The human brain may never be fully understood. While scientist race to develop artificial intelligence based around the workings of the human mind, others are trying to comprehend its full potential. Amongst its many functions, how we remember things may be one of the brains most essential yet unreliable functions. When recounting the tales of summer rides, we think back to blue skies and endless smiles with friends. Our mind often blocks painful and emotionally trying moments, so when remembering tough days out on the bike, they don’t seem that tough after all.
For what I can count as a multitude of reasons my brain has since forgotten the discomfort of the 100º F day in Patapsco Valley State Park with Taylor Jones and Josh Gorman. It was the weekend just before the 4th of July and the prospect of sneaking off to check out some new trails with friends in the Washington D.C. area was too tempting to pass up. The east coast was gripped in a proper summer heat wave, temperatures were tickling the upper 90’s, but the trails were dry, so there was no time to consider the perils of heat stroke and the discomfort of propelling a bike through the stagnant air of the humid forest.
Patapsco Valley State Park is nestled nicely in between both Washington D.C. and Baltimore. The park covers over 16,000 acres and is home to over 200 miles of trail. Most of the park is a multi-use trail network with a few hiking only sections. There are an estimated 100 miles of worthy and delicious singletrack to discover within the eight developed recreational areas and beyond. For our purposes, we began and finished our ride in the Hollofield Area of the Park.
Our goal was to complete a 30 or so mile loop that would take us from the Hollofield area through the Daniels area and up to Woodstock. It was an undertaking even on a mild day. The terrain on the trails of the Hollofield was a welcomed yet ominous sight. A string of chunky technical rock gardens greeted us in the first few miles. Torquing and muscling the bikes over and through the mess of limestone was a quick reminder of just how hot the air was. Soon we were descending down towards the river, the trail would flow and dip only to be interrupted with challenging piles of rock and logs.
While riding the path near the river, the remnants of the early summer flooding were all around. Trees uprooted tangled in piles all along the river banks, sections of trails washed away, we came along a shallow creek crossing and headed out towards the second section of our day in the Daniels Area. From here the rocks of Hollofield dissipated, and the trail undulated into sections of flow amongst the ferns. We rambled along for a while before taking a snack break along the train tracks. It was there that we assessed our fatigue from the heat and the previous evening’s ride. A few rounds of ‘how far?’ and ‘it’s up to you guys.’ and we decided it best to count our losses and double back to the cooler full of cold beverages that waited for us in the car.
While the feelings of heat-induced fatigue and the violence of the taco fueled food poisoning that I suffered from my weekend of riding Patapsco have since vanished, my desire to explore more of the park’s offerings has not. To say that the trails of Patapsco are as diverse as they are numerous is an understatement. From the rocks of Hollofield to the outright ripping fast trails of Rockburn there is something in Patapsco for everyone including a skills park. Patapsco Valley State Park has camping options, and it also hosts an annual trail festival. If you live in and around the East Cost I recommend a little trip to Patapsco for a day or two of riding.