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Sizzlin’ Summer Calendar

Parks and Rec

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Druid Hill Park disc golf

One afternoon, we headed out to Patterson Park with a couple of friends. There was a jug of homemade iced tea, a half-beagle half-Boston terrier to snuggle up to, and a tree for both leaning and snoozing. Though the whole affair was as simple as you could get, it was a highlight of the summer. It turns out the Baltimore area offers plenty of options like this to escape the bustle of city life, so take advantage.

Beartown State Park, near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, A rustling in the bushes, the scratching of a tree, a fresh paw print on the ground—Don’t worry, Beartown State Park’s caves are no longer home to our massive four-legged friends, but what’s left behind will astonish you: 107 acres of massive boulders, overhanging cliffs, and deep crevasses will make you feel like you’re stepping into a pre-colonial America.

Beaver Dam Swimming Club, 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 785-2323, Geronimo! Get out of your concrete office and back into nature—well almost. Beaver Dam is a marble quarry turned fun-time swimming area: complete with cliffs, rope swings, volleyball and basketball courts, and a snack bar. For all you party goers, there is a strict “no alcohol” policy, but hey—that’s what the rope swing is for, am I right?

Blackwater Falls State Park, near Davis, W. Va., (304) 259-5216, Blackwater Falls is like something out of the Oregon Trail (don’t ford the river): massive waterfalls, eight-mile gorges, and black water. Entrance to the park is free (bonus), although, lodging is provided (for a price) to everyone from the everyday camper to the business executive. If you get bored with nature, there’s Wi-Fi . . .

Big Run State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, Big Run has everything: boating, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, “rest rooming,” and even drinking (in a specific pavilion, with permit). If all the activities don’t sound cool enough, Big Run is situated at the mouth of the Savage River Reservoir, which means a whole other park to enjoy. We’re exhausted just describing everything there is to do.

Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, Del., (302) 653-6872, Bombay Hook is home to a massive and diverse group of wildlife, which means manifold habitats. The refuge offers visitors a 12-mile auto tour, five walking trails, three observation towers, wildlife photography, hunting opportunities, as well as a variety of nature and educational programs.

Cabin John Regional Park, 7400 Tuckerman Lane, Rockville, (301) 299-0024, Finally, something combines our two greatest passions: camping and ice-skating rinks. Cabin John has so much more than just cabins. The park has athletic fields, tennis courts, tai chi courts, dog parks, trails, hiking, picnicking, ice-skating, and miniature train rides. Make that three of our greatest passions.

Cascade Lake, Snydersburg Road, Hampstead, (410) 374-9111, Did someone say the bees-knees of local water parks? Why yes, yes they did. Cascade Lake isn’t just for swimmers. The park offers a plethora of platforms and water slides to jump, slide, and dive. If that’s not enough, there’s also a miniature water park (adult supervision required).

Casselman River Bridge State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, People laughed, they sneered and jeered, but Casselman River Bridge stood. The 80-foot bridge was erected in 1813. Skeptics thought that it would collapse once the supporting timbers were removed. Guess what? It didn’t. Bam. Casselman is great for fishermen and historians alike. Be aware: “Casselman River Bridge is currently closed to pedestrian traffic,” recently damaged, but still standing.

Carroll Park Bike and Skate Facility, 800 Bayard St., (410) 245-0613, Finally, a place to skate without a grown-up chasing you off. Carroll Park offers sweet skating and biking facilities to anyone over the age of 7. Helmets and pads are both cool and necessary to enter. Admission is $2 a person or $15 for the year.

Catoctin Mountain Park, 6602 Foxville Road, Thurmont, (301) 663-9388, Catoctin has a long and winding history. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, it’s also been home to miners, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and moonshine stills. If history isn’t your thing, the park is a sprawling 5,180-acre romp through streams and geological formations, with hiking, horse trails, and rock climbing.

Cunningham Falls State Park, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, (301) 271-7574, Um . . . 78-foot waterfall. Does anything else need to be said? How about the parks closure from May 17-19 in order for the Secret Service to provide security for the G8 Summit? Still not impressed? Cunningham offers swimming, hiking, fishing and canoeing—along with campgrounds and cabins, if you’re looking to extend your stay.

Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave., (410) 367-2217, The Cylburn Arboretum is like something out of Alice in Wonderland, but probably not the weird Johnny Depp version. There are two-and-a-half miles of serpentine woodlands, through 50 different types of trees and wildflowers. The Arboretum also includes guided tours, workshops and classes, and naturalist training.

Dan’s Mountain State Park, 17410 Recreation Area Road, Lonaconing, (301) 722-1480, Dan’s Mountain is named after Daniel Cresap, an adventurous young lad who fell out of a tree and was knocked unconscious while hunting a bear. Luckily for Dan, and for park goers, his Native American friend, Nemacolin, saved him. The park offers a pond for fishing, pavilions for barbequing, and an Olympic-size swimming pool for swimming.

Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park, near Hillsboro, W. Va., (304) 653-4254, “States rights!” Not something we usually hear this far north in the South, but that’s because we’re not usually at Droop Mountain Battlefield. It’s West Virginia’s last significant Civil War battle site. The park is part of the Civil War Discovery Trail, which links more than 300 sites in 16 states. Plus, there’s a hiking trail with an awesome wooden tower.

Druid Hill Park, 2600 Madison Ave., (410) 396-0616, Druid Hill Park is an oasis in the bustling urban life of Baltimore City. Like its counterparts, Central Park in NYC and Fairmount Park in Philly, Druid Hill is one of the oldest landscaped public parks in the country. Its beauty is surpassed only by its convenient location for Baltimoreans.

Fort Frederick State Park, 11100 Fort Frederick Road, Big Pool, (301) 842-2155, Duck! Fort Frederick holds annual artillery firings, along with having boat ramps, campsites, fishing, canoeing, and hiking. The fort itself is composed of a massive stone wall with roomy barracks and a history of protecting militia men. Leave your red coats at home or you might find yourself in a holding cell with the lobsterbacks.

Gambrill State Park, 8602 Gambrill Park Road, Frederick, (301) 271-7574, Vast, sprawling landscapes take hold as you view the valleys of Gambrill from one of three native-stone overlooks. This park has your essentials: camping, fishing, and hiking, but what stands out is its strong link to the Civilian Conservation Corps. Part of FDR’s New Deal, the CCC helped create our modern-day parks, and at Gambrill, it shows. Multiple pavilions and a lodge are available for reservations.

Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, In 1906, the Garrett brothers donated 1,917 acres of land for state forest, which happened to kick-start Maryland’s current public land system. On top of being first, the park features cross-country skiing, campsites, fishing, hiking trails, hunting, riding trails and snowmobiling. Hiking plus snowmobiling equals year-round fun.

Gathland State Park, 900 Arnoldstown Road, Burkittsville, (301) 791-4767, Journalists unite! Gathland was once the home of George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist. The park features a collection of buildings and structures designed by Townsend. However, the star attraction is a large stone monument, dedicated to Civil War correspondents. Once you’re done seeing the sites, hike the trails or set up to grill in the pavilion.

Green Ridge State Forest, 28700 Headquarters Drive, Flintstone, (301) 478-3124, This is it: the Grand Canyon of Maryland State Parks—the big one. Green Ridge takes up a massive 47,560 acres, the largest contiguous block of public land in Maryland. Large parks mean lots of activities: hunting, fishing, camping, biking, horseback riding, paddling—even a shooting range.

Greenbrier State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, Humans built pyramids, flew to space, and created lakes. Greenbrier is home to a 42-acre man-made lake and beach, attracting swimmers, boaters, hikers, and fishers. Whoa. If you enjoy lakes as much as we do, Greenbrier offers 165 campsites with bathhouses, including hot showers.

Gunpowder Falls State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, Gunpowder is big too, but British Empire big. It’s divided into six different areas, spanning 18,000 acres, with 120 miles of trails. Each area offers something unique, so it’s best to check a specific park to see what’s what. Some of the park’s more unique activities include boat rentals, marina access, and archery. Make sure you’re pointing your bow the right way.

Gwynns Falls Trail, Leakin Park, (410) 396-0440, Offering easy access from the city, Gwynns Falls is another lost Eden in our modern, concrete world. The park traverses 30 neighborhoods in West and Southwest Baltimore, connecting parklands, urban oases, cultural resources, and historic landmarks. Gwynns Falls gives the residents of Baltimore everything from hiking and biking to bird watching and community events.

Herrington Manor State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 334-9180, Two words: Apple Butter. Two more words: Maple Syrup. Herrington Manor is another park located in Garrett County. What it’s not is just another park. Every spring and fall special events are held to show visitors how to make their own apple butter and maple syrup. If the situation gets too sticky (yes, we went there) you can take a dip in the 53-acre lake that was formed by damming Herrington Creek.

Jones Falls, various spots along the Falls, from Falls Road near Chestnut Avenue in Hampden to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. The Jones Falls can look a little sorry in places—lots of spare tires, plastic bags, and miscellaneous garbage. But it’s amazing how often one spots great blue herons in its waters, and a couple months back several exotic-looking yellow-crowned night herons were seen nesting along its banks. The Jones Falls may need some love, but in its own way, it remains a natural area.

Marshy Point Nature Center, 7130 Marshy Point Road, (410) 887-2817, Marshy Point is the place to be for naturalists. The park, when combined with neighboring county, state, and federal land, encompasses over 3,000 acres of protected nature. And nothing’s better than having a little nature—when it’s protected. The park encourages hikers, birdwatchers, and plant lovers of all kinds.

Milford Mill Park and Swim Club, 3900 Milford Mill Road, Windsor Mill, (410) 655-4818. If you cannot get enough of rope swings, Milford is your spot. There are multiple consecutive ropes providing for a Tarzan-like experience. You might say, “Oh, I’ve seen ropes before.” Bam! Zip line. That’s right, the park features a zip line, along with indoor seating, picnic tables, and a volleyball court.

New Germany State Park, 349 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5453, New Germany has a little bit of everything for everyone: camping, cabins, hiking, boating, fishing, swimming, and trails. The only thing it doesn’t have is a warming hut—oh wait—it does. While warming huts are less useful in the warmer months, you winter lovers will cherish it when the snow comes back.

Oregon Ridge Beach, 13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1818, Voted our “Best Place to Swim” in 2007, Oregon Ridge is just that. The beach features a bathhouse, picnic tables, grills, playground, and a volleyball court. What more could you ask for from a place that’s 10 times (this is fake math) closer to Baltimore than Ocean City? Oh right, it’s also nowhere near as crowded as OC, so get your swim on.

Oregon Ridge Nature Center, 13555 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, (410) 887-1815, Oregon Ridge Nature Center is all about events. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about Stone Age technology, take a moonlit canoe ride, or listen to music in the woods, we have a park for you to go to. Most events are free or under $10, so you really have no excuse.

Patapsco Valley State Park, 8020 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City, (410) 461-5005, Patapsco Valley State Park is charming in its “girl next door” quality. If you live in the Catonsville, Elkridge, Ellicott City, or Baltimore area, you might just be able to step from your backyard into a state park. The park is not continuous, so depending on your area you can explore hiking, fishing, canoeing, or horseback riding. Keep it local.

Patterson Park, 27 S. Patterson Park Ave., (410) 276-3676, Patterson Park is awesome. On September 12, 1814, Baltimoreans repelled the threat of British invasion—not the musical kind. Troops simply stood on Hampstead Hill, with 100 cannons, and the British turned tail and ran. Beyond the history, Patterson sports a lake, a pagoda, a marble fountain, pavilions, playgrounds, and ice skating.

Patuxent River Scenic Trail at Queen Anne, 18405 Queen Anne Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 627-6074, Good things come in small packages; it’s true. The Patuxent River Scenic Trail is four miles of natural surface woodland. It provides for trail hiking, bicycling and horseback riding. The trail includes scenic overlooks as well as rest stops for the travel weary.

Potomac-Garrett State Forest, 1431 Potomac Camp Road, Oakland, (301) 334-2038, Potomac-Garrett State Forest is the leader in 3-D archery. In fact, it might be the only park thus far that has 3-D archery. From what we gather, it’s similar to regular archery but involves three-dimensional targets. There’s also camping and horseback riding. Now, when they combine horseback riding with archery, this will be the king of parks.

Quiet Waters Park, 600 Quiet Waters Park Road, Annapolis, (410) 222-1777, Quiet Waters Park offers six miles of paved trails, for biking, walking, and jogging—with an added punch: community gardens. Whether you prefer your food local, or simply enjoy being self-sustaining, Quiet Waters has you covered with over 340 acres of park land.

Robert E. Lee Park, entrances off of Lake and Bellona avenues, (410) 396-7931, You have two missions to complete when you hit Falls Road: hit up the restaurants for a bite to eat and head the opposite way for a romp in the park. It doesn’t matter what you eat when you burn it off at Robert E. Lee Park. You have 415 acres to traverse.

Rocks State Park, 3318 Rocks Chrome Hill Road, Jarrettsville, (410) 557-7994, The King and Queen seats are an experience. Once a ceremonial gathering place for the Susquehannock Indians, it’s a 190-foot natural rock formation. You can literally sit atop each formation and feel like the king of the world, or at least Maryland. When you’re done taking it all in, the park offers pavilions, hunting, and hiking trails.

Rollingcrest-Chillum Splash Pool, 6122 Sargent Road, Chillum, (301) 853-9115, The Splash Pool is not only an indoor water park; it’s also a premier destination for water aerobics, with drop-in courses. The classes feature various types of resistance equipment, including: flotation belts, water dumbbells, and noodles. All of this for $7 or $6 for residents.

Rosaryville State Park, 8714 Rosaryville Road, Upper Marlboro, (301) 856-9596 The park offers trail hiking and deer bow hunting. However, of note, Rosaryville State Park is home to the Mount Airy Mansion, a home owned by the Calverts and visited by George Washington. This makes Rosaryville a nature destination as well as a historical site of interest. The mansion can even be rented, for a price.

Savage River State Forest, 127 Headquarters Lane, Grantsville, (301) 895-5759, Savage River is a humongous 54,000 acres, with 10 miles of cross-country ski trails and more than 11,000 acres of forest. The plethora of activities include: biking trails, boat launch, cross-country skiing, campsites, fishing, flat water canoeing, hiking, historic interests, hunting, picnicking, riding trails, shelters, snowmobiling, and white water canoeing.

Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, (301) 924-2127, Seneca Creek contains your run-of-the-mill park recreation: boating, hiking, fishing, and picnicking. However, Seneca Creek is also hardcore. Boasting 6,300 acres along 14 miles of the park, it is for the adventurous. It includes a 16.5-mile Greenway Trail that follows the entire course of the creek. Lewis and Clark would be proud.

Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area, 5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, (410) 461-5005, Rare and endangered are two ways to describe Soldiers Delight, as in the area has over 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plants, insects, rocks and minerals. The park provides seven miles of marked hiking trails, but is prohibited to bikes and horses, due to the sensitive natural area. For those more interested in preservation, the park offers exhibits and educational programs on said topic.

South Mountain State Park, 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, (301) 791-4767, History is the name of the game. Several notable historical figures have influenced South Mountain’s history, including: General Edward Braddock, George Washington, William McKinley, Rutherford B. Hayes, Robert E. Lee, George B. McClellan, and George Alfred Townsend. The park has no discernible entrances, as it’s part of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

Swallow Falls State Park, 222 Herrington Lane, Oakland, (301) 387-6938, Swallow Falls State Park is home to the Youghiogheny River and Muddy Creek Falls, which can be described only as a Michael Bay movie, including: “severe natural hazards, such as waterfalls, violent rapids, swift currents, deep pools, underwater hydraulics, cold water, slippery rocks, and rough terrain.” For those less interested in action, the park includes camping, hiking, and picnicking.

Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River, 898 State Park Road, Swanton, (301) 387-5563, Usually, when you think of white water rafting, you think of Colorado, but it’s not exclusive to the state. The Youghiogheny Scenic and Wild River offers a variety of rafting companies to take you down 280 feet of drop over four miles. I don’t know the exact physics, but there’s a warning of serious injury and death—sounds exciting.

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