This is the hike that almost made history. K9Trailblazers has never cancelled a hike for bad weather. But it looked for a while as though we might be forced to do that. First we limited the number of hikers and increased the difficulty rating. Then when we alerted everyone about the possibility the hike would be cancelled because of unremitting icy conditions, some folks chose to bail. But others hung in there, and a couple of wait-listed folks bravely signed on.
And, as luck would have it, Sunday morning was sunny with a temperature in the mid-30’s when we all gathered at the trailhead. Our hike leaders today were Jeff, with Katy; and Pat, with Rory. Joining us for the first time was Gigi, recently adopted by Jenifer who is a regular participant who also earned her official K9TB hike leader hat in December. Also hiking with us today were Karen with Loki; and Lisa and Chuck with Jester. After sign-ins, introductions and the routine pre-hike discussion about safety and courtesy on the trails, we provisioned ourselves with maps, chocolate and dog biscuits and headed into the forest.
Today’s hike was cobbled together during the preview 2 weeks earlier when Jeff and Pat discovered locked gates, impassible icy trails and too-deep water crossings. Jeff returned a couple of days before the hike, found considerable ice still on the trails, and determined that reversing direction would allow the most difficult parts of the trail to be uphill.
Fortunately, on the last 2 afternoons before the hike the temperature hit mid-40’s. One last preview on Saturday showed the trail in better shape, and by Sunday, except for a couple of notable exceptions, there were ways around whatever icy patches remained on the muddy trails. When we came to "the rock" Chuck held dogs, or people’s hands, as one at a time we worked our way around a rock by traversing a 10-foot stretch of ice. Several folks noted that hiking with a leashed dog is way harder than hiking with 2 hiking sticks. Yeah, but no where NEAR as exciting or as much FUN!
We started out along "Morning Choice" trail, which traverses woods and fields on the upper lip of the valley. We saw the remains of some old homes as we traversed the tract of land purchased by Caleb Dorsey, Jr. in 1755 on which he built one of the first Iron Furnaces on the Patapsco. We also passed a large stand of bamboo, but couldn’t see any Pandas. From there we hiked along Ridge Trail taking in the natural and historic sites including a couple of ancient comfort stations. We stopped at a scenic overlook of the Patapsco River for a rest and water break. With the leaves off the trees, we could make out the Patapsco River winding toward Elkridge Landing and on to Baltimore. Although we couldn't quite see it, around the bend was Gun Road which was reportedly established by George Washington as a main route to carry guns and munitions down to the Patapsco for ships bound for other Colonies to aid the Revolution War effort. (Yes, there's the rather slim Washington's Birthday connection!). After Jester and Rory entertained with a couple of tricks, we hit the trails again and followed the trail down into the valley. We hiked back out of the valley along Cascade Falls Trail to view one of the largest waterfalls in this part of Patapsco Valley State Park.
We did see more ice as we climbed back up to our cars parked along Landing Road. We met very few hikers on the trails, and those with dogs had them on leash. We met a few cyclists. They yielded and we yielded. And, except for one fast bike passing us from behind, which set off a round of frustrated shrieking from the little herder in our midst, it was a very quiet hike. After so many weeks of bad weather it felt great to be out. Dogs and people were in good spirits, and Gigi’s long, plumed tail never stopped wagging. Before heading home, we warmed up with hot apple cider. And, this being George Washington’s Birthday, we also shared cherry pies.
We all agreed we’d like to return to this beautiful area and try to do the hike originally planned.
(click on thumbnail images for full size picture)