Gorman Stream Valley
Sunday, December 4, 2016 11:30 pm
Location: Gorman Stream Valley (6.0 miles)

One of the reasons I joined MAHG was to let other people do the work of finding hiking trails and mapping out routes. This works out especially beautifully when they find a hiking spot I didn’t even know about, almost in my own backyard.

Today’s hike was along the Middle Patuxent River near Columbia, MD, in in an area MAHG calls the “Gorman Stream Valley”. Various mapping services call the area “Gorman Park”. Howard County, in which the area is located, doesn’t even appear to have a proper name for it, not listing it in its parks directory or hiking trails list, and refers to it only as “an undeveloped area called ‘the Gorman Area’” in a news release for its deer management program this winter.

Whatever the proper name for this area is, I’m still happy to discover a new place to hike, especially one that's only 15 minutes from my house. So I signed up almost last minute last night, after waiting a few hours for someone to drop out of the full RSVP list and open up an empty spot.

I showed up a little early for our 10 am hike. The weather was a tiny bit warmer than yesterday, but with no wind, so I didn’t even bother with my rain jacket.

There were about 15 of us that hiked this morning, including a very fluffy brown dog who was very anxious to get started: she refused to sit still, and whined constantly until she was allowed off her leash to roam the trail.

The trail followed the Middle Patuxent River, and was relatively flat, save for a few hills, largely concentrated around the middle of the hike. Being a forest, in the fall, the trees were bare and the ground covered with leaves, so we frequently trudged through foot-thick or deeper piles of leaves, where the wind had blown them into ruts in the trail. Though the cooler temperatures the past few days didn’t help much, the rain from earlier in the week had largely dried up and the ground was fairly dry, save for a few puddles of water that the dog happily splashed through.

We closely followed the river for about two miles, before the trail pulled away to climb a hill leading to a clearing for high-tension power lines. Following the clearing over a hill or two led us back to the woods, and after scampering down a steep, muddy bank to a sandy beach on the river, we stopped for a break.

It was a fairly scenic place, and I wish I had spent a little more time taking it in. For a good portion of the hike, including while we were stopped at the beach, I had been answering questions about the Appalachian Trail, and I forgot to actually stop and look around. (I did note a rusting car someone misplaced on the cliff on the far side of the river, and forgot to even take a picture of it even though I had my camera out!)

On the hike back to our cars, retracing our steps, we saw a few deer run through the woods a couple hundred feet ahead of us. I joked that they didn’t have to run; clearly, we were making so much noise walking through the leaves that they had to know we weren’t hunters.

Just now, this reminds me of an extremely dubious story I heard during my hike while in Shenandoah. In Shenandoah, hunting is forbidden, and, so the story goes, the deer knew this, so they weren’t afraid of people, even coming up to people to seek food. At some point, deer hunting was temporarily opened to thin the numbers, and more than one deer, having a special combination of curiosity and lack of danger sense, met their demise at the hands of some particularly clever hunters while tasting a salt lick attached to the end of the barrel of a shotgun.

All in all, this was a nice hike, and I’ll have to come back here again during the spring when there’s some more greenery.

Next up: After three days of hiking, going to rest up for a little while, before hitting the trails again this weekend.