Saturday, December 3, 2016

Maryland Heights Trail: Harpers Ferry

Last fall color of the season along the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry

Graveyard in Harpers Ferry. Tombstones dating back to the early 1800's.

Jefferson Rock. The spot where Thomas Jefferson once stood in 1783 while looking up the Shenandoah River.

Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers merge into the Potomac.

My nephew Jack noticed the bridge across the Potomac is turning into a "lock bridge."

Overlook Cliff: View towards the town of harpers Ferry and up the Shenandoah River

Overlook Cliff: View up the Potomac River

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my brother Michael has created a tradition of hiking up Old Rag mountain in Virginia the last few years. Last year, the overwhelming crowds on Old Rag on Black Friday finally reached a point where my brother decided he needed a new place to carry the tradition. I suggested we hike to the Overlook Cliff in the Maryland Heights, across the river from Harpers Ferry. It's no Old Rag, but it's a nice hike nonetheless. So last week, on Black Friday, my brother Michael, his son Jack, and I hiked up to the Overlook Cliff.

We began the day at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Headquarters in Harpers Ferry. After visiting the headquarters, we hiked a blue side trail to reach the Appalachian Trail. We passed the old cemetery in Harpers Ferry and Jefferson Rock. The trail took us through town where we saw the building John Brown barricaded himself into. Eventually, we hiked over the bridge, over the Potomac River, and hiked north on the C&O towpath for a short ways. There we reached our trail head which brought us up into the Maryland Heights. There were plenty of fellow hikers out on the trail as well, but not overly crowded. After a good climb, we eventually made it to our destination, the Overlook Cliff. Here are the best views into Harpers Ferry and up the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers in my opinion. Michael, Jack, and I spent 45 minutes or so looking around and taking pictures. When we had our fill, we turned around and began our trek back to the ATC headquarters.

Overall, I'd say it was a 4 to 5 mile hike, difficult, but not overly so. It was a great way to spend the day after Thanksgiving. I think even though Harpers Ferry is a small historic town, it's important not to get stuck in the past. The area has a source of power and beauty to it, still palpable in the present...

Monday, November 7, 2016

Weaverton Cliffs: Harpers Ferry

I needed some mountain time yesterday and drove out to Harpers Ferry and took a hike up to Weaverton Cliffs on the Appalachian Trail. The days don't get much better than yesterday-cool, crisp, bright sun, and leaves in peak autumn color...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Big Trees in Frederick, Maryland

Frederick County's Largest Red Oak
Second Largest Siberian Elm in Maryland

Big ol' Maple Tree hiding behind a hedge
The Nation's Largest English Elm

I drove up to Frederick Maryland on Sunday and decided to drive through town and see if there were any trees that stood out. Indeed there were. One turned out to be Frederick County's largest Red Oak, another tree turned out to be Maryland's second largest Siberian Elm, a beautiful tree with a classic elm look. The last tree I spotted was huge, growing at the high school. I recorded a cbh of 21.5 feet, and a height of 99.19 feet. The tree looked unlike anything I had seen before. Thankfully, the tree, along with the others, are listed on the Frederick County Forestry Board's website, which I discovered when I got home. The tree is the Nation's Largest English Elm...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sandy Spring's Fantastic Trees

Osage Orange Tree

Osage Orange Fruits

The osage orange tree's top is actually to the right of the center of the photo as the tree is leaning. It looks like a second tree growing to the right. The height was 62.34 feet tall.

It's hard fro me to believe that this tree is Maryland's largest tulip poplar and 3rd largest tree in the state. It appears to be 2 separate trees fused at the base. Other than the fusion, it lacks the "wow" factor in my opinion.

Maryland's Champion white ash tree. Thought to be at least 300 years old. I measured the height to be 91.11 feet tall.

Champion White Ash tree (continued)

Sandy Springs Cemetery. This was the most stunning tulip poplar I have seen to date. Maryland's 22nd largest tree. I measured it's height to be 129.20 feet. It has a circumference at breast height of 22 feet, 6 inches! Due to the fact that this is a single stem tree, it left a most powerful impression.

Sandy Springs Cemetery Tulip Poplar
I took a hike this morning along the Underground Railroad Trail near Sandy Springs again today. Last time I was here was in the spring before the trees leafed out. I wanted to see the Maryland Champion white ash tree in particular, with leaves. I was happy to notice that my tree identifying skills have improved since the last time I was here.

Just like that, fall is in the air. Today felt like the first cool day since the beginning of summer, and this week temperatures will be in the 70's for the first time since late spring. Leaves are changing just a little bit. After a rain filled 3/4's of a summer, we have not had much rain around here in a while, so a lot of the leaves seem to be simply turning brown and starting to fall off.

The highlight of the day was seeing the Tulip Poplar that grows in the Sandy Springs cemetery. Tombstones again date back to the 1800's and perhaps farther. The adjacent meeting house was built in 1817 by Quakers and the first meeting on the property was held as far back as 1753! It was just by chance that I happened to visit it. I had planned to turn around and begin hiking back to my car when I decided to investigate a little further down the dirt road on the property there. Suddenly the tree appeared with an overwhelming presence. Definitely a "Wow!!" moment. I was surprised to see that it is only the 22nd largest tree in Maryland. It's definitely the largest tulip poplar I have seen to date. Getting a 20 foot or higher cbh tape wrap here in Maryland is just as exciting as getting a 60 foot tape wrap on a redwood tree. It doesn't happen very often! I wonder if the tree was just beginning to grow when the Quakers had their first meeting in 1753?

Cedar/ White Oak: Louden County, VA

 Cedar Height: 85.76 ft. (St. Paul's Cemetery Louden County, VA)

Stately Cedar at St. Paul's Cemetery: Louden County, VA

White Oak: 74.78 feet tall

Is this a swamp white oak?
 I drove out to Louden County, VA yesterday to go to a party at an old friend's house. The drive took me right near Harpers Ferry into the Appalachian Mountains. From my friend's house, you can see the ridge where the Appalachian Trail passes north and south.

Along the way, I wanted to measure a couple of trees I've had my eye on. One was a beautiful cedar growing in the cemetery at St Paul's Community Church along Harpers Ferry Road. The cemetery has tombstones dating back to the 1800's. I would guess the tree is also pretty old, one of the taller cedars I have seen so far.

Also along the way, was a big ol' white oak growing on somebody's farm. The leaves looked different from what I am used to seeing. I wonder if it's a swamp white oak?

Largest Tree in Maryland Struck by Lightning 1915

I was looking through an old photo album that belonged to my great aunt the other night. She passed away several years ago at the age of 98.  In the album was this interesting photo. The caption reads:

               The Largest Tree in the State of Maryland Struck by Lightning Summer 1915

Camping Along the Potomac: Great Falls

Hiking up the C&O Canal

Potomac River

My camp set up did little to keep out the bugs...

Great Falls

Last weekend, I met my friend Pete along the C&O Canal for a night of a camping along the Potomac River. Pete was on his last night of a 15 day bike tour of the Canal and parts of Pennsylvania. He also biked down the California coast a few years ago and I met him for a night of camping in Gualala, California when I used to live out there.

Originally, we were going to camp at a place called lock 22. It was a really nice spot, but all the campsites were taken by the time we arrived. Instead of sharing a site with a bunch of other people, we hiked down the towpath a mile or so and stealth camped in the woods near the river. I brought a little tape recorder and a cassette tape of Jimi Hendrix. It was fun to remember old times, drink some whiskey, listen to Jimi, eat dinner, and stare out over the Potomac River. It was a hot and buggy night however, and I did not sleep well. Mosquitoes found themselves into my bug netting and snacked on my hands and face most of the night. The heat made it difficult to get into the sleeping bag. By morning, I felt pretty exhausted. Such is camping at this age.

In the morning, Pete and I stopped by Great Falls. After that, Pete rode off to Georgetown to finish his bike tour, and I went home to take a nap...