Monday, May 20, 2019

Patapsco River Valley State Park: Manventure 2019

This past Friday, after fighting DC traffic for an hour and a half, Nick, Shia and Myself found ourselves in a picturesque campsite. We'd made it to Patapsco Valley State Park and were ready for a fun weekend of car camping.

The first priority was getting the tent setup. Shia thought using the rubber mallet to bash in tent stakes was just about the best job ever. I was just pleased that the tent contained all its components. After getting setup, purchasing firewood and checking out the bathrooms, we headed out for a bit of hiking. After about 15 minutes and some steep terrain, we found ourselves down at the Patapsco River. The river was flowing with gusto and I had real concerns about our plans to fish it. To my surprise, the trail takes you down and over an active railroad bed, something we'd get to explore a number of times this trip.

After some attempts of fishing in vain, we made our way back to the campsite for a delicious dinner of quesadillas and rice. It was at this point that I discovered my first and most critical gear failure: I forgot the hot sauce. Alas, we made do without.

Nick was in charge of the fire and collected up his materials. He had brought along a ferrocerium rod and was hoping to start a fire using the old flint and steel method. I've experimented with this in the past with varying degrees of success. After a few strikes of the scraper against the rod, he had sparks flying and a fire going. Way to go Nick!

Our first night couldn't have been more beautiful. We slept with the tent fly off, and a full moon in the sky. It's hard to believe that just a few hundred yards away there were houses and civilization. Our first day of camping had been a success!

We started Saturday morning with pancakes. Yum! The Shake and Pour Pancake Mix is my new car camping go-to item. So easy and so delicious. I may have to bring the mix along backpacking, as it's so simple to prepare.

We headed over to the Hollofield Day Use Area for a morning of fishing. From the parking lot, we descended a steep trail to find ourselves at a rushing Patapsco River. Fortunately, walking North up the river took us around a bend and into calmer waters. We tossed out our lines, and within 45 minutes we caught our first fish! Shia reeled it in and he was the very definition of a happy camper. Turns out, the small fish were loving the green and black trout magnet lures I'd brought along. All told we ended up pulling in 10 little guys throughout the day. Though, I've got a suspicion that we caught the same fish multiple times. Still counts, right?

Nick and I tried without success to catch anything more significant than than the adorable fish we could haul in using the trout magnets. But still, it was great to catch something, and we could call the fishing weekend a success. I'll have to bring my Dad back to the area to get his take on the best way to fish the river.

In the afternoon we did a bit of geocaching, finding the oldest Geocache in Maryland. Despite the path to the cache being absurdly steep, Shia conquered it without a second thought. The Geocache wasn't the only notable bit of history in the area. The railroad bed and tunnel that we crossed a number of times is historically interesting. This section of track dates back to the "earliest construction of the [B&O] railroad"; we're talking early to mid 1800's. Between the railroad history and being up close as the trains go by, my inner 8-year old boy (who loves him some trains) was thrilled.

No camping trip would be complete without enduring a thunderstorm, and sure enough as night approached we could hear thunder in the distance. The storm lasted a good 30 minutes, and while the lighting strikes were always a few miles off in the distance, it was still impressive to see the flashes light-up the campground. I'd missed my chance to get into the tent as the storm approached, and found myself listening to my audio book, huddled under the canopy as the rain poured down. It was actually quite delightful. Shia, for his part, was nonplussed and slept through the storm.

Sunday we packed up our site and drove 20 minutes to the Cascade Falls Trail head. While the trail starts across the street from a subdivision, it immediately feels authentic, and was the perfect add-on hiking adventure for our trip. We could have done the 2 mile out and back trail but Nick and Shia were up for overdoing it, so we took a detour to check out a geocache in the area. This cache called for doing some bushwhacking, but oh was it worth it. The site of the cache contains the ruins of an old house, which made for a fun area to explore. You could easily hike next to the ruins and never notice they were there.

After the geocache, we made our way back to the main Cascade Falls Trail and down to the Patapsco River. We crossed a sweet suspension bridge and then explored the river bank. Here again the water was moving too fast for fishing. But the time spent on the bank was hardly a bust. I was surprised at the quantity of sea (river?) glass we found. Without much difficulty, we found clear, green, brown and blue bits of glass, as well as shards of pottery. I'm not sure if we discovered important historic evidence, or if folks in Maryland just like to drink and chuck their beer bottles (and pottery?) into the river. Either way, if you've got a budding artist who wants to collect interesting materials for projects, a visit to the Patapsco River is in order.

After exploring the mighty Patapsco, we trekked back up the trail to our car and headed back to DC.

What an amazing weekend! We'd caught fish, built fires, slept under the stars, endured a thunderstorm and treasure hunted all within a 40 mile drive of our homes.

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