Enjoying Greenwell’s Legacy

Another summer afternoon adventure — this time exploring a lovely little state park in southern Maryland.

“If I lived here….” I spent an afternoon saying that to myself. If I lived here, I’d go riding across the fields every day (I don’t ride, so I’m not sure where that daydream fantasy came from).

If I lived here, I’d go kayaking along the Patuxent River…. If I lived here, I’d hang a hammock between two trees and enjoy the view and river breeze, with a glass of wine and a good book.

Most of us can only daydream about living on a place like John Phillip Greenwell Jr’s farm. But his legacy to the State of Maryland ensured that lots of people for generations to come, will be able to spend an afternoon on the property that once was his farm and do some daydreaming of their own.

Greenwell donated his 166-acre farm to be used as a public park. Although Greenwell lived in Washington, D.C., and traveled the world, he treasured his time back on his farm in St. Mary’s County. He granted the farm, which he called “heaven on earth” to Maryland on the condition that the park would be accessible and inclusive to people of all ages, races, abilities, and disabilities. The state subsequently purchased an additional 430 adjacent acres, creating the almost 600-acre Greenwell State Park.

Greenwell State Park is only about 20 miles from D.C. and just over 60 miles from Baltimore but vastly different from other Maryland state parks, so it’s worth checking out. The park is essentially typical southern Maryland farmland that follows along the western shore of the Patuxent River.
I’d read a blurb about Greenwell Park and the views of the Patuxent River, and decided to drag my family and three dogs for an afternoon ramble. The weather was perfect and it would have been a shame to have stayed inside.

We rambled along the different trails — we started out on the Green Trail, found ourselves on the Grey Trail, walked along the River Trail, looped back to the Red and Yellow Trails before heading back to the car. It was a nice easy walk — not a hike that will cause you to workout and sweat. (I eschew sweating.)

The walk is well worth the time — we spent easily a couple hours roaming around, and it was well worth it for the variety and views! The trail travels through fields, meadows and woods, and offers dramatic views of the river, with visits to several old barns, lending interest to the walks. The Patuxent River was the star of this afternoon — along the park the river is wide and the views it offers are dramatic. We were there when the honeysuckle peaked, and the familiar scent from my childhood was strong in many places, lulling us. My husband and I recalled pulling out the stems (or stamens or whatever they’re called) to taste the tiny sweet drop of nectar when we were kids.

Our hike visited three coves, one with a sandy beach where we noticed a family settling down with a picnic lunch, beach towels, and obviously about to go for a swim. We looked down and sure enough — we found a fossilized shell — Greenwell is nearish to Calvert Cliffs State Park. Greenwell’s trails take you through a variety of settings typical of traditional rural St. Mary’s County: forest, farm field, old barns, manicured lawns of a old plantation house. We passed quite a few folks who were fishing.

The second cove visits open fields separated by hedgerows and stream valley woodlands predominate. These open fields offer a welcome change of view. A delightful surprise includes two historic barns far from anywhere for hikers to discover. Antique farming equipment is scattered inside, and for the implements that aren’t readily apparent to those of us who don’t hail from a farming heritage, there are also helpful information sheets explaining what they were used for. We were the only ones in the barn — it was fun to poke around it and explore the different spaces of the barns, imagining what it might have been like when these were actively used.

Greenwell’s beloved 19th-century furnished home, which overlooks the Patuxent River, is open to the public some Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. (It was closed the day we were there.)

The Greenwell Foundation, which Greenwell founded, also brings wounded warriors being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and their families, to stay in the Greenwell Lodge, so they can enjoy the idealic beauty of the park.

Getting there: 25420 Rosedale Manor Lane, Hollywood MD 20636

Hours: Greenwell State Park is open from sunrise to sunset every day of the year.

Dogs: Of course!!

Website: www.greenwellfoundation.org or http://dnr2.maryland.gov/ publiclands/Pages/southern/greenwell.aspx

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Have you daytripped somewhere interesting? I’d love to hear what you’re doing! Email [email protected] if you’re interested in being a guest-blogger! 

One Reply to “Enjoying Greenwell’s Legacy”

  1. I have been coming here for years; great trails, beautiful natural setting and unexpected treasures in old barns, wildlife and the occasional horseman.

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