I’ve always felt a sense of awe by human creations at their interface with nature. This is not to say I don’t feel awed by natural things; to the contrary, nature is a magical place to me. Human-made engineering in a natural environment, on the other hand, feels alien, otherworldly. Which, in a sense, they are.

Another aspect of this feeling is that when one encounters a dam or bridge in a quiet natural place, it is easy to visualize a future where humankind has met its demise, yet the evidence of our technological society remains until nature sees fit to undo it, remaking it into its likeness.

The hike in from the road down to the level of the Gunpowder Falls was an easy go; the trail was easy to find and was reasonably dry. However, once I started towards the dam along the southwestern side of the river, the path was much more difficult; wet leaves on rocks combined with narrow tracks and dense vegetation made for an exciting hike.

I took some time at the foot of the dam; it is a pleasurable experience, particularly if you’re like me and enjoy the sound of white noise. The power of the water is incredible to observe, and only more incredible when one considers how the outlet is a trickle compared to the volume of water behind the dam.

I retraced my steps back to the junction of the Fisherman’s Trail and the Highland Trail and then proceeded north and east along the Gunpowder. For a short while, the trail is in superb condition, and I quickly improved my time. However, the trail then enters an area crossing rocks at the foot of the river, and wet leaves perilously cover the path. It was also at this time that a torrential downpour occurred, which, other than making me wet, was quite refreshing.

Over the length of the hike to this point, I had only encountered an aloof pitbull whose owner was not in evidence and a couple who were walking their three dogs on leash. Along this section of the river, however, there were many fly-fishermen, including a pair who seemed particularly well-heeled, enjoying a break with their tobacco pipes.

The trail becomes a bit harder to follow here, and I proceeded up a rock scramble away from the river to get to the road. I returned to my starting point via the road shortcut; I could have continued via Gunpowder South and the Highland Trail for a more extended, on-trail experience.

Trail map
Route to Prettyboy Dam, return via Gunpowder South