Bob Belas Photography Blog

One Hot Winter Afternoon at the Gunpowder

The Gunpowder Boulder Pools

Baltimore experienced some of its warmest December weather on record this past week, with temperatures in the upper 60s (F) to lower 70s throughout much of it, and with it came a lot of rain. This past Sunday (12/27/2015), I decided on a hike along the upper stretches of the Gunpowder River just above Falls Road. Here cold water from PrettyBoy Reservoir provide a unique ecosystem that is very trout-friendly. Even with the cold river water nearby, the air temp and increased humidity made for hot hiking, so much so that a fleece jacket was far too much for the conditions. The mosses, ferns, and mushrooms were abundant and thriving, as were the knats, stoneflies, and the occasional mosquito. This part of the Gunpowder has a native brown trout population, with additional stocking of brook, rainbow, and golden trout. They aren't big, but they are fighters, and the Gunpowder is a great flyfishing area, being just minutes from downtown Baltimore city. Although not large in size (I'd guess the catch and release area isn't more than two or three miles long give or take a mile or so), the area known as the "Boulder Pools" is a favorite of mine for flyfishing and hiking, albeit when the poison ivy is dormant. Here are some photos from the day.

Moss Covered Log

I have visited this area for years, but this is the first December in memory where the vegetation, especially mosses and ferns, were so green and vibrant. Sphagnum moss (or a species like it) covered much of the downed, rotting wood, and provided a beautiful juxtaposition between the moss's verdant green and the rich chocolate browns of the wood.

As might be expected, mushrooms were everywhere. I am no expert on mushrooms, but there were quite a few species here that I had not seen before, especially some unusually colored bracket fungi. Take a look at the lefthand photograph (above) and notice the purples, pinks, and brown hues in these mushrooms. Puffball mushrooms -- the ones that emit a cloud of spores when stepped on -- were also prevalent, and often amassed on decaying vegetation (photograph above right).

Coils of Bark

The light on this afternoon was diffuse and very warm, i.e., rich in yellow-orange hues. The interplay between this diffuse lighting and nature is always inviting for a nature photographer. When things come together, beautiful images often result. I was particularly drawn to coils of bark on a tree that were transformed by the light into a metal-like quality.

Slanted Boulders

The boulder pool area is always a challenging hike, with so much wet moss and fallen leaves covering smooth stone surfaces. My hike was more a slow dance, as I carefully negotiated a trail through the area.

Backwater Angler Saltwater Flies

I ended the hike with a visit to my friend Theaux Le Gardeur who operates "Backwater Anglers" in Monkton ( Theaux is passionate about the Gunpowder and is also the Gunpowder Riverkeeper. One can easily see this on the walls of his flyfishing shop that are adorned with paintings and photographs of this gorgeous, wild, natural area. With people like Theaux working hard to keep the Gunpowder wild and free from development, we can hope for a many more hikes in this wonderland.

Happy New Year,