It was a gorgeous winter day, sunny and a perfect 50 degrees and we decided to go hiking. We live near Soldiers Delight National Environmental Area, also referred to as the Patapsco Barrens, a serpentine barrens located northwest of Baltimore, in the midst of a highly populated suburbia. It is the largest and most diverse of the disappearing serpentine barrens on the East Coast.
It used to stretch some 100,000 acres from the Potomac River all the way up to Pennsylvania. Now, only 1700 acres are undeveloped and protected by the Natural Environmental Area. The barrens is distinguished by the serpentine rock, which 500 million years ago formed the floor of an ancient ocean, that is distinct from the rest of the continental bedrock. Its high magnesium and iron content cause the rock to display unusual shades of greenish brown.
Currently the state is restoring the serpentine grasslands to their pre-colonial status. Controlled burns, tree cutting and girdling, and clearing the land of invasive species have helped return a part of the area to its original condition.
Know before you go: As of Fall 2019, the Visitors Center is closed, pending a multi-year renovation and improvement. The parking lot should be open most of the time, and is a great place to park and pick up the Serpentine Trail.
Getting there: The Visitors Center is located at 5100 Deer Park Road, Owings Mills, MD.
Hours: The trails are open dawn to dusk.
Website: http://soldiersdelight.org/ and http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/ soldiersdelight.aspx; for a map of trails in Soldiers Delight, click here.