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Woodstock Equestrian Park – Montgomery County, MD

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Hike Summary

Since I have been logging some pretty long and hard miles during my One Day Hike training hikes, I thought it would be a good idea on my “fun” hiking days to go on some shorter hikes that I might not normally do. I don’t know if it’s something in my slightly warped OCD brain that’s broken a little or what, but I have a hard time considering any hike under 10 miles to be much of a hike these days.

I need to learn to enjoy the short hikes, too.

I picked this hike at the last minute, thinking that this particular day there was going to be some snow or rain, but at mid morning the forecast said it was going to be nice, so I threw all my hiking stuff in my bag, loaded up the dog and headed up there.

Woodstock Equestrian Park is a relatively newish park in the more rural part of Montgomery County, Maryland. It is primarily intended as an equestrian park (duh) but the cross country course is just as usable for a hiker with their dog.

The park goes through rolling hills, mostly fields, with some thickets of trees interspersed here and there. The snow was starting to melt (it would be totally gone by the end of the next day) so at times it ended up being a little bit of a mudpit. Thank goodness for waterproof boots.

One of the nice things was that someone from the maintenance department had driven through with a vehicle of some sort, so there was a flattened strip of snow through the park, making it a little easier to get around.

At one point when I was hiking along, a herd of deer burst through the edge of the field and ran across it. I was so bemused taking in the scene that only at the last minute did I start to fumble for my phone and the camera. By the time I peeled off my gloves, they were gone. There was something enchanting about seeing them run across, they were almost floating over the snow.

There was a rich, tannic smell to the air at some points, hard to tell if it was the fields or just the smell of the thawing earth. At the time it smelled like spring, but now that I’m sitting, writing this with almost a foot of snow on the ground, it must have been a false spring.

I stopped for a snack and a rest at the Seneca Stone Barn. This is an old stone horse barn that was restored by the parks department when they were working on improving the park, and they did a very nice job. There’s a little information station explaining the history of the barn. I do wish there was a bench to sit on here, I had to make do with one of the thresholds instead. ┬áThat’s my only complaint though, and really I should be used to not having much to sit on but logs as it is.

Moving on, I exited the field section and made my way downhill and across the busy road. Then there was a section that was a bit more forested and a bit snowy as well. It was nice to have some bits that felt more like “real” hiking, with the enclosure of the forest. There was one section with a bit of a hill and a powerline clearing that was pretty.

At the bottom of the hill was a dirt road and the way back to the car. I had had a good leg stretching. and a place I have wanted to visit was on my route home.

Rocky Point Creamery. The last time I tried to visit this place was possibly around the same time last year when I’d gone to Sugarloaf, and of course it being still wintry, they are on limited hours. This time however, I was there when they were open!

They do have excellent ice cream, as I’ve found to be the case pretty much for all local type ice cream places I’ve visited. They’re a tiny smidge pricier than some of the other places I’ve been to, but that might just be the price difference between Maryland and Virginia. I didn’t mind, it was tasty. I had Banana Pudding and Butter Pecan flavors in a sundae with caramel, and it was an all-round great combination. They’re also part of the Maryland Ice Cream Trail, and I think when that rolls around again this year, I’m going to have to participate.

As I continued on, I was still a little bit hungry. I was back in Virginia, and what should my eyes see but a roadside BBQ stand. If there’s one thing I’ve found in my wanderings, it is that roadside BBQ is some of the best BBQ. This place is run by Catoctin Popcorn, who also have a location in Harper’s Ferry. I had some of their pulled pork with NC sauce, and it was delicious. I thought about suggesting to them that they set up a booth during the One Day Hike (they’re located just across the Potomac from the C&O trail,) but if they did that, I’d be tempted to stop and eat too much.

Woodstock Equestrian Park

Little Devils Stairs – Shenandoah National Park

Hike Summary

This was probably the most challenging hike I’ve done since I started hiking, with the exception of Sky Meadows (which I made before I started tracking things, and before I was really prepared.)

Getting to the hike itself was a little bit of an adventure, as it doesn’t start from Skyline Drive, but at the end of Keyser Run Road in the back of random neighborhoods near Washington, VA. Part of the hike itself consists of what used to be the continuation of that road before the area was turned into a park.

So, the hike. It starts out more or less gently for about the first quarter mile, but then becomes increasingly difficult up until around the 2 mile mark. The hike parallels Keyser Run up a narrow gorge, so even though the trail is mostly well marked, it’s almost impossible to miss the trail because there’s nowhere else to go.

There were points where I had to do hand-over-hand climbing, and at least one spot that I had to boost the dog to help him up a ledge that was too high for him. He’s a medium, 50 pound dog, so most things don’t bother him, but this particular part was a little challenging.

The challenge was worth it, though. Although I suspect it’s nicer in the springtime when more water is flowing, almost every few feet there was a little cascade, waterfall, rill or some other vista of falling water. There was a constant gurgling, trickling sound. I almost got tired of taking pictures.

It was rough going for a bit, I had to take constant breaks so that I could catch my breath. Even though the temperature was in the 70s F, it felt as warm as some of the hotter summer hikes due to the exertion. I was definitely glad when I hit the junction called Fourway.

From Fourway, it was pretty much smooth sailing and downhill all the way to the end, down fire roads. I did encounter an equestrian doing laps on the road, for which she apologized. I told her I was perfectly fine with her riding up and down the road, although my dog had never seen a horse before. I think he thought it was some sort of large dog, and he wanted to make friends.

I am doubly glad she was there because she mentioned that there was a group of four bears along the trail ahead of me, but her horse had scared them off. I am a little nervous about bear encounters, as though where I grew up was next to and surrounded by National parks, there haven’t been any bears repopulating them.

I passed by a cemetery along the way as well, it was very well maintained. It made me a little sad to think about all the people who used to live within the bounds of the park that had their land seized and were basically kicked out, but on the other hand it was for a very good cause, and most of the time you can’t really tell that anyone ever lived in Shenandoah.

The leaves are just starting to barely turn up here. Hopefully soon, I will be seeing spectacular colors on my hikes.

More Pictures of Little Devils Stairs