beginning of the trail, I spotted some small caves off to the right. See ninth and tenth photos.

    It wasn't quite springtime but there were a lot of birds out along with a few insects. See eleventh photo.

    It is hard to find a more scenic location than Maryland Heights, though visiting late in the day like we did was not ideal because of the lighting. See twelfth photo. Still, it was pretty. But under better conditions, it will look like my June 24, 2007 photo.

    We had another nice view of the Potomac River (thirteenth photo) along with rugged rocky outcroppings (fourteenth photo).

    The return trip downhill was surprisingly fast.

    Martha and Meike were pretty quiet on the ride back. I think we might have wore them out just a bit.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Bridle Trail at Rocky Gorge Reservoir
    On February 9, 2014, Norma and I had a little time for a short walk. We drove out to the T. Howard Duckett Watershed/Rocky Gorge Reservoir. This is part of the Patuxent Reservoir Watershed. We parked at Brown's Bridge Recreational Area, just north of Ednor Road/Browns Bridge Road and west of the reservoir.

    It was cold and overcast. Not a great day for hiking but it was better than being inside.

    We walked on trails that took us northwest on the Bridle Trail. There were signs saying that a permit was required. But for what? That all seemed a little unclear. A metal blue and white sign said it was required for
  • Horseback riding on designated by-pass trails
  • Boating/sailing/kayaking
  • Hunting in specified areas with Maryland license
  • Fishing (unless over 65 and under 16) with Maryland license [I don't know how one could be over 65 AND under 16 at the same time]

  • There was no mention of hiking on the blue and white sign. But at another location was a paper sign at a kiosk that read "WSSC permit required for all activities." Listed below were
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Boating

  • We didn't see this second sign until after our hike. At least that is my story and I'm sticking to it.

    This same sign mentioned that watershed permits are available at Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). I went to that website and after navigating to about 4 screens and creating an account, I finally got to the page where I could purchase a permit. I had to check a box indicating my activity. Options included
  • Boating
  • Horseback riding
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Interest in volunteering
  • Cost for day use boating for one person is $6.

    Hiking was not an option. Yet at Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission Regulations (broken link as of 2016, it states
    Every person who has reached his/her 16th birthday must possess and carry a WSSC Watershed Use Permit (“Use Permit”) while: bird watching, boating, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and/or hunting.

    Regardless, I later learned that hiking trails were closed. This same website says
    March 15 through November 30, conditions permitting, one half hour before Sunrise to Sunset.

    I would love to go back and explore these trails more but our local government is making this rather cumbersome.


    Gambrill State Park
    On February 1, 2014, Norma and I drove out to Gambrill State Park. There, we met Joyce and Harlem for a family-friendly winter hike.

    Gambrill State Park was named in honor of the late James H. Gambrill, Jr., a well-known citizen of Frederick. Mr. Gambrill was a conservationist who first brought attention to the beauty of the area in the early 1900’s. He believed that it was in the public’s best interest to develop the area into a park. Following his lead, a group of local citizens joined together to purchase the land. The group then donated the land to the City of Frederick to be used for a park. The City of Frederick soon-after gave the land to the State of Maryland for the development of Gambrill State Park.
    - from Gambrill State Park - Maryland Department of Natural Resources

    We parked at a lot just south of the Nature Center, which was closed. Then we walked to a large stone lodge called the Tea Room. That too was closed. The three of us headed to the south side on the outside of the Tea Room and had lunch in a sunny spot sheltered from the wind. See first photo.

    After lunch, we walked counterclockwise on the Yellow Poplar Trail. Most of the ground was covered with snow. But temperatures were in the 40s so it was starting to melt. The wet snow made for good snowman-making (second photo) along with snowball fights. It also made it easy to spot animal tracks such as this raccoon print. See third photo.

    After completing the High Knob Area portion of the Yellow Poplar Trail, we walked on the Black Locust Trail. There were quite a few other people out enjoying the not-so-cold winter day, some with their dogs.

    We stopped at the Middletown Overlook (fourth photo) near the peak of High Knob. See the ladies in the fifth photo.
    At 1510 feet on High Knob, this location along the Catoctin Ridgeline presents a 180-degree view to the south and west.
    - from sign at park

    At the south end of the Black Locust Trail, we saw part of the Loudoun Formation Outcrop. See sixth photo.

    Joyce and Harlem went home while Norma and I drove to Frederick to meet out friend Stacy and her granddaughter, Jocelyn.

    Frederick was packed to the gills with people. We were told that the first Saturday of the month is a big event in town. That day's theme was "Fire and Ice." Several stores had ice sculptures on display reflecting the business. See seventh photo.

    Before meeting Stacy and Jocelyn, Norma and I stopped at Earthly Elements where I bought a bullet from the Civil War for $7 and some bismuth for $10.
    Bismuth is a brittle metal with a white, silver-pink hue, often occurring in its native form, with an iridescent oxide tarnish showing many colors from yellow to blue. The spiral, stair-stepped structure of bismuth crystals is the result of a higher growth rate around the outside edges than on the inside edges. The variations in the thickness of the oxide layer that forms on the surface of the crystal causes different wavelengths of light to interfere upon reflection, thus displaying a rainbow of colors.
    - from Wikipedia - Bismuth

    The four of us met and ate at The Orchard. Stacy gave me six horseshoe crab moults ranging from 0.75 to 4.25 inches in length. These are mico-paper thin. See eighth photo. The ruler at the top of the photo shows centimeters, not inches. Stacy is a professional horseshoe crab farmer.

    After dinner, we went to the American Conservation Film Festival's Best of Fest at the Weinberg Center for the Arts. We saw a triple feature:
  • Backyard: A movie about natural gas fracking by Student Filmmaker Award Winner Deia Schlosberg.
  • The Lost Bird Project: A documentary about the stories of five birds driven to extinction in modern times and sculptor Todd McGrain’s project to memorialize them.
  • The Ends of the Earth: Alaska’s Wild Peninsula: A movie abut the cloud-cloaked wilderness of towering volcanoes, rolling tundra and the greatest concentration of the largest bears on earth.

  • After our well-rounded day, Norma and I said farewell to Stacy and Jocelyn and then headed home.

    Our meeting with Stacy motivated me to start reading Horseshoe Crab: Biography of a Survivor. I'm not much of a reader and I typically read a book every other year. This is largely due to the fact that there aren't many books out there that hold my attention. But this one does. It is interesting and easy to read. I read it in the garage in between sets when I'm lifting weights.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Savage Mill Trail
    In late January, I helped out some neighbors with dog sitting. This is something I enjoy because
  • I like dogs.
  • I especially like these dogs. They are labrador siblings. Their names are Bailey (female) and Newcastle (male).
  • I had some time on the weekend to take the dogs for a walk.

  • On January 26, 2014, Norma and I took Bailey and Newcastle for a walk out on the 0.8 mile Savage Mill Trail.
    Because it is located across the river from the historic Savage Mill and along the fall line marking the boundary between the Piedmont and the Coastal Plain, this trail qualifies as one of the most scenic as well as one of the most historic in Howard County. The trail runs along the abandoned right-of-way of a spur of the B&O Railroad which served a granite quarry in Guilford.
    - from Savage Park/Savage Mill Trail

    In the first photo, Bailey is the yellow lab and Newcastle is the brown lab.

    I was a little concerned that the dogs might not enjoy walking on the snow and ice but it turns out there wasn't any on the road to the trail...it was just on the trail which is fairly short.

    Things were looking very wintery with much of the Little Patuxent River being frozen. See second photo.

    At the trailhead, one can see the historic Bollman Truss Bridge. See third photo.
    The design of the Bollman Truss Bridge-patented in 1852 and one of the first to use iron exclusively in all essential structural elements-was critical in the rapid expansion of American railroads in the 19th century. Replacing wooden bridges, which were cumbersome to build and vulnerable to decay, the Bollman Truss Bridge could be built relatively quickly and inexpensively, while providing the long-lasting qualities associated with metal. This allowed new rail lines to be built over long distances in a short period of time.
    Wendel Bollman, the design's creator, was a self-educated engineer who apprenticed as a carpenter. He adapted the technique of "trussing" from the practice of strengthening wooden beams using tension rods. More than 100 Bollman Truss bridges were built between 1850 and 1875, the majority for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The only example remaining-a double-span through truss extending 160 feet-was used on a spur across the Little Patuxent River at Savage, Maryland.
    - from American Society of Civil Engineers: Bollman Truss Bridge

    A very similar "Warren truss" bridge exists in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. See Bollman Bridge: Meyersdale. This is on Norma's and my "to do" list of things to see.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Stony Run - Baltimore
    On January 19, 2014, I joined Norma and Carmen for a Team SNaCk urban walk/hike in Baltimore on the Stony Run Walking Path. Norma organized this hike which took us on various paths, sidewalks, under bridges (first photo), and through Johns Hopkins University.

    By far the most interesting thing on this walk was a basketball near the base of a small waterfall on Stony Run. It was in a state of equilibrium. The waterfall forced the basketball to turn as if it was trying to get further upstream. But the downstream current kept it from making any progress. The ball just spun and spun, not changing position. Amazing! I bet if you went there right now, it would still be spinning in the same location. See second photo.

    I was kicking myself (figuratively) for forgetting my camera. Maybe it was because I hadn't done any hikes for so long. I had my cell phone camera but found it inadequate. Fortunately, Carmen's iPod has a camera. See the picture she took of Norma and me in the third photo.

    Stopping at a playground, Carmen demonstrated the "flexed arm hang." I told her that is what the women Marines do for their physical fitness test (PFT). To get a maximum score, it must be done for 70 seconds, continuously. After I got home, I read that they are eventually supposed to start doing pullups.
    ...female Marines would be required to perform a minimum of three (3) pull-ups in order to pass the PFT
    - from Wikipedia - United States Marine Corps Physical Fitness Test

    We passed some interesting graffiti. It wouldn't be an urban hike without at least a little graffiti. See fourth photo.

    The second most impressive thing (after the basketball) was the Evergreen Museum and Library (fifth photo). Norma and I were there last summer with our friend Lisa. Back then, we got a short tour of the museum and library before heading to another part of the grounds for a Shakespeare performance. Today, we got a much more thorough tour. Our guide was Geordan, a young history student that really knew a lot.

    After the tour, we walked over to an upscale section of Baltimore. We ate at Miss Shirley's Cafe which boasts being in the top 20 for best breakfast restaurants in the country. We all ordered breakfast even though it was past lunch time. Except for their homemade rolls, I found the food mediocre.

    We made our way back cutting through a well-to-do part of the city. I really like seeing stone houses with slate roofs.

    I have no idea how far we walked but it wasn't far.

    Special thanks to Carmen for providing some of the photos.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.


    Daniels Area - Patapsco State Park
    This winter has been the coldest we have encountered. Yet there have been some very nice days. January 20 was one such day. It was sunny and the wind wasn't too strong. The high temperature was in the mid-40s. The following day was supposed to bring up to 8 inches of snow so it seemed like a good idea to get out and enjoy the sun while we could.

    Norma and I headed out to the Daniels Area of Patapsco State Park. Though I've explored many sections of the park, I had never been to the Daniels Area.

    I pulled into a parking place just a few feet from a kayak and canoe launch area providing access to the Patapsco River. See first photo. The water was calm and fairly deep thanks to Daniels Dam (second photo). A sign nearby read
    Attention paddlers: River closed between the CSX tunnel north of the route 40 bridge and the Union Dam Trail (Hollofield Area) due to bridge renovations. Last pull-out area will be at Old Frederick Road for those traveling downstream. For additional information, call 410-461-5005.

    Just below the dam were the remains of a bridge foundation. See third photo.

    To our east was the Gary Memorial United Methodist Church built in 1879. Norma commented how the stone work with the brick trim looked attractive. See fourth photo.

    Our goal was to do a circuit hike, crossing the CSX railroad bridge at the endpoints of our hike to get to the other side of the river. Unfortunately, we were not able to do so at the eastern endpoint. The area around the bridge was strictly off limits. Numerous signs made it clear that we were not welcome anywhere near the bridge. So I turned to plan B which was to do a lollipop route.

    We walked back to the parking lot then headed west on a trail that paralleled the river. There was a cave just on the other side of a small creek. It didn't go in very far. See fifth photo.

    Norma and I continued walking on the trail and then bushwhacked our way to another trail on top of the ridgeline to get a view of the valley below.

    I found the jawbone of some animal (sixth photo). Not sure what it was.

    I was armed with a pretty good map but some of the smaller trails were easy to miss. I ended up not finding one of the overlooks that we wanted to check out.

    Our trail met the path alongside the river. We turned left and continued upstream.

    There was an interesting plant whose bark reminded me of concertina wire. Norma took a cutting and is now trying to get it to grow. Ralph identified it as being a winged spindle-tree.

    Shady parts of the valley were icy and some of the ice formations were most impressive. One made us think of the movie "Frozen" which we saw on Christmas Day 2013. Some sections of ice were slightly lifted so water flowed or trickled beneath.
  • Seventh photo: A winter wonderland!
  • Eighth photo: If I hit you with this, it will hurt.
  • Ninth photo: An artistic photo by Norma.
  • Tenth photo: The ice queen.
  • Eleventh photo/video: Water flowing behind ice. This might take a few seconds to load.

  • There were a lot of people out walking their dog.

    Eventually, we reached our destination, the railroad bridge (twelfth photo) just east of the Davis Tunnel and west of the Dorsey Tunnel (thirteenth photo). We stopped for a snack where we had a great view of the river below (fourteenth photo) then headed back.

    On the return trip, we saw a lot of beaverchew. See fifteenth photo. I don't know why we didn't see it before. Much of it looked fresh...but not so fresh that it was all done after we walked by the first time.

    A fellow was out kayaking. He had a big German Shepherd sitting in his front hatch. He and his dog appeared to be having fun though I imagine he must have had to portage a few times. Once one got a good distance above the dam, things got pretty shallow. I think paddling after a good rain would be best.

    We finished our easy 5.5 mile hike then went out for a really good Vietnamese dinner at An Loi.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.