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|Sunday, February 5, 2023|
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Not to underestimate the challenges of a 50-mile trek over lava fields and on the side of an active volcano in July 2004, I took advantage of the 37 miles of hiking trails in Prince William Forest Park. Prince William Forest Park is part of the National Park Service and is located near Quantico, Virginia - a short drive South along I-95 from Washington, D.C.
I started late in the day due to too much goofing off in the morning! I was underway at 1:00PM from the Pine Grove, located behind the Visitors Center.
My intention was to find the abandoned Cabin Branch Pyrite Mine and follow Quantico Creek upstream for a ways before looping back somewhere through the park and finally out. The ranger at the Visitors Center indicated that the guide book I was relying on was not up-to-date as one of the connector trails was closed (about 10 years ago!) and the mine was secured due to pollution. But, he said that the park was open to exploring and I could go "off-road" if I was adventurous!
My route began down part of Laurel Trail loop and connected with the South Valley Trail across a handy bridge over the South Fork of Quantico Creek. Along the way down Laurel Trail, I discover a cache of water along with one orienteering marker and another orienteering marker alone in the woods. Later on the trail, I would pass explorers obviously searching for those markers (and the water!).
I turned right on South Valley Trail and followed it to the end at Pyrite Mine Road. This is where I went off-road in search of a hidden path to the mine (never found the mine). I ended up doubling back to the road and making my way to Cabin Branch Mine Trail (still no luck finding the mine). At the end of that trail was the ruins of a "factory" for processing the mine ore before shipping out of the area.
I picked up the North Valley Trail and followed it North along the stream. At some (unmarked) point, it became the Quantico Falls Trail and turned uphill at a point where the stream was trickling over a large rock that I sensed was not the falls. I discovered a small, but obvious, trail along the stream and followed it a short distance until I found Quantico Falls! It was very peaceful and serene there all by myself.
The rest of the hike was mostly uneventful, although it was still a wonderful day tramping through the woods. I reached Burma Road, turned left and followed it across the park's scenic drive where it became Taylor Farm Road. I turned left and South on Old Black Top Road (which had never, ever been paved) and picked up Turkey Run Ridge Trail below the Turkey Run Education Center. Turkey Run Ridge Trail eventually ran into South Valley Trail, where I turned left and East and followed it back to the bridge across the stream and up Laurel Trail back to my truck.
On this day, I covered 10.7 miles (according to my GPS) in just over 3 1/2 hours total time. I'm looking forward to explore all of the roads and trails of Prince William Forest Park! It too close to not get to know in great detail.