9/20/2020 Thru Trail (East) – Bob Trail – Thru Trail (West) – More More Fun Trail – More Fun Trail
Elevation: 489 ft
Approximate address: 10968-10992 Old Court rd. Woodstock, MD 21163
Latitude 39.331897 / Longitude -76.869958
I’ve been driving by this spot for years but never liked the always packed street side parking. Now however we are at the point in Patapsco Valley State Park that I am forced to hit these trails.
There is also very limited parking across the bridge. In May (31) my hubby dropped us off to hike the 10 mile stretch between Woodstock rd. and Daniels rd.
So we are starting from Old Court rd (MD125) just before the bridge over the Patapsco River. (Old Court road becomes Woodstock rd. across the bridge.) As I said, parking is on both sides of the road so be careful while parking and while approaching the trails on foot. Traffic will not slow down unfortunately and they are zooming by fast!
The quarter of a mile paved entrance leads to a heavily gated building and can be used to get to Thru trail and Quarry trail as well.
We take the first left from this paved road almost immediately after entering it and walk down to the river to follow it towards the South.
Reception is spotty and even though I wanted to stick with the longest trail I am not able to see the map right now. So just following the main/white trail – I assume – to our left, after crossing under the bridge.
There are several Patapsco Valley South badges on trees but just keeping with the river is easy enough. Mag loves the water and we take every chance to walk down to it and soak in the views.
The trail narrow and overgrown so look out for bikers. They can sneak up on you without a warning.
We spot several ducks and listen to the dozens of different birds singing and chatting away. We even find a tiny ceramic rabbit peaking from a tree’s crevice.
Mag poses for some cover shots while I notice after one of the bends of the river that looks familiar that we have been here before.
Thankfully I am able to check the map and my thoughts are confirmed. (1/12/2020) In January we hiked up here from Alberton rd. and used an unnamed and non-existent trail beyond the Boob (trail) to turn back right here. So that’s our cue to turn around and after taking yet another pic of beautiful Patapsco head up the hill using the Bob (trail).
We are in Patapsco Valley North as the tree badges confirm and back on Thru trail (white). I spot these psychedelic orange ‘shrooms on a dead trunk while Mag concentrating on a runaway squirrel.
Such a beautiful day! The trail is quite, the sun is shining and we are hiking! Best day!
More more fun trail crosses path with Davis trail for a minute around here than becomes just More fun trail.
Unfortunately my idyllic day doesn’t last long ‘cause we come across this trash pile on our right. It even shows up on the map as “Old quarry filled with trash”….saddening.
We are almost back at the car and since I don’t want to cross the road and deal with lots of people on the way we end up climbing up the hill before the bridge to reach Icicle (our car). That’s why the end of our map looks funky.
Of course we enjoyed yet another fantastic hike around Patapsco which will still provide hours of hiking for us in the future. So lucky to be close to this wonderful river! We’ll be back! And remember
6/22/2020 Unnamed Trail parallel to Western Ridge trail (AllTrails does not show this on its map) – Hiking through the woods towards Western Ridge Trail since there is no connection to it – Western Ridge Trail – Glover Rd. NW
Elevation gain: 397 feet
We had business errands in Silver Spring so while we waited, I figured we revisit Rock Creek Park. Last time here our walk wasn’t totally satisfactory so I looked for another part of the trail to see if we get luckier this time.
It took me almost half hour to find parking because the signs for the park are all over but without any indication of to where to park.
AllTrails is not helpful finding parking either. Finally I spotted yet another sign with parking on the corner of Military Rd. NW and Glover Rd. NW. (Looking back now, I see Rock Creek Nature Center and Planetarium on the map.)
After parking and getting some much needed water in my pockets we headed South to catch up with one of the trails. It’s very hot and humid today.
Keeping with our motto, after we leave the parking area I steer Mag towards the trail on our right to hike the longest route. It is a very generous, well maintained trail which ends up being a dead end. It is parallel with Grant Rd. NW. and leads down to Broad Branch (creek?). The last 50 feet is sort of a drop without traction. Be careful if heading down to the water.
Since there is no connection from this trail end to Western Ridge Trail we have to cut through the forest first following the creek. It’s not an easy task but a rather do this than to head back on unnamed trail. After catching up with our target trail it turns out to be yet another spacious path. Since it’s hot we are leaving out an additional 0.7 miles at the end before it hairpins back following Rock Creek.
We stop several times to enjoy the cooling waters. Good to have water shoes….
Before reaching our car we pass by Rock Creek Stables on our left. The Nature Center and Planetarium is on our right. The Woodland Trail circles them around. We however head back to our car to cool off.
Here is the map of our hike.
I am sure we will be back to hike another trail around here in the future.
These little Carolina wrens (one of my fave birds) started moving in yesterday.
Onyx letting it all hang out.
Carrying tires in the back forced Mag to sit in the front. His choice of spot.
While waiting for the tires to be mounted we went for a short hike in Rock Creek Park.
Got stuck in the trailer for a bit caused by a crazy thunderstorm.
Later on at home.
Leakin rainy morning moments.
Meadowood Regional park.
3 mile morning hike in Soldiers Delight.
Indian Pipes are already emerging from the ground cover.
Day of thistles.
We should have been out and about on a new trail but yesterday’s skid pad kicked my butt. My shoulders and arms are toast. After a late morning walk we came home to bathe Mag. Drying outside on his straw blanket while tanning is one is his favorites. Add peanut butter in a Kong and all is good in his world.
Skid pad drifting lesson all day with the Master, my hubby at Summit Point Raceway.
We had heavy rain yesterday throughout the night. Gwynn’s Falls is swollen and muddy. Not that Mag cares….
My beautiful lemon rose….
I was caught off guard by a wonderful smell on our morning walk today. The only subject flowering was a mulberry tree next to us. Closer investigating I’ve found that it is in fact the source. However none of the three main types fit these flowers. Another unidentifiable wonder.
Toto crossed over the rainbow bridge today. He was about 16 years old. My heart is broken yet again….
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.
Location: Tydings Park, 352 Commerce St. Havre De Grace, MD 21078
We met up with my Sis Chris and her niece Kait and her doggie Max in the Tydings Park parking area and walked north on S. Washington St.
Mag’s first meeting with Max was a little loud since Max is a puppy who loves to bark. Mag being a cool cucumber though helped to calm him down.
The houses are super cute and lots of them has cute decorations too.
Mag also posed on several benches but they all got R rated because of his wee wee showing. I can attest that he is super cute on them though.
At Green St. we turned left for two blocks then walked back on the other side until S. Union Ave.
On Warren St. we cross towards the circle’s Lafayette statue. I didn’t take a pic because he was wearing a mask. It seems like this statue gets dressed a lot….google it.
From here we walked down to Susquehanna River with a view of the Railroad Bridge.
At Franklin St. we had to come back onto St. John St. since there is no water access road. Under one of the alcoves there two payphone booths. We don’t see these around anymore.
We passed Seneca Cannery Antiques on our left with this fancy sign.
Continue on Market St. took us to the community gardens and these very cool murals.
We took a detour to Blue Bill Lane to see some friends but they weren’t home. Cutting through Red Head Way to Girard St. spot us out at the Concord St. exercise park. This cool looking historic bug was parked there. I loved the look.
Our next stop was Concord Point with the lighthouse.
Even the Little Library on the shore is dressed up….
The ‘Big fish, School of fish’ stainless steel sculpture by Thomas Sterner is absolutely mesmerizing! It’s made out of small fish making this huge fish up in the air.
By this time Max and Mag become good buddies.
View of the pier.
Off course Mag had to take a dip in the head of Chesapeake Bay with some geese floating in the close distance.
Heading out from Concord Point we passed the Maritime Museum on Lafayette St. which has awesome murals as well.
Outside there is this huge buoy and propeller.
Turned left on Market St. again to head back to our cars.
Just a fun walk in a historic, beautiful little town. Recommend to head down there and check it out.
Location: Soapstone Trailhead – 1164 S Rolling Road Catonsville, MD 21228
We’ve come pretty early (9:15am) in hope of beating the crowds but even so, the roadside parking is pretty full. We squeeze between two other cars and get ready for our hike. After packing our backpack with necessities we start on Soapstone Trail (purple).
However as soon as a few feet we rather hop on Starstruck trail to make the biggest loop possible (still purple).
The path is very wild at the beginning almost unmaintained then it turns into a beautiful enchanted forest. Flowering Blackhaws and Dogwoods bring white into the lush greenery of the awakening surroundings.
The groundcover is also alive with patches of pink-white Slender Toothworts, the tiny flowers of Chickweeds and the secretive Jack in the pulpits. The rays of the early sun paint shadows on the ground, dancing through the forest.
I can tell that this trail is very popular among bikers. We actually come across a few of them in the bends of the path. From now on I’ll be looking out for them. They zoom by pretty fast and it’s hard to see or hear them approaching.
In the small valley we cross one of the several smaller creeks on a wooden bridge. I wonder why they don’t have names. I guess know one else cares to know.
I could spend hours wondering around in the woods just looking for pic worthy subjects – everything – but Mag is on a quest. We must proceed. In about 0.2 miles we catch up to Soapstone Trail in another valley.
A Cardinal is calling his mate above us as we slowly walk on the widened trail. At the next big bend we hit some traffic so I get Mag to sit on a fallen tree stump while everyone passes.
After a pretty little area where the creek splits, the trail becomes much wider. We even spot our second butterfly of the season, a Swallowtail dancing through Indian-apples. The road follows the stream until the next parking area and beyond.
Several wild rose bushes sweeten the path and provide visual interest. A fallen tree bridges across the creek, it’s huge rootball makes us feel small.
When we reach the east side of Hilton Avenue we must cross the outspread creek, it’s bed covered with bigger sized rocks. Basic balancing skills are needed.
The pavement continues up on our right for a bit longer, ending in another picnic-parking area. Soapstone trail keeps going straight but I’ve decided to follow Hilton to the south to catch up with Grist Mill trail at the bottom of it.
We take yet another small water break what Mag appreciates very much. He would rather walk in the creek but we are getting closer to the small tunnel at the end.
Here it is….one of the foot traffic tunnels below the railroad at the beginning of Grist Mill Trail.
Walking through it takes us to the end of Glen Artney road and Lost Lake. Since last week’s post there are several Red- buds flowering around the perimeter, adding vivid color to the neon greens of the .
The next 1.5 miles we stroll on Grist Mill trail which I have just blogged about last week. But today we are heading North on it until the footbridge then we’ll climb East towards the Hilton area.
Thankfully the route is not crowded, few people have already passed us while Mag smelled all the possible stolons of grass. At a small clearing towards the river a pair of Red-tailed Hawks circle above us screeching to each other. The trail is lined with huge Sycamore and other species of trees below the tracks. The left side is marshland.
We take a river break at a small island just before the next tunnel (Backside of Nun’s trail). The water is clear green with a rocky beach and a lot of driftwood.
We follow the beach until we have to climb up to reach back on the trail at the tunnel. In 0.6 miles the Swinging bridge is visible on our left and I can finally take a picture of it. (Last week there were so many people here and I couldn’t.)
There used to be a flour factory here and the workers used this bridge every day to cross the river in the 1800s. The “Patapsco Superlative Patent” and “Orange Grove” brands were well known for their fine quality and texture. The mill was destroyed in a fire in 1905 then the remains were additionally destroyed by hurricane Agnes in 1972. All is visible today are parts of the stone retaining walls.
This is the only trail leading up on the hill without a tunnel so we have to climb up through the ruins and then the railroad tracks to find the path.
On the other side the trail is unmarked but AllTrail shows it’s whereabouts. Pawpaw trees line the path up the steep hill.
Nun’s Run Trail goes up steep for about 0.5 mile. We take a water break in the middle. Listening to the birds around us I notice how species of birds change within the forest. There were lots of Cardinals at one spot, then woodpeckers and now a pack of Blue Jays communicate throughout the forest.
When reaching the top we are at the other end of Hilton Ave. we discover a huge property with a castle like structure. I had to look it up: All Saints Sisters of the Poor. Interesting. On our left is the huge Hilton area parking of the State Park. We probably will park here for our next adventure to discover the other trails leading out from here.
A Northern Flicker just flew by us landing on a tree, just before we would turn right onto the power line clearing. This is short distance (0.1) cut through to the north end of Santee Branch Trail.
These funky high grasses line the edge of the woods.
The upper portion of Santee is hidden below the power line tower. Sort of an inviting entrance to a fairytale.
We pass a few people and also pick up a trail of them so I urge Mag to hurry up to be able to get rid of them. After crossing this quaint little bridge we finally turn left on College Loop and they proceed to the right. Mission accomplished.
This is the white trail and is leading us to the Community Collage of Baltimore County: Catonsville through a wild serpentine path. It takes a sharp right turn when getting close to the stadiums then disappears into the forest again. This seemingly never ending stone wall is in the middle of it.
By the time we circle back under the power lines the trail is covered with Autumn Olive bushes. The fragrance would be almost nauseating but I find it absolutely wonderful! They are in full bloom in all the parks around here.
Higher up dogwoods are also blooming. We only peek out to the clearing, within few feet we are back in the woods on a tight, overgrown path. Hoping no one will come from the opposite direction since there is no space to step aside.
Even though we come across a few ladies we are lucky enough to be able let them by. The trail takes a turn to the left in a bit and runs next private homes for a short distance until we cross Foxhall Farm Rd. At the “intersection” of five trails we proceed on Bike Jumper to the left.
It starts out fine but then gets pretty steep. We stop for a few minutes to readjust my boots and to take my hoodie off. It was 42F (7C) in the morning and now it’s 58F (14C). Getting hot. Exercising is like throwing logs on the fire. Several bunches of Downy-Yellow Violets brighten my day even further, just sitting under a huge tree in the groundcover.
We’ve managed to get down the hill without rolling. Mag usually is very eager to lead me and I have to remind him to slow down. Yet another unnamed creek greets us on the bottom. There is a small rapid where Mag can swim just a little. Shaking himself while in the water is his specialty.
Since AllTrail is not exactly clear of the next step we should take there is a little confusion here. First we follow the stream then yet again head to the wrong direction the opposite way. Finally after about 5 minutes we are on the right track the orange trail.
We follow this for a while, snaking through the woods until we get to this red gate.
Passing by it we find ourselves on a messy clearing. Trails cross-crossing everywhere I pick one hopefully leading us back to our car. It is marked as Unmaintained Trail….it should be called Jungle. MAN it’s hot out here on the sun!
We manage to get lost yet again and have to turn back to find the trail that’s actually heading downhill just pick back up from the valley. Steep, water washed hill with several families coming downwards gives me the hope that it’s the right path this time.
Yeah! We actually get back to the information board at the beginning of Soapstone Trail. Our car however is situated to a little bit to the left so keeping on the trail we head towards it. After getting to it I make sure Mag drinks some water then I start taking off my clothes….
Here is the route map:
We usually don’t have so many dead end try on our hike but since AllTrail is not a 100% reliable, it could happen. That’s part of the adventure.
Hope you too will get out there to enjoy and discover our wonderful globe!
4/5/2020 – River Rd. – Water Bars – Rockburn Branch trail (purple) – Hop the snake – Nacho – Belmont trail – Log trail – Barley and Hops – Lewis and Clark – Garrett’s pass – Upper Cascade Falls trail – Garrett’s Pass – Bike Buster-Downhill – River Rd. – Ilchester trail – Ilchester Rd. – Grist Mill trail – Gunned – Gun Rd. – River Rd.
Elevation gain: 830 ft
Location: Patapsco Valley State Park Avalon, River road Halethorpe, MD 21227
Easiest to get here is from highway 1. We were cutting through the neighborhoods (Rolling Road) and it wasn’t easy to find it. Got lost twice.
Since Covid-19 started, in some of the parks we have visited, instead of people when entering there is a new system in place. You put the entrance fee noted in an envelope, drop it in the box, get a ticket which you display on your dash or mirror. Pretty smart.
The drive towards the parking lot is loooong. The road goes under the Thomas Viaduct (1835), the world’s largest multiple-arched stone railroad bridge with a curve. Then lazily winds through the woods next to Patapsco River for at least a half mile – it feels forever.
At the end we can turn both ways to end up in separate parking areas. To the right it’s much smaller but is at the Lost Lake at the beginning of Grist Mill trailhead.
We got here just before noon on a sunny Sunday so it’s not surprising that the place is already pretty busy. Lots of people, considering the new norm of social distancing rules. After packing our stuff and changing into my boots we start towards the river.
There are people everywhere – even though the pictures show otherwise – so instead of targeting the beginning of Riverside trail we climb back up towards River road on our left (heading north). In about a quarter of a mile we catch up to Ridge trail….
….and further to Water Bars trail. The path is nice and steep, feels good to move these old bones of mine. Thankfully Mag usually takes his time and I can rest and take pictures while we climb. Everything is awakening and the ground-cover is full of colors.
Our trail color today is purple. Rockburn Branch Trail purple….
The terrain is very versatile, changing from soil to mud to rocks pretty quickly. Oh….I just saw our first chipmunk of the season.
The little pink flowers – Carolina spring-beauty- at some places cover the whole ground like a shag carpet. The forest is gorgeous on this sunny and warm day. Birds conversing all around us while we snake through it. Hop the snake! Since that’s our next trail’s name which runs parallel to Rockburn Branch.
This is a wonderful location right here at the creek. Reminds me of Unicorn meadow (I am the only one who calls it this way) in Soldiers Delight. I guess the moisture in the air favors the wildflowers and ferns because there are so many of them and they are beautiful!
We get back to the trail and after letting a few bikers then some hikers pass by from the other direction, we proceed through exposed roots in a canyon like section. Tiny canyon….
Not much is going on in the next mile, it’s just us and the forest.
Out of nowhere we reach a Private Property sign in a 90 degree left turn….
….then a dead end paved road – Belmont Woods rd. – which goes up to Morning Choice Trail. Originally I wanted to go on Belmont Trail but got lost between all the small paths going through this muddy area and we ended up using a small portion of Nacho, short cutting back to Belmont ahead. We lose the trail for a minute somehow but I am able to catch it following a hunch. (When I look on the map it turns out that there is an unmaintained trail right here.) We come across quite a few people here, hikers and bikers alike.
We are really close to Landing road, which means we are also really close to communities. From here on – and it’s a pretty lengthy portion of today’s walk – we’ll hike next to private properties. It’s been a long time when last we had a hike like this.
The trail still have some wilderness to it though. I guess local bikers like the close proximity to their back yards. Pedaling through these creeks in the heat of the workout is sure has to be fun.
The scenery and elevation both changing often and surprisingly. Now we are cutting through farmland, ending in a funky, slight uphill pigtail. Spring’s fresh green color is visible on the top of the tall trees.
The piggy’s tail leads us to a fork with five tines. Belmont Trail becomes Log Trail when keeping straight. To the left we could end up on Landing Rd. (lots of people start their hike from here.) The first right is Nacho’s other end and the second right is Morning Choice Trail which runs parallel to Log Trail until they crash. We proceed straight on Log Trail until it becomes Barley and Hops next to the developments.
We have a small adventure when crossing Rockburn Branch which is a small creek but where the trail goes through it here it sort of deep. A family with three small kids from the other direction trying to build a dam out of rocks to cross it. I end up just wading through, luckily not getting the inside of my boots wet. I feel sorry leaving the fam there struggling to get over, but thanks to COVID-19 I don’t think they would take my help anyway.
The next mile goes by quickly without any interesting happenings. It’s just us slithering through the forest on Barley and Hops then keeping left on Lewis and Clark. Both run close to houses on Landing road. We encounter several bikers and hikers along the way. We also cross Norris lane (another paved road) which dead ends close to Ridge trail and Patapsco River.
Our next intersection is at Cascade Falls trail….
(Note: most people park on the street here, very popular starting point. No actual parking area.)
….but we keep straight onto Garrett’s Pass. It’s actually more scenic being on higher grounds and less trafficked because everyone thinks the Cascades are worth going in the valley. There are dozens of people down there, clearly visible from where we are. We haven’t had any big rain in the past few days and it’s hot. I doubt that there are any Cascades on that trail right now. I tried to look up the actual creek’s name but no info available online about it. Kind of weird….
This path is absolutely beautiful! We are up high, nature is just waking, the ground cover is a lush green with tiny pink and white flowers.
When coming across other trails we keep left except one time. In less then a mile we are slowly approaching – hopefully without tumbling down – Biker Buster-Downhill. This less then a half a mile portion is challenging even without a bike!
However, we make it down to Riva Road! There is a path down to Patapsco so Mag takes a cool down swim.
After the beach-party, we get back on Riva to reach our original destination on Ilchester road. Until we get there the trail winds next to the river. The further up we get the more unmaintained and neglected it gets. Mag spots some weird entrapments across the river and comes to a halt. Hammocks swing in the light breeze. He needs some convincing to get in motion again.
The road comes to an end in a form of a citadel but I am reluctant and we keep on going at the water’s edge because AllTrails shows a path. Good call! Following the sandy/rocky shore, the apocalyptic looking paved trail continues above the bouldery hill.
There used to be a dam here!
Bloede’s Dam was a hydroelectric dam on the Patapsco River. It was the first known instance of a submerged hydroelectric plant, where the power plant was actually housed under the spillway. It is also recognized as one of the earliest dams constructed of reinforced concrete. It opened in 1907 and was demolished in 2018. The area is still under construction.
At 7 miles and after three hours we have just reached our destination! The Grist Mill walking bridge. I’ve seen this while looking for the Cascades last year but wasn’t comfortable enough to park around. We had to hike here.
There is a small path next to the guardrail on Ilchester road to reach the bridge.
Lots of people here! We wait for our turn to walk through the bridge without colliding with anyone.
(Note: there are several small parking areas here next to the road but not one of them is legal. Signs are everywhere about tow away zones. I would not recommend to park here.)
The way back is quick – 3 miles – and busy with people and their pets. We make two more stops to emerge Mag into the water….
We discover another foot bridge – called Swinging bridge – across the river at 8.2 miles. Nice cut through if you don’t want to hike all the way up or down. I can’t take a pic because there are literally too many people around. (Cheating….pic from next week’s post.)
On the other side of the river there is also a big picnic area.
I still manage to take pictures of a seemingly empty trail.
There are also several tunnels under the railroad connecting to more trails on the hills. (See upcoming post.)
At the end of Grist Mill Trail there is the wonderful Lost Lake with sunbathing turtles. It’s surroundings are closed because of the virus right now but otherwise there are benches to sit and enjoy the beauty of nature.
A small parking area provides extra parking. We cut through it and hop on Gunned to stay away from traffic on the paved road leading back to the main area. Isn’t this quint? We reached Elkridge Landing.
Crossing over the bridge on our right will take us back to our car.
Absolutely amazing trail system! We loved it! Here is our route.
Same location, different route on Marriottsville Rd. We park in the same lot next to the railroad tracks and head North to catch up to the Patapsco-McKeldin Trail on the other side of the road. Even though there is a small, makeshift parking area at the trailhead (fits maybe 4-6 cars), about a quarter of mile away, I find it safer to leave my car where it’s permitted.
After crossing the bridge from the parking….
….we also cross Henryton Rd. and Marriottsville Road Number 2 (yes….that’s the name) then cautiously walk across to a very muddy path….
….connecting us to the trailhead.
As usual, we follow the longest route to the left, uphill on a spacious trail winding next to Marriottsville Road.
My favorite Woody – Pileated – Woodpecker just flew across the trail in front of my eyes. However I am not just looking out for birds while we hike. Hearts are my other obsessions. Look at this beauty!
We continue our march up the hill, until we come across a big parking area at Switchback Trail within a hundred feet or so.
Carefully crossing – Mag has to sit down every time we cross – onto the trail which like a snake slithering among tall trees.
On our left is a gorgeous pine forest while on our right for more then a half mile is the McKeldin Area of Patapsco Valley State Park with its various structures.
Even though the forest still looks dormant its brown and gray colors with batches of neon green is spectacular to me. I find it beautiful even without bright colors. We are up high above Marriottsville Road and North branch Patapsco River. The trail takes a big right turn and heads downhill on the other side of the mountain. In the small valley is a tiny creek with lush green lettuce like plants (yet to find out what they are called). Walking upwards now, we soon reach a fork at Plantation Trail.
However we are going the opposite direction, down the hill. Unfortunately AllTrails does not show this path at all….it runs parallel with Patapsco-McKeldin but at the edge of the river. As you can see on this pic – on small tree in middle – it is marked with white paint.
Just a few feet on this trail and I find a small boulder with several species of beautiful flowers, growing out from its cracks and the surrounding area.
The path winds down dramatically, getting closer and closer to Patapsco, ending in a wooden staircase at the edge of the river.
The invisible trail – at least on AllTrails – is going in both direction so we head left to investigate. It actually ends in less then a hundred feet in a pile of fallen trees. Beyond is a limestone cliff stretching towards the sky, it’s footing growing out of the water.
So we turn back and follow the green river towards the SE.
The right side is very rocky, at some places there are hundreds of huge fallen boulders littering the forest.
The trail itself is ever changing with different materials switching back and forth. I spot thousands of Trout Lilly leaves but since it’s much chillier here they haven’t flowered just yet. We also hear a Mallard duck quacking away on the river, maybe looking for his mate.
We stop a few times where rocks are stretching into the river to take pics and for Mag’s swimming pleasure.
Just before the river-band, the groundcover becomes alive, changing to hundreds of Japanese Barberry bushes waking from their winter sleep.
I planned to cross Patapsco at this bend since my App shows a continuum of the trail on the other side….just forget to mention a horse I would need. Even though it’s not deep but it’s cold. I will not jeopardize getting a cold.
There is another crossings visible nearby but it also turns out to be a hoax. I give up on crossing (here at least, I usually have a hard time giving up on the longest route) so we get back on Patapsco-McKeldin. The jungle like ground cover spits us out at the South end of Plantation Trail.
We managed to emerge just when two riders pass on horseback so we manage to walk/run the next half a mile in record time. At the info board the trail splits – all 3 marked as Patapsco-McKeldin which I find idiotic – hence we follow the left branch. The river is quite beautiful here, rushing through small rapids while heading South.
A few minutes later we come across giant pebbles lazily reclining in the cool liquid, giving us a chance to take a break. Our view from the middle….
They say it’s lucky to get pooped on by a bird….I wonder….is it lucky to sit in a huge pile of Canadian goose doo doo? I let you know later. I cannot wait to change my pants though.
Back on the trail we pass another path on our right. Switchback is climbing uphill to sort of shortcut the riveredge-trail (still Patapsco-McKeldin) towards the Rapids we follow. Eventually we’ll catch up to it closer to the end.
The big loop of the North Branch ends in a fork splitting the river in two where we should be able to cross yet again but no luck. Have to keep up with the now so called South Branch, following it towards North (confused yet?)
At the next fork we keep left, still heading to the rapids. Promises, promises.
I spot the awesome Thru trail on the other side. We yet to hike that portion of it.
The river is gorgeous! We encounter a few runners on this stretch and to give them some space we go down to the boulder beach. While Mag fights with a huge driftwood I take some pics.
We cannot get enough of the water….
We had to….the rapids are calling. Climbing through an interesting flat surface 30 degree rock formation, targeting a blooming wild cherry tree on top, we reach another dramatic bend.
Trail traffic gets unbelievably busy here so we sit down on the edge of a boulder while everyone passes behind us.
Five minutes later we are back on track, coming up on a sandy beach….
….and beyond that, over the bend, in a lagoon….the rapids!
The trail climbs above it, providing a spacious lookout.
There is a tiny parking area here for a handful of cars but since it is well hidden, there are still a few spots available. I am sure mostly locals use it.
The railroad tracks are visible on the other side of the rapids. We are almost finished with our loop. Following the paved road for a quarter of a mile we turn left again at a small info board and some wooden steps on the hill.
Pretty much this whole time the trail keeps up with different branches of Patapsco, one is more mesmerizing than the next.
At the next possible fork we turn left and catch up on an unofficial – looks like fisherman – path with Piney-Run. While on it, I spot a Bald Eagle sitting on top of a distant tree above the tracks. Soon we reach Marriottsville Rd. and after crossing it, we make the last stretch and head back to our car.
Here is our loopsy-loop.
Funky how certain trails seem so much longer than others even though the distance is shorter. This is one of those.
It also inspired me to buy fisherman’s chest waders. No more not crossing! (There will be but I don’t know that just yet….aargh.)
5/17/2020 Unmaintained trail next to Susquehanna River – Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail – turn around at Shures Landing Rd. at Conowingo Dam – un-named trail through Stafford Rd. bridge – Green trail – Susquehanna Ridge Trail – Red Trail – Rock Run Historic Area
Elevation gain: 440ft
Location: Rock Run Historic Area, Stafford Rd., Havre De Grace MD.
We met up with my friend Chris to spend some time together while exploring this trail. We usually get together nowadays outside since Mag cannot join us in any indoor activities. We’ve parked at the Historic Area parking lot next to Stafford road.
Right away we took to a lookout with a bench where Mag found a snake. It slid down into the vegetation so I don’t have a pic. We hopped back on the unmaintained old railroad track trail and headed North.
Some parts of this unmaintained trail are better than others but watch out for plenty of poison ivy!
There are several opportunities on our right to beach Mag. He loves the water. He waits for me to throw stones around him so he can dig for them in the shallow water.
After reaching the bridge to Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway Trail the trail stays wild for a bit than becomes an elevated, spacious boardwalk.
The trail ends at the parking lot before the Dam. That’s where we turn around and head back South. On the way back we get a glimpse of this gorgeous Great Blue Heron chilling on some small rocks in the middle of the Susquehanna.
We keep left at this small wooden bridge to an un-named trail towards Stafford Rd.
Just before the Stafford Rd. bridge over Deer Creek we come across this Flint Furnace from the 1700s.
I climb out onto the rock wall at the foot of the furnace on the creek side to take some pictures.
These signs are beyond the bridge just before we take another trail back into the forest.
Almost immediately there are several Indian Apples hiding in the ground-cover.
On AllTrails this last stretch of trails have no names but we come across signs showing otherwise. The first half mile runs next to parking and picnic areas even though the greenery covered most. Looking at the map afterwards clearly shows that we are gradually getting closer to Susquehanna River.
I could not identify this interesting plant which had two sets of totally different flowers. At the base of the leaves there is that periwinkle blue bloom than on the top there are those tiny green ones. Mystery….
Just found it. Clustered Black Snakeroot….but….there is no mansion anywhere about the blue flower.
Here is another one I couldn’t find in the app I use.
Meanwhile we come across a sign for the Mason-Dixon Trail (not line).
The forest also opens up just enough to see Susquehanna River down below us rushing towards the south.
Not soon enough for Chris (😉) we arrive at Rock Run. Crossing this small stream is not as easy as it looks….we get a bit wet.
But after crossing it we are in the finish line to getting back to the car. Taking a few photos at the Historic buildings is a must for me.
Almost four and a half hours later we are back at our starting point. Here is our map.
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.
After getting both of us ready, we take a stroll down to the lake to see those cute little fluffballs up close.
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.
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.
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.
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….
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.
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….
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.
Yet another new trail hike today just to stretch our legs.
Lazy. No pics. 😳
Muffin perching on the Weeping Willow.
Soon to be purple thistle.
Early morning hike on my very favorite Highland Trail close to Prettyboy Dam. Absolutely gorgeous day!
We headed out to Oregon Ridge for our morning walk. I forgot Mag’s harness (got washed). Thankfully I always have an extra regular leash in the car. After a bit of a struggle I came up with this fantastic design…. (We don’t like collars.)
Hundreds of tiny spiders in a nest of composting leaf ground-cover.
This historic water wheel is located in the second largest park in the country within city limits, Leakin park.It was built in the 1850s and even though it hasn’t been operational since 1866! when toppled by flood waters it still stands and need to be preserved and protected. It might be the only one of its kind in the whole country.
I could not take photos but I’ve seen my first dragonfly and a Swallowtail butterfly this season today.
Leakin park in color and in B&W.
Eastern Spring Beauty living in a tree
Leakin park’s trail art and the magnificent Saucer Magnolia allée.
4/25/2020 Cat Rock Trail (yellow) – Cat Rock Overlook – Bobs Hill Trail (still yellow – AllTrail marks this as Cat Rock Trail) – Lake and Cat Rock Trail or Catoctin National Recreational Trail (blue). Confusing/Contradicting signs! – to Lower Trail and Falls overlook – Handicap Boardwalk Trails (closed now because of Covid-19) – Falls Nature Trail (orange and after parking area on Park Central Rd. red-white).
Elevation gain: 1444ft
Location: Catoctin Mountain Park 6602 Foxville Rd. Thurmont, MD 21788
1st pic….Mag chillin’ on the couch waiting for me to be ready at 7:55am.
2nd pic….at 7:56am after telling him that I am ready for our walk.
It’s an hour drive for us to get to location but we’re still lucky enough at 10am to find parking at my target lot on Foxville Rd. Both parking areas are small and on opposite sides of the road. We’ve parked at the trailhead….
….while across the street at the Park Headquarter’s entrance are more spots. If no luck finding any space here, heading up the road about another mile or so you’ll find a bigger area at the Visitor Center 127 Park Central Rd. Getting here early is key though! Latecomers will have to park on the street….yikes.
Beautiful sunny day, around 58F (14C). The trailhead starts out with a very stoney uphill hike lined with tall fir trees. So lovely!
In the right uphill S-es we come across some people poking around in the ground-cover looking for something. I wonder what….
We just keep climbing on the yellow trail. It sure is pretty steep.
While a family passes us, I have Mag sit on a fallen tree (it’s a habit of ours to show people that he is very well behaved).
We are dragging our feet anyway. Just like this Millipede….relocating it is crucial before someone steps on it.
Few minutes later we also meet a couple of hunters….it makes me wonder if they are here legally or not? I haven’t seen any signs for managed hunting areas.
Ferns are growing everywhere on long hairy stems, just about to pop open, giving away to the spring air and sunshine.
It’s another 0.2 miles to the top when we get to a small stream trickling over sort of a shallow “riverbed” made out of mossy rocks.
Almost at the top, a post marks Old Misery Trail (orange) on our right which would take us down to Hunting Creek Lake. We are going straight up though. The Lake area is closed anyway because of Covid.
Just a minute longer and we are at the clearing for the power lines. There is a pretty big boulder calling our names. Unfortunately “stupid” was here before us and left broken glass at its base. Making careful moves we are still able to conquer the rock.
Taking a few minutes to chill then hopping off, we continue into the woods on the other side. (We could hike the power line “trail” as well. To the West it would take us to Catoctin Hollow Rd. and beyond – later we will cross it again – and to the East it would spit us out on Pryor Rd.) I was lying before….the trail is still going uphill. This pitstop wasn’t the top.
After some more winding then a left turn leads us to our next clue. Still not on the top is a sign for Bobs Hill and Cat Rock.
Since the latter seems to be a dead end we’ll head over that way, hoping for some epic views.
The family of three who passed us earlier are perching on top of the boulders. Before climbing up there with Mag in tow, I must ask if there is a panorama worth our efforts. They assure us with a yes.
I would love to conquer the top but it’s not easy to balance with a dog on a leash. We settle for this not too shabby view. In some cases it would be nice to have a human hiking buddy as well. Carefully descending, making sure Mag doesn’t tumble down pulling me with him, we head back towards the post, marking Bobs Hill.
Lots of twigs and pine-needles on this slightly descending three feet wide rocky path. Throughout the East Coast trails, Mountain Laurels are the most common shrubbery lining both sides of the paths. First I thought they were sort of a wild version of Rhododendrons but looking them up online revealed the truth. They will be flowering in a few weeks time.
I’ve spotted this cute little mushroom as well….growing out of a decaying tree, surrounded by velvety moss.
Zig-zagging on a slight uphill takes us to an almost picture worthy spot but nature is awakening and the ever growing greenery blocks the photo opportunity to the NE. After a sharp left we come across Red Trail on our right which catches up to the power line “trail”. We keep on Cat Rock Trail though for another 1.2 miles. The path is a lovely green opposite the browns of the still dormant looking trees.
Half way through (1.2) we see the valley stretching below with a view of Cat Rock to the far left. It’s heavily wooded, taking a photo is pointless. Mag decides that it’s the perfect spot to roll around and chew on a yummy stick.
Continue on, we meet Honey a beautiful honey colored Pit-Vizsla mix and her friendly owner. Off course the two dogs hit it off right away but we have to keep on marching the opposite direction. The trail from here is grassy, colored by dandelions, lined with scattered flowering wild cherry- and dogwood trees. It is so quiet out here, I only hear the light breeze….well….Mag is chewing on a branch….but otherwise quiet.
Soon we reach the T, the yellow- and blue trails meet here.
Turning left would take us down to Catoctin Hollow Rd. (East end) and beyond. That trail goes on forever to the South connecting to some serious labyrinth of trails. We will come back to discover them another time, even though Mag starts to head that way. After little convincing and a passerby-er’s distraction we continue our journey to the right, on the Catoctin National Recreation Trail (blue). For about 0.6 miles we are parallel to the yellow trail we’ve came on. I can hear people hiking on it now.
Our trail however is skinnier and is very different from the one only about fifty feet away. Super rocky and messy and everything is covered in lichens.
The narrow trail winding through the forest in a decline and we are “writing” a huge M on the map, headed towards Hunting Creek Lake. There are no wildflowers present, its pretty dense and the bottom is covered with hundreds of fallen trees.
Mag has been leading the way like a champ but I am still able to spot a little orphaned nest on the ground. Relocating it successfully at the 3.9 mile mark. I doubt that any bird will use it again but at least it won’t be crushed by humans. We are descending rapidly now through rocky surface then water saturated soil that is so spring like. Walking on funky shag carpet in the the middle of the woods….
The weather is kind of undecided too, I have to keep changing back-and-forth between my hoodie and my cotton long sleeve under-layer. The trail is occasionally lined with Downy Yellow- and regular purple violets visited by humming bumblebees. Just before reaching Catoctin Hollow Rd. – I can hear light traffic – these delicate white flowers take over.
At 4.7 miles while we are crossing Catoctin Hollow Rd. and come across this wonderful closure. I am not sure how they think we will all the sudden disappear….
Since we don’t have wings nor I will backtrack, we proceed straight ahead. Shortly after we are crossing over a stream then while walking uphill I find some interesting looking plants. It turns out they are emerging Squawroots.
Several small wooden platforms bridge us over tiny creeks, sort of washing through the trail. Mag successfully finds the perfect stick to chew on while I take some pictures.
Our next stop is the power-line trail again but this time it’s pretty dramatic, snaking downhill towards Catoctin Hollow Rd. Hunting Creek Lake’s Southern tip is just around the corner from here on our left.
From here we can already see the Camp Ground Drive parking area but off course it’s closed at this time. I am sort of waiting to be stopped at any moment – there is a truck parked at the entrance – but no one has been in sight for two miles. Total number of people we have come across is about 10 and we have hiked more then 5 miles (not counting where we have been parked). Hiking uphill from the parking lot we take a breather on a huge fallen tree and eat our respective sandwich (DD). Energized again we climb all the way to the top of this section just to continue on a downhill path.
Originally I wanted to walk down to the lake but when we get to Cliff Trail (East) to do just that, this is what greets us.
So we are forced to follow Cliff Trail to the left (NW-yellow) towards the Falls. This is a short 0.3 portion until we fork into the Lower Trail. It goes slightly uphill until this massive lose rock mound in the middle of the forest.
Right after the trails splits into a 1.4 mile section to the left, which ends at Park Central Rd. (N). We proceed to the right….
Trail is rocky downhill but easier on the joints thanks to zigzagging through boulders.
At the bottom we merge with the Lower Trail on our right and a closed off boardwalk on our left which would normally lead us to Cunningham Falls. I respect the closure here, even though there are several people at the bottom of the rapids.
Since there are no other way to get through to Foxville Rd. we have to cross through the stream and hop on the other boardwalk. There are people on it so I am under the impression that its open. Which doesn’t make any sense.
We apologize! In our defense….we jumped it from the inside out.
There is a small handicap parking area here which we have to cross in order to get to the continuum of Falls Nature Trail (orange) on the other side of Foxville Rd. This stretch is 1.1 mile long and will take us to the Visitor Center.
It is a very a popular trail being an easy one and close to several parking areas. This last part is sort of uneventful except the loads of people we encounter. It’s a nice cool down period for us. Have to stop several times letting people and their dogs pass by. If you would look on AllTrail you would see 4-5 tiny loops on this stretch marking when we stood on the side of the path doing just that.
After crossing the Visitor Center’s parking lot – I took several pics here but I cannot find them – the trail becomes wide and straight for a bit.
At one point – maybe the Visitor Center? – the trail became white/red from orange. This last portion of our adventure is another mile and follows Foxville Rd. When we finally reach our car this whole area is full of cars parked everywhere! After I clean off Mag and I change into my everyday shoes, we are ready to hit the road!
Very dreary day with light drizzle. My favorite weather. The small parking lot we’ve been using for the trails around here is almost full but mostly with fishermen’s cars. I guess it’s perfect weather for them.
We carefully cross Marriottsville Rd. to pick up the trailhead sandwiched between South Branch Patapsco River and the railroad tracks.
For 0.3 miles we’re keep following the tracks then jump on the trail after crossing them on our right. We actually almost missed the trail but I caught up with the mistake early enough. It continues up on a small hill about 25 feet above the railroad.
Even though it winds through the forest the funny part is that several times we end back up at the railroad. So even if you miss the trail at the beginning you’ll have plenty of time to catch up with it within a few hundred feet.
At about 0.5 miles the river makes several big loops teasing us only with its sounds as it leaves our sight. After this first bend our path takes us farther away but there is a constant roaring.
The trail is very muddy since it has rained all day yesterday. On our left there is a tiny lake, looks more like a floodplain but it shows up on the map. I’m sure it’s home to a wonderfully diverse wildlife and plants, even though it doesn’t look like much at the moment. The area around this small pool is full of birds.
On our right there’s a huge mossy rock wall. I could just put a chair underneath to enjoy nature from this very spot.
We have to cross a little creek running down from the hills, feeding into the small lake. Walking upwards put us yet again above the tracks. I can hear a Kingfisher at the vantage point, flying towards the cascades.
At 1.5 miles the trail turns away from the river and heads deeper into the forest. We cross yet again another small creek that feeds into Patapsco. We could actually just follow the railroad keeping with the river and pick up the targeted end of this trail but we’re here to hike.
Scratch that actually….what shows up on the app as our trail is wrong again. I don’t know where they’re getting their information. I was actually hoping that there would be an invisible trail keeping with the railroad and the river that other likeminded people tracked out. Always taking the longest route.
As you can see the black lines are missing under my red track lines. That’s the invisible trail until we reach Woodstock to Driver Trail down in the corner.
At one point there is a clearing, thankfully without the power lines.
On the other side the forest swallows us but just for a short amount of time. Spits us out again at the railroad but takes yet another right turn at some small ruins to guide us through the woods some more.
Mag shows strong interest in a small creek with a huge boulder sticking out of it. We approach so he can take a drink. Easy for his small body to slide through the fallen trees but I have to have some acrobatic talent to follow him with the attached leash.
After our short break we come across the same clearing again and a mosquito sitting on a cherry blossom.
Instead of keeping with the clearing we duck back into the forest after climbing through some heavy mud. The forest is absolutely lovely with its pastel greens. Spring changes all the browns slowly, starting on the bottom, working her way up to the top.
We walk along these ruins which I christened: The Patapsco Stonehenge, just before catching back to the river again.
At exactly 3 miles we take a sharp right turn, hooking up to Woodstock to Driver Trail. The other path keep going until it reaches Old Court Rd. where it becomes Hoco Thru Trail. (We’ll check that out at another time.) The railroad also heads that way, leaving us for good.
On the way back we have to take shelter under our umbrella for five minutes when the rain becomes more pronounced. Mag hates getting wet from above. Doesn’t take long and we are back carrying on. Cutting through the same clearing again, criss-crossing like a scissor’s arms.
Mag gets a swift of horse smell and goes bananas as usual. I see the proof of their presence but no other sightings though. Just me being pulled through the forest by a crazy canine.
He calms down in a bit when we emerge at a nice size farmland with hundreds of freshly planted trees.
It’s easy to get off track since AllTrail is not perfectly clear which one to take but no worries all lead to the spooky farm. The main house is actually pretty nice.
After the farm there are at least three paths to choose from so we take the middle one. We end up at another – less spooky – horse farm across Driver Rd. Haze makes everything a little bit spookylicious though.
We keep to the right and come across a closed parking area with even an information post. Seems to be abandoned for awhile now.
As we march on our now wide and spacious trail we stir up a Pileated Woodpecker looking for a fat worm on a dead tree. It was amazing! Sounds like a chopper taking off from base.
Our next stop is the colonial pipeline facility in all its glory!
We walk around it and follow the tunnelish trail on the other side.
I guess because of the fog every plane overhead sounds like they are going to land on the top of our heads.
We are back in the beautiful forest with hundreds – thousands – of arrow straight trees. Awakened Barberry bushes paint our surroundings green near and far on the bottom.
There are these awesome ruins in the middle of the woods here. Both were obviously houses at one point but while one has walls the other only has the chimney to attest to this fact.
The path here goes just below residential farms located on Driver Rd. and since we are taking the biggest loop to get back to where we’ve parked we come across another small horse farm. I have chosen this cut through to pass a couple with a dog in front of us but it turned out that this is a much longer route. They end up way before us when we finally get back next to the railroad.
I’ve spotted this actual Wood duck on the path! (Look up wood ducks if you are not familiar with the species.)
So we are back at our original split from the train. Heading back to our starting point next to them on the ballast, marveling about the river on our right.
Before the bridge a Great Blue Heron took off and flew next to us following the riverbed. Absolutely gorgeous creature.
We’ve safely crossed the road after picking up some trash next to it. Cleaning off Mag and changing my boots are priority but after giving him a treat I get on to shot off the app.
Here is the trail map.
After leaving the parking lot and crossing the tracks I see the road sign for Driver Rd. on the left. Let’s see about this quieter road. Very lovely! I wouldn’t mind living here as a matter of fact!
Here is the horse farm across from the abandoned parking area.
3/21/2020 Pickall trail – Patapsco-Thru trail – Mill Race trail – Patapsco-Thru trail – Rockhaven Avenue – Stairway to Haven – Patapsco-Thru trail – Pickall trail – Festivus for the Rest of us – Festivus – Pickall trail
Elevation gain: 869ft
Location: Old Frederick Rd. at Johnnycake Rd. before green metal bridge. Windsor Mill, MD 21244
Latitude 39.3103 Longitude-76.7923
I’ve noticed this trail on our last adventure from across the river and looked it up. Parking is not available at the trailhead and I am usually very uncomfortable walking with Mag on any road without a sidewalk. To get to this trail we would have to cross the bridge where there is no threshold for pedestrians….not cool with me. So….I got my hubby to drop us off at the trailhead. He is working at the shop today and will pick us back up when we finish our hike.
Like most trails in Patapsco this one as well follows the river for a while. Instead of leading us down to the water this one however starts going upward after a few hundred feet. The view is quite spectacular from up here.
Hiking on the narrow path, soon we find ourselves pretty close to I70 which runs above us and literally on top of us when we dip below the twin bridges. Even though I am not for vandalism but I happen to like graffiti. I wish we would have more structures all over with positive messages and the wonderful colors. This would be a great place for that reaching towards the bottom of the highway. Some of the graffiti artists are extremely talented.
We are keeping with the river but at one point destruction to the forest caused by some sort of construction cuts us of at the delta of Cedar Branch. We are not supposed to cross here but I am not sure what they want us to do? Fly away? Crossing the Branch and then the barrier we are back on the damaged trail.
From here on we are on Patapsco-Thru Trail keep following the river until ducking under Baltimore National Pike’s double bridges. Just before that would happen we come across this poor Teddy bear left to die on this tree.
Off course I’ve rescued him! Look at that face!
It wasn’t easy to cross the little creek that joins Patapsco under the bridge with its own little dam….
….but after successfully doing so we got to enjoy a pretty beach area.
FYI: solution to cross the small creek: follow the trail upward between the pillars, through the larger black rocks above, closer to the base of the bridge.
The trail here becomes Mill Race Trail.
We keep going until the little wooden bridge leading us into the woods. But before we would jump on it we go visit the waters.
The wooden bridge also means that we are yet again on another portion of the trail – Patapsco Thru – which I’ve mentioned before. This one comes and goes.
While leaving the river behind we have a nice little – big – mountain (feels like) to get up on. Phew that was challenging! Hiking through the forest, we are heading towards Rockhaven Ave. and then Stairway to Haven, before reaching the highway again.
That was weird! I have been on I40 many many times and never noticed that there is a trail literally 5 feet from it. We are moving as fast as we possibly can to leave this section since the cars doing 60-80 mph coming head on. Jeeeeeeez! I am glad that there at least guardrails between us.
After successfully passing this short portion we head back under the highway to re-emerge on the other side. Thankfully the trail stays farther away from it here, taking us deeper into the forest. Crossing over the small creek that ends up dumping into Patapsco under the bridge, we start to climb slightly upwards. At the top of the hill we yet again very close to the road but the trail takes a sharp left turn away from it. Before we do that I spot this giant ant on top of a stacked stone pile.
We are back on Pickall Trial for awhile. On our right there are several developments with there own entrances to the main trail. We keep away from those. Moving steadily, we catch up to a caravan of people and their dogs. They are nice enough to let us pass. Keeping our pace we get a glimpse of Patapsco from up above. The silver river snakes below us with lazy rapids.
Following the trail we make a huge right to left U turn and come across yet again the clearing through the woods. Even though there are barricades, we manage to cross the mess and carry on within Cedar Branch to find our way up the hill, catching back up to the trail somewhere higher up the hill.
It’s hard to spot the path but after a bit of a search I am able to. Dragging through wet leaves and the muddy underlayer, we manage to pull ourselves back on track.
Unfortunately the trail disappears yet again caused by another clearing which dumped debris and fallen trees on it. We lose it entirely and our only way out is to climb up on the huge machinery made muddy path and follow it towards north.
On this next pic we can see how much original trail we have missed. Probably half of “Festivus for the rest of us” as it goes out to almost touch I70 than circles back around a huge parking area with several huge pavilions.
Crossing this little bridge leads us to even more pavilions to the west, perching on top of the hill in the distance.
After finally leaving this huge parking area (entrance is from Johnnycake Rd.) the trail becomes Festivus and turns left to snake through the forest, getting closer to Patapsco again.
Mag takes the opportunity to roll in the leaves while I follow the flight paths of several woodpeckers.
Soon enough we are back under I70 and the tall twin bridges.
I usually have a trash bag with me but I found two larger piece of garbage which I pick up and struggle my way through the rest of the hike.
Safely made it back to the trailhead, the metal bridge on our left. Now we just have to wait for hubby to pick us back up.
Here is our hike map.
We hope you get a chance to hike this trail! It’s wonderful! And don’t forget: