The rain never materialized on this beautiful, slightly cooler Saturday morning as we returned to Patapsco Valley State Park. Last year’s hike at the Hilton Area was so much fun that we returned to the Patapsco River, this time to the Daniels Area. First we welcomed everyone and introduced newcomers Jane with Willy & Ned, and Jim with Snoop, and Ken who was a much appreciated Honorary Uncle to everyone else’s dogs. After passing around the Tootsie Rolls, the Blue Dog biscuits, and the insect repellent, we set out on the Camels Den Trail. Thanks to Jenifer & Tigger for co-leading their first K9TB hike with Jeff and Cindy, who had to leave Katy & Belle home, and Pat with Rory. Joining the group were regulars Lisa and Chuck with Jester; Shirley with Princess; and Ray with Wiley.
We found the trails well maintained and very pretty after all the recent rain. We saw lots of animal tracks in the mud including adult and baby deer, raccoon, bird, squirrel in addition to human, dog and bicycle. As we wandered through the mossy woods we enjoyed gorgeous displays of ferns growing in natural rock gardens. They looked like the homes of fairies, but none were spotted. We also stopped to peer at several puddles filled with tadpoles, some of which were growing legs and will soon hop away. At rest stops, which were frequent, we saw wild strawberries and a very large garter snake! Also with help from our club naturalist, Cindy, we were able to identify a beaver skeleton along the side of the trail.
The Patapsco Valley area has been the site of homes and industry since Colonial days, and the Daniels Area, which we visited today, was most recently the site of the Daniels textiles mill. Canvas produced in the mill was used as tent cloth by the Union Army during the civil war. The mill started operation back ~1840 as the Elysville mill and changed hands several times becoming the Alberton mill and finally the Daniels mill. The Daniels mill operated until 1968 at which point the mill town was razed. The mill itself was subsequently severely damaged when the remnants of Hurricane Agnes scoured the valley in 1972.
The Patapsco Valley was also the original route for the B&O railroad, and tracks were laid in the Daniels area back in 1830. When we encountered one flooded section of trail, we were able to keep our feet dry by walking along some granite slabs which were originally used as stringers for the Old Main Line of the B&O Railroad. The tracks were laid on the stone, which at the time was considered sturdy and longer-lasting than wood. However, during hot weather the tracks expanded and the stones did not. The result was often derailment! Along the trail we saw other signs of the B&O and crossed some beautiful stone, arch bridges that allowed trains such as the "Tom Thumb" (Americas first steam engine) to cross the streams feeding the Patapsco.
At the Davis Tunnel, now serving the CSX railroad, we climbed a steep trail up and over the top. In addition to a lovely view we saw mica scattered on the trail and embedded in the rocks. Cindy explained that mica was important to miners because it is found in quartz rocks. Since gold veins are also found in quartz, mica flakes on the surface flash a signal to gold seekers. Also, mica can sometimes be mined in large sheets which even today are used to make windows for smelting ovens, where the operators want to view the process inside but the high heat and pressure would shatter ordinary glass. Some people also use mica for medicinal purposes, and others use it to make jewelry and for decorating clothing and household furnishings. Although no mines exist in the area, the train bridge that crosses the Patapsco right before the Davis tunnel is reportedly named the "Eureka Bridge" after a mining company that once operated near there.
As the day wore on, the temperature rose but never to expected heights and the humidity decreased dramatically. The dogs took a dip in the water, and people and dogs arrived back at the parking area still feeling jaunty. So, after the hike ended, some people chose to hike up a steep but short climb to see the Camels Den cave, for which the trail was named. Others went to see the “fish ladder” at the dam across the Patapsco River. This ladder consists of a series of shallow pools which enable migrating fish to swim over the dam to reach breeding grounds upstream. Windows in the structure allow visitors to watch this process, but the day we were there no fish were seen swimming.
(click on images for larger pictures)