Monocacy River NRMA

I took a short out-and-back nature hike with Bob Pickett and ANS in the watershed of the Furnace Branch of the Monocacy River in Frederick County, just over the Montgomery County line. Destinations on this walk are the remains of Maryland’s extractive industrial past: a mill (perhaps used to mill limestone), a lime kiln, and two sandstone quarries, which provided the stone for the aqueduct that carried the C&O Canal over the Monocacy at its confluence with the Potomac.

Trails are not marked nor maintained: this is a hunting reserve. But, as one of us (Ann) pointed out, hunting pressure on the deer population has allowed the redevelopment of a healthy understory. Setting out on the trail, we soon found a couple of huge Hackberry trees (Celtis occidentalis) and Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) fruit beginning to ripen. Numerous Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) and Acadian Flycatchers (Empidonax virescens) were heard, and one flycatcher, irritated at something, came out in the open. Alan found Spotted Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) in bloom and a clump of Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora).

drill, baby, drillnew orchidsAfter some stream hopping and bushwhacking, we arrived at the quarry sites. An impressive block of quartzite is exposed: sources call it the Sugarloaf Mountain Quartzite (and indeed that mountain is just to the northeast). In a stony patch, Alan spotted an orchid with pretty leaves: Rattlesnake Plantain (Goodyera pubescens) beginning to shoot up flower stalks. We heard, then after some patient looking, saw a Worm-eating Warbler (Helmitheros vermivora): not a great look, but good enough for #361.