I live in DC, which is a great place to live and visit. I try to make the most of it. However, I also love to leave my home and see what the world has to offer. Come and join me!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day Hike on the Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rocks

Annapolis Rocks

For my birthday over the weekend we decided to try out a new local hike.  Michael found a hike on the Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rocks--which is nowhere near Annapolis--about an hour and fifteen minute drive from DC.  Perfect!  We took 495 to 270 to 70, stopped in Frederick's cute little downtown to pick up some sandwiches to bring up with us, and headed to the parking area on 40. 

Appalachian Trail
Pay attention to the mileage given when you map your route--we found it easiest to locate the parking area by watching our mileage.  (In Google maps, use the search term "Annapolis Rock, Myersville, Frederick, MD").

The parking area is not huge, but it's easy to spot on the side of the road.  You'll know you're in the right place because you'll see a sign for the Appalachian Trail at the end of the parking area.


You'll walk parallel to 70 for a bit--very noisy with traffic--and then turn onto the trail.  The first mile or so is pretty steep and not very shaded.  Make sure you're carrying plenty of water!

Once you make it past this stretch, the path becomes wide, relatively flat, and tree-lined.  This is the quintessential image that comes to mind when I picture the A.T. (based on nothing other than reading and conjecture, as the only other part I've been on is at Harper's Ferry).


Although it is late in the season, we saw lots of little wildflowers, along with gorgeous stands of ferns and lots of trees.

Trena and Michael
It took us around 45 minutes (maybe?--we weren't watching the time) to reach the turnoff to Annapolis Rock.  Coming out to the cliffs was quite unexpected!  We found a shady spot to eat our lunch and watched the rock climbers set up their gear.  We asked a friendly couple to take our photo and they did a spectactular job!

Rock Formation
We went back to the trail and kept going.  About a mile past Annapolis Rock is Black Rock Cliff, allegedly.  I think we might have missed the sign for the turnoff from the trail, or maybe we just didn't walk far enough.  We had dinner reservations we didn't want to miss, so we turned around and headed back to the car.

We really enjoyed this hike.  It is quite popular so we saw lots of other people out, some day hikers like us and a fair amount of through-hikers backpacking the AT.  Everyone was friendly and shared the trail. 

There is a bit of traffic noise throughout the hike, mostly from the occasional motorcycle, so you don't feel like you're totally getting away from it all, but it wasn't too obtrusive. 

I'd definitely do this hike again, allowing a little more time to make it to Black Rock Cliff.

All photos are here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Biking the Sligo Creek Trail

Sligo Creek Trail
 I took the day off work today, and decided that I would celebrate by going for a ride.  I'd only been on the Sligo Creek Trail in Montgomery County, MD once before and the ride had to be abbreviated, so today I wanted to bike the whole distance.

I cheated and started the ride by taking the Metro to the West Hyattsville Station.  The Northwest Branch Trail runs next to the station (come out the faregates and turn right); it connects with the Sligo Creek in something less than a mile.

The trail is a perfect for a nice and easy ride.  It is very flat for DC--it runs along the creek, and the creek doesn't have any rapids, lol--with a slight incline going from W Hyattsville to Wheaton.  The last mile or so is noticeably uphill, but not at all steep.  I was out for a "Sunday drive" kind of ride, slow and meandering.  It took me about an hour of riding time each way.  The trail is 10.2 miles long; according to Google I rode about 9 miles each way so I missed some of the trail at one end or the other.

About 15 minutes into the ride, this happened:

Xtreme Blowout

The mother of all blowouts.  Luckily, I had stopped my bike because I was hearing a weird sound.  It turned out, the bead of the tire had come out of the groove of the wheel.  About 10 seconds after I stopped there was a MASSIVE explosion.  It sounded like a gun shot.  I thought I was going to be surrounded by a SWAT team within 3 minutes (nobody ever came).  I can now claim my first successful field change of a tire, pumping with a tiny pump and then having to deflate no fewer than 4 times to get the bead set correctly.  I had brought two tubes with me, along with two patch kits.  I would have needed a whole lot more patch kits if I'd gotten another one of these.  I was nervous the rest of the ride, but luckily both tires held air until I got home.

I rode up to the top of the trail (to Wheaton Regional Park) and turned around.  I took the photos on the way back.  The trail takes you under 495, so beware, those who fear to go outside the Beltway!

 Kosher RestaurantsNearly at the end is the Kemp Mill Shopping Center with several Kosher restaurants, as well as a grocery store and a CVS.  The restroom at the CVS was not terrifying, though it's one of those in the warehouse/back room area.  Staff was nice about letting me in.  I bought packing tape.  It was on sale, buy one get one 50% off.

I stopped at a bench to eat my lunch.  Nice and shaded.

Lunch Bench

There are areas of young trees (I rode through this water crossing without realizing there was a bridge right next to it)....


and areas of mature trees.


Mostly the creek is still and clear...

Sligo Creek, still

Though there are a few parts where it is moving.

Sligo Creek, moving

The path has dozens of lovely wooden bridges

Wooden Bridge

 and also dozens of playgrounds.


Maybe not dozens, but it is so nice for the neighborhoods to have all these little playgrounds everywhere.  They are not full parks--no restrooms or other facilities (hence the CVS).

It's mostly shaded but there are a few fields.  This part is my favorite, only a little bit of a ride from the W Hyattsville Station.

Powerline Meadow

I know the land is clear for the powerlines,

Powerline Meadow

but the tangle of vines and ground cover is so lush!  And there aren't that many wildflowers on the rest of the trail, at least at this point in the summer.

Most of the trail is off road, but there is a small portion on a quiet street with nice little single family homes.

Sharing the Road

The trail is fairly well signed, though there are some dogleg road crossings where I got confused.  There are two tricky crossings of busy roads where you have a crosswalk and can push a button for flashing lights, but no signal.  The other crossings are on quiet roads or have signals or stop signs.

After a nice 3 hour interlude (well, the 20 minutes changing my tire was not so nice), I was back at the metro.  Bikes are allowed in the DC metro system outside of rush hour.  You must use the front or back door of the car.

West Hyattsville Station

All photos are here.