This morning, I was lured to the Oregon Ridge Nature Center in central Baltimore County with the promise of two of my favorite things: hiking and pancakes. Who could turn down such an offer? (Hint: not me!)
With pancakes planned for after the hike, today’s hike was somewhat short. Starting off at the park’s nature center, fourteen of us with MAHG crossed the bridge that led to the park’s hiking trails, turned right, and headed down the red-blazed Loggers Trail, beginning a counter-clockwise loop of the park.
The Loggers Trail gave a nice, gradual uphill as it wound around the side of a hill. As an alternative option for ascending the hill (that we did not take), the more direct Ridge Trail serves as a shortcut. By making a tighter loop up the hill, the Ridge Trail cuts off about a quarter-mile in distance, though this makes it roughly twice as steep.
After passing through a gas pipeline clearing, the Loggers Trail finished its climb to the top of the hill. Near the top, at a recently installed ornate wooden memorial bench with painted cardinals and flowers, the trail split. The Loggers Trail, a loop around the northern part of the park, continued ahead, though we followed the aptly named “Shortcut Trail”, which brought us to the Ivy Hill trail, which formed the majority of today’s hike.
The Ivy Hill trail took us south, gently weaving to and fro as it climbed down the back side of the hill the Loggers Trail led us up. At roughly the halfway point of the hike, shortly after turning east, the trail rewarded us with a scenic pond. With the near-freezing temperature, the pond lightly froze over, though a small trickle of water was still flowing through its outflow channel.
One sadness with hikes during the winter is the absence of green. Leaves and dirt on the ground are a dull, lifeless brown, and leafless trees are no better. Sure, there’s the occasional evergreen, but even the evergreens can’t make up for the fact that almost everything else is drab.
Thus it was a sight for sore wintry eyes that, just past the pond, there was a small sea of bright green groundcover, almost as if to call out “don’t worry, spring will soon be here!”
The Ivy Hill trail continued meandering east, following a small stream, which it crossed four times. In each case, a set of rock stepping stones paved the way, making it possible to cross without dunking your feet in the water.
After the stream crossings, the trail doglegged west, and then north, gradually climbing back up the hill, rejoining with the Loggers Trail near an overlook at what once used to be a ski slope. The ski slope is no longer used as such; winter weather was too warm to sustain snowmaking.
From there, the Loggers Trail finished its loop around the park, descending the north face of the hill. Ending at a gas pipeline clearing, the Loggers Trail gave way to the Lake Trail, which followed the ridge above the park’s lake, a former rock quarry, and ended at the nature center’s parking lot.
That concluded the hike, but there were still pancakes to be had!
Every year, at its former ski lodge, Oregon Ridge has a pancake breakfast as a fundraiser to celebrate the end of its sugar season. For a modest fee, a breakfast of pancakes and grilled sausage is provided, with syrup made from the park’s maple trees. After a brisk four and a half mile hike in barely-above-freezing temperatures, a hot stack of pancakes was quite a fine way to end the hike.