K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
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On Sunday, October 28th, cool but crystal clear weather greeted the 13 human hikers and their 11 canine companions as we set out to enjoy the scenic and historic trails of Patapsco Valley State Park near Catonsville, MD. Supplied with Halloween chocolate for people and biscuits for dogs, we started out in the Orange Grove section of the park at the base of the Cascade Falls Trail. We hiked up the valley wall, taking in views of the falls as they snaked down to meet the Patapsco River. The trail flattened as we hiked through woods, into fields and past the remnants of old farmhouses, our first encounter with a bit of the history hidden throughout the park. Within the past year, the trails have been reblazed, and new trail markers and trails added. Those improvements made it much easier to navigate the many routes through the park.
As we hiked back down the valley, enjoying fall foliage at it's most colorful, we gained some insight into the recreational history of the park as we passed the remains of what, according to a park ranger, was once a Boy Scout camp. Since it's establishment as the Patapsco State Forest Reserve in 1907, this area has been a popular recreation destination for more than just Scouts. In the 1930's the CCC added trails, picnic and camping areas, and the newly renamed Patapsco Valley State Park became a summer vacation destination for many in the Baltimore area.
Scenic Ridge trail took us back to our cars, rounding off the first leg of the hike at 5 miles. Then 4 hardy hikers and their 2 dogs continued across "Swinging Bridge", which once carried mill workers as they traveled to and from their homes in the now vanished town of Orange Grove. We followed the Grist Mill trail, sandwiched between the Patapsco River on our left and the CSX railroad on our right. Both river and railroad have been major arteries of commerce in the Patapsco Valley since the area was industrialized in the 18th century. We hiked along the river on the Buzzards Rock Trail, which took us by Bloeds Dam which is the worlds first submerged electrical generating plant housed in the shell of a dam. From there we climbed back up the valley wall and down along the Sawmill Branch which took us under the railroad tracks, back along the Patapsco and across the swinging bridge to our cars.
The members of K9 Trailblazers want to thank the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and particularly Sgt. Brown of Patapsco Valley State Park, for giving us permission to hike areas of the park normally off limits to dogs. Sgt. Brown was also very helpful when we were forced to make a last minute change in our trailhead location. Everyone had a great time exploring just a small part of the 35 mile long state park, and we hope to get back soon to explore more of the historic and beautiful Patapsco Valley.