Training Hike: Baltimore Edition
I have called Baltimore home since my family moved here from Wisconsin in 2005. Before I began training for my coming AT thru-hike, my outdoor exploration of the area was very limited. I hate to admit it, but I had bought into the belief that the city was unsafe and many areas were not worth exploring.
I would only ever go out of the city to hike and never even consider the many parks scattered about the city. However, when my uncle extended me an offer to join him for a hike in Leakin Park, I decided now was as good a time as any to start stepping out of my comfort zone.
I will preface any further commentary on the hike with two points:
- My uncle is very familiar with the area and lives near the park, and he hikes these trails at least once a week.
- I simply want to encourage people to get out and explore, because you never know what you might discover. I would never recommend anyone do any hike they feel uncomfortable with, no matter where that discomfort comes from.
The first thing that struck me about this park was how well maintained it was. Given the notorious history of the park (it has been featured on both The Wire and Serial podcast) I was struck by how much work had clearly been put into it.
There were raised walkways over wetlands, extensive blazing of trails, remnants of old military forts, and the local nature center had even set up several nature-oriented activities. We ended up connecting several trails for a seven-mile round trip hike, where I encountered some of the only hills in Baltimore.
Within the park’s ~1,000 acres there are about 15 trails (link to the entire parks trails for those interested ). The combined areas of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park actually comprise the second-largest woodland park in the nation (per the cities webpage).
If someone wanted to add more mileage to their hike, they could walk along the Gwynns Falls hike/bike trail that can take you 9.5 miles into downtown Baltimore (15 if you backtrack a bit).
Baltimore is a city with a reputation, and as an outdoor enthusiast, I think it is important to highlight the immense effort the city has put into turning this area around. Aside from the extensive hiking trail network, this woodland is is home to the local Outward Bound chapter and plays host to many seasonal family friendly events.
I left this hike with a greater appreciation for my city, and I can only wish the same for others who may doubt the hikeability of their home. As I prepare to explore a new part of the country via the AT, I am glad that I started by exploring my own city first. After all, if you don’t know where you came from, how can you expect to find where you’re going.
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