Copyright © 2014
by Ralph F. Couey
I regularly search hiking-oriented websites in my quest to uncover places to trek. This past week, I found one I hadn't seen before. It's called the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship, and they control about 900 acres of Loudoun Valley into which they have established some 10 miles of hiking trails, as well as a vibrant program of natural and environmental awareness.
The center is located off Harper's Ferry Road near Purcellville, Virginia, pretty easy to find compared to some of the parking access areas adjacent to the AT.
The day was supposed to be sunny and cool, but the clouds which brought overnight showers refused to yield. But the temperature, in the low 60's, was pleasant enough. We arrived about noon, stopping at the education center to tend to some pre-hiking necessities. The trailhead was down the road about 50 yards, fronted by a barred gate.
Quickly, the trail disappeared into the forest, as most of them do around here. But its fall and the leaves are beginning to change. If the sun had been out, it would have been nice. As a result, it was kind of a drab and dreary kind of day, which put the forest into a bit of a mood.
The trails were easy to walk on, and well-maintained. It was a bit muddy from the overnight rain, but the carpet of fallen leaves helped to improve the footing. This is an area that is well-known to birders, protected by ownership and encouraged by improved habitat, both natural and man-made. The woods were pretty quiet today, however, with only the raucous sound of crows to break the silence. We didn't see any wildlife, but we could see abundant places through the woods which the deer had made familiar.
A previous hiker had mapped out a 6.5-mile loop, but about 2 miles in, the rain began to fall. Had I been alone, I would have kept on going, but in deference to my bride, we cut the loop short. But even on this shorter route, we saw some ruins, the remains of stone fences and house foundations. There were also two old homes, marked off-limits, but seemingly well fit into the landscape.
Just outside the edges of the woods are a couple of lovely meadows flanked by low mountains. It makes for a startling transition, from close-set woods to wide-open space.
It was an interesting, if too short hike. We did the Farmstead Loop, the Piney Run Spur, and the Derry Loop, which totaled out to 3.6 miles.
But as you can see, there is more, much more to this site. We'll be back.