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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Pohick Bay Red Trail

Sunday, March 26, 2023 

Hi Blog!

We are camped in Pohick Bay Regional Park. Pohick Bay is a Northern Virginia Park similar to Bull Run near Manassas. The park occupies a spectacular bayside setting on the historic Mason Neck peninsula in Fairfax County, Virginia. In early times, George Washington visited the area frequently. The area was also a hotbed of Civil War activity. Today the park features an 18-hole golf course, camping, an outdoor swimming pool, sailboat, pedal boat, canoe and sea kayak rentals, boating and fishing, miniature and Frisbee golf, four miles of bridle paths and 8-1/2 miles of nature trails. 

We had come to the Park in 2022 to paddle the waters of Pohick Bay, but hadn't hiked the trails.  After two days of rain, we were eager to explore our new neighborhood. We decided to hike the five mile red trail which would take us right along the shores of the Potomac River's Pohick Bay.

After being accused of stalking Dave, Kathy decided she would take the trailhead selfie!

Pohick is a Native American word that means “the water place.” NOVA Parks purchased 850 acres of land in the late 1960s, and by 1972 the park was ready to be opened. 

Several trails start from the parking lot off Pohick Bay Drive. Below, Dave points the way to the Red Trail:

After taking in the Cherry Blossoms on Thursday, we were eager to see if Spring has sprung in our neighborhood. Kathy stopped to check out the upturned roots of a fallen tree. She says you never know what treasure could have been buried under an upturned tree.

The ground in this area consists of sedimentary deposits of sand, clay and shell. It erodes fairly quickly. We climbed up hills and down into drainage valleys. Some of the valleys were wet and we needed to cross small streams. Below, Kathy prepares to walk a log bridge:

Since colonial times, the Potomac River watershed had been logged off several times. The park preserves dozen of trees including: Red Maple, Black Locust, Sweet Gum, Sycamore, Box Elder,  Ironwood, American Elm, Pin Oak, Scarlet Oak, Paw Paw, Sassafrass, Black Walnut, Black Gum, Weeping Willow, Black Willow, Hickory, Beech, Dogwoods, Wild Apple, Persimmon, Chestnut, Oak, and White Oak. We saw many of these species, but we couldn't identify them all. Since most of these trees are deciduous, they haven't leafed out yet. 
But, we can take a shadow photo in the middle of a forest!

We spent the first couple miles on the trail trying to find some sign of Spring. It wasn't until we reached the group camping area that we saw our first sign. Nothing says Spring like a single bright yellow dandelion!

This part of Virginia was settled in the late 1600's. As we hiked through the woods, we saw remnants of prior occupation. There were old mines and logging camps. This old saw table is still standing while the rest of the wood shed has since blown over.

While we didn't encounter much wildlife, there were birds everywhere. We noticed this nest right next to the trail.

Some of the trees in the forest have reached the end of their life expectancy. Mushrooms have taken hold on this pine tree.

The Virginia Bluebird Society, or VBS, was founded in 1996 to promote bluebirds and other native cavity nesters. VBS is affiliated with The North American Bluebird Society and is a Chapter of the Virginia Society of Ornithology. The VBS has placed dozens of birdhouses in the park.

We checked: no one has moved in yet this year.

As we mentioned before, this area sees a lot of erosion. Despite losing its footing due to an undercut bank, this American Holly is barely hanging onto the side of the drainage.

The trail took us right next to the 14th hole of the Pohick Bay Golf Course. The 18 hole course runs 6400 yards from the back tees, and features bent grass from tee to green with a mix of meadow grass. If we had more time in the area, we would have loved to play the course. 

As we mentioned before, several trees in the forest have reached the end of their life expectancy. This one has given up the ghost; only its neighbors hold it upright. These leaning trees are known as "widow makers." It looks like it is coming right for Dave!

After climbing up and down and up and down, we finally reached the shores of Pohick Bay. We heard what we thought were ducks. It turned out to be crows pretending to be ducks.

We almost didn't see this tiny turtle making its way down the trail. It saw us, though. and quickly hid inside its shell. Now you see me, now you don't!

There are several osprey platforms around the bay. The ospreys typically return to the area in Spring. The males arrive first and start nest building. So far, this site remains vacant.

Fort Belvoir is across the bay from our campground. It manages a waterfowl hunting program in Pohick Bay. There are a total of 26 blinds; each blind can accommodate 4 hunters. Not sure I would want to squeeze into that little box with three others.

After three and a half miles, we reached the scenic overlook at Fishing Point. Just below where Kathy is resting in the photo below was a fisherman trying his luck.

By this time, we had almost given up finding Spring --- when, all of a sudden, we noticed these little blossoms pop out. Spring has sprung!

Now that Spring had sprung, it was easy to see more signs.

There is more rain in the schedule for tomorrow, so this may be our last outing in Pohick Bay. We move up to Clarksboro, New Jersey on Tuesday. Until next time, stay thirsty my friends!

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