K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
(click on thumbnail images for full size picture)
We won't have another hike like this for 17 years! Our hikers met at Gunpowder Falls State Park near Hereford, MD, on a sunny, spring morning that promised an afternoon preview of the summer heat to come. Hike leaders for the day were Jeff and Cindy who were hiking dogless. We were glad to see "regulars" Chuck, Lisa, and Jester as well as Shirley and Princess. We welcomed back Jill and Brooks, who had hiked with us for the first time at Catoctin the previous month. Joining us for the first time were Joan and Bear and Jerri and Cubby. We're always glad to see new faces (furry or otherwise) on our hikes. And, or course, we had additional company throughout the hike: Cicadas! Our first hike with a sound track.
After the traditional hike orientation speech and distribution of dog biscuits and chocolate, we headed into the woods along the "Bunker Hill" trail. The trail took us through rolling woodlands and along streams. The forest had gone form pale green with splashes of color from wildflowers just a few weeks before to vibrant, lush green. Cindy, our club naturalist, pointed out some of the interesting flora and fauna along the way, including a lessons on tulip trees and, of course, cicadas.
From "Bunker Hill" we headed onto the "Mingo Forks" trail, which lead us by the park's archery range. We didn't see any archers that day, but enjoyed the wide, flat trail and trying to pick out the various archery targets through the trees. The archery range consists of a "path" of archery target ranges that bowmen follow to hone their skills.
From there it was back down into the woods and along Mingo Forks. The day began to warm up, and the cicadas started getting louder. As we climbed up out of the stream valley, the noise grew in intensity. The sound was all around us at that point: the eerie, "War of the Worlds" hum, underneath the oscillating wave of noise that was almost painful at it's peak. As we started back down into the valley, the sound died down as well. While we were all fascinated by this, the dogs didn't seem to be phased, or even particularly interested. The other sites and smells along the trail were much more fascinating.
The trail finally brought us all the way down to Gunpowder Falls itself. We ran into a bit more traffic down here. There were a few other hikers on the trail and, down in the water, fly fishermen trying for trout. We made our way along the river to Masemore Rd. This part of the park is popular for fishermen, canoers and kayakers since it offers easy access to the water and to the trails on both sides of the river. It also boasts a very nice grassy spot, perfect for a snack break a quick rest. As we sat enjoying the sunny, spring day, we watched the fishermen in the river, horseback riders across the river, and, as an added bonus, a precision aircraft team practicing far above the river. Food, rest, and entertainment. Who could ask for more?
Fed, refreshed and recuperated, we packed up and headed back along the river, or rather, "falls". Interestingly, Maryland is one of the only places in the country that uses the term "falls" to refer to what most everyone else would call a "river". There aren't really any waterfalls along the Gunpowder. Reportedly the name comes from the river "fall line" or the point where it is no longer navigable by large boats. There are also a different stories about how the Gunpowder got it's name. The most colorful, printed in the 1802 "The Traveller's Directory, or a Pocket Companion to the Philadelphia-Baltimore Road", claims that the native Americans, initially thinking gunpowder to be a vegetable seed, "planted" it along the banks of the river. Most likely (and far less insulting to the native Americans!) is that it was named for the local mills which ground charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter which were used to make gunpowder.
Not that we were pondering any of this as we finished up the last leg of the hike and arrived back at the parking lot. It had been a near perfect day for a hike. The day had heated up, but the shade of the woods kept us comfortable. Even the noisy cicadas seemed like an appropriate and pleasant accompaniment for the hike. And as we packed up and headed for home, we all agreed to make sure that we didn't wait another 17 years before coming back to hike the trails at Gunpowder Falls State Park.