Do you know what it feels like to walk down a trail and not know what is around the next bend? Many of the trails I walk are well worn paths that I have walked routinely for years…so there is nothing that sparks my curiosity like a new trail to explore!
Virginia has recently created or improved several regional parks along the Potomac River. They have a pretty nice website listing all of the Northern Virginia Parks at http://www.nvrpa.org/park/main_site/content/NVRPA_Parks.
Today I descended on Balls Bluff Battlefield, just off of Route 15 in Leesburg, Virginia. Little Caesar and I had stopped by about a week ago just to get information and it looked to have some good hiking trails.
So here I was again, Sidekick Pauli in tow, headed south on 15. As I neared Leesburg I missed the turn off that takes 15 around Leesburg, and instead continued on 15 Business which landed me in the charming downtown. I backtracked and soon found the turn off for the park. A brief disappointment spread through me as I entered a newer subdivision with perfectly manicured lawns and large houses. Ugh. Where is the park? I was hoping I would not be hiking on a trail that skirted around these houses. I wanted solitude. I wanted adventure!
It wasn’t five minutes when I entered the woods again and heard the crunch of gravel under my tires. Breathing deeply, the fresh smelling mulchy woods brought a satisfactory smile to my lips and I drove the last quarter of mile to the parking lot somewhat mollified!
The parking area has an informational kiosk with a map of the trails. Each trail is color coded for easy identification…but I read somewhere that they will be named more descriptively to reflect battlefield history.
Sidekick Pauli and I headed down the White Trail to the Bluff overlook, then took a right onto the Potomac Heritage Trail (Teal Blaze). This took us down to the river, then tracked north. The trail became overgrown and even though I could see the trail under the bushes, I was not wearing bushwhacking clothes and thus, turned around and headed south!
This required us to climb back up to the Bluffs…but that wasn’t too bad as the day was nice and cool. While on the bluff we took a side path up to the Civil War Cemetery. This is a very moving monument. The graves are positioned in a circle around the flag. A small company here on this bluff. Together. Fighting and dying. Such a small group of men. It just feels strange to be separated from them by just one thing…time.
Well, Sidekick Pauli wasn’t as interested as I in the cemetery. So I found myself being pulled back to the trail rather quickly! We continued on the Potomac Heritage Trail which plunged into a gulley, then pulled back to another bluff. Get ready for the ride, as this continued for the entire portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail within the park! 🙂
I bypassed the Yellow Trail along my trek, but when I reached the Blue Trail, I cut off and headed back to complete my loop of about 3.5-4 miles. It was a few more ups and downs and a few more creek crossings before reaching the Red Trail back to the parking lot. The Blue Trail did butt up against the neighborhood and for a short time I was hiking at the back of people’s open lots…did not like this part! It also looked like a community center was being built along the blue.
We reached the car after one more uphill climb. Overall, this park was quite pleasant! I plan on coming back to explore the other trails soon. I do think that the Potomac Heritage Trail would afford much more dramatic views of the Potomac River once the leaves fall, but it too, was a great stroll!
Thank you to the Potomac Heritage Trail Association! If you are in the area and want to help build or maintain this trail, then you can find more information at http://www.potomactrail.org/