On a chilly, overcast day Carl and I revisited an old favorite - the Oella Mill Race trail that begins in Ellicott City, MD which is an old mill town. Back iin the day, Trolley #9 was built to get mill workers to the mill works on the flood-prone Patapsco River from the housing that was a few hundred feet higher up the surrounding hills to the north. A decade or so ago that short trolley line was turned into a nice paved trail.
The first mile or so of this hike is on that old trolley line, which followed the path of Cooper Branch as it makes it way down to the Patapsco through a very scenic valley. An old rickety metal bridge carries auto traffic overhead crossing this narrow stream valley.
We then walked west on local roads to get the Oella Mill Race trail that runs from Oella Mill upstream along the Potomac to where a dam was built to divert water from the Patapsco down to the mill. A few years ago the dam was removed and as part of the restoration several hiker/biker friendly projects were completed.
The crumbling Rt. 40 bridge over the Patapsco was replaced with a graceful, modern arched bridge, which also left room on both sides of the river for trails. This used to be the turning back point for this hike, which limited you to a 4 mile hike.
Route 40 crisscosses several streams, requiring several culverts to let streams find their way to the Patapsco and the restoration effort built a nice stone crossing of Miller Run where it meets the Patapsco. If you are adventurous, you could actually walk (or even ride a bike) through the culvert but it looks kinda creepy (not to mention wet) up close - we stayed on the trail.
From here we continued upstream and in about half a mile turned east on the new Pickall trail that the mountain bikers built. This trail heads upstream along the Cedar Branch, then climbs uphill to the top of the Patapsco heights above Rt. 40. It then heads down hill, passing the ruins of old farmhouses and what were probably small mill operations.
The trail then connects with the Miller Run valley, crosses Miller Run where the upstream end of that culvert is and then heads downhill back to the R4. 40 bridge. From there we we retraced our path back to Oella Mill, then walked on Oella Mill Road paralleling the River back to Ellicot City. The new trails extended this into a very nice 6 mile hike with a bit of up and down.
Continuing the flood-plain theme, the next weekend we headed out to the C&O Canal Towpath at mile 48 (of 184) at Point of Rocks, MD on the Potomac River. This is another refurbished area, with a big pole marking the flood levels over the years. Hard to see in this picture, but the highest bar on the pole is the level reached during Hurrican Agnes in 1972 - about 15 feet above the parking area. This level was almost reached again in 1996 and the flooding caused an entire street of houses to be condemned.
We did another 6 miler, heading 3 miles down stream on the Towpath towards Nolan's Ferry, and then retracing our steps back to Point of Rocks. Many of the trees have been"colonized" by vines, most commonly the invasive English Ivy. But along this stretch, several were covered with a vine that was showing bright orange berries at this time of year. Despite all these years of walking through the woods, I have no idea what that is - but a Google search suggests American Bittersweet, which is a North American native, much like Elvis was and the Beatles were invasive English...