It was a fine Saturday for an autumn ramble; Outing: We went in search of monuments, but found instead an almost too-peaceful woodsy trail.


THIS PAST SATURDAY was one of those exquisite days that summoned me outdoors to the Gwynns Falls Trail. My companion for this trek was Joan Finocci, a Community College of Baltimore math teacher in search of some of Baltimore's most obscure neighborhood memorials, a subspecies of monument that requires out-of-print guidebooks, maps and advance research trips to the Pratt Library.

We rambled through Dickeyville to watch the water flow over the Gwynns Falls dam and took a quick pass through the village of Franklintown, a place that looks like a chunk of Vermont dropped into Baltimore City.

While I was surprised to find that the Gwynns Falls Trail was not better marked (despite its official opening this spring), I was pleased to see that this summer's storms had left the trail's new pedestrian bridges unharmed.

There were no other cars in the new parking lot, not a great sign on a fine Saturday morning. But we met a biking enthusiast who gave us a few pointers about the trail. His advice made up for the lack of signs. He then pedaled off through the trees.

Before long we encountered our first fellow trail walkers, a couple who also remarked about the rugged beauty of the Gwynns Falls Valley, and wondered why the trail wasn't better used.

Soon we hit the scenery jackpot. The oak, tulip poplars and beech trees, with the high noon sun filtering through the branches, made us forget about all the asphalt and mortar that surround this chunk of the city.

On our way back, we came upon a father and daughter out for a walk, nudging up the grand total of Saturday hikers to seven at that point, counting the biker.

(For the record, we never did find an elusive World War II monument because it is actually more than a mile away, at the Dukeland Street entrance to the park in Southwest Baltimore.)

On the way back to the car we greeted our eighth and ninth trail companions, a pair of Baltimore city police officers on motorbikes. I quizzed them about law and order in these parts and they assured me it was safe -- although two bodies were found recently, one an apparent suicide.

Before riding off, they politely informed me that the Gwynns Falls Trail people would not approve of my cutting several stalks of goldenrod as a souvenir. Guilty of trail shoplifting, I vowed to return when the leaves grow more colorful.

Pub Date: 10/02/99

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