Take A Hike!
By Richard Hillman
For me, it started in the mid-1990s, when I began backpacking for a few days each summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. To train for the rigors of carrying a pack up and down steep, rocky trails, our local leader would organize several training hikes in western Maryland in late spring. Some years elapsed and some in the group observed that this sort of hiking wasn’t such a bad way to enjoy the outdoors, but wondered why we couldn’t do it all year long. What a revelation! Twenty years have passed and nearly 200 monthly hikes have been taken.
Admittedly, I have come to enjoy planning and leading the hikes as much as actually doing them. They all originate from a spot in Annapolis, usually the lower lot at the Truman Parkway park and ride lot. The hikes generally occur on a weekend, except in November of even years when we hike on election day (because we have the particular trail to ourselves). Normally we go someplace in the “Greater Annapolis Metropolitan Region,” which I have defined as within 100 miles of the statehouse.
Though the hikes are technically conducted under the auspices of the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Appalachian Club (AMC), America’s oldest outdoor organization, membership is not a prerequisite. In fact, there are no qualifications whatsoever, unless one considers the encouragement to bring “kool snax to share” not quite a burden.
The pace is moderate. The participants are of all ages. The terrain is reasonable — usually. Most of the hikes take three to five hours. Sometimes a picnic lunch on the trail is part of the adventure. At other times, many in the group will dine post-hike at some local hostelry. The largest assemblage was 54 for a themed stroll through Annapolis, but the group averages 10 to 20 in colder months and 15 to 30 in warmer months. A map and a trail description are provided to each participant. The hikes are conducted under “Leave No Trace” principles. Moreover, the AMC adheres to the Hiker Responsibility Code.
The schedule of hikes for the ensuing six to 12 months is posted at the AMC website at www.amc-dc.org Click “Chapter Activities” and the complete details for each hike are posted there at least 60 days before the hike. In addition, I maintain a listserv to send monthly reminders for anyone who wishes them.
There is somewhat of a rhythm to the annual schedule. In the colder months, we do urban routes in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington because weather will interfere the least. (In 20 years, only three hikes have been canceled.) In spring and fall, we do trails on which we can enjoy the natural attributes of those seasons. And, in summer, we do mountains or stream valleys.
Special equipment is not necessary, although boots are always recommended. A day backpack is useful for carrying water and snacks. It is also useful for storing extra clothing since most participants routinely overdress. Some folks find it more comfortable to hike with trekking poles when we do backwoods hikes.
So come one, come all. You’ll experience a part of the region you likely have never traversed. Communing with nature will refresh you. And, you’ll likely make some new friends in the bargain.
The schedule for 2011 follows:
Sunday, May 22, SENECA CREEK GREENWAY TRAIL, Clopper Road to Darnestown Road, Montgomery County. 6.9 miles. Step off at 10 a.m.
Saturday, June 18, APPALACHIAN TRAIL, Rocky Knob Trail to Caledonia State Park, Pa. 8.3 mi. Step off at 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, July 23, SAVAGE PARK & MILL, Howard County. 8 miles. Step off at 8:30 a.m.
Sunday, Aug. 21, STONEY RUN – WYMAN PARK, Baltimore. 5.3 miles. Step off at 9 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 17, GLEN ELLEN – SEMINARY TRAIL, LOCH RAVEN RESERVOIR, Baltimore County. 9 miles. Step off at 9:30 am.
Sunday, Oct. 23, BOMBAY HOOK NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Smyrna, De. 3.5 miles. Step off at 10:45 a.m.
Saturday, Nov. 19, LAKES NEEDWOOD & BERNARD FRANK, Rockville, Md. 7.9 miles. Step off at 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, Dec. 4, CAPITAL CRESCENT TRAIL, Montgomery County. 6 miles. Step off at 10 a.m.
Richard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410 263-1844