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James S. Long Regional Park, VA Day Hike

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This 3.5 mile loop hike occurred on Saturday, June 6, 2020. It was only me on this one.

A number of people within the POPUMC Hiking Group wanted to start hiking in July. A few wanted to wait a bit longer. All this concern was because of COVID-19.

So I encouraged all those under 60 and in good health to wear a mask and do this hike solo. I also decided that I would hike this hike solo. I drove by POPUMC just to see if anyone was there that wanted to hike with me but 6 feet apart. There wasn't. But while there I saw the biggest turtle that I have ever seen in my life (other than at a zoo) . I was afraid to get close to him (or her). I took a picture from far away but it doesn't show how large s/he was. I estimate that from his/her long tail to his/her head s/he was at least a foot long. Wow.

So I left POPUMC at 8:00 AM, made it to James S. Long Regional Park by around 8:40 AM and started the hike. It was a counter clockwise loop. What was interesting about this hike was that I had first attempted to hike it 10-12 years ago with my son John. We got lost. Then I attempted to hike it 3 or 4 more times. Each time I got lost. This was due to lack of blazing, lack of signage and an outdated map. I don't like to be a complainer but I feel like Prince William County Parks, Recreation and Tourism dropped the ball on originally making this a nice hike.

Even though I got lost in this park at least 3 or 4 times, I was determined to come back and be successful at hiking the perimeter trail here. Yes, I am a bit stubborn and persistant. And both of those qualities paid off today.

I parked my vehicle at the first parking lot on the right as you entered the park. I walked around a retention pond and the started this counter clockwise hike. There were some slight ups and downs. The county did a good job of mowing this dual track trail. I passed some benches built as an Eagle Scout project, an old farm tractor and an old tire that was placed at the base of a tree a long time ago. The trail had some muddy spots due to rain last night but was mostly clear.

After about a half mile I came upon a 5 way intersection. There were 2 ways that I could have gone that would have gotten me to the same place. I continued on the same trail last time, turned right on a gravel road and then left a short time later to get back on trail. Today I took a right and then an immediate left. According to the map, this short section of trail was supposed to take me to the same road but directly across from the continuation of the trail. It didn't. It took me a bit east of it. But I had been back here so many times that I knew where the continuation of the trail was supposed to be. Also, there is a maintenance building behind field 3 where the road curves slightly that was not on the map. And they built some side trails on the section behind me to the adjoining neighborhoods. Those were not on the map. So you can see why this has taken me 5 times to complete this trail.

I passed a lady walking 4 or 5 small dogs. I raised my mask over my mouth and nose and said hello when we passed. I then hiked about a mile through some neat scenery. I then arrived high above the confluence of Catharpin Creek and an unnamed tributary of this creek. Back in the winter I could see the confluence. But with tree cover in late spring I could not see it today.

At this point I was at the southernmost part of this hike. The trail then turned northward for the return leg of this trip. In about a half mile I was passed by an older couple on bicycles. I was impressed as this was not an easy trail for hikers or bikers. These would be the last people that I would see until the very end of the hike. The first and only blazes that I would see on this trail started appearing. They were black splotches and appeared to be very faded. They would not be seen for very long.

After another half mile I started to descend to the unnamed creek to cross it and ascend to the hills above it. I was worried that this creek would be swollen after last night's rain and that I would not be able to cross it. However, it was fine and since I was using hiking poles today, it was easy to cross. I had a short up, then traversed the east side of the park in a northwestern direction. I saw numerous houses and barns to my right. The forest was very nice. I would be hiking this stretch for close to a mile. During this stretch there were 3 or 4 posts with blue driveway reflectors on them. This was not conventional blazing but I thought that they would be great for night hiking and would also be maintenence free. I just wished there were more of them on this stretch.

So I crossed the unnamed tributary again, went up a hill, trudged to the front of the park to take a picture of the park sign, then hiked back to my vehicle. The majority of people in this park were in this area enjoying various activities. I maintained social distancing and got back to my vehicle around 10:30. Not bad. Since I knew where I was going today I really enjoyed this hike. I wished that I was hiking it with other people but could not because of COVID-19.

I do believe that Prince William County, VA has done a great job providing quality parks for it's citizens. And they have kept the trails clear of blowdowns as I did not see any today. But I do believe that they have fallen short in the area of blazing these trails, having proper signing on them, having up to date maps for them and having kiosks that have information on them instead of nothing. I have been respectfully communicating my concerns to Prince William County Parks, Recreation and Tourism. I feel like they think I'm just a curmudgeon. Well, I am. But I do believe that the citizens of Prince William County, VA as well as it's visitors deserve the same quality of trails as one can find in other Virginia towns or counties as well as at the state and federal level. So I ask the reader of this trip log to please contact Prince William County Parks, Recreation and Tourism and tell them that we need better blazed and signed trails. And we need up to date maps for our parks as well as kiosks that have pertinant information on them and are not just empty. Whether the the county gets volunteers to do this or hires employees to do this the county needs to take the steps to get this done so that we citizens of Prince William County can get the good quality trails that we pay taxes for. PWC can increase tourism by having first class trails. Let it be noted that I am willing to help.

Mike C

Map of the trail that I hiked today

Huge turtle @ POPUMC
  Huge turtle @ POPUMC.
   By Mike Calabrese

Sign @ J.S. Long Park, VA
  Sign @ J.S. Long Park, VA.
   By Mike Calabrese

Start of Hike   Start of Hike.
  By Mike Calabrese

Along the Trail
  Along the Trail.
  By Mike Calabrese

Old farm tractor
  Old farm tractor.
  By Mike Calabrese

One of a few blazes
  One of a few blazes
  By Mike Calabrese

Mini waterfall
  Mini waterfall.
  By Mike Calabrese

Final stream crossing
  Final stream crossing.
  By Mike Calabrese

Unique blazing system
  Unique blazing system
  By Mike Calabrese



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