Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the small sign that told me some of the trails were closed. The sign looked kind of old. I figured it was left over from some threat that had long since passed. The strips of yellow caution tape at the beginning of one of the trails looked as if they had been there for a while. Most of them were on the ground and covered in dirt.
A few miles in – after going under, over, between and around a bunch of fallen trees – I couldn’t spot anything that looked like a trail. No beaten-down earth. No markers. Just more woods. I was lost. In the middle of a forest. Somewhere in the 1,311-acre Westmoreland State Park. Trying to get back on a trail I should have never been on to begin with.
I figured I’d continue forward and eventually I’d hit a trail or a road. Turning around didn’t seem like a good option. After a while, all this nature stuff starts to look alike.
As I continued, I eventually spotted a faint trail marker. The path would eventually get me back to my car.
My rewards for getting lost? I caught a glimpse of a speedy deer’s white tail, saw two soaring eagles, encountered a rather loud turkey, noticed many toads and hunted down a few salamanders. I enjoyed some spectacular views of cliffs overlooking the Potomac River and marshes starting to reach their springtime splendor.
My penalties? Lots of bugs. Scratched-up legs. One less pair of headphones. Tolerating a longer and rougher route than I had anticipated. Walking around a scary (and probably harmless) snake.
The state park in Westmoreland County on the Northern Neck offers hiking, camping, cabins, fishing, boating and swimming. Its neighbors include former homes of George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
Washington, Lee, as well as James Monroe, were born in the county with a population of about 17,000. The small resort town of Colonial Beach features the second longest public beach in the state.
15 runs down, 119 to go.
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