K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club 
August 3, 2002 at Gunpowder Falls/Hemlock Gorge
Trip Report

(click on thumbnail images for full size picture)

4 or 7 miles

It was hot. It was humid. It was exhausting. It was FUN! Thirteen people showed up for our first K9Trailblazers hike along Big Gunpowder Falls. Jeff was solo because Katy is recovering from a shoulder injury; Pat came with Mickey; Diane came with Kea and introduced her husband Dan who joined us for his first K9TB hike; Nancy with Callie and Betty with Pongo and Ann with Tucker are regulars; Paul with Sally were first time K9TB hikers; Suzanne and George came with Max and introduced their friend Eric for his first K9TB hike; Gail and Bruce came with Roscoe, and we all enjoyed hearing about their hiking vacation which included some 12-mile days across the English countryside, in the rain. 

After signing in and collecting Scooby snacks, Blue Dog biscuits plus Snickers for the people, we set out uphill in the sun for a short distance before thankfully plunging into the shady woods. We stopped even more often than usual for water breaks, spraying or dousing our dogs’ heads to help cool them, as we made our way through the forest. We stopped at River Valley Ranch, a youth camp that is open to the public on Saturdays in the summer and welcomes leashed dogs. Unfortunately the snow cone stand didn’t open until after we left. But we rested in the shade and let the dogs wade in the water (on leash of course) while curious and friendly children and adults came to pet them and ask about the breeds and tell us about the dogs they had at home, or wished they could have at home.

On our way back to the parking area we did some bushwhacking along seldom used trails and animal tracks, hiking through brambles and over fallen logs and across streams and up one steep section of trail that deserved it’s own special water/rest break. Everyone including the dogs just kept on keeping on until we reached the cars. There were no “easy hikers” today-- everyone was a “hardy hiker” even if they only completed the first loop.

After a brief rest, and some of Paul’s very welcome ice water, we had to create a new title for those who continued on the 3 mile loop along Hemlock Gorge: “Super Hardy Hikers.” This was a killer! Not only had the day warmed up considerably but the terrain was also a lot more challenging. But 6 people and 4 dogs were undaunted. Jeff; Pat with Mickey; Nancy with Callie; Paul with Sally; and Gail and Bruce with Roscoe headed uphill again, this time to visit the Hoffman family cemetery with headstones dating back 200 years. The first U.S. paper currency was printed on paper produced by the Hoffman family mill originally located along Gunpowder Falls.

As we hiked on the floodplain along the river we looked for carp in the pools created by beaver dams. It was sunny and very humid and getting hotter by the minute. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when we reached the hemlock forest. It was slightly cooler and we enjoyed a nice breeze occasionally. We took a rest break to prepare for the “ultimate challenge” portion of this hike: we climbed uphill, on a narrow trail along the edge of the gorge that was rocky and steep. At times we had to hold each others’ dogs and drag ourselves up one at a time grabbing roots and rocks. It was a team-builder! We enjoyed the cascading water. Just the sound made us feel cooler. And we rested and doused ourselves and our dogs with water at frequent intervals.  Wet bandanas around our necks helped some too. This was a great group. In spite of the hardships there was no whining! 

Postscript: The predicted thunderstorms materialized 30 minutes after the hike ended. The drive home was a hairy one with hail and blinding rain and dodging cars that simply stopped in traffic lanes and under bridges.

Starting off with a hill Down the trail The first water break on a hot day The road to River Valley Ranch
Meeting folks at the Ranch Tucker cools off as Ann watches A rest in the shade Exceeding the speed limit (thanks George)
A break along Gunpowder Falls A view of the water Nancy and Callie explore the Hoffman family cemetary Bruce, Gail and Roscoe cool off
Hemlock Gorge A well deserved rest to enjoy the scenery A spot for a stream crossing A hot day for swallowtails, too!