Since we're new in these parts, Jeff and I have been looking for ways to get out and explore our new city and region. And since we've recently been buying a lot of furniture for the new apartment, we've been looking to do this exploration as inexpensively as possible. What's free? Hiking! But seriously, more than being a cheap day trip, we really enjoy getting out of the city, surrounding ourselves in trees, and working up a sweat. There's nothing like an afternoon spent in nature to recenter you, make you feel more balanced, and calm down anxieties about moving, new jobs, the Presidential election, etc. So last weekend, we recruited a couple of friends from Michigan that also just moved to Baltimore, and we set out to a nearby state park.
Gunpowder Falls State Park is in northeast Baltimore County, only about 25 miles from the city. The park is comprised of several non-contiguous areas, so my advice is to do a little research on what part of the park you are going to before you set out and hope to find a trail head. Luckily, I did do this research, so we found the trail head for the "Wildlands Loop" pretty easily! From this trail head there are several routes you can go and different trails you can take, but because we were feeling adventurous, we chose the longest option. The Wildlands Loop is an easy to moderate 5 mile hike that takes you up hills through tall, straight oaks, where pockets of sun shines through the leaves. It takes you along a stream, and across it at some points; watch out for the slippery rocks! There was allegedly a swimming hole along this trail and I think we would have found it had we taken the correct fork at one point. Next time we will definitely find that swimming hole. It was a hot and humid day, as are all summer days down here, and a dip in the river would have been extremely refreshing. Overall it was a great hike and took just about two hours to complete.
After our hike we piled back into the car and traveled to another part of the park. The Hammerman Area beach is part of Gunpowder Falls State Park, and features a stretch of sandy, lifeguarded beach along the Gunpowder River (one of the tributaries that flows into the Chesapeake Bay). While we found the admission fee a little steep ($5 per person, not per car), it was well worth it once we were camped out along the river enjoying our picnic. The beach has a large grassy area friendly to dogs, and plenty of picnic tables and grills set up so you can really enjoy the day. After our hike, it felt great to sit down along the river/bay and enjoy a potluck picnic.