What a glorious day! After weeks of cold, wet weather we reveled in the sunny and relatively warm weather that greeted 13 very eager hikers and their 11 canine companions. We welcomed newcomers Emily, with Raleigh. Regulars Lisa and Chuck were back with Jester; Alice came with Diva; Jenifer brought Tigger; Nancy brought Tester; and Mary brought Casper, but Troop and Ken didn’t make this hike. Joanna and Jeff brought April and her new housemate Amber, a remarkably calm puppy eager to meet and greet people and dogs, and everyone liked her, too. Shirley was back with Princess, and Sarah returned with well-mannered Toby who does an awesome “watch” when Sarah asks him.
We checked out the Nature Center, collected maps, chocolate and dog biscuits and set off through the meadow. We passed the ˝ acre Pioneer Pond used for environmental studies. When we arrived at Pioneer Village we met the resident sheep, and saw a smokehouse, a corn crib, the original McClosky family cabin. We also saw the Brown family cabin which was built in 1868 by William Brown in an area of Montgomery County which later became Brownstown. The cabin was dismantled and moved by students from Farquhar Middle School and reconstructed at this site by the Department of Parks Rock Creek Maintenance Crew.
From there we headed out on the Spring Trail, through the woods and over some creeks and past a fenced “interpretive succession plot” where the park service is studying the natural habitat, trying to find out what plants will grow, and how abundantly, when deer are not browsing the vegetation. We paused to visit the Valieant Covered Bridge, named for Joan Valieant an educator and environmentalist. The bridge was built by Rockville High School Students using funds donated by friends and colleagues of Joan Valieant. The dogs all trotted happily through the bridge and we took a water break on the other side. Sarah surprised everyone by passing around home-made muffins—What a treat! Thus fortified, we continued hiking.
The sun was out and as we passed through the meadow and forest edge habitats we saw birds, deer and a couple of squirrels. Out next stop was Walnut Grove Cemetery, dating back to the early 1800’s, where Amanda Prather and members of her family are buried. From there we hiked Old Nasty Trail going steeply down to Lake Frank, a 54 acre lake that was created for flood control and recreation. As we hiked back to the Nature Center we had a magnificent view of the frozen lake glittering in the sunlight.
After returning to the Nature Center, we visited the raptor aviary, an interpretive exhibit where permanently disabled birds, which can not be rehabilitated and released, are cared for and their habits studied. We saw an owl, a hawk, a vulture and our national bird, the bald eagle. The dogs were fascinated, but they were quiet and the birds basically ignored them. Since this was a shorter than usual hike, people and dogs seemed reluctant to say good-bye and we all stood around chatting together until the wind picked up and going home began to look like a good idea.
(click on images for larger pictures)