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Ride Report: A Gentle Jaunt to the Rock Creek Trail

April 2, 2013

Trail/road: Combination of residential streets and trails in Rockville; Rock Creek Trail
Distance: About 9 miles

Despite today’s temporary return to winter, this weekend certainly felt and looked like spring. With a waning number of days I can ride any substantial distance, I pulled my bicycle out of the shed on Saturday.

I was getting a little sick of the Millennium Trail, but didn’t want to try a new route. While my balance is still good, I didn’t want to take a chance of riding through an area with heavy traffic or uneven pavement. In fact, I wanted to stay on residential streets for the most part, as my ability to sprint away from traffic lights is extremely limited. Considering all of those factors, I chose a lovely destination for a quiet, slow ride – Rock Creek Park.

The Park was just starting to bloom for the spring, full of little yellow flowers. Unfortunately, our particular section doesn’t have D.C.’s famous flowering trees, but all of the other green compensated for the lack of brilliant pastels.

Rock Creek in Rockville MD

Although riding in Rock Creek Park usually annoys me because the trail is narrow, I’m riding so slowly at this point that it hardly matters. But rather than riding the path towards D.C., with its sharp turns and steep drops, I took the path up north where the trail is flatter and more predictable.

The northern section of the Rock Creek Trail in bloom

The northern end of the Park is rarely crowded, but the weather did attract a good amount of traffic. While I’ve been annoyed by families on the trail in the past – kids can be frighteningly unpredictable – this day I just found it encouraging. There were a number of kids on their own bikes, as well as some on foot, including a red-headed toddler that was inordinately fascinated by me. In the future, I look forward to carrying our munchkin on my bike as part of a family ride. It’s a short enough ride that it shouldn’t be difficult to convince Chris to come along, especially if we stop in the middle for a picnic.

Despite my hesitation at trying a new route, I did go a little off my beaten path. At the last Rockville Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, one of the members mentioned a new path to Lake Frank, which I had never heard of before. When I had previously rode the Rock Creek Trail, I went all the way down to Lake Needwood, unaware of other options. Interested in this new possibility, I split off and pedaled just far enough to see the lake itself. While I probably could have biked all the way to the lake’s Nature Center, I wasn’t sure that the entire path was paved or that there would be a bathroom available at the end of the trail.

On my way back, I almost ran into some of the local wildlife. Luckily for the snake, I was able to brake before hitting it. As I knew he wouldn’t be quite so lucky if he stayed in the same spot, I took a long stick and moved him off to the side of the trail. He didn’t look happy about it, but did slither into the brush instead of trying to return to the pavement. While I wasn’t going to take the chance by actually touching him, I believe he was totally harmless. Comparing to some photos online, it appears he was a common garter snake, which are not strongly poisonous to humans and mainly eat amphibians and worms.

Snake on Rock Creek Trail

My return home wasn’t quite so easy as the ride there; it’s much more uphill. While I slogged my way up the first hill, I admitted defeat on the second. That particular hill starts on a section of trail that becomes sidewalk. To continue, you have to cross the street and bike in an area of the road that has no shoulder, a crumbling edge, and a tendency to attract speeding cars. I had no desire to deal with any of those elements, so I just stayed on the sidewalk, got off my bike and walked. It was the right decision.

Overall, it was a lovely ride on a lovely day – one that I look forward to taking many times in the future with my family by my side.

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