The 2175 mile long Appalachian Trail extends from Maine to Georgia. It was conceived in 1921 and completed in 1937. It takes about 6 months to backpack the entire trail. From the Villages of Dorchester, the closest point is a good 62 mile drive.
In contrast, the Villages of Dorchester (VoD) Trail extends from the Community Center to Allerford Drive, Flaxpool Court, and Somerton Court. This trail was completed in 2008. If you live in the Villages of Dorchester, there is probably some access point not more than a half mile from where you live. Here is where it gets even more difficult to compare the Appalachian Trail to the VoD Trail since the latter isn't so much a trail to get one from point A to point B as it is a means to connect various parts of the neighborhood. But with a little imagination, we can think of it as a semi-circuit hike.
I've walked and run the VoD Trail several times now. I love the fact that I can walk right out my front door, get to the trail in a few minutes, complete a quick run, then be back home in the amount of time it sometimes takes just to drive to the gym.
I put together a 2.09 mile semi-circuit hike/run that passes over about 0.84 miles of paved trail and 1.25 miles on sidewalk along the community streets. In a true circuit, one starts and ends at the same place without passing over the same ground twice. With the exception of about a tenth of a mile, my path is a circuit route...hence I call it a semi-circuit.
Begin at the Villages of Dorchester Community Center at
7551 Dorchester Boulevard
Hanover, Maryland 21076-1729
The trail picks up on the west side of the playground then heads west behind some of the newer homes before it veers left and downhill into the woods. In my opinion, this is the nicest part of the trail because of all the greenery and shade.
Depending on the time of the year, you might hear frogs and insects chirping or see rabbits, squirrels, and other critters.
You'll see signs on either side of the trail that may read "Forest Retention Area" or "Reforestation Project" with the motto "Trees For Your Future" printed at the bottom. Just think of this as a reminder that we share our community with Mother Nature.
Soon, you'll come to a wooden bridge that passes over a small stream, probably a tributary of Piney Run.
The trail will loop clockwise around a large fenced-in drainage area. I've heard (but not seen) and owl hooting in this area at night. At dusk, it is not uncommon to see bats flying about in the summer.
The trail will split. Veer left to cross over the second bridge.
Standing on the bridge, look down into Piney Run.
Though it may not look like more than a small creek, it connects with Deep Run after crossing under the Baltimore Washington Parkway. Then Deep Run flows into the Patapsco River which eventually drains into the mighty Chesapeake Bay. Hence, the VoD is part of the 64,299 square mile Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Continuing onward, you'll come to another split in the trail. This time, bear right. You'll pass moderately big trees on your right and some really big homes (for this community) on your left. Looking back, you might see a view like this one:
After crossing a third bridge (no stream underneath), you'll encounter another fenced-in drainage area. Depending on the time of year, it may be full of cattails.
A slight incline will lead to the end of the trail at Flaxpool Court. Turning right on Flaxpool will take you south, across Arundel Mills Boulevard and into Yorkshire. Continue south on Kirklees Way. At the end, turn left (east) onto Rotherham Drive. Now you're passing through the older section of the VoD. Not quite the historic section...but maybe someday.
Rotherham Drive will bend left and end at Arundel Mills Boulevard. Cross the street to enter Somerset via Somerton Court. Notice the trees on the right. At the time of this writing, some of these big trees were guarded by "Specimen Tree" signs.
Shortly after Somerton Court turns left, the trail will resume on the right. A gradual decline will take you past another big drainage area.
Now you're at the tenth of a mile that prevents this route from being a true circuit. Cross back over Piney Run via the bridge. At the split right after the bridge, veer left.
Soon the trail will end at the intersection of Allerford Drive and Lambourn Way. That's all of the trail unless you consider the sidewalk that runs along the south side of Dorchester Boulevard a trail.
To get back to the start, turn right and follow Allerford Drive back to Dorchester Boulevard. Then turn right on Dorchester Boulevard and follow it back to the Community Center.
In September 2008, I ran this route with my global positioning system (GPS). I then downloaded the route onto my computer and plotted the course on a satellite photo. Note that the photo doesn't show the most recent developments in the neighborhood. I superimposed a few street names and voila, a map!
Click image above to enlarge.
The VoD Trail may not be as long, famous, or interesting as the Appalachian Trail but if you live in the Villages of Dorchester, it is certainly more convenient. More importantly, if you are part of the community, then the trail belongs to YOU. Regardless of whether you are a walker, runner, dog walker, or just someone who wants to find a faster way to get to the local swimming pool, the trail was built for you to enjoy...so check it out!