Hashawha Environmental Area – 6 miles

5/10/2020 Noname trail between lakes, up the hill then following Bear Branch towards the South – through the meadow towards Hashawha Lake – follow Rinehart Rd. behind the Caretaker’s house – through another meadow – back to Bear Branch – North through the marshland – Stream Trail – Boundary Trail (yellow) – Saw Mill Road West – Boundary Trail South – Marshland – Noname trail to John Owings Rd.

Elevation gain: 738ft


Location: 252-270 John Owings Rd. Westminster, MD 21158

more parking at Hashawha Environmental Center and beyond, up the road


Since this is our first time coming here I am not sure where to park. As we drive on John Owings Rd. towards the Environmental Center I spot a small parking area on our left. Quickly pull aside and check where the trailhead we would use is located. Lucky for us it’s actually leading out from here. Whipping the car around we pull into the circle super slow since there are two family of geese strutting towards a small lake with about ten goslings.

View from the car

After getting both of us ready, we take a stroll down to the lake to see those cute little fluffballs up close.

Lower lake

Even though we try to walk around the small body of water the path stops on the other side. Going back towards our car we hike up to the upper lake’s edge. They pretty much identical.

AllTrails doesn’t show a trail from here but I see a grassy road leading us up into the forest. I figure we eventually get to the trail shown in the app.

In about a few hundred feet we come across several paths on the right. I chose this one with the sign to Hashawha.

All paths actually lead down to Bear Branch and to sort of a gathering spot with this beautiful American Sycamore in the middle. Several metal bridges help us cross the small creek from different locations.

After hopping on the second bridge, we follow Bear Branch back towards South or John Owings Rd. Before we would get to the paved road the vista opens up to this wonderful meadow with several man made bird houses. Hiking slightly uphill we merge with the road in a bend. On our left is a gate, closing off the camping area.

Since I don’t see any trails up here we kind of poke around in the woods first, then start walking towards a fenced in area (visible on the gate picture all the way in the back). Good guess. We hook up with the trail heading down to Hashawha Lake and another small parking lot.

Hashawha Lake and the Wetlands Classroom in the distance

We must cut through the small car park to get to the boardwalk above the lake.

Instead of taking the shorter route above the water we turn right, heading towards the Francesca Borrelli Johnson(*) Wetlands classroom.

It totally looks like a private residence and is adjacent to the so called caretakers house. We pass it in the front and walk next to Rinehart road which officially ends here at the Bear Branch Nature Center.

Even though it keeps winding up the hill beyond yet another gate.

I get sort of confused here for about 15 minutes, thanks to several restricted area signs. I take this stuff seriously but we are having an issue getting back to the trail. No other way, we end up cutting through a high grass covered meadow. Thankfully I am always watching where I step and discover a small bird’s nest.

Maybe a Field Sparrow nest?

Back on track we pass the beehives, then we turn right following the trail towards a forested area up the hill. Yet again we come across more restricted areas. We start heading downwards through the middle of the field and luckily hook back up to the gathering place with the Sycamore in the middle.

It turns out to be a super congested area at this particular time heading towards the wetland. At least 20 people crossing here right now going all over. Some with dogs, some with kids. I still manage to take pics with no ppl showing on them. They are too busy trying to get through high mud and washed over trails. Wearing boots is priceless.

Tadpoles in shallow water
There are several bird’s nest here right on the trail’s edge. I don’t think any of them occupied, being so close to people. I wonder why they have planted them this close?
Pretty, unidentifiable wildflower

We keep to the right – but not totally to the right, because that trail goes up to a private property -. The sign for Stream Trail is missing but at the next intersection it becomes clear that that’s where we are heading.

In a minute we spot the pre-Civil war era Martin Cabin Homestead. Pretty amazing!

After taking a few minutes to take these pics and read the information board we keep on going. In about a hundred feet at the next sign it becomes clear that we’ve been on Stream Trail. We are just gettin on Boundary (yellow) Trail.

The up and down path takes us to a pretty big cleared area.

Following the trail takes us back into the woods and to another fork. We keep marching on Boundary till another field.

Cutting through it and at the next sign we keep right on Boundary. Pretty soon we hit yet another fork. We just keep hiking Boundary. Jeez there are a lot of forks in these woods….

Proceeding until we reach Saw Mill Road East where it meets whit Rinehart road. Doesn’t really matter since we take the left sharp turn and walk away from the paved roads.

Now we are on Saw Mill Road West Trail until we reach Big Pipe Creek. Even though this sign here says Bridle Trail.

This whole area is saturated with the sweet smell of Autumn Olive. I’ve been noticing this amazing shrub on almost all of our trails this spring.

When we get to Big Pipe Creek I get frustrated pretty quick. Dang it! I try everything to cross but I am not comfortable with Mag in tow with any of the alternatives I come up with. Just mad at myself since my water shoes are in the car….

Yet another beauty I cannot identify

While I try to figure out how to cross we get surprised by first 3 ppl on horses then another 6 from the other side. Mag as usual goes looney and we must follow them back where we came from, giving up my crossing efforts. Getting back on Saw Mill Road West Trail we hike uphill for a while – truly I am being pulled uphill by a bloodhound – then at the next lefty, we take a sharp turn through the forest.

More horseback riders crossing down at the creek

The trail here is pretty steep and rooty.

While we follow the winding path I spot a spectacular orange bird gliding through the forest. Scarlet tanager….

Drooping Trillium

We pass Warbler Trail again from the west at this time.

In about 15 minutes we are back between the Homestead and the marsh, crossing this little bridge. Since there are a few people coming with dogs we hurry up and take the first trail on the right.

This drops us off at the wetland/marsh again where after muddling through the path we proceed to yet another right. Mag takes the lead and hops on a wooden bridge….

….then goes swimming in Bear Branch.

After his well deserved beach time, we hike uphill and take the wrong right turn to find a cow farm where I realize my mistake.

Climbing back up from where we have come from we follow the trail the opposite direction for about a quarter of a mile through thick mud. It is taking a huge left then a right turn.

At the beginning of the right turn the trail is abandoned looking. Even if you miss the fork you will end back up at the lakes. No worries.

At the end of this almost half a mile we reach the trailhead at John Owings Road.

We have to walk next to it for a little bit but traffic is minimal since it’s not a through road. Passing the upper lake with it’s resident is a special treat.

Overall lovely trails, where we manage to hike 6 miles in just over 3 hours. Weather was wonderful and we’ve seen some wildlife and Mag’s favorite animals – horses.

On the way back Mag was sporting is doggles to protect his eyes while peeking his head over the window.

Info: Francesca Borrelli Johnson was an environmental scientist who died of a car accident in 2004 at the age of 35. An environmental fund was established in her honor.

Published by magzilla44

Magzilla, our AMSTAFF has rescued us in 2017 on a rainy day in May. It was a rough start because we didn’t know anything about him after him walking up on our property. But he has showed us what an amazing person he is and things became happily ever after pretty quick. He is very social, both with people and other pets. He loves his cat sisters and brothers and off course walking.

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