#PatapscofromHome Blog Posts:
Check out our blog post for a guide on the Patapsco outdoors in Covid-19 restrictions. You can find links to respective park websites and updates on how to enjoy the outdoors while social distancing.
Looking for an easy meal option? Want to support local restaurants in Baltimore County through the Covid-19 shutdown? Check out this interactive map with up to date info on which local favorites are providing what services.
Looking for an easy meal option? Want to support local restaurants in Howard County through the Covid-19 shutdown? Check out this interactive map with up to date info on which local favorites are providing what services.
A virtual webinar presented by Dr. Mark Southerland, a professional ecologist and Patapsco Heritage Greenway board member. Learn about vernal pools, the threats they face, and actions governments and individuals can take to support local biodiversity.
A virtual webinar presented by PHG’s own DJ Scheckelhoff, a veteran invasive plant fighter. Learn the basics about some common invasive plants in the Patapsco Valley. This includes what an invasive is, how to identify invasive plants, and how to remove them!
A virtual webinar presented by PHG’s own DJ Scheckelhoff. Learn the basics about which tree to plant, where to plant it, and how to get it in the ground!
Watch this training webinar and learn what it takes to become a Patapsco Stream Watcher! Stream watchers regularly monitor the condition of the waterway for any signs of trouble and help create a baseline of data for the watershed. Learn the tell-tale signs that a stream is in trouble and how to report it, pick up any trash/litter, or if it’s too much for one person to clean, work with us to schedule a future group cleanup.
Feel a sense of accomplishment. Make a difference!
Check out a sneak preview of a video we’ve been working on highlighting the Patapsco Valley Heritage Area. Sit back, enjoy, take a deep breath and a moment to reflect on the beauty of our Patapsco Valley and the power of connecting with nature.
Healthy Hiking in the Patapsco
The best way to enjoy the Patapsco outdoors is to do so safely, so here are helpful tips for avoiding some of the most common risks in the valley.
If you frequent the outdoors, chances are you are familiar with poison ivy and other such plants. We are going to to lump in a couple plants in this section, as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all contain/release urushiol oil. This oil is the culprit behind all the terrible itching suffered by anyone unlucky enough to be allergic to the stuff. These three plants secrete the oil on their surface, so it will transfer to anything that brushes or breaks a plant. This interaction is what makes the allergic reaction tricky to prevent and even dangerous. Many people do not realize that even if the oil does not come in contact with their bare skin at first, they can still be at risk if it rub off onto clothing or other objects you will touch later. The oil can remain active on these objects for extended lengths of time, so to be sure they are clean you will have to wash them after any potential contact.
This brings us to one of the best methods for preventing poison ivy reactions: washing it off. While enjoying the Patapsco Valley, it can be almost impossible to identify each plant you come into contact with and avoid poison ivy. Luckily there is a short window before the oil takes effect and can be safely removed. If all of the urushiol oil is effectively washed off within several hours of the exposure, the allergic reaction (itching and rash) will not occur. This time period may vary from person to person, so it is best to wash as soon as possible if you believe you came into contact with poison ivy.
– The sooner you wash the better, for the best chance of avoiding a reaction, wash
– Scrub exposed areas with lukewarm soap and water repeatedly. Scrubbing too hard can be abrasive to your skin, but be sure to be thorough.
– It is important to make contact while scrubbing, and using a wash cloth is helpful.
– Most soaps will be effective in removing the oil, although some are specifically made for this task, such as Tecnu.
– Even after washing all affected areas, it is key to clean other surfaces that may hold oil as well, such as underneath fingernails, clothing or backpacks.
One of the easiest traps to fall into, especially in the warmer months, is not accounting for sun exposure. It is easy to underestimate how much sun you will get whether its on a cloudy day or if you assume you will spend most of your time under the shade of trees. Shade and clouds will not always save you from sunburn, and sun exposure adds up over the years we spend outdoors increasing your risk for skin cancer. It is important to take a little time now and help prevent this with some sunscreen and planning ahead.
Sunscreen is the best method for limiting UV exposure, but clothing can be effective as well. If you know you will be outside for extended periods of time, especially if you will be in the water, consider wearing long sleeves to help cover your arms and shoulders better. A hat also helps keep the sun off, particularly with your face and ears.
While we are on the topic, lets make sure to use sunscreen that is not only healthy for us, but for our Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay as well! Here is a list of several sunscreens that are environmentally friendly:
- Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream- SPF 35
- Kiss My Face Natural Mineral Sunscreen-SPF 30
- All Terrain Aquasport Sunscreen-SPF 30
Check out this other post for more information on Eco-Friendly suncreens:
Ticks are one of the least popular residents of the Patapsco Valley, and there is no way around it: they suck. Crawling up your leg while you are trying to enjoy our favorite river and sucking blood are the least of their transgressions, so here are some tips to keep you safe and educated on these little suckers.
Primary local ticks:
- Dog Ticks- These are generally the largest of ticks in our area, and while that doesn’t sound appealing, it makes finding them and removing them much easier. Dog ticks also transmit fewer diseases making them less of a threat in that category.
- Deer Ticks (Backlegged Tick)- Some of the smallest ticks in the Patapsco area, these pose a greater threat than dog ticks simply because they can be very difficult to find. They are also notorious for transmitting lyme disease.
- Lone Star Ticks- Easily identified by the white circle on their back, this tick is relatively new to Maryland and poses a new threat to people in the area. The lone star tick is known to transmit the Alpha-gal allergy, giving those affected an adverse reaction to any type of red meat. While not everyone eats red meat, this would be quite a blow to a lot of us!
Tick Size Comparison:
Tick Bite Prevention:
So far it has been all doom and gloom, but luckily there is good news. With proper care and awareness tick bites and the diseases they carry can be prevented!
We are potentially exposed to ticks in almost any outdoor setting, although some areas are much more common for ticks such as fields of tall grass and wooded areas. Whenever you spend time in areas like these it is good practice to check yourself for ticks after you leave. Most disease transmission requires the tick bite to last over 24 hours, so there is a window to remove ticks without contracting a disease but it is key to do so as soon as possible. It may be more feasible to wait until you return home, but a full body check is important because ticks may be difficult to notice.
If you find a tick that is crawling on your skin or clothes, it is safe to remove with fingers or a nearby object. Ticks should be disposed of by either being flushed or placed in alcohol. Do not attempt to crush a tick with your fingers, it will not kill the tick.
Once a tick has latched to your skin removal is a little trickier, but still doable. Using a pair of tweezers firmly grip the tick at the base just above your skin and pull directly away from the point of the bite. Twisting pulling the tick from other spots can leave the mouth/head attached.
If you notice any symptoms from a tick bite such as a rash, swelling or otherwise, it is a good idea to talk to a doctor more about testing and potential treatment.
One option for those of us who love the outdoors and know they will be frequently exposed to bites is permetherin treatment for clothes. Permetherin is a chemical treatment that can be applied to clothing to repel ticks, and usually remains effective on the clothing for several months. Users can purchase the product and apply it to their own clothing or look for things that come pre-treated.
For more information on ticks, check out the Center for Disease Control’s website on them:
Highlighted Trail: Sawmill Branch Trail
The Sawmill Branch Trail connects the Hilltop Parking Area to the Grist Mill Trail, and several others along the way. This trail begins rather easy, but soon heads downhill and begins to get very technical. While the trail only has one area with significant change in elevation, the majority follows short rises and falls along the ridge of a small stream. The trail often encounters sizable obstacles such as downed trees, as well as smaller examples of rocks and roots. Some sections require a minor rock scramble to pass.
Alongside the trail to the east runs the Sawmill Branch, a small stream with a rocky bed. The large rock slabs along the creek allow for easy access swimming areas, scenic views, and the occasional waterfall.
Along this trail you will encounter sections of tall grass, rocks, sunny swimming spots and potentially poison ivy, but now you are prepared to handle these risks and enjoy the Patapsco safely!
Plogging In Patapsco
Chances are you have never heard of “plogging” before, as it is a rather new trend in the world of outdoor recreation. Plogging is any form of picking up trash/litter while traveling on foot. The name plogging comes from merging the Swedish phrase “Plocka upp” with “jogging”, but it can include any form of method of foot travel such as hiking, walking, or running. The craze began with people who got tired of seeing litter and trash along their favorite jogging routes and began to collect it while on their runs. As the practice spread it began to get recognition for its value as both a public service and an excellent new workout. What’s more impressive than a 3 mile trail run? How about a 3 mile trail run you finish with a bag of trash you helped pull from the Patapsco watershed!
Plogging can be done however you prefer to participate. Looking for an upper body workout with your run? Grab a tire and carry it back to the trail head with you! Prefer a peaceful hike along a trail? Take your favorite trail at your own pace and target plastic wrappers and other litter! Every piece of plastic or trash pulled out of the park is a win for the Patapsco, so join in however you like and help crowdsource the protection of our waterways.
What to do with your new found collection of trash:
- If you finished your plogging trip with a small/light bag of trash the simplest solution is to take it home with you and recycle/throw it out. PVSP (and all state parks) have a “pack it in, pack it out” policy and even though you did not bring this trash into the park, there will not be any trash receptacles available within the park.
- If option one is not available, some plogging trips can yield bigger items such as tires or scrap metal etc, there are alternate methods for trash removal.
- County based mobile apps: Both Howard and Baltimore county have free mobile apps available for alerting county services to issues such as a trash removal.
Both of these apps have the option to request trash removals confidentially if you prefer.
- If the mobile apps are not an option, you may contact the county through these means of communication and request trash removal.
With all methods for reporting trash removal to the county, it is important to provide ample information such as specific locations for trash, amount to be removed and photographs as possible. Also mention that the trash was collected within the park or trail for removal.
Highlighted Trail: Old Main Line Trail
The Old Main Line Trail heading out from the Daniels Area of PVSP is an easy, flat trail that features beautiful views as it follows alongside the Patapsco. After a quick stream crossing at the trailhead, the path is very flat and easy to traverse, mostly free of obstacles. The trail is easily traversable for hiking or running, making it easy to focus on your plogging! This specific trail is an out and back, although it has many connections to side trails including some that lead all the way to the Woodstock area for extended hiking.