Sunday, January 28, 2007

Baltiless Field Trip #1

A first foray into America's greatest recreation opportunity brings us to Carroll Park. Carroll Park is part of the Gwynn Falls Trail, making it part of a "unique urban hiking" experience. According to the appealing, professionally-designed website, this is a place where:
local residents and visitors are able to bike, hike, roller blade, fish in the stream, picnic, watch for birds and other wildlife, undertake environmental education activities, find solitude and enjoy nature, host community festivals and meet friends and neighborhood residents along the Trail.

Sounds great, right? Let's go! A fact worth mentioning: Carroll Park, "unique" "scenic" and "culturally significant" as it is, is located in the heart of scenic and culturally significant Pigtown, a neighborhood which has now been redesignated "Washington Village" by the city's urban renewal program. Amazing what having an urban hiking experience in your midst can do to turn a horrible neighborhood around, I guess.

The sign at the entrance of Carroll park. So, uh, is that a desired feature?

My urban hiking companion and I packed a little picnic lunch and set off. The place was special. I'll say that. It started off prosaic enough- an asphalt path meandering along the banks of babbling brook, trees and bushes festooned with colorful blossoms, the wind sighing overhead... except the brook was fetid and far too litter-choked to babble, the blossoms were actually tangles of shopping bags and trash, and the sighs of the wind in the boughs were actually the sighs of 18-wheelers speeding down the highway, which was actually overhead, because Carroll Park is uniquely located under a I-95 overpass.

Nature in all her glory.

Sometimes it's just so great to get away from it all.

It was about this time that we ran into our first fellow citizen, a man taking advantage of the pristine conditions to try to catch what would almost certainly be some very unique fish.

So this is where lake trout comes from!

It's true; given the location, we were a little bit terrified of anyone who was either oblivious, badass or desperate enough that he'd consider eating anything they came out of that water, but we had nothing to fear. As we approached, he looked up from the incongruous Sunny D juice box he was nursing (there were several more at his feet) and gave us a big toothless greeting. A genuinely friendly guy.

The lure of the open road...

As we hiked, we came across all kinds of culturally significant and scenic items. A fancy purse hanging on a branch about 10 ft off the ground, for instance. Oh, and here are a couple more. Could this be where the ladies of Pigtown bring their valuables for safekeeping?

A park that's fun for the whole family!

Soon after, we crossed the threshold between Baltiless and Baltileast. This was easily discerned by the warning spray painted onto the path before us: "STOP HERE FUCKER". Beyond that the path had been washed out, probably by a storm surge of industrial waste and raw sewage. (Even more) ill at ease, we picked our way across the foul mud until the path started up again.

To be Cont'd...

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