Glorious Fall weather and lingering foliage combined to make today’s hike one of the prettiest we’ve had all year. The roads in Greenbelt Park were partially closed this morning, for a 5K run, but opened just in time for our arrival. Hike leaders today were Pat with Rory; and Jeff with Katy. Assistance was welcomed from Cindy with Belle; Alice with Diva; and Jenifer, whose wonderful little Tigger crossed over the Rainbow Bridge the week before-- we will all miss her! Jenifer brought Dove chocolate mints to share and we had a Moment of Remembrance before heading into the woods. Joining us today were Mich with Louie; Erin with Xander; Gail with Mollie; Carole with Clyde; Terry with Buddy; and Honorary Auntie Rita who quickly made friends with dogs both big and small.
After introductions of people and dogs, and distribution of goodies for all, we set off on the 6-mile “Perimeter Trail” which offered a few challenges. In addition to the downed trees, some brambles and a few muddy bogs, we negotiated what Jeff called the “Indiana Jones” bridge crossing. The bridge is closed to horses, but we humans and canines made our way over by side-stepping the holes and rotted planks.
As we hiked through the forest where the sunlight filtered through the leaves making everything golden, several folks wondered aloud, “Where is everybody? You’d think the trail would be crowded with people on a day like this.” We met very few people, but at one point we paused to enjoy a drumming concert as we passed near the campgrounds.
Greenbelt Park is a hidden treasure! Located just off the Beltway, only 12 miles from downtown Washington and 23 miles from Baltimore, the park covers 1100 acres. Managed by the National Park Service, this special place is close to thousands of urban dwellers who want to get away from it all. The campgrounds are open year round, offering 174 campsites, guided walks and evening programs. And the hiking trails are open daily, with maps available at the bulletin board on the way in.
When the first European colonists arrived, they found Algonquin and other Native American people living in the area. As the colonists cleared the forest and planted crops, the soil gradually became less fertile, and by the turn of the 20th Century erosion had severely damaged the land. When Greenbelt, MD, was established as a “model town” for workers in the 1930’s, these woodlands were part of the surrounding “belt of green.” In 1950, the National Park Service acquired the land along with additional land used to create the B-W Parkway as “an uninterrupted and scenic route for passenger vehicles” between Washington and Baltimore. Over the last 100 years, the land has been recovering and what you see now is a mixed pine and deciduous forest. Spring visitors look for many varieties of wildflowers as well as flowering trees and shrubs such as dogwood, laurel and azaleas. Birdwatchers find a variety of songbirds. Nighttime visitors may glimpse the raccoon or red fox. And day hikers who look closely will see signs of earlier inhabitants, as well as squirrels and salamanders and, as noted above, very few people!
(click on images for larger pictures)