I slept fitfully Sunday night. Downpours interrupted my sleep at times. When I awoke the next morning, I had one thing on my mind: to get into Rock Creek Park and hike along the Black Horse Trail before people arrived.
I had given up walking this trail because it has become so popular. Not all hikers are vigilant about social distancing, which adds to the stress. But I set off late and didn’t get to the first part of my journey – the Soapstone Valley Trail – until around 10:30 a.m.
It was the best I could do, given my level of distraction – another symptom of my Covid-19 anxieties. To my relief, I did not meet a soul on the trail. But there was the challenge of getting across the stream crossings beyond Audubon Terrace.
I decided not to attempt the first crossing. Instead, I bushwacked down the stream bed to find an easier way. The only disadvantage to this narrower crossing was that the water was rushing much faster here than it was upstream.
On the other hand, I thought to myself (rather melodramatically), what is risk these days? So I took the leap and made it safely across.
On the other side, the trail was waterlogged but nothing my waterproof shoes couldn’t handle. Then came the second crossing.
Here, too, some of the stepping stones were just beneath the surface of the water but still made for an easy crossing.
The last crossing before Broad Branch Road was the most challenging of all. Here, I slipped into deeper water that crested over the tops of my shoes. My feet got a bit wet, but I pressed on.
I followed Broad Branch Road to Beach Drive. Although Mayor Bowser had announced by then that Beach Drive from Broad Branch north would be closed to car traffic through April 30th, I did not believe it until I saw it.
I then clambered onto Black Horse Trail, following it north along Rock Creek. I immediately saw two invasive plant species. I worried that they were getting the upper hand – a feeling that was too similar to my worries about our invading virus.
After I crested the hill, I could hear rushing water below, and a cardinal singing in the background. Further along, the impact of the overnight downpours was quite apparent.
On the woodland floor, I spotted some cancer root, which despite its name does no harm. It’s a parasitic plant that produces no chlorophyll. It instead feeds off roots of other trees, especially oaks.
And here, amid the pale green, newly budded-out leaves, the water-darkened tree trunks, and the churning rapids of the rain-swollen creek, I stood mesmerized. My anxieties finally drained away.
My step became lighter, and I was delighted to see than only one tree trunk had come down across the path. And, that it was festooned with turkey tail mushrooms.
The rapids drew me even closer and became almost hypnotic.
The water was so high at Joyce Bridge that it looked like it would be very difficult for a kayaker to get through.
Turning off this trail, I enjoyed the natural wood sculptures on the path to the Rock Creek Horse Barn. This overturned tree stump made quite a statement.
I almost made it home dry, but a downpour hit as I was plodding up Davenport Street.
It was well worth the soaking.