The forest and a beach in central Baltimore County
Here in Maryland, autumn seemed to arrive later than usual. In fact, because of a very dry summer, many trees were losing their leaves before they turned color. But in the last week of October, the weather rallied to give us a brilliant burst of color.
Like many, I visited Oregon Ridge Park on a recent weekend to take a country walk in the spectacular color. Autumn days here often have moderate temperatures, in the 60s, very little wind, and abundant sunshine in crystal clear skies. Sunday was a perfect example of one of those days.
Oregon Ridge Park encompasses about 1,000 acres in central Maryland. It is a typical example of an Eastern deciduous forest. Common trees include tulip poplar, hickory, sycamore, maple, boxelder, ash, sweetgum, and others. Fall foliage this year was primarily yellow and orange.
The “ridge” is ~600 feet above the surrounding landscape. In fact, years ago, a ski slope was operated from the ridge. But the slope is much more suited for a gloriously long sled run.
The red-blazed “Logger trail” starts at the Nature Center, crossing the wooden bridge to enter the forest. Soon, you climb and climb, at a moderate incline, to the top of the ridge, always in the forest, sometimes alongside a tiny stream.
At the top of the ridge, you have a view of the surrounding area and some very upscale homes. You can take a short detour to the left to rest in a gazebo overlooking the valley.
The trail continues through the forest along the top of the ridge. It’s an easy gentle walk. It’s quiet. There is no noticeable traffic hum. The only sound of civilization may be a passing plane overhead.
It’s a wide enough trail to walk easily and observe your surroundings. Explore decomposing logs. Find fungi. Observe the bark of the variety of trees. Enjoy the golden hue of fall foliage. Notice the angle of the sun in autumn creates long shadows on the hillsides.
The trail intersects the gas line for a second time, affording a longer perspective on the fall foliage.
The trail now becomes a bit more “technical” and more narrow for a short portion as you come off the hillside. At the steepest section, there is lumber rebarred into the ground to create steps. A handrail offers even more support.
Near the bottom, a short detour takes you to the “frog pond”. In spring, this pond will be full of tadpoles and salamander egg masses. In summer, look for frogs and turtles sunning themselves.
The red trail then leaves the forest, leading you across a picnic area and playground, and then alongside the “beach”. Yes, there’s a swimming hole here – a former excavated quarry, now filled with spring-fed water. Sand was trucked in to create a beach. On a sunny day, the beach is a great place for a picnic lunch.
A perfect ending to the hike is a visit to the Nature Center.Oregon Ridge’s Nature Center is chock full of exhibits explaining the history, wildlife, and natural environment of the park, with live amphibians and reptiles as well as honeybees on display. The library is well-stocked with hundreds of nature-related books. You could spend all day there, and is a great spot to get your fill of nature on a rainy day.