5/31/2020 Hoco Thru trail – Affeldt Me Gasline – No Beech Lost – Magic Mike – Old RR Bed – Fëanor – Black Magic – My Way – Smokey – Old RR Bed – Ol’ Man River – Candyman – Something’s gotta give – Ol’ Man River – Old Main Line – Daniels Singletrack – Switchplate Trail Loop – Daniels Rd.
(I swear the names of these trails have changed since we’ve hiked here. Sorry if they don’t match up with the current situation….)
Elevation gain: 1289 ft
Today’s hike will not be a loop. We are getting dropped off on Old Ct. Rd. in Woodstock at the Woodstock Inn. I have chosen to do this because the trail system between the two points seemed way more than what we could accomplish at once if hiking a loop. The drop off location is not too far for my hubby and he’ll be able to pick us back up in a few hours down the road. This way I don’t have to worry about the car either.
If you choose to park here though, there is a small lot. Smaller then usual because of Covid-19 but available. This spot is very popular with bikers in the summer so make sure you come early.
To get to the trail-head we have to pass in front of a few private properties which I hate! I always feel very uncomfortable doing so and try to be as far as possible to not to disturb the owners. Yet again this causes me to miss the trail right after the last little house….no worries though….we just follow the train tracks for the first 0.4 miles then hook up to it.
Mag is not a fan of the rocky surface but he manages. Soon enough we hop on the two feet wide path where his paws are more comfortable. It is mostly lined with ferns, wild raspberry and weeds.
It’s wonderfully quiet other than a Pileated woodpecker jackhammering on a tree in the near distance. We soon reach a fork at 0.9 miles where we keep to the right even though the left fork will end up meeting with us a bit ahead.
Now that everything is green and the morning sun is shining through the forest, shadows dancing throughout, our hike is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately soon enough we run into a pair of horses which means Mag goes bananas as usual.
We have learned to step aside and not to climb up high to not to scare the horses. In the process I find this pretty little ‘shroom.
Another pretty addition to the sunshine is Davis Branch below. It is kind of steep to get down there and I see on the map that we’ll get closer to it eventually so we keep on the trail. Shortly after the two trail meets we have no choice but to cross the stream caused by the railroad tracks and after a 90 degree turn, we head upwards to catch up to Affeldt-Me Gasline (orange) leaving Hoco-Thru trail.
Since the horses, I’ve been fighting Mag constantly because he’s pulling like crazy. Unfortunately it is normal for him. He gets extremely excited in the presence of horses on the trail. Where are you Ira (best trainer ever!) when I need you?
Writing a huge north loop on the map we pass a beautiful meadow where swallowtail butterflies dance above the water. Across the small valley are several bikers heading north on the trail where we just were about 20 minutes ago. On the west side of Affeldt (named after the road closest to the trail) I hear the passing freight train from around the bridge. On out right I spot this gorgeous red barn framed by a fallen tree.
Tulip tree flower petals are constantly falling in the light breeze giving an impression of a fairy tail setting. Somewhere along the line we hopped on No Beech Lost and the same horses pass by again going the opposite direction.
Hopefully Mag will calm down from here on knowing that they are not ahead of us any more. And just as I think that, deer stench hits my nose. I don’t see them but I can smell them. Great. Another reason for Mag to be looney-tune. Put some groundhogs in the mix and I am done.
As we hike I usually come up with a rough plan on which route to proceed on but it happens every time that we miss our planned trail. Its hard for AllTrails to follow every step we take so we miss Affeldt-Climb trail on our left (truly I have not seen any trails on our left). Instead of taking that we follow a noname stream – on our left – and hike on Magic Mike. Both would take us to Old RR Bed anyway. No rules….we are just here to enjoy our time.
I hear people on Affeldt-Climb even though they are invisible through the vegetation. I find several Orchidea leaves but it’s hard to say what type because they’ve already flowered? In less than a half a mile we reach the tracks again turning right next to them to hook up to first – for a really short while – Horse Fly Alley (sort of dead ends for us) then to Fëanor. We come across several people heading to all directions the trails offer. I also see a Woody on the ground looking for worms.
Fëanor starts uphill after a sharp left turn….I have to catch my breath in the middle. It’s also very rocky but becomes smooth after about fifty feet before reaching the top.
At another noname stream we turn left to follow the trail, after paying our respect to a small wooden 2010 bridge, which didn’t withstand the test of time. Crossing over the small creek is no feat anyway. After a rooty uphill we are on Patapsco north. Someone left a small hedgehog stone in a crack of a tree. Super cute.
At the end of Fëanor I get confused and start towards the right but closely looking at the map I decide to turn around and head uphill yet again towards Black Magic, My Way and Smokey. There is a biker chick having some difficulties as well and we interact for a few minutes while making a decision. There are a lot of Purple Bluets covering the ground, mostly white (ironic). On the top I take this pic of Mag through a dead tree….
From here on we are experiencing a slight descend while enjoying all the lovely sounds – lots of different chirping and leaves blowing in the light breeze. A minute later we are climbing again….roller coaster here we come. I’ve totally missed that we’ve hiked over the tracks! There had to be a tunnel underneath us and now the train is on our right. After some downhill we end up at the shores of Patapsco. Several people enjoying this idyllic setting, skipping stones. Mag off course takes a dip.
There is a turkey buzzard high up in the sky, just floating using the wind as a sail. The shallow water is full of tadpoles and swallowtail butterflies chase each other on the river’s surface. Lower Thru trail is on the other side, bikers zooming by on it. After a few minutes of bliss we get back on Old RR Bed trail, heading East (left). Traffic picks up and we find a small turtle on the generously wide trail.
I make sure she is safe off the trail then we keep on keeping on. Shortly after we come across the railroad again and get a glimpse of that tunnel that got away from us. Heading towards it we look for the trailhead on the other side. Off course I miss it by ten feet but we end up on Ol’ Man River anyway. Milkweeds everywhere! Must be smelling lovely around here when they bloom.
While we “chase” a Black dragonfly (Calopterix) we come across several hiding Jack in the pulpits. It’s hard to spot them even while they flower but it’s almost impossible now. We gonna have to wait for the red seed pockets to show up. We are on Candyman now, making another big U to the west. This loop is about a mile and leads us back to Ol’ Man. Somewhere in that big loop we transitioned onto Something Gotta Give (love that movie!) we have circled around One Eye and came about these super cool pretty tall rock chimneys.
We have been on a slight downhill for a while and now it’s time to cross another stream. While Mag takes a refreshing ankle swim we let a few ladies pass us heading in the opposite direction. In 0.1 mile we are back to Ol’ before connection to Old Main Line next to the river. At 6.8 miles we are closing in again on the railroad tracks on our left but they disappear after they cross over Patapsco. The vegetation is wild and lush, cannot see over to the other side. The trail here is lined mostly with wild roses and a bit wider again. It would need some maintenance if you’d ask me, seems a lot overgrown. On our right we have the chance to admire a beautiful limestone wall than a beach area on the river on our left.
There are way too many people down there so I pass on heading down to give Mag a well deserved brake. Instead we leave Old Main Line and turn right to catch up to Daniels Singletrack. The little stream follows us on the right. In the small crack of a valley the water rushing through quite a few rapids over huge boulders. It’s way below so even though it’s calling our names we resist to climb down. Enjoying the wonderful sound is enough. However in a few minutes we have the opportunity to enjoy it up close.
I even find a heart shaped rock under the water while Mag is digging for gold. It was worth the small detour!
We climb back up on the trail (yellow) lined with Mountain Laurel. They are not much to look at until they start flowering. I always thought they were just very unhappy rhododendrons. The flowers to me look like tiny parasails or itty-bitty octopuses just before they pop open.
This is a 0.6 curve following Patapsco down below us. When you see this little wooden bridge, cross it and start climbing! I made the mistake of turning right here and ended up dead ending to a street in a development. Turning left would spit us back up to Old Main Trail next to the river. So climbing the steep hill it is, next to several pretty sizable boulders.
We are still on Daniels Singletrack and it looks like a serpent on the map for 0.7 miles. We meet two small dogs and their owner and while waiting for them to proceed on trail I notice that it runs closer to developments. We encounter several houses on our right. In one of the bends people have been building these small rock chimneys….
….they look like a Zen garden. While admiring the structures I hear this racket of chirping so I must investigate! Turns out it’s a woodpecker’s nest up high in a cavity of a long dead tree. I can see one chick’s head poking out. Mom just flew away to fetch more food.
We cross another small stream and while Mag takes yet another drink I check how far are we from the pick up location. The Backside of Daniels is about another mile away. After texting my hubby the meet up spot and our ETA we get back on track.
The last mile of our hike is very nice with a slight downhill. Not too bad and the trail is pretty spacious. Looks very idyllic.
When Mag starts poking at the groundcover and get suspicious….he found a Ribbon Snake (Thamnophis Sauritus). I will try to move it from the trail. Looking for a mile long stick….
We are definitely close to the end because traffic picked up tremendously! Lots of people. I still manage to take some pretty pics and we spot a cave too.
We have just reached Davis Road aka our pick up destination.
Here is the map….
Have a wonderful hike everyone!