Saturday, March 28, 2015



During a recent trip to the District of Columbia, my hiking companion and I took a hike in the famous Rock Creek Park.  

 Located in the northwestern corner of the District, there is a wonderful 2000 acre park built around the Rock Creek.  The Park extends northward for 12 miles from the Potomac River to the Maryland state line.

 From the over 25 miles of  trails, we chose to take a hike along a section known as the Western Ridge.  It began at the Pierce Mill in the southern end of the park.

The mill was constructed in 1820 and operated until 1897.  It was recently restored but was unfortunately not open during our visit.  From the mill we hiked up the creek northward toward the main part of the park.

The trail is well marked and well many runners were encountered we felt guilty not running along the banks of the Rock Creek.  But if we had we would not have enjoyed the wonderful scenes that a large creek in the early spring time provides. 

We spotted a pair of ducks on the way up the creek who proved too elusive to capture in pictures.  One time even diving into water to avoid a picture being taken.  

We left them alone intending to sneak up on them on the way back down the creek.  But we did get a nice picture of a spring Red Robin. 
Rock Creek is adjacent to a very busy parkway which unfortunately created lots of traffic noise but leaving the creek and climbing a steep hill into the woods, we escaped to a forest solitude similar to that found in many Piedmont North Carolina hikes. 

 Being that it was late in the day we did not venture far from the Rock Creek and soon returned to its banks and followed the bank side trail downstream hoping to find our elusive duck friends.

Near a bridge we found their hiding place in a calm section of the creek created by bridge abutments.  The calmness of the water created one of the most amazing reflections I have ever captured. 

Not far from this calm section we found our duck friends...and the Daddy Duck was one of the most incredibly colored Mallard Ducks I have ever seen.   
Dating Ducks

Mommy Duck
Daddy Duck
The ducks are more aptly described a "Dating Ducks" as they proved to be inseparable, but were nice to pose for me in the middle of Rock Creek.  
An artist would be too shy to add these colors to this duck...At least 10 different colors

Passing by the Pierce Mill we returned to the Western Ridge loop trail.  The trail led across an 1882 bridge as we chose to walk the eastern bank of the river in order to catch the western ridge trail on the way back.
From a top the 1882 bridge we caught a nice view of the mill dam at the Pierce Mill.

Along the eastern creek bank trail we were reminded that the park is cut from the banks of granite rock hillsides.  

The creek created a nice rocky beach from which I am sure many would venture in the cool water on a summer day.

From the beach we took the steep climb up to the Western Ridge, from which we could look down on the beach from several hundred feet above.

The trail was illuminated by the late afternoon sun which will soon be adorned with spring blossoms.

Returning to the creek bank we crossed a footbridge on the way back to our car and one last picture called out to us.

Rock Creek Park is a place that you need to add to your list of places to visit while in Washington.  It is near the National Zoo and is a pleasant place to spend the afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown.

Trail rating is easy....access is a 9...many places to park in different places in the park.  We chose the one closest to the Pierce Mill.  The trail is an 8....well defined but not well marked as I only saw one trail map and was never quite sure where we were when we ventured from the creekside....scenery is an 8... effort to view is low...easy hike....nice scenery....wish it was later in the spring...can't wait to return one day.


We stayed in a hotel near these two wonderful day I vow to return to DC and do a blog with just church photos.....these were two neat old churches.

The white church is the National City Christian Church built in 1930

The other church was architecturally more interesting is the Luther Place Memorial Church built in 1873 as a memorial to peace and reconciliation following the Civil War.

The church was right out of a Gothic horror movie but was elegant and inviting nonetheless.  It is of neo-gothic architectural style and features stained glass windows picturing twelve early protestant reformers including Jon Hus.

These churches can be found at Logan Square where stands the statue of General John A. Logan,  native of Illinois and a hero of the Civil War taking part in the Vicksburg Campaign and later serving as a member of Congress and a vice presidential candidate.  

Monday, March 9, 2015



Always looking for hidden trails in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, I recently 
purchased "100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina" by Joe Miller.  Hike # 43 was listed as "TurnRight Loop".  The author described how to work a 3 mile loop into the trails of  Cedorock Park in Alamance County. Anyone see the blue river ghost?

Finding the park should not have been hard, but our Mapquest sent us the wrong way.  Simply take Exit 145 off I-85. Take NC 49 away from Burlington toward Liberty and about 6.5 miles down the road you will see a sign.  Cedarock is a multi-use recreation facility operated by Alamance County.  It has a wonderful Frisbee golf course, play grounds, historical farms, kayaks and of several miles of hiking and bridle trails. 

Finding the trail head is pretty easy as signs off the main road lead you to a nice parking/picnic area.   Don't be confused by the many trails listed.  Author Joe Miller provides the best advice with his "TurnRight Loop".   For a three mile loop ending at the Gristmill Dam, take a right at every trail intersection.  You begin on the Green Blazed Rock Creek Trail, turn right on the White Blazed Connector Loop, and keep taking right turns till you find the Gristmill Dam.

The Connector Loop Trail turns right after you cross this bridge and you generally follow the Rock Creek upstream and loop back to connect with the Rock Creek Trail.  It adds a mile to the overall hike and is a pleasant walk through the Piedmont forest.  On the day we visited much of the trail was washed out by the recent rainy weather and we were forced to trail blaze around the mud.
I am sure the trail is much more lush in the spring, summer and fall but it is also likely to be a lot hotter too.  On this early March afternoon, temps at 68 degrees proved a bit warm.  As you return to the Rock Creek Trail, the path leads over a ridge and crosses back to run parallel with the Rock Creek as it joins a larger creek.   At this point your turn right again crossing a small bridge following the unusually named "Stinking Quarter Creek" to the Gristmill Dam.   

Soon you will hear the roar of the water rushing over the dam and encounter many non-hiker spectators who are visiting the dam the easy way.  But for the roar of the dam, the creek does little to reveal the presence of an impediment.  

Above this point the park allows for kayaking.  However, an unsuspecting kayaker may be in for a rude awakening if the Dam Ahead marker is ignored.

The park road dead ends at the Visitor's Center and it is but a short walk along a paved path down to the dam.  Hiking to the dam places you on the opposite bank from most of the spectators.   The dam is the remnants of an 19th century gristmill. The mill has long since vanished but the sturdy stone dam remains intact and creates the signature photographic feature of the park.  The recent rain and snowfall caused the mill pond dam to overflow creating a magnificent waterfall.

From the trail side of the dam, there are many angles from which to take in the beauty of the structure.   First a look from downstream.

The dam is over 20 feet tall and is constructed of stone blocks which must be 10 feet thick.  I marvel at the endurance of such masonry.  The pressure of the rushing water over nearly a century or more is a testament to the craftsmen who constructed this dam.

I spied a couple having engagement pictures taken.  I missed the couple shot but caught the groom....who was reluctantly posing for his fiance'.  She was a cute girl, if the FBWG was to give him some advice....I would suggest...he just say "Yes Dear" and do whatever she suggested.

The trail leads downstream to a very well constructed bridge where we took our first left turn of the day and looped back to the tourist side of the dam where a nice covered overlook was constructed.  From this side of the creek you can get very close to the water rushing over the dam.

The trail led to the top of the dam where I inspected  the old valve box.  I assume someone would paddle to the valve box, climb from their boat by the metal ladder and operate the valve. 

 Not a bad job on a sunny summer day but on a cold rainy winter evening I am not sure what OSHA rules would have to be violated to operate this device.
The trek back to the trail head followed the west side of the creek across a meadow and soon back into the woods completing the "TurnRight" loop onto the original Rock Creek Trail.   A nice Sunday afternoon, 3 mile hike with a good dam place to take some pictures.  The dam sign explains the names of the creeks which we had encountered.
I am really not sure where the Rock Creek ended and the Stinking Quarter Creek began but if I had to name a dam, I cannot think of a better name than "Stinking Quarter Dam".  I think that is a good Dam name.  What about you?

Rating the trail is not hard.  This is a great afternoon family hike. Access is a 9.  The trail was well marked but very muddy-8; Scenery but for the Dam is not very interesting 7;  effort to view ratio is easy/good.  Overall an 8 trail.  I worry about how hot this trail may be in the summer but look forward to catching the autumn leaves.