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Bull Run Mountain Conservancy

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Hike Summary

It was a rather warm July morning when I set out, and I steeled myself a little in anticipation of a somewhat busy hike. It was a Friday, but it was also the Friday of a 4-day weekend, so I had a feeling that it was going to be rather busy anyhow.

I was very much correct. Bull Run Mountain Conservancy is one of the closer hiking areas to suburban Northern Virginia, and only about 10 minutes from my house. I hadn’t ventured in before now because they had a no dogs policy, but at some point in the past year, they seem to have changed that, and now allow dogs on leashes, which makes me pretty happy.

I like to think I’m a good dog hiker, I make sure he’s leashed and I don’t let him wander too far or be obnoxious. I always get off the trail and let other people pass by. I always pick up after him. It drives me up the wall that there are some dog owners out there that have to ruin it for the rest of us with their bad behavior.

So I set off, and followed the trail, which was very wide and park-like. It goes past the ruins of a house and the Chapman/Beverly Mill, which is a mill that was in operation before the Civil War, and was occupied by both sides during the war and used as a staging area. It burned down, and there’s a group working on restoring it. Hiking in BRMC is one of the ways you can actually see the mill up close, as opposed to seeing a glimpse of it as you zoom past on I66.

The interstate is, unfortunately, an almost constant presence in the park. It takes some time before you get fully away from the sound of the cars. The trail continues on up a nicely graded path towards the overlook. I was sort of but not entirely surprised at the number of people I saw hiking, even at this early hour. I quickly lost count of the people I let pass me or I saw coming down the hill. I also have a feeling that there are some people that have a quick out and back hike up to the overlook and back, and that might be something I add to my workouts to get more hills rather than just walking on a flat surface. It’s something to think about, anyhow.

While I was hiking, I noticed lots of little holes in the trail. These were most likely from the recent brood of cicadas we had this year. They’re gone now, and they honestly seemed not nearly as dire as they were predicting. I heard them quite a few times when I was out hiking, but they weren’t nearly as bad as they were the previous year.

I got up to the overlook and took a break, taking some notes in my notebook (a new habit I’m adopting so I’m better able to remember points about my hikes, so these posts are more interesting,) and eating a snack. I tried to sit away by myself a little, so I had some solitude. Not long after I’d sat down, a group of teenagers came hiking up, talking loudly and generally being a little obnoxious. One of them even stepped on my pen after I’d sat it down to just (try to) enjoy the view. They do say that hell is other people, and that’s one of the reasons I prefer to hike during the week, so there are less people to disturb me.

One of the things I enjoyed about the overlook is it’s something I’ve seen many times from I66 as I’ve been driving out to Front Royal and other parts west. You can see it very clearly from the interstate, a slash of white on a ridge across the way. It was nice to be able to see the interstate and the surrounding countryside from up on high, although it was quite a bit overcast still, with a little wind.

After enjoying the view, I decided to keep on the trail as it went on up a little higher. There were a couple more overlooks, and the trail came to the top of High Point, and then started to descend. I was really quite curious as to where the trail ends up, but I decided that maybe I’ll find out another day, unless someone out there knows the answer. Upon some further investigation with Google Maps, it looks like it may go all the way to Hopewell Road on the other side, at least if Street View is to be believed.

On the way back I started to descend the other side of the mountain, and this way was very steep and poorly graded, and I had to inch along a little bit. The trails in this area are generally fairly poorly signed, with only some numbered signposts at intersections. It is pretty much a requirement to have a map while you’re in this park. In fact, I ran across a very lost group of people that were trying to get to the top, and I gave them directions. They’d lost their map.

I was in a section of the park that was a maze of little side trails. The guide I was using had pointed to a spur trail that didn’t exist anymore, and I slogged through some mud  and decided to head off in a different direction, towards the edge of the park. There was an area, past the railroad crossing, where there were some planted pine trees. It smelled very nice, but it also felt so sterile. The trees were laid out like graph paper, marching away in rows, and it just felt unnatural and kinda spooky. I turned around at the boundary of the park and made my way back, adding in a little side loop in the middle of the park for some added miles.

At this time of the year there aren’t as many wildflowers, at least not in this park, but I did see quite a few interesting mushrooms and fungi. Not all of them were listed in my little Audubon Mid-Atlantic Guide, but one of the more interesting ones that was in there was an Old-Man-Of-The-Woods. It looked almost like it was encrusted with black crystals, very pretty.

My hike completed, I decided to take a little detour on my way home and I drove out to New Baltimore and to Effie’s Frozen Favorites, another roadside ice cream stand. They have a number of sundaes on their menu, and I couldn’t resist getting a brownie one. A great way to finish off the day!

2013-07-05 Bull Run Mountain Conservancy
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