Amer­i­can Chest­nut Land Trust of­fers miles of trail op­tions

Trail in Calvert now fea­tures 22 miles

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By SARAH FALLIN Twit­ter: @CalRecSARAH

Tucked away in cen­tral Calvert County is a net­work of 22 miles of trails that dis­play some of the best of what na­ture has to of­fer. From a se­ries of beaver dams to a trail that takes hik­ers across a creek with a raft and pul­ley sys­tem, there’s a trail within the Amer­i­can Chest­nut Land Trust for all out­doorsy types.

“We’ve got the trail to match the amount of time you have and your avail­abil­ity,” said Greg Bowen, ACLT’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. “There’s a lot of flex­i­bil­ity be­cause we go a lot of dif­fer­ent places.”

Many of the miles of trails lo­cated near Prince Fred­er­ick and Port Repub­lic are in the Park­ers Creek wa­ter­shed, which means there are plenty of wa­ter-re­lated fea­tures. One such trail runs about 6 miles from the cen­ter of the Calvert penin­sula, the county seat of Prince Fred­er­ick, to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay — hence its name, PF2BAY. It’s a chal­leng­ing route that in­cludes five foot­bridges and con­nects to sev­eral of ACLT’s other trails. The round trip is 12.2 miles and is es­ti­mated to take more than six hours.

The re­wards of the hike be­gin fairly quickly. Af­ter de­part­ing from the trail­head in a church park­ing lot and descend­ing a ridge, hik­ers will see a trib­u­tary of Park­ers Creek at the first foot­bridge.

The best time to take the PF2BAY trail is in the fall or win­ter when there aren’t many leaves on the trees. This will pro­vide the best views of the bay. For those who wish to hike to the bay but don’t want to ded­i­cate an en­tire day to the ex­cur­sion, there are three shorter hikes of 7.7 miles, 6.6 miles and 4.5 miles, as de­tailed in the free trail guides avail­able at each trail­head.

For beginning hik­ers or fam­i­lies with younger chil­dren, ACLT com­mu­nity re­la­tions co­or­di­na­tor Pam Shilling rec­om­mends the turkey trail, a 1-mile round- trip hike that de­parts from ACLT’s north side trail­head on Dou­ble Oak Road and af­fords a view of the creek and bay.

For kids who don’t mind one steep hill, there’s also a 1.1-mile round-trip hike to a three-tiered beaver dam, also de­part­ing from the north side trail­head. There’s a bridge near the low­est dam and if hik­ers sit qui­etly for a while, they can watch the beavers.

“It’s so cool … and com­pletely in your view is a swamp,” Shilling said.

The new­est ad­di­tion to ACLT’s trails is a raft-and­pul­ley sys­tem over Park­ers Creek. The trail to get there is windy and hilly, Bowen said, but is filled with his­tory. It’s one of the few his­toric roads in Calvert County the pub­lic has ac­cess to, and the trail con­nects the land trust’s two trail sys­tems for the first time ever. Bowen said he can just pic­ture a Model-T Ford fol­low­ing the wind­ing path.

In the 1930s, a storm de­stroyed the only bridge across Park­ers Creek. For years, ACLT sought an earth-friendly way to con­nect the two shores in ad­di­tion to con­nect­ing its mul­ti­ple trail sys­tems. It’s a 3-mile round trip to the raft or a 10-mile round trip from ACLT’s head­quar­ters on Dou­ble Oak Road in Prince Fred­er­ick to the south trail sys­tem in Port Repub­lic and back. The 10-mile round trip in­cludes sev­eral stream cross­ings and con­tains the most dif­fi­cult por­tion of trail within ACLT. Ex­pe­ri­ence is highly rec­om­mended for the trek down to the south­ern trail­head.

Ac­cess­ing the raft via the Park­ers Creek Road trail in Prince Fred­er­ick rather than the South Side trail­head is also a rec­om­mended at­trac­tion for fam­i­lies, but Shilling said the younger kids may have a harder time get­ting there and back and might need some help.

“I’ve hiked for many many years and I’ve never seen any­thing like it,” Tim Dow, an ACLT vol­un­teer, said of the raft across Park­ers Creek.

ACLT’s most pop­u­lar trail is the Park­ers Creek loop, which is 3 miles. The raft can be used as a de­tour on the loop, hik­ers get to walk along the creek for a long dis­tance and there’s no re­trac­ing of steps, since the trail is one of a few loops of­fered by ACLT. This trail is where ACLT’s an­nual Earth Day 5K is held.

An­other off-the-beat­en­path his­tor­i­cal site is the Hance-Ch­es­ley Ceme­tery, which is off the swamp trail ac­cessed from the South Side trail­head. This ceme­tery has head­stones dat­ing back to 1812 and can only be ac­cessed by hik­ing. The ceme­tery was re­stored by Calvert Gar­den Club and ACLT vol­un­teers.

For those who aren’t the hik­ing type, ACLT still of­fers myr­iad ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing sev­eral ca­noe trips each year. The three-hour trips take vis­i­tors up and down Park­ers Creek. They can see some of the trails from the wa­ter and a va­ri­ety of wildlife. There’s a por­tion of land that is only ac­cessed through ca­noe trips with ACLT, said vol­un­teer and ca­noe trip guide Con­nie Wil­loughby. The next trip is sched­uled for Oct. 28.

At the North Side trail­head, there’s a nat­u­ral play area for chil­dren, com­plete with a ca­noe sand­box, bal­ance boards and a mu­sic area.

There’s also the op­por­tu­nity to learn about sus­tain­able agri­cul­ture prac­tices at ACLT’s Dou­ble Oak Farm, where the North Side trail­head is lo­cated. It’s best to call to sched­ule a tour with a vol­un­teer to ex­pe­ri­ence this side of the land trust. ACLT sus­tain­ably farms food and do­nates 80 per­cent of it to lo­cal food pantries.

There’s a demon­stra­tion gar­den where vis­i­tors can learn about Hugelkul­tur, a drought-re­sis­tant prac­tice of mak­ing mounds of or­ganic ma­te­rial and plant­ing on top of it, in ad­di­tion to other prac­tices. ACLT also just started a “food for­est,” where dif­fer­ent lev­els of trees are planted as­cend­ing up­ward like build­ing sto­ries, which cre­ated a fun­gal soil en­vi­ron­ment. This means the land never has to be turned, and it’s a great en­vi­ron­ment for grow­ing fruit. On one level, berries can be planted, and up from there, paw­paws, pears and nut trees can thrive. It’s a low-main­te­nance form of farm­ing.

“In the next 20 years, we think we’ll see some­thing fab­u­lous,” Bowen said.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

A 2.2-mile stretch of ACLT trail uses a raft and pul­ley sys­tem to al­low hik­ers to cross Park­ers Creek.

STAFF PHOTO BY SARAH FALLIN

Au­tumn Phillips, ACLT’s land man­ager, walks down a trail to­ward the new raft cross­ing over Park­ers Creek.

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