In my last post I wrote about the signature attraction at Elk Neck State Park, Turkey Point and its lighthouse. While its a draw and well worth hiking, its not the only reason to visit the park. The other trails are worth the time as well, as I discovered on my day in Elk Neck.
Prior to my trip to the lighthouse, I’d parked at the Visitor Center to see the trails available. The Visitor Center is closed on weekends, unfortunately, but there was a display with trails and trail descriptions, and Wapiti Pond and the Pond Loop Trail drew my attention. Since it started across Route 272 from the parking lot, I pulled on my boots and set off.
The start of the Pond Loop is reached by a short connecting trail, and the Loop is both blazed and marked with directional signs. This park, much like Nolde Forest in Pennsylvania, has many intersecting and branching trails, and the signs help keep you on the right path.
This path, the Pond Loop, is broad and relatively level at first. The trail appears to serve as an access road to Wapiti Pond. Soon enough I was crossing the top of the earthen dam and gazing at the pond.
The pond is a popular fishing hole, but it was just me and nature during this hike. I kept stopping to look at the raptors soaring above the pond – vultures and hawks as far as I could tell.
The trail passes a spur to a camping area and continues to hug the lake. As it does so it changes from access road to a more conventional hiking trail, and the up and down, up and down brings you into the midst of azaleas and mountain laurel. Only the absence of rocks kept me from thinking I was back in Pennsylvania. The Loops strays from the shore of the lake as it circles back around, but the views are still great.
Its possible to use a connecting trail between this Loop and the campground store to bring you to the Ravines Loop, and hike both of them as one hike. I didn’t, since I wasn’t sure of my plans. I wound up driving to the closed camp store, parking there, and crossing the street to enter the Ravines Loop. Also, here is where I paid my day use fee – Maryland charges for the outdoors.
The Ravines Loop continues the up and down of the Pond Loop, taking you through dry stream beds and gullies. The trail is squeezed behind camping areas – for a few hundred feet I was close enough to smell someone’s barbeque -, but soon enough I was alone with nature.
This Loop was mainly high and dry, although it did pass a swamp on one of its many dips. I had to hike the loop as an out and back since the last of the three bridges on the trail was collapsed. I’d been warned about the missing bridge, so I’d expected to retrace my steps. I did so, finishing with 3.5 miles of hiking on both trails. Had I hiked the connector and done them as a single hike my mileage would have been higher. Still, its not just miles, but the quality of the miles, that’s important, and both Loops were a great hike. Next time I’m at Elk Neck I will hike them together.