36th Birthday Hike 2011 – Billy Goat Trail

May 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm 6 comments

When I started my birthday hike tradition, I hiked alone. Well, with the dogs. And since we were usually hiking on weekdays in early March, we had the whole Appalachian Trail to ourselves. We owned that wilderness! The hikes were empowering and spiritual and absolutely invigorating. A wonderful way to still feel young and yet thankful for the experiences the ticking years bring.

But the birthday hikes had a more sinister inspiration. Initially they were a means to forget I had no one to celebrate with. March Madness, afterall, was infinitely more entertaining than one person’s birthday. To be fair, who among us could compete with sheets and sheets of printed brackets? Some team names circled, some team names scratched out and the occassional ring-shaped discoloration from a poorly placed beer bottle.  Stiff competition.  : )

Then I started dating Ryan Somma. Just like that, I no longer hiked alone on my birthday. He takes off work and we adventure together. This year for my 36th birthday, we found ourselves in a new town and relied on word of mouth. Our friend Greg Z (who organized the Old Rag hike last year) spoke highly of Maryland’s Billy Goat Trail. It’s a lovely rock scramble along the Potomac River and the cliffs of Mather Gorge. And so on March 18th, we drove up to Potomac, Maryland and hiked.

At times when I stepped off a rock or navigated between boulders, I felt a familiar stirring in my belly. This year I wasn’t hiking alone and I wasn’t just hiking with Ryan Somma. Our son was accompanying us as well. : )

Billy Goat Trail - Vicky by Rock Wall (By Ryan Somma)
Me…With a Little Belly!

We started our journey at the parking lot by The Old Angler’s Inn and took the Towpath to the Billy Goat Trail – Section A. The Billy Goat Trail – Section A is promoted as strenuous and even has warning signs saying as much at both trailheads. There is indeed a lot of rock scrambling, but with the exception of one rock wall it is a relatively flat rock scramble. Without the steep ascents you find on the Appalachian Trail, Ryan and I found the Billy Goat Trail to be a nice, relaxing, moderate hike. The hike is short too— only about 1.7 miles one way. It is a wonderful return on investment for a hike though. You are skirting the Potomac almost the entire way and there are no shortage of views.

Billy Goat Trail - Blaze and Potomac
Blue Blaze and Potomac

Billy Goat Trail - Blaze on Rock
Blue Blaze on Rock

Billy Goat Trail - Blazes Up Rock Wall (Close)
The One Steep Section

Billy Goat Trail - Hikers on Rocks
Hikers on Rocks

Billy Goat Trail - Ryan Checks Out Views
Ryan on Rocks

Most stunning on this hike were the regal, white-barked sycamore trees that lined the shore, but it was also nice (and nostalgic!) to see mountain laurel and red maples along the way. Mountain laurel reminds me of my former home in Blacksburg.  Red maples reminds me of my former home in Elizabeth City.  Since it was still mid-March, we got to see some of the season’s first buds.

Billy Goat Trail - One of Many Majestic Sycamores
One of the Many Majestic Sycamores

Billy Goat Trail - Red Maple on Rocks
Red Maple on Rocks

Billy Goat Trail - Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

Billy Goat Trail - Spring Buds
First Buds

We saw a baby snake on the Towpath on the way to the Billy Goat Trail. We also spied some geese hanging up on the cliffs well above the water. Finally, a peaceful pond along the Billy Goat Trail housed bright orange fish (koi????).

Towpath - Baby Snake
Baby Snake on Towpath

Billy Goat Trail - Geese on Rocks (Close) (By Ryan Somma)
Canadian Geese on Rocks (By Ryan Somma)

Billy Goat Trail - Goldfish in Pond (By Ryan Somma)
Orange Fish in Pond (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Early on the trail before the rocks are hit, we ran across this tree. I affectionately referred to it as “The Scrotum Tree”.

Billy Goat Trail - Tree Scrotum
Scrotum Tree

Want to be humbled? As you take in the views, take note of all the debris in the tree branches. That’s where the water level was! No matter how high up you seem– it was once no match for the river!

Billy Goat Trail - Debris Trees
Debris Trees

After the hike, I have concluded that Greg Z’s word of mouth is a worthy one to follow. The Billy Goat Trail was a wonderful outing and a great way to get enthusiastic about the outdoor opportunities of our new home.

More pictures of my Birthday Hike on the Billy Goat Trail can be found on my Flickr site.

Billy Goat Trail – Section A

Trail Information From Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Hike Details From LocalHikes.com

Trail Map

Length: 1.7 miles one way

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Directions from 495

From I-495, take Exit 41

Take Clara Barton Pkwy towards Carderock

Turn left on MacArthur Blvd

Parking is on the left across from The Old Anglers Inn

Entry filed under: Billy Goat Trail, Hiking, Maryland.

A Different Kind of Lent 36th Birthday Hike – Great Falls National Park

6 Comments Add your own

  • […] 12, 2011 After we finished our hike on The Billy Goat Trail, Ryan and I had lunch at The Old Angler’s Inn. A word to the wise– the cheeseburger is […]

  • 2. gaugeyagee  |  May 12, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Glad you liked it! I need to find some other good trails around here.

  • 3. geekhiker  |  May 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Glad to see you’re still out on the trail! Since I don’t know east coast seasons as well as west coast seasons (obviously), I’m curious: is budding in May normal? I always thought that started in April, but what do I know.

    Also: you’re wearing a coexist t-shirt, and you shoot Canon. Awesome.

  • 4. tgaw  |  May 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    @gaugeyagee – Let me know when you find them so I can copy you! : )

    @geekhiker – I’m way behind in blogging. : ( This hike was two months ago in March. I’m still getting out there though! Last weekend, I got to hike in beautiful, enticing, green, green, green Washington State.

  • 5. Some Things That Did Not Get Blogged About in 2011 « TGAW  |  January 1, 2012 at 11:02 am

    […] Birthday Hike this year was on Maryland’s Billy Goat Trail along the Potomac River. Ryan and I thought it would be fun to do a group hike on that trail. As […]

  • […] and I practiced our first wedding dance surrounded by Long-Leaf Pines. Birthday Hike 2011, I hiked with our first son squirming in my belly. Birthday Hike 2012, that son took his first assisted steps on the Appalachian Trail. Birthday Hike […]


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