Bulletin Board


Main Page

Biking Through History on the

Northern Central Railroad Trail


Program Notes & Photos from 2004 . . .

JUNE 2 : It was mostly cloudy with a reported chance of rain. We assembled at the Phoenix parking area and then reassembled alongside the trail itself for introductions by Brenda, park naturalist, who had been our leader last year as well. In fact, this is her sixth season leading Bike Through History, and her seventh season working in the park. Each spring and summer she spends time conducting classes and tours of the park, while at other times of the year she is a teaching mentor in the Baltimore County school system.

Twenty of us attended (some of whom are pictured above), and we headed north along the trail making stops at Sparks, Glencoe and Monkton. It was our intention to go on to Blue Mount, but with the intervention of a coming thunderstorm, we stayed at Monkton. Brenda dutifully opened the station for us and we gathered inside for a show-and-tell of some of the displays housed within. The storm fortuitously passed through with a duration of fewer than 30 minutes (ending with a rainbow), and we had ample time to return to Phoenix before it got dark. It was fun making our speed run on the return portion, but the wet surface the storm gave the trail brought with it a lot of mud that splashed up against our bikes and ourselves. (I'm glad that I have fenders!)

JUNE 9: We met at Sparks on a rather warm evening, and after Brenda's introduction and a brief talk about the town of Sparks (photo below), we headed north to Corbett. Seventeen of us attended.

Following a few minutes in Corbett, we went on to Monkton for a stop, and then to White Hall. About half of the group left us at this point, but eight of us went on to Parkton. We then made a speed run back to Sparks, arriving after dark. It was a great biking event.

JUNE 16: We assembled next to the Monkton station with about nine folks in attendance (but more caught up to us later). Brenda told us some history of the town of Monkton and My Lady's Manor, the 10,000-acre plot of land the town is situated within. We then went north to White Hall, there finding the after-effects of inundation from a heavy rain. The trail, was not affected, but low areas were quite muddy from the backwash. Finally, we went on to Parkton, where we observed the month of June as being the 45th anniversary of the final run of the Parkton Local. One biker got a flat tire. It got fixed, and then it went flat again, but following a second attempt and successfully finding the thorn that had caused the leak in the first place, everything was fine.

JUNE 23: White Hall was our origin for this one, and there were 18 of us in what I will say was the most memorable of all the Bike Through History adventures I have witnessed since I began attending the program back in 2002. We had the good fortune of a clear evening with not much humidity, ideal for biking. Brenda began by showing us a skin and skull from "Bucky," a beaver, and she explained that the beaver population is quite prevalent in the area with no predators. We left from White Hall about 20 minutes later, and after a stop in Parkton we continued on to Bentley Springs. This was a stop on the railroad that was created by a local resort owner who demonstrated his need for train service by building its station. The railroad complied by making it a stop, and folks from the city came here (as they did to a number of other towns along the line) to enjoy the pleasures of escaping from the city. A short distance north of Bentley Springs we stopped once again, this time next to an active beaver pond. Silently we scanned the water surface with its fallen logs and tall grasses amidst the sound of bullfrogs, and with a little patience we spotted a beaver swimming a distance of about 20 yards from the bank from where we were standing. We followed the critter's activity for about ten minutes. What a wonderful treat this was, here in the pristine surroundings of nature as seen by us from the trail. Later, just north of Freeland, we stopped at the site of an abandoned beaver pond. The dam is still there, but it was breached two or three years ago. The site is now in ecological reclamation; some day, no doubt, beavers will return to this site to reclaim it.

Brenda also gave us a quiz. It had to do with the Chesapeake Bay and the fact that its tributaties drain from an eight state area (including D.C.). The quiz came from an article entitled "We're Surrounded by Aliens," printed in the April 1999 issue of Bay Journal. In it were listed four examples apiece of insects, mammals, plants, birds and trees, and the reader was asked to identify which single example from each category was actually native to the Chesapeake region. Can you guess which they are? Remember, only one of the species listed in each category is native to the Chesapeake region; the other three are newcomers:






BONUS Quesion - Which one of these plants is a North American species that was introduced to Europe?

(Answers to the quiz are shown at the bottom of the page...)

We left from Freeland and made a speed run back to our origin, stopping briefly once again at the beaver pond near Bentley Springs (but we saw no beavers this time), and it was about 9:15 P.M. when we finished the adventure at White Hall.

JUNE 30: Fourteen bikers assembled in Freeland in great weather for this evening's Bike Through History. But first I should explain a logistical challenge in that I had also planned to attend a moonlight bike ride along the same trail in Pennsylvania later that evening. The event in Freeland was due to begin at 6PM, and the one in Pennsylvania would originate at Hanover Junction at 8:30PM. I wanted to attend both. So where there is a will, there is a way. I plotted out my itinerary, and I drove to Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. From there I biked the trail southward to Freeland to join up with the Maryland group at 6 o'clock. Since that group was planning to bike northward to Glen Rock, and then back to Freeland afterwards, I opted to bike with them one way (and then get my car), and drive on to Hanover Junction to meet up with the Pennsylvania group at 8:30PM. It worked perfectly, but now back to the mission at hand.

Brenda, our Bike Through History leader, concentrated on a single theme for her narrative this evening. It was about Abraham Lincoln (who had ridden the NCR en route to Gettysburg).

We left from Freeland and biked to a point about 1/4-mile north of the state line, stopping for an interesting discussion about Mr. Lincoln (and also being read his Gettysburg Address), and then we biked on to New Freedom where we paid a visit to the recently opened New Freedom Station Museum. This was my first visit to the museum since it opened last year. Fortunately, for us, it is open Wednesday evenings during the summer. It is quite an interesting place to visit (it is also open on weekends). It was all downhill from there, and we went non-stop to Glen Rock where I bade the group farewell.

Everything went to plan, and the moonlight bike ride in Pennsylvania was attended by 42 folks who enjoyed their adventure under clear skies with a nearly full moon from Hanover Junction to Glen Rock (my third visit to Glen Rock in three hours) and then back to Hanover Junction.

JULY 7: No biking this evening.. It rained.

JULY 14: We met this evening at Sparks. The parking area showed all the effects of an earlier inundation with caked up mud in the lower portion of the lot. We learned, too, that the previous week's rain had caused the Gunpowder Falls to overflow its banks at several places along the trail, and had anyone actually attempted to meet at Phoenix for the July 7 event, they would have found the place under water. Flooding has always been a recurring problem in the low-lining communites of Phoenix, Sparks, Glencoe and Parkton, and it affected the railroad accordingly.

There had been some rain earlier this day, too, but the skies had cleared with but a hint of further elements, and 11 of us met at the appointed time and place.

Following Brenda's introduction to all who had assembled and a brief talk about the history of Sparks, we went on to Corbett and Monkton, and then to the site of the one-time community of Pleasant Valley.

Pleasant Valley, less than a mile north of Monkton, at one time sported a hotel curiously named "Rat Trap." Surely that was never its actual name, I surmise, but likely what the locals referred to it as. The community's input to its economy was the mining of soapstone and iron ore. All that remains of the Pleasant Valley today is a badly crumbled stone house, some foundations, and traces of an old road which once led to a long disappeared bridge spanning the Gunpowder Falls. A more in depth examination of the area for traces of the town's existence would best be done in the winter when the absence of brush and critters would make the effort more beneficial.

We then made a speed run to White Hall with the hope of reaching its hearalded snow ball stand before it closed for the evening. It was closed, however, and then we received word that the stand was no longer in business. That's what we were told, anyway. Meanwhile, a flock of Canada geese was relaxing on the bank of the Little Falls just behind the post office.

We got back to Sparks before it got dark, and there in the field just north of the parking area was a deer, contentedly grazing.

JULY 21: Brenda's theme this evening was entitled "Death & Destruction." It had to do with events surrounding the railroad during the Civil War and a discussion about her favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. There were 14 of us in attendance as we assembled in Monkton. It was a pleasant evening for biking, and most of use in attendance were regular participants. First we went into Monkton station, which Brenda opened for us once again. It is always a pleasure for me to go into this building; a place I have some fond memories from my days living in the community. From there we all biked northward with stops at White Hall and Parkton, and we got back to Monkton just before it got dark.

Members of our group posed for a photo - above - during our stop in White Hall.

JULY 28: Tonight's theme had to do with nature rather than history. Brenda, a naturalist, was right at home explaining the habitat of beavers. And as it was the last time we would be biking through the area of Bentley Springs this season, she had planned a stop next to the beaver pond just north of Bentley Springs to witness any activity.

Our program began at White Hall. Nine folks were in attendance. Our first stop was known as the "Snake Pit," a rocky pool in the Little Falls about half a mile south of Parkton. Here the Maryland Park Service has posted a sign warning of the presence of poisonous snakes. Copperheads are common in the area, and the numerous rocks along the bank closest to the trail is a natural home to the slimy critters. We saw no snakes, but Brenda drew us a picture in the sand to explain the copperhead's markings.

From the snake pit we proceeded non-stop to Bentley Springs. It was there that eight of the participants formed a circle (photo below) to represent the circumference of a large sycamore tree. In Colonial times, it is reported, that 15 men on horseback could fit inside a hollowed out portion of a sycamore. Moreover, early settlers would sometimes hollow out a sycamore for use as a residence until a house could be completed. By volume, he sycamore is the largest tree in North America.

North of Bentley Springs we made a stop at the beaver pond, the same one we had visited five weeks earlier. There we saw several beavers doing their thing, along with some blue herons. While there it was our pleasure to meet up with another biking group which happened by during Brenda's presentation. They were the "Biking Geezers," who had left from White Hall earlier in the afternoon for a ride north into Pennsylvania, and were on the return trip. The geezers - five of whom were present this time - meet a couple or so times a week for biking adventures on various trails.

We also made a second stop at the pond on our own return trip from Freeland, but by then it was quite dark and difficult to make out all of the activity. But we knew the critters were there.

A nearly-full moon shone above to guide our way back to White Hall, which we arrived after dark. It was a fun-filled evening.

AUGUST 4: It was with a bit of melancholy that this would be our very last Bike Through History adventure this year. How the time flies when you're having fun. Ten weeks does not seem like a long time. But then, forty-five years ago this month, ten weeks did seem like a long time (to me), as that is how long boot camp lasted when I joined the Navy. But that's another story altogether.

Twelve of us assembled in Freeland (plus a dog, who accompanied us part way), and we biked north to the state line, stopping briefly there, and then on the Flickerville (next to the foundation of old Flickerville Interlocking Tower). Flickerville, just south of New Freedom across from Summit Grove), got its name many years back from the flickering from the fire box of idling helper engines that were stationed here.

Dark clouds could be seen off in the distance from Flickerville, amid the approaching sounds of thunder, and then came some drops of rain. With discretion being the better part of valor, we quickly advanced ourselves to New Freedom station (which should have open, according to its posted museum schedule, but was not), and we reposed beneath the overhang on the station's porch awaiting the rain which never really came. In fact, we had been in the very corner of the storm, as other places in the area - we later learned - had seen a deluge.

With the storm safely out of the area after about a 15-minute stay at the station, we ventured on to Glen Rock for a repast of Italian Ice.

It was quite dark by the time we got back to Freeland, and amidst a gathering of those who had attended, we enjoyed some snacks one of the participants had thoughtfully brought.

Then came the idea for each of us to share reminiscences of memorable moments on the program thus concluded. Most of us chose to remember the two outings when we saw the beavers. But prompted to recall other happenings, I chose the time we had gone into Monkton station (June 2) to escape the assault of a storm that unleashed itself at the precise time we had arrived at that location from Phoenix.

Thus concludes another great year of Bike Through History. Of ten events scheduled, only one had to be canceled due to inclement weather. Now THAT'S one for the history books!

- - - - -

Here now are the answers to the June 23 quiz... It had to do with the Chesapeake Bay and the fact that its tributaties drain from an eight state area (including D.C.). The quiz came from an article entitled "We're Surrounded by Aliens," printed in the April 1999 issue of Bay Journal. In it were listed four examples apiece of insects, mammals, plants, birds and trees, and the reader was asked to identify which single example from each category was actually native to the Chesapeake region. Can you guess which they are? Remember, only one of the species listed in each category is native to the Chesapeake region; the other three are newcomers:






BONUS Quesion - Which one of these plants is a North American species that was introduced to Europe?


Click Here for Program Notes & Photos from 2003

Click Here for Program Notes & Photos from 2002

Remembering the Parkton Local - article by Frank A. Wrabel

New Signs Bring History to Life on the NCR Trail