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Monday, June 20, 2022

Hiking the Bull Run Occoquan Trail from Hemlock Overlook Park

Over a year ago, in May 2021, as we were coming out of our Covid hibernation, we camped down here at Bull Run Regional Park, where we are camped today, and decided to do a hike downstream along Bull Run to Hemlock Overlook Park from an overpass on Route 28.  On Saturday, June 18, 2022, we decided to pick up that thread from Hemlock Overlook Park and hike further downstream along Bull Run toward Bull Run Marina and Occoquan River, where we paddled a few days ago.

Directions to the trailhead were not clear, but we found it -- well marked -- at Hemlock Overlook Park, and started our hike:

The first half mile or so, we hiked down a connector trail along a drainage to the Bull Run Occoquan Trail itself:

The trail along Bull Run was beautiful on this not-so-hot summer day:

We had several spots where we could catch a pretty view of the stream:

The trail reveals the complex geology of this area.  While much of the bedrock is sandstone and mudstone, there are some dramatic outcroppings of granite and other hard rock:

After about 1.5 miles, we found this cache of kayaks and canoes, kept by Hemlock Overlook State Park for use by visitors:

After 2 miles or so, our trail left Bull Run and worked its way across a couple drainages and over some knobby formations:

We even spotted the decayed foundation of a cabin or other structure.  There wasn't enough remaining to give us an idea what type of building once stood here, but it was sizeable, and someone thought enough of it to construct a large stone foundation:

Several bridges crossed drainages that meander through this section of the forest land preserved in the various parks along Bull Run.  One of the bridges still had a (now fallen) plaque memorializing for us that this footbridge was constructed by Garrett Smedley as his Eagle Scout project in 2005 for Boy Scout Troop 1369.  While the bridge is starting to suffer from the ravages of time, it still stands strong after 17 years:

Surprisingly, our trail swung up-gradient and ran along a farm field for about a quarter mile, giving us expansive views of land and sky:

We eventually reached a small bay along Bull Run, upstream from the Bull Run Marina, where we encountered a young man who was bird-watching.  We waited politely for him to finish his scanning of the area and then sat down on a convenient bench to eat our lunch and admire our view of the widening Bull Run above its confluence with Occoquan River:

We even spotted a great blue heron fishing across a tributary of Bull Run.  He didn't seem to care that we were watching him:

On the opposite shore of Bull Run we spotted a pontoon boat with informal seats piled high on its boxy deck, moored at a simple dock on some private property:

Our lunch was over and we started our return up Bull Run.  As we reached that farm field again, we spotted some trail marker posts we hadn't seen as we hiked downstream.  The markers seemed to remind anyone who farmed the field that this edge of that man-made meadow was also reserved for people who just want to amble by without necessarily farming the ground:

As it turned out, our hike was just about 6 miles.  The weather was not too hot, so the hike was pleasant the whole way.  We were pleased to have a chance to get outside on our feet for an extended walk after a few weeks of excessive heat and rain.

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