Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Canicross Hike at Prettyboy Reservoir and Hemlock Gorge

The trail ahead...

Early Sunday morning Eric and I set off with our two canicross partners, Zoe and Sobo, to explore a new (to us) trail system around Prettyboy Reservoir in Northern Baltimore County. The hike is mainly on fire roads surrounding the reservoir so the trails are nice and wide. For short distances, the trail does narrow to a single track footpath.

Our route was to be an approximately 4 mile loop, however, due to many wrong turns and inaccurate instructions in our hiking guide, our route ended up being close to six miles round trip with an addition 2.5 miles of hiking into the Hemlock Gorge to visit one of our favorite swimming holes.

As we set off on our hike the air was resplendent with the sweet smell of wild honeysuckle and heavy with birdsong. Many cardinals, jays, thrushes, woodpeckers, warblers, and vireos avail themselves of the great habitat surrounding the reservoir. Rare black walnut and even rarer American Chestnut trees grow in this area. Setting off, we paralleled the Big Gunpowder River for approximately a 1/2 mile. Along the way, we passed several turn off trails to the right which lead down to the river. Throughout the hike, we say many many butterflies.

Pretty Butterfly

After several wrong turns, we exited the trail system onto Grave Run Road near River Valley Ranch, a Christian Youth Camp and spied cows and horses grazing in the pastures surrounding the camp. Heading up hill on a new trail, we wound through the forest, hugging the river. Shortly after passing the ranch, we stopped to let Zoe and Sobo cool off and take a dip in the river.

A bend in the river

A refreshing dip in the river for Zoe.

The post swim shake....

As we made our way along the scenic trails back towards the trail head, the dogs pulled hard.

Sobo pulls steadily up a hill

Along the way we worked on canicross commands with the dogs, primarily "on by" and "hike or let's go." To learn more about the commands mushers use with their dogs, visit the Commands section of our website.

Sobo demonstrates "line out."

Are you interested in learning how to canicross with your own dog? Join us for one of our upcoming Canicross Hikes. To see scheduled hikes, visit the Upcoming Events section of our website. Our group hikes are a great opportunity to get out with your dog, get a little exercise, learn a new trail system, and practice you and your dog's canicross skills. All breeds are welcome at our Canicross Hikes.

After our hike, Eric and I were both hot and sweaty so we decided to visit one of the best swimming holes in the State of Maryland which lies just across the road from our hike and down the Hemlock Trail. The Hemlock Trail is so named because it winds through a centuries old hemlock gorge right along the Big Gunpowder River. The trail is aggressive and tough going at times but the short (one mile or so) hike is worth it once you reach some of the nicest swimming holes central Maryland has to offer. During this part of the hike, there are several streams which must be forded by crossing over slippery foot bridges made of moss covered rocks. As we hiked deeper into the gorge, the river forms several deep swirling pools. Approximately, one mile in we found a lovely pool and waterfall that was just perfect for cooling off.

A small stream empties into the Big Gunpowder River

The hemlocks in this gorge are being managed to prevent HWA
(Hemlock Woody Adelgid disease)

A river runs through it...

Ferns growing on the forest floor

All in all while the hike was not exactly as described in our guide book, a good time was had by all during our hike and subsequent swim in the Hemlock Gorge.