On Sunday, August 8, 2010, I retraced a previous Boy Scout trail through Baltimore City, from Patterson Park to Fort McHenry. Though the patches and medal one could earn for a few decades are no longer available, except through patch trading, the routes are visible on legacy guide books, and walking through Baltimore City is an old tradition. I walked from downtown Baltimore to my home near Gardenville in the 1960s once, after spending all my change on books or something.
Hikes and trails often overlap other trails, such as the red and blue trails following the same path for some distance. Likewise the Baltimore Historical Trails overlap the newer Baltimore Heritage Walk, with both overlapping other trails, tours and vistas.
My research started with the Nentico Lodge "Where To Go Camping" Guide, as I'm supposed to be the adult adviser for the Camping Promotions committee. I have kept the contents somewhat updated, though in a few cases, I simply copied over what was in previous guides. A question or two about the "Baltimore Historical Trails" led to me copies of a couple brochures from the 1970s or 1980s, including maps, descriptions, even sets of questions for the hiker.
Despite not being able to earn a patch, I decided I'd try out the hikes.
The first hike, as mentioned above, went from Patterson Park to Fort McHenry. How to be prepared? First, the route is fairly simple. As I've lived both near Patterson Park, and near Federal Hill I wasn't concerned about getting lost. Weather in summertime can be brutal, with either major heat/humidity/smog as well as the chance of torrential rain. I checked the weather, and found Sunday was to be superb, in the mid-80s. Then, file a hike plan, bring lots of water, and get geared up.
Gear for city walking is similar to backwoods hiking, with less concern for insect bites and more concern for sunburn and dehydration. One of the photos I took shows a non-working fountain in Patterson Park. Along the way there were plenty of places to re-hydrate though. I brought a basic digital camera; one caveat in walking through urban areas is to be discrete, not wave around an expensive-looking camera or other gear, and to not take photos of groups of people.
In planning my trip, I decided to leave my car at Fort McHenry, take city buses to the east side, and walk back. The routes were very basic: the number one leaves right from the Fort entrance, and the number 40 goes east/west on Baltimore and Fayette Streets. From living in Butchers Hill, I knew to get off at Linwood Avenue, then walk south to Patterson Park.
The Park was crowded on early Sunday, including soccer teams, tennis players, walkers, bikers, joggers, and many swimmers in the public pool. The Historic Trail guide said to start at the Pulaski monument, and then walk up to the Pagoda.
After walking around the Pagoda, I headed west on Pratt Street. The city was relatively quiet, with a few joggers and dog walkers who preferred the routine of the streets instead of the park. I had memories of which homes had been renovated more than 30 years ago when I lived in the neighborhood.
At the intersection of Pratt Street and Albemarle (not Albermarle as one of the brochures says) is the Flag House, as well as the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. As I was passing by, a tour of the Heritage Walk was going on.
This is what their "trail blazes" look like:
I paused to look north to the Shot Tower, and Old Town, as the former is part of one of the remaining hikes, not to mention an icon of the City of Baltimore (note the plaque above).
Once past the Jones Falls, the tourist density increased, so I plodded ahead, stopping in Harbor Place to refill my water bottles, then walked across the sky bridge to the second leg of my hike: down Light Street toward Fort Avenue.
Instead of taking Key Highway around the hill, I walked up to Montgomery Street then climbed the stairs onto Federal Hill. With a large crowd at the top enjoying the weather and the view, I took a ten minute rest stop overlooking the Inner Harbor.
A few photos of the statue of Major-General Sam Smith, including this one.
After winding through the area behind the American Visionary Arts Museum, I ascended to Fort Avenue via Jackson Street; any number of other routes go up from Key Highway. If you haven't been to the Baltimore Museum of Industry before, stay on Key Highway for that.
I stopped by two parks, including Latrobe Park, that include recreation fields, prior to my final stop at Fort McHenry.
Not a bad day hike!
If I had planned this for Scouts doing their 5 mile hike, I'd probably cut off most of Patterson Park, starting on the west side by Patterson Park Avenue, rather than the entire east side and walking through the park. According to the old trail guide, the entire hike is 7.5 miles (I haven't checked my route yet). I'd also probably stay on Eastern Avenue rather than Pratt Street, especially if it were a warm day.
Hike # 2 starts at the Flag House, and then winds its way up to the Maryland Historical Society. To work in the Light Rail mass transit theme, I'll park up north, take the streetcar to Camden Yards, then walk east to Albemarle Street. After the trail is complete, I'd pick up the train at State Center or nearby on Howard Street.