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Prince William Forest Park

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Hike Summary

At least two different guides said that this was a 7 mile hike, so that’s what I had been prepared for. It was a nice, overcast day, but not too hot for once, but I decided to take a third bottle of water with me, just in case, since when I’d hiked Groveton, I had gotten really thirsty near the end.

I am glad I did bring that bottle, as I somehow managed to discover an extra .75 miles, which doesn’t seem like that much, but when it’s mostly uphill to the end, it is a challenge. We made it, and part of that is because I promised myself I could eat a second Clif bar when I got to the end.

There was lots to see, hear, and smell throughout this hike. The way the sunlight filtered through the woods and dappled the trail ahead and behind. The silence at times — I am so used to hearing the hum of fans and air conditioners, or the electric sound of cicadas in the summer heat that the quietness of the forest was quite refreshing.

After a mile or so of forest, the trail starts to parallel the South fork of Quantico Creek. It’s funny that it’s a creek here, and not a run as so many of the other creek-like waterways are called in Virginia. Random thought: I should look up the differences. I grew up in California, where creeks were creeks, and rivers were rivers, and one of the things that was constantly echoing through my mind as we hiked along the creek was the word “riparian.” I was hiking along a riparian zone, that strip of land where there’s plants that love water and wetness. I saw clubmosses and lots of ferns everywhere.

This was the busiest hike I’d been on, I actually saw 3 different groups of travelers.  One was a couple of dudes smoking a joint and walking their puppy, which amused me for some reason, as they seemed not at all hikers. That’s part of the whole draw of this park, though — it’s 15,000 acres in the middle of the DC metro area. So you get all kinds. It’s hard to believe it is though, when you’re in the middle of it.

This was an unusual, and more than likely, unauthorized little memorial in the park, down by the creek. I didn’t leave a rock because, although I liked the spirit of the little memorial, leaving no trace was one of those things that was drummed into my head as a kid.

The other thing that I noticed was how different the dirt was. Instead of the reddish dirt that I see in most places in Virginia, there was a lot of white, chalky dirt. I think this has something to do with what’s called the Fall Line in Virginia. Another thing I am not all that familiar with, not having grown up in this area.

Eventually, the hike makes its way up out of the river area and back to the start, a long, windy way. It was at this point somewhere that my phone finally died and I couldn’t take any more pictures. I need to also learn to get my phone to conserve more.

So many lessons to learn. I still feel like a novice at this whole thing, even though I hiked a bit as a kid, sometimes it feels like I’ve forgotten most of what I used to know.

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