Sunday, July 13, 2008

Canicross Hiking Club Hike at Prettyboy Reservoir

The Big Gunpowder River

On Saturday, July 12, 2008, Eric and I met up with a great group of six hikers and five dogs for an approximately 4 mile hike through the Prettyboy Reservoir Watershed. Instead of following the Reservoir, this hike is a loop hike along a ridge and then along the Big Gunpowder River. Temps were in the mid to low 80s, however, the high humidity made the temps feel much more oppressive. In attendance we had Kathy and Lucky (a sweet little Border Collie), Laura and Lynn with Scarlett (a happy Black Lab mix) and Luke (a hard charging Chow mix), Katie and Sadie (a friendly black and white Siberian Husky), Margaret and Luna (a little gray and white Siberian Husky), and our good friend and hiking buddy, Dorothy (sadly, without dog). Along with Eric and I were Okemo (a white Siberian mix) and Sobo (a red and white Siberian Husky). Along on this canicross hike we had three walkers and four canicrossers and one dogless hiker.

Strolling through the dappled sunlight.

Given the heat and humidity, we took frequent water breaks

The trail starts off along wide open fire roads in the Reservoir Watershed paralleling the Big Gunpowder River but within the first half mile turns up hill toward a ridge and away from the River. We cruised along easily at a pace of approximately 2.8 mph (per the GPS) as the dogs pulled steadily.

Lynn and Laura with Luke and Scarlett

Katie and Sadie with me (Catherine) and Okemo canicrossing

Kathy, Dorothy, and Margaret pause on the trail while Luna demonstrates a nice line out.

At about one mile, we saw a cool little eastern box turtle on the side of the trail. Shortly thereafter, we saw something that one does not often see on the trail--steers (with horns!). Now lest you think these were steers in a fenced pasture alongside the trail, think again. These were steers on the trail with us. As the large ruminants recognized our approach, they took off down the trail in front of us.

The trail ahead...complete with steers!

All dogs were suddenly at attention and pulling hard to chase down the errant steers. In their wake, the steers left giant cow pies.

"Beef! Beef! I'm goin' to get me some kibbles and beef," think Sobo and Lucky

We believe that these steers were escapees of River Valley Ranch on Grave Run Road, a resort and Christian youth camp founded in 1952 and dressed up as a western ranch.

Lucky says: "Where are those steers? I'm a herding dog!"

Keep on trekkin'....

Continuing on the trail descends along a rocky stretch of fire road to Grave Run Road. Hiking down to the road, we spied River Valley Ranch on the right and many cows and steers.

Grave Run Road and River Valley Ranch

Doubling back for a few hundred feet, the trail changes from wide open fire roads to a narrow foot patch which once again parallels the Big Gunpowder River. After about 1/4 mile along the foot path, the trail once again opens to a fire road which parallels the River. Shortly after getting on the fire road, we stopped to let the dogs wade and swim and the people wade and swim as well.

"You first! No, you first!"

"Come on in! The water's great!"

"Look Mom, no feet. I'm swimming," says Scarlett

Even Siberian Husky diva, Sadie, decides to take a dip!

Katie and Sadie wade in the River

Group swim

After a refreshing dip, we continued down the fire road. At about a 1/2 mile in, the trail splits with the option of continuing on the fire road and back up to the ridge or taking a scenic but narrow foot path with lots of mud, sticker bushes, and a fun little portage over a wide branch of the River. After taking an informal poll, we decided to stay along the river. Shortly thereafter, the trail crosses a wide branch of the Big Gunpowder River, traverses a small island in the River and then crosses the River for a second time. Along the way, there is a large rock which juts out into the water where we let the dogs swim, again.

Our informal poll: Gesturing at either the foot path or fire road.

Flowering purple Hostas along the trail

Luna and Margaret contemplate how to get down to the water...

We made it down! Luna takes a dip.

"Look into my eyes," says Okemo

The first portage was quite challenging. We sent Eric on ahead to scout out the trail. Once he determined that this was indeed the trail, we began the somewhat arduous task of crossing the River on a downed log. While several dogs waded or swam across the 2-3 foot deep river, Sadie decided to teeter across the downed tree, agility style. Going slowly (and in my case without any grace), we all made it across the River to the small island. Once we reached the relative safety and stability of the island, we all took a minute to adjust our equipment and set off.

Gearing back up after the first portage.

Shortly after getting on the island, the trail once again crosses the River. This crossing was aided by a rather substantial log and debris jam that provided ample footing for a crossover. Returning to the mainland, the trail widen again to a fire road and we wound our way along and through a small grove of hemlocks. At 5.0 miles we once again reached the trail head where our cars were parked muddy, wet, tired, and ready for a refreshing swim in the Big Gunpowder River.

Arriving back at the trail head.

After stopping briefly at our vehicles to put on swim suits and change out gear, we headed down a short span of the Hemlock Gorge Trail to a secluded swimming hole in what seems to be an isolated part of Appalachia instead of suburban Baltimore County. As you descend along the river, the temperatures drops substantially, a welcome relief from the sweltering July heat. As we reached what we deemed a good swimming spot for the dogs and humans at the outflow of a little creek, we stopped to eat lunch and swim and wade with the dogs. After lunch our little canicross hiking party headed back to the vehicles tired but cool.

If all of this sounds like fun to you, visit our website to check out our Upcoming Events section for upcoming Canicross Hiking Club Hikes and to learn more about our Canicross Hiking Club.