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Monday, October 22, 2007

Seneca Creek Park – Close to Home

This time, I took a hiking trip very close to home. Seneca Creek State Park is very close to where I live. It is in Gaithersburg, Maryland, not far from where I used to work at my very first job in the early 1990s. Strangely enough, I had never been to this place before!

I went there with my friend Peter Philip, with whom I had gone to the Chesapeake Bay just the day before. The weather was beautiful again, and the place was almost empty because it was a weekday. This park, however, is in suburbia, in Gaithersburg, very close to all the hustle and bustle.

There are many trails in the park, but we went on one of the more interesting ones called the Lakeshore Trail, which winds around Clopper Lake for 3.7 miles. Clopper Lake was created artificially in 1976 (remember that there are no natural lakes in Maryland whatsoever). The trail hugs the edge of the lake, but meanders through the forest surrounding it, too. Since it is October, you could already see the first hints of fall colors…

Some branches of the trail, including one that we took, leads to an open field…

We thought that the lake was much more interesting, though, so we went back into the forest right by the lake…

I took a moment to meet a local resident of the lake…

After an hour or so, we wound our way around the entire lake and back to the parking lot. My parting shot is of a grove of evergreens right by the parking lot. I find trees like this to be beautiful in their simplicity and very elegant. These trees are also different from the others that surround the lake, if you compare them to the types you see in the other photos. This park was a welcome break for me.

Although we only saw Clopper Lake this time, the park was formed around Seneca Creek (surprise!) , which runs from Gaithersburg until it flows into the Potomac River. They say that Native Americans lived in this area 10,000 years ago, and that the earliest Native American dwelling is within the park boundaries. Later on, European colonists grew crops here. Maybe next time I visit, I can search for these historical structures. I enjoy history, but I prefer to explore small parts of parks, instead of taking on too much at one time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Nature and Nostalgia - Elk Neck State Park

First view after leaving the parking lot, Elk Neck State Park
You might notice that it has been a very long time since I posted anything to this blog. I do enjoy posting, but I only do so when I have the time, and, even more to the point, when I have something worth posting. I have not gone hiking in the past several months. However, I recently went someplace that was new to me.

I love nature (as a hiker, that should be obvious). I also enjoy reading about history. Isn’t it nice to have a little of both? That’s what this hike is. I went to Turkey Point, in Elk Neck State Park. It’s on the Chesapeake Bay, northeast of Baltimore, and not far from the border to Delaware. The closest town is North East, Maryland.

Just out of the parking lot, you see the first scenic view (above), taken from the cliffs high above the Northeast River. It’s an excellent vantagepoint, and a dramatic place to start the hike.

The next photo is of the boats on the river, and you can see the rolling hills further behind...

Here is a field that is a transition area from these opening cliff views to the heart of the park. Not such dramatic scenery, but it’s a pleasant enough place:

From here on comes the crux of the park. A 100-year old historic lighthouse, recently restored and beyond it, the Chesapeake Bay beckons…

The Chesapeake Bay features prominently in early Maryland History. The Chesapeake Bay, although very polluted now, was very important to the explorers who first discovered and explored Maryland and Virginia. It remained an important body of water for a long time, and many lighthouses like this one helped to guide the ships safely. The lighthouse is of course at a high point with a clear view of the surrounding water, and its beacon kept ships from crashing into the cliffs.

I came to this park with my friend Peter Philip. He is from Berlin, Germany, and he lived here in the Washington, DC area for a while when he was a student. That is when I met him. Since going back to Germany, he has come to visit me every now and then. When we took this trip, it was something new for both of us.

If the colors in these photos look particularly intense, then I am very pleased. They capture the essence of this experience well. Although we were already well into fall, this day was a particularly warm and comfortable one, with perfect weather. We lingered for a long time by the lighthouse and by its viewpoint over the bay. It was really relaxing and tranquil, although there was a fair number of people in the park. I felt at ease in this peaceful setting. The situation here was far better than in some of my other hiking trips of late.

After a while, we took a trail that went down from these heights to the water’s edge. Here is a photo of Peter by the water’s edge…

Here is the shoreline…

We took our time to wander back up from the shoreline through the meadow, and back to the lighthouse again. Then we went back to the car, taking it nice and slow. It has been a while since I got such rewarding views with such little effort.

I have no doubt mentioned several times that it is hard for me to get friends to go hiking with me. Peter is an exception. My friends who come from other countries seem to be really into it. Otherwise I pretty much go by myself. I really ought to find a hiking club, I guess. Then I might be motivated to go out more often, and my postings would be more frequent. What has helped is that I recently bought a new digital camera, which is both more powerful and easier to use than any other I have used. It is small and easy to carry, and it delivers great results. So now I have no excuse to leave it behind.