THE WILDS OF BIG ELK CREEK, PART 2

So we’re back straddling the Mason Dixon Line in the ungainly titled Big Elk Creek section of White Clay Creek Preserve. A few weeks ago I wrote a post on a virtually undeveloped part of the preserve which had been formally acquired by the state of Pennsylvania in 2020. To the south of that parcel is another large tract of land on either side of Big Elk Creek which was handed over to the state in 2009. This area is directly north of the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, or Mason Dixon Line, and is also contiguous with Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area.

Fair Hill is locally famous for containing almost 80 miles of trails, an almost astronomical number for a park so close to the big cities of the Atlantic coastal plain. After all, the state of Delaware is only about ten miles across at the part I live in. At its widest, the whole Delmarva Peninsula is around 70 miles from the Atlantic to the Chesapeake Bay, and that’s including large swathes of uninhabited tidal marshland.

Of course, the way Fair Hill racks up so much mileage is by being absolutely full of narrow twisty-turny trails that lead into virtually every small valley and open field in the whole of the preserve’s roughly 6000 acres. Think of it like the way the human body apparently contains 60,000 miles of blood vessels—but only if you were to arrange them end to end. The trail network in Fair Hill is in places so dense that the paths intersect with such frequency as to almost form a grid pattern. But this doesn’t make it crowded; most folks stick to the minority of trails in the preserve which are wide and well developed. Yet many of Fair Hill’s 80 miles of trails are narrow, rough, and, at least by Mid-Atlantic standards, lightly travelled.

To the extensive trail network in Fair Hill can be added what I would estimate to be somewhere between five and ten more miles in Pennsylvania between the Mason Dixon Line and Strickersville Road. The Pennsylvania trails met up with those in Maryland, and in places one can cross into either state without noticing. Like in Fair Hill, these paths run all over the area’s small valleys and around the edges of fields. Yes, it’s basically more of the same…but you could do much worse than more Fair Hill.

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Big ole’ sparkly flake of mica. The rocks in the Appalachian piedmont are full of the stuff

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