Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wetipquin Creek Kayaking Adventure

The Nanticoke River is the largest Chesapeake Bay tributary on the lower Delmarva Peninsula, meandering gently through marshland, forests and farmland, on its journey from southern Delaware to Tangier Sound in Maryland. The Nanticoke watershed is also the most biologically diverse watershed on the Delmarva, and is home to the highest concentration of bald eagles in the northeast. That made it a natural choice for my husband and I to explore as our second major kayaking excursion.

We explored one of the little inlets off of Wetipquin Creek, following it until it became unnavigable. 

The Nanticoke River offers excellent opportunities for paddlers to explore its history, beauty and to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that call it home. Despite the river's importance, the area remains largely undeveloped. It is still a rural landscape, allowing the river to remain as clean and healthy as it is.
Image from Google Maps. To the left of the image is the white line of Wetipquin Road. Just left of that is the park and the boat launch. We followed the creek upstream under the bridge, choosing the north fork.
Wetipquin Creek is a relatively short, meandering tributary of the Nanticoke. When you set out from the Wetipquin Park, which offers parking and a boat ramp (and, importantly, a portapotty), the Nanticoke River will be on your left. Head right, paddling beneath the Wetipquin Road Bridge. 

Once on the other side of the bridge, you'll notice that the creek splits. The northern fork -- or left fork -- is the main stem of Wetipquin Creek and that's the one we decided to explore. he creek is approximately 3 miles from the Nanticoke Bridge to the Wetipquin Road Bridge as the crow flies, but it would have been more like a 4 mile paddle upstream had we gone all the way. 

About three miles upstream, just past Horner Gut, we saw the Long Hill Plantation on the left bank. This historic plantation was built by a man named James Dashiell in the mid-1700s and remained in his family until 1884.

It took us little over 2 hours to paddle just over 3 miles -- just past the plantation, and as relatively inexperienced paddlers, we were exhausted. It was a windy day and we had been fighting the current the entire way, paddling upstream. We turned the kayak around, and let the current help us paddle our way back to the boat launch. All in all, we spent just over 3 hours exploring the creek, a lovely summer afternoon all around.

Wetipquin is a beautiful paddle, along salt marshes and forests. I felt, as we were paddling along Wetipquin Creek, that we were traveling through a landscape that had remained unchanged for hundreds of years. From the water, all we could see were the salt marshes that line the water way, sometimes backed by tall trees and forest. Most other signs of civilization were hidden behind the tall reeds of the marsh.

We either spotted one eagle, which seemed to follow us along the creek, or three or four that swooped above us along the way. One particularly thrilling moment occurred when an eagle swooped just 50 yards in front of us, quickly soaring away into the distance. 

To explore this creek, you will need your own canoe or kayak. The upside of that, however, is that you are unlikely to see other folks while you're out on the water, although we did encounter a motor boat (probably someone just looking for a good fishing spot) headed up the creek as we returned to the boat launch.

Other than eagles and vultures and assorted black birds (red wing and plain) and maybe a wren, we only saw
one great blue heron. We were disappointed, as we expected to see more herons and egrets.

We plan on returning, to explore the smaller fork, which is called Tyaskin Creek. Interestingly, historically, this area was an important source of fish, crabs, and oysters for the Nanticoke people. Wetipquin was probably the location of a Native American town. Much of the area has not been developed, and a paddle up either creek can give you a glimpse of what the area might have looked like to Native Americans who may have paddled the same routes 300 years ago.

Getting there: Google map Wetipquin Park -- there doesn't seem to be a street address that I could find. Wetipquin Park is located along the the aptly named Wetipquin Road in Tyaskin, MD. Wetipquin Road is just off of MD Rt 349.

Know before you go: You could pack yourself a picnic, or ... you could turn right onto Wetipquin Road, following it back down to Rt 349, and hang another right. In less than a block, you'll encounter Boonies Burgers, Beer and Bait. Don't let it scare you -- this is good eats (I mean, good hamburgers and such). Well worth a stop!

Website: http://paddlethenanticoke.com/

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hiking at Jerusalem Village in Gunpowder Falls State Park

Established in 1959 to protect the Gunpowder River and the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, Gunpowder Falls State Park is now one of Maryland’s largest state parks. With more than 18,000 acres in Harford and Baltimore counties, Gunpowder’s narrow corridors host a varied topography ranging from tidal wetlands to steep and rugged slopes.

My first foray into the park was a 4.5 mile Jerusalem Mill loop hike.

Jerusalem Mill Village is a living history museum that spans the 18th through early 20th centuries. One of the oldest and most intact mill villages in Maryland, Jerusalem is located in Harford County, along the Little Gunpowder Falls River. It now serves as the headquarters of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Our plan was to leave from historic Jerusalem Village and follow the floodplain of Little Gunpowder Falls, then return to explore the Jericho Covered Bridge. In fact, you can spend hours in historic Jerusalem Village alone. History AND hiking = woot! The grist mill, now Gunpowder Falls State Park headquarters, was built in 1772 and continued operations until the last miller died in 1961.

The village functioned at a Quaker village into the early 20th century. Evidence suggests that David Lee and several of his Quaker neighbors carved black walnut stocks and assembled rifles for the Continental army in the gunshop that stands behind the gristmill. During the Civil War, on July 11, 1864, Harry Gilmor stopped at the General Store in Jerusalem Mill, now popularly known as McCourtney's, capturing supplies and horses, as part of Gilmor's Raid.

After the Civil War, the buildings in the village were gradually leased out and sold. A succession of owners operated the gristmill until 1961, when it was then purchased by the State of Maryland to be part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

We picked up the trail behind the blacksmith shop, following the white blazes along Little Gunpowder Falls River. The first thing you notice are the purple wild phlox and the sweet wild white rose blooms. As you head in, keep your eyes peeled for indications of colonial history -- the old millrace actually forms part of the trail for a while.

Initially the trail has cedar chips and packed dirt, but at approximately 150 feet the trail makes a hard left toward the river, which you'll then end up following upstream for quite a while, enjoying lovely views of the river to your left, and the woods and sloping hillside to your right. The hike isn't strenuous, but it isn't flat, either. Small hills and slopes will get your heart rate up, without proving to be undoable.

In addition to the river and forest, the trail will take you past a bog filled with cattails, ferns and wildflowers, ford creeks. We followed the white blazed trail outbound, then on our way back, picked up and followed, mostly on purpose, the blue blazed trail, which took us past the powerline clearing, over a creek with some wibbly-wobbly (but doable) stepping stones, and ultimately through a field back to our vehicle. All in all, quite an enjoyable hike.

Getting there: 2813 Jerusalem Rd, Kingsville, MD 21087

Dogs: Absolutely!!

Hours: dawn to dusk

Website: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/gunpowder.aspx

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Exploring the W&OD Rail Trail

The Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Railroad Regional Park stretches almost 45 miles between the Potomac River in Alexandria and Purcellville. The park is approximately 100 feet wide, and of course, its primary feature is the rail trail, a paved path about 10 feet wide, that closely follows the original rail bed of, and derives its name from, the now defunct W&OD Railway/Railroad.

We noticed a crushed bluestone trail that mostly paralleled the paved trail -- this is a bridle
path that travels near the paved trail in the park's most westerly 32 miles. 
The W&OD was an intrastate short-line railroad located in Northern Virginia. Its oldest line extended from Alexandria on the Potomac River northwest to Bluemont at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Snickers Gap, not far from the boundary line between Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad's route largely paralleled the routes of the Potomac River and the present Virginia State Route 7.

Trains, under the names of several different rail lines over the years, traveled the route from 1859 to 1968. Its record of varied owners testify to the fact that the rail line was never particularly successful. Ultimately, the railroad's demise can be laid at the feet of an improved road and highway system, and the increased number of motor vehicles which decreased the demand on the W&OD for passenger or freight service.

Often the trail passes through portions with step slopes; with the mature trees reaching together overtop,
it feels like you're biking through a leafy cathedral.

I was more interested in exploring the westernmost segment of this rail trail than the part that travels through more heavily populated areas in eastern Northern Virginia. But even at its furthest points west, there were still a lot of folks out enjoying the trail, even on a morning that threatened heavy rains (we completely lucked out -- the rain waited until we reached our car). 

Hamilton Station

Our plan for our introduction to the W&OD was to start on the W&OD’s west end at Purcellville’s old train depot. We ended up parking at the Loudoun Valley High School, about a mile before the end at the old train depot. With time constraints, we wanted to limit our ride to a scant 2 hours, so our goal was Clarks Gap, just over 5 miles away from the high school, and an approximate 11 mile round-trip.

From the parking lot of the high school, we headed east through the small town, mostly under shady trees. Occasionally the heavy shade would open into fields and sparse woods. There was a mix of farms (horse and dairy, from the looks of it) and newer neighborhoods. There were some interesting homes along the way. Unfortunately, my camera gave out after we crossed Route 7 along Route 9 -- just shy of Clarks Gap, so you will have to ride the trail to see those houses and the lovely old stone-arch bridge, which used to carry old Route 7 over the railroad, and now carries Dry Mill road over the railtrail.

A relocated passenger shelter (formerly at Clarks Gap; now at Paeonian Springs.

Getting there: Access to the trail can be had at any of the road crossings, as well as at the Purcellville's old train depot, now restored and serving as the Loudoun County Visitor's Center and at the Loundoun Valley High School (only on weekends).

The W&OD's highest elevation (610 feet) is at the bridge carrying VA Route 9 (Charles Town Pike) over
VA Route 7 near the saddle point of Clarks Gap in Catoctin Mountain.

Websites: http://purcellvilleva.com/194/WOD-Trail and https://www.novaparks.com/parks/washington-and-old-dominion-railroad-regional-park

W&OD elevation map based on information at http://www.wodfriends.org/elvations.html;
by --Reflex Reaction (talk)• - I created this image entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0,


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Check out the blog's FB page for updates on places we've visited and blogged about:  facebook.com/midatlanticdaytrips! And follow us @midatlanticdaytrips on Instagram to find up what we're up to between blog posts!

Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I'd love to hear what you're doing! Email [email protected] if you're interested in being a guest-blogger!