Much of the hiking we have done lately has been for more than just our health. Since learning of the Twin Valley Challenge, I have been itching to try all 27+ miles in one day (the total mileage for the day varies by source). But life always got in the way of the event with a birthday, work event or some other obligation prevented us from trying.
This year all stars seemed to be aligned and we have been training with our long hikes every weekend. Previously, we have completed the Germantown and Twin Valley loops, but Ted thought it a good idea to try out the connector trail and eliminate all possible surprises and backtracking on the day of the hike.
This weekend was supposed to be a 12 mile hike. My honest estimation would be closer to 14 miles and again, the actual mileage can vary by source.
We started from the High View parking lot at the Twin Valley Metropark. The views from the parking lot alone make this trail worthwhile. Maybe I am just an Ohio girl at heart, but there is something about seeing the gentle waves of farmed hills stretching to the horizon and speckled with immaculate barns that lifts my spirits. The trail quickly descends and we soon realized we were in the heat of migratory season as we spotted a Prairie Warbler and were duped by another warbler we could not identify. I think it took us nearly 45 minutes to travel that first mile.
As we reached the bottom of the hill we spotted the intersection that marked where the Twin Valley loop departed from the Connector. The start of the Connector trail is a horse gate. The trail then parallels a horse farm. A second gate must be crossed before the trail passes under a bridge. Soon we emerged on the road beside the cement plant. We later learned that there have been recent efforts to eliminate the road portion of the trail. Admittedly, the miles along the road were rather miserable. Apparently there is a disused railroad bed that parallels the road and I look forward to the conversion into trail.
As is, the trail passes under in an apparently blind curve. Then the trail travels through a residential neighborhood for approximately a mile and a half. At this point we were very glad to be doing a test hike. It is a little disconcerting to hike along the road and several times we backtracked to driveways wondering if we had lost the trail. For the most part the trail is pretty well marked with hiker blazes. The exception occurs immediately after crossing the bridge in Germantown where we climbed over the guardrail on the left side of the road to pick up the bike trail along Twin Creek.
Much of this trail follows bike trails within the city parks of Germantown. They aren’t bad parks, and we did have a nice Baltimore Oriole sighting, but there is certainly no feel of wilderness. The paved portion ends when the trail crosses 725. Here, a Shell station with ice cream and cold Gatorade is a quick quarter mile detour if you remember to bring your wallet. After walking across a field the trail finally veers right to climb back into the woods.
These are definitely the best miles as you wind along a ridge. The woods open up for views of the valley below and were thick with wildflowers while we were there. We even had a great view of a Scarlet Tanager. Finally the trail descends back to the river as it approaches Germantown Metropark. We turned around at the Old Mill Camp area. At least this time! Today was only a small portion of what we will be doing in a few weeks.