We unintentionally picked one of the hottest days in early July to further explore Maryland’s back roads. Our destination for the day, Historic White’s Ferry in Dickerson, Maryland. The temperature was right around 92 degrees. I don’t know what the actual humidity level was but I’d stand by guesstimating off-the-charts. Summer, in the Washington, DC region feels swampy and mosquitoes reign supreme. The surrounding countryside in Maryland and Virginia is beautiful, but it’s hot and sticky too.

Ball’s Bluff Regional Park

We got a late start to the day, which probably wasn’t the best of plans in retrospect, given the temps. Sometimes it just takes a while to get moving. Our first stop of the day was Ball’s Bluff Regional Park and National Cemetery. We really had no idea what to expect but we’ve taken a keen interest in following portions of the Civil War Trail since moving to the east coast. Since Ball’s Bluff was right on our way to White’s Ferry, and offered hiking trails, it peeked our interest.

The battlefield at Ball’s Bluff
The Battle of Ball’s Bluff

It’s really quite something to stand on a rise, look over a beautiful little clearing in the woods, knowing it was the site of a civil war battle in 1861. As we understand it, the Union Troops were hoping to cross the Potomac River and capture nearby Leesburg, VA. The Union Troops were soundly defeated, leaving an interesting chapter in the Civil War story.

White's Ferry
Ball’s Bluff National Cemetery. Fifty-four unknown men are buried in 25 graves.
Hiking & The Potomac River

The hiking trails in the park are well-maintained and well-marked. Most of them are short and loop back to the parking area. From the cemetery we hiked down to the Potomac River, where the water was drifting lazily. It was hard to imagine such a pretty place once being the site of battle.

Potomac River
The Potomac River at Ball’s Bluff

We were so enjoying the trail and views that instead of backtracking, we kept right on following the trail. Our mistake was we didn’t know where the trail came out. Fortunately, while we thought maybe we were lost, we weren’t. We came off the trail less than a mile from the park entrance. A great relief since we were melting under the blazing sun. We hiked a total of 4.5 miles, but there were so many more trails to explore. Next time.

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The Potomac River

I often mention the Potomac River in my tales, it’s a mainstay in the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia region. For those who are not familiar, here are a few quick facts about the river. Aside from playing a key role in American history, the river

  • is 405 miles (652 km) in length.
  • runs from the Potomac Highlands in West Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia.
  • is nicknamed, The Nation’s River.
  • provides 80% of drinking water for the region.
  • forms parts of the border between Washington, DC and Maryland, and between West Virginia and Virginia.
  • formed parts of the border between Union and Confederate states during the civil war.
white's ferry
The Potomac River. Photo Credit: WorldAtlas

Not only can you trace the path of the Potomac River, in the image above, you can see how easily one crosses state borders. I always tease that one of these days our GPS will get confused about where she is. Welcome to Maryland, Welcome to Virginia, Welcome to Washington, DC… oh, I give up go wherever you want. So far, it hasn’t happened, but one day.

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Historic White’s Ferry

When I first learned of White’s Ferry I knew it was something we needed to do. I mean, how often do you get to cross a major river on an old-school cable car ferry?

White’s Ferry was the destination of the day. Exploring Ball’s Bluff was an added bonus experience. Don’t you love it when that happens? Especially, because White’s Ferry was just down the road from Ball’s Bluff.

It was just a two-lane country road bordered by fields of green stocks of corn, the road leading to the ferry entrance. We boarded the ferry in Virginia, and drove off in Maryland. There’s something geographically fun about that. Although the ferry ride took less than five minutes, it was a very pretty five minutes!

White's Ferry
Cloud reflections on the Potomac River at White’s Ferry
The Perfect Spot

Once on the Maryland side, it was time to take a much needed cold drink break. I don’t know what we were thinking hiking in the intense heat, but it was well-worth the effort. Anytime we can get outdoors in the fresh air, enjoy ourselves and learn something, it’s a win. And, since there were no other people on the trails there was no worry about social distancing.

White’s Ferry landing has a store and cafe with outside dining. The perfect spot for two hot and tired, but happy, explorers to take in the views.

Summer Roads

While I do not embrace the heat and humidity of summer (or the bugs) I do appreciate what the summer season has to offer; all things green and beautiful. When so much in life is unbalanced, in this time of Covid-19, it’s essential to find a source of balance. For us, it’s getting in the car and taking off for a day.

Since we cannot yet travel far and wide, the concept of summer roads is more than appealing. Exploring within 100 miles of home offers the perfect respite, and we’re fortunate in that we live in a unique area abundant with destinations.

Here’s our challenge to you. Trace a 100-mile radius circle on a map and find out what you can explore in your backyard.

Our last stop of the day, Dickerson Conservation Park
To Learn More

How to Road Trip Safely During a Pandemic

Summer 2020 Travel Trends

The Road Trip is Back

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