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'Bike Through History'

on the

Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail


2017 Activities:

May 24: It was a cloudy evening with temps in the mid-60's as we assembled in Sparks for our 'Get Reacquainted' bike ride as a precursor to the 2017 Bike Through History season. Only those on our e-mailing list were advised of the event, and this did not happen until two days in advance when it was decided to go ahead with it when it appeared that rain would avoid us. In fact, rain was in the forecast for later in the evening, but this did not deter any of us who were there, and we had no rain. Our traditional get reacquainted ride is designed as an informal way to bridge the gap between not riding and riding, and to concentrate on the joy of bicycling without any sort of program to adhere to. We did not even decide our direction until shortly before we left. Prior the ride, we entered the Sparks Bank Nature Center for a quick preview, thereupon deciding to open it up once again for an Anderson feature on our initial ride next Wednesday, which begins at Paper Mill. About 6:45 p.m. we headed north with seven in attendance, joined later by an eighth person who met us mid-way. For the record, we had eight in attendance. We stopped briefly at the Gunpowder bridge south of Corbett for informal chatter, and then, again, at Monkton. Three folks left us at Monkton, and now we were down to five. Next we biked further north, stopping at the Little Falls bridge just south of Blue Mount, and there we saw a BEAVER. It evidently saw us, too, as it flapped its tail and swam under a fallen tree in the stream, possibly also into what may be its lodge next to the bridge. Anyway, we now know that the beaver population is still active at that location. We then turned back, and one participant left us at Monkton, with the final four returning to Sparks and off the trail by 8:45 p.m.. All eight of us were frequent riders from previous years. All knew each other. All had a swell time. Meanwhile, our eldest bike rider, Art, could not attend. He wrote that he had undergone surgery in December, and later he had developed pneumonia. He is recuperating nicely, he said, and is undergoing therapy. He truly wants to rejoin our group, and we all look forward to his speedy return.

May 31: Our first official ride of the season was attended by 35 bicyclists. We left from Paper Mill Road at 6:30 p.m. and headed north, with a stop at the Gunpower bridge just beyond MP-1 for introductions, and then proceeded to Sparks where our naturalist Richard presented a brief program about invasive plant species. We also took a look inside the Sparks Bank Nature Center. Leaving Sparks, we continued to Glencoe, where we turned around, and biked south to Ashland. Returning to Paper Mill, we were off the trail by 8:50 p.m. There had been a chance of thunderstorms in the area, but we had no rain.

June 7: It was a rather cool evening with temps about 60 degrees as we met at Bentley Springs. We began with 11 people, but three more caught up with us, for a total of 14. First, we biked south to MP-15 for introductions, then back to Bentley Springs for an interesting demonstration by Richard on uniforms, equipment and weapons of the Civil War. We then paid homage to the new historical sign at Bentley Springs, followed then by biking north to Freeland where we rested for several minutes. Three people left us at this point, so we were now back to 11. Next we biked further north to the state line, where we staged our traditional 'ring around the state line' (half in Maryland and half in Pennsylvania) and responsive reading of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. It was here that President Lincoln passed en route to Gettysburg, and the state line is the traditional boundary between North and South. It was explained that Mr. Lincoln so much wanted the war to end, and his speech of just two and one-half minutes (which followed a two-hour speech by keynote speaker Edward Everett) was one of healing and a wish that our country could get back together. Returning back to Bentley Springs, we were off the trail by 8:50 p.m. Cool weather may have impacted attendance for this ride, and indeed it was rather chilly along portions of the trail in the shade.

June 14: It was a reasonably pleasant evening with the threat of thunderstorms as we met for our Bike Through History ride from Monkton. We began promptly at 6:30 p.m. by recognizing Art, at 97 our most senior member, who stopped by to say hello. He is recruperating from medical issues and is not yet ready to resume bicycling. It was wonderful to see him. Next we had a Flag Day demonstration with a genuine (not a replica) 34-star American flag from the 1861-1863 era. This flag was stitched from the time of the Civil War (but probably not used in battle, from examination of its condition). We left about 6:42 p.m. heading south to Glencoe where we had introductions. Twenty-four people made those introductions, but one of them left shortly thereafter and another showed up, so, for the record, we had 25 people on our ride. Arriving back at Monkton we were greeted by our president, Carmela, who introduced our speaker of the evening from the Gunpowder Garden Club and naturalist at Oregon Ridge who spoke to us about witch hazel and its 'divining properties,' along with a demonstration, which took place in the garden behind the station. Next we biked north to Blue Mount for a quiet stop at the Little Falls bridge with the hope that we might see a beaver. There was no beaver, but one of the bikers did see a turtle. We ended our northward journey at Hicks-Wilson road for closing remarks. Returning back to Monkton, we stopped again at the Little Falls bridge, but still no beaver. We arrived back and off the trail by 8:45 p.m.

June 21: For a while it looked as though we might not get this ride in. For by 6 p.m. it began to rain, and it became rather heavy, but just before departure time the rain let up, so off we went. (But before we left, we were treated to a visit by Ranger Jen and her dog.) We left from White Hall on time and biked south to Hicks-Wilson road for introductions. On the way back to White Hall, the sun shone through, and we had pleasant weather from that point on. (But the trail was rather damp.) We had a total of 19 in attendance. Back at White Hall we were treated to Richard 's creature feature on reptiles. Next we biked further north, stopping at the Snake Pit, and then to the exercise area north of Parkton where we formed our annual ring around the sycamore tree demonstration. Stopping next at the bridge built to span a mill race north of Walker, and finally at MP-15 for closing remarks and turning back, we arrived back at White Hall and were off the trail by 8:55 p.m. This concludes our fourth Bike Through History ride this season, and we have now covered 100 percent of the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail.

June 28: It was an absolutely splendid evening weather-wise, with temperature about 80 degrees & low humidity, for our bike ride from Sparks. Twenty-nine (29) people attended. We began promptly on time by biking north to Glencoe for a show & tell about the wayside signal located there, followed by introductions. Returning back to Sparks we were treated to a Richard creature-feature about deer, antelope and bison. We then biked south to Phoenix to check the Loch Raven Reservoir pool level (down about a foot) and a brief discussion about Phoenix. Continuing south, we stopped at the remains of a single-track roadbed that once skirted around a hill next to the Gunpowder Falls for about half a mile until the track was retired. This track served as a third track through the area. Next we stopped on the Gunpowder bridge just north of MP-1 to look for beavers, but we saw none. At this point, Nancy, of Ashland, gave us a brief history of the community of Ashland and a description of what we would be seeing there. She then led the way for us down to Ashland for a visit to an old mill site in connection with the marble and iron-ore business.

July 5: Twenty-four (24) people attended our ride this evening from Freeland. There was a threat of thunderstorms, but we saw no rain. It was, however, rather cloudy, and the dew point was high. We began on time with a creature feature by Richard on weasels, minks, skunks, etc. Then we biked north to the state line for introductions and a trivial answer (an answer in lieu of the question) about the number of states in the U.S. (There are technically only 46; the other four are commonwealths.) Finally, we biked north to the New Freedom train station, then disbursed to either Bonkey's Ice Cream shop or to the Lions Club Carnival (or both). Bikers were free to return to Freeland in a group, or individually, and everyone was off the trail by 9 p.m.

July 12: Twenty-nine (29) people attended our Bike Through History ride from Parkton this evening. It was warm & muggy, but it felt good out on the trail. We began with a train-order stick demonstration. Owen, a sixth-grader, ran past an old-fashioned train-order stick receiving a message on the fly, the same as locomotive engineers and conductors did from their train in the days prior to the use of two-way radios. We then biked south to the Snake Pit for introductions, and Larry explained to us how there had, at one time, been a pair of bridges at this location to span Little Falls before a dirt and rock fill was constructed to replace the bridges and divert the stream. Returning to Parkton, we were treated to a Richard creature-feature on beaver, nutria, muskrat and otter. Biking north from this point we made two more stops in Parkton. One was at the location of the former water tank, and we read the sign about the Parkton Local. We then stopped just south of Dairy road to learn about the one-time yard track area used to stage the Parkton Local. Continuing further north we stopped at Bentley Springs, and finally at Bee Tree, which was the site of a Civil War encampment positioned to protect bridges, etc., along the rail line. Returning back to Parkton, all were off the trail and clear by 9 p.m.

July 19: Twenty-one participants attended our final Wednesday evening Bike Through History ride of the 2017 season. It was a warm and humid evening, but it felt just fine out on the trail. We left promptly from Phoenix with (then) about 14 people, and we stopped at Sparks for Richard's creature feature of small animals of the forest, to wit: mole, bole, shrew, mouse, rat, chipmunk, opossum, bat, squirrel, flying squirrel. Once again, our creature features are a very popular part of our program. Several others caught up to us there at Sparks, for a total attendance of 21. Leaving Sparks we made our way up to Corbett for a brief discussion of life in the Corbett-Monkton area as remembered from the 1940's and early 1950's: the use of party-line telephones, the way mail was delivered without street addresses, and the friendly 'rivalry' extant among the citizens of both communities with respect to which community was dominant. Finally, we arrived in Monkton exactly at 7:45 p.m., as scheduled, and Carmela had the station open for us to look around. Once everyone was back to Phoenix and off the trail, this concluded this year's evening biking program (although we still have the moonlight ride on October 6). Many thanks to all who have made this year's program such a success.

July 26: Our annual NCR Hereford Volunteers PICNIC was staged at Monkton station the evening of 7-26-2017. More than 20 people attended. It was a mild evening with no rain in the forecast. Picnic goodies included deli products, salad items, a hot appetizer, beverages, water, chips, snacks, desserts, etc. We began promptly at 6PM, with not very many in attendance, but then more folks filtered in. A real, special treat was a brief visit by Art, our most seasoned bicyclist, who will be 98 next month. Art, who has regularly joined us for the past several years, had to miss the bicycling part of our program this year because of health concerns, but he is recovering, and he anticipates rejoining our group next year. We took the occasion to sing Happy Birthday. Another treat was a tortoise demonstration by Tim Hoen, teacher- scientist- naturalist, who presented his rare collection of tortoises out on the lawn just northwest of the station, along with a discussion about his collection in particular and wildlife in general. It was very interesting and educational. This was followed by a sing-along, out on the lawn. Back inside the station, we had a raffle including as prizes a Dylon Bundy gnome, a 1963 Orioles yearbook, a five-jar set of gourmet jams and jellies, a Baltimore Orioles raincover, and other Orioles items of an unknown purpose. Ranger Jen drew the names of four winners. It was an unforgettable evening.

October 6: Our moonlight bike ride was a great success, in all respects... except... we saw no moon. Flashback to last year... We didn't see it then, either. Well, we never 'promised' that we would actually 'SEE' the moon. (But we had fun, anyway.) It was a comfortable evening with temps in the 60's as we assembled in Monkton. Twenty (20) bicyclists attended. I and Chris represented the organization - I in the front, and he in the back of the pack - and Alex, from DNR, followed us in a truck. Earlier, Alex had opened gates for us. We waited in Monkton a few minutes for latecomers, introductions and safety remarks, and then we proceeded at about six or seven miles per hour, northward, with a brief stop at the bridge just south of Blue Mount to look for beavers (we saw none), and then onward to White Hall for a brief courtesy stop, and finally reached the Snake Pit where we turned back around to head south. Arriving into the parking lot at White Hall, we assembled looking into the direction of the moon that wasn't there (it was cloudy), and we sang seven (7) songs as loudly and melodiously as our voices allowed, and neighbors in one of the houses across the road even came out and applauded. Thence we departed and biked back to Monkton, with no more stops en route. We were back in Monkton by 9 p.m., whereupon we went into the station, which Carmela had come to and neatly set up our refreshments. Carmela had also brought us a special surprise, with invited guest Andrea Barnett from Oregon Ridge, who brought to us her favorite turtle for a show-and-tell. Very, very interesting. Everything went quite smoothly. Everyone had a wonderful time. Everything was done safely. And after all was over, and the participants were on their way home, the moon came out. (That's exactly what happened last year, too.) Many thanks to all who made our program such a success. Our attendance for this year's ride of 20 is about average for our current-era moonlight bike rides. We began the current-era program (after an absence of several years) back in 2008.

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('Bike Through History' is conducted by volunteer members of the NCR/Hereford Volunteers Association.. The Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail - formerly the Northern Central Railroad Trail - is located in northern Baltimore County, Maryland, and extends for nearly 20 miles from Ashland to the Pennsylvania state line.. Its route is the former right-of-way of the Northern Central branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad.. Passenger train station stops along the route included Ashland, Phoenix, Sparks, Glencoe, Corbett, Monkton, Pleasant Valley, Blue Mount, White Hall, Graystone, Parkton, Walker, Bentley Springs and Freeland.. The trail is maintained as a portion of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.. Northward into Pennsylvania, the trail is known as the York County Heritage Rail Trail, maintained by York County.)

Allen Brougham, chairman Bike Ride Committee

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