Monday, May 03, 2021

Hiking (nearly all) The Bull Run Occoquan Trail

Yesterday we hiked the Bull Run Occoquan Trail (aka BROT). I classify this as a One Day Trail, because every time I'd seen it mentioned I remarked that one day I was going to hike it. And yesterday was that day.

What distinguishes BROT from other local area trails is its combination of length and back-country feel. At a little over 17 miles, it's one the area's longest woodland trails. Yesterday, the weather cooperated, and we had an outstanding day of hiking.

We opted to traverse the trail from Fountain Head Regional Park to Bull Run. This was a wise decision because the Fountain Head Section has a heap of elevation gain and loss which was nice to accomplish while we were fresh. The trail was well marked, and at only two points did we find that the blue trail markings and the All Trails route disagreed. And even those cases were easy to reconcile.

Some of the AllTrails reviews painted a pretty bleak picture of the trail: claiming that the trail was overgrown, required bushwhacking or in at least two instances, suggested that you were required to make a waist-deep stream crossing. None of this is true. Except for one recently downed tree, the trail was smooth sailing the whole way. All the stream crosses had bridges or stepping stones.

We did run into one logistical glitch. When we arrived at Bull Run to drop off our car it was 6:15am and the park wasn't scheduled to open until 7am. Our fix was to park at an access point off of Route 28 about a mile into the hike. I was bummed to be losing a mile of the trail, but preferred that to scrubbing the whole adventure. Fountain Head Regional Park opened at 6am (despite Google claiming it too opened at 7am), so we had no problem parking there. We were on the trail by 7am as we hoped.

While the trail didn't offer much in terms of views, and we didn't have time to explore the history of the area as much as I'd liked, it more than made up for these losses. Much of the trail takes you along water which was both picturesque and quite inviting. There were also numerous types of wildflowers in bloom, including Virginia blue bells, Virginia spring beauty, Meadow buttercup, Golden ragwort and more. There was a variety of Azaleas blooming that looked downright spectacular. Heck, even the Skunk Cabbage looked impressive.

I also came across some unique finds, including a Pink Lady's Slipper which is a variety of orchid(!) and the odd looking and equally oddly named American Cancer Root. It was a definitely a wonderful day to be in the woods.

I also spent quite a bit of time pondering this plant right here:

She may not look like much. However, unlike most of her plant neighbors, she's destined for greatness. That's a baby Tulip Poplar. Once mature, it'll be among the tallest trees in the forest. Tulip Trees are so large that I didn't notice their distinctive leaves and flowers until one pooped on me.

Think about all countless things that have to go right for this tiny seedling to turn into a mighty tree. It seems impossible. And yet, as we hiked through the forest, we were surrounded by mature Tulip Trees. That's amazing.

Overall, the BORT is a splendid trail and one I hope to come back and explore in the future.

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