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Recon of Final Segment of Connolly Fairfax Cross County Trail between Leigh Mill RD and Twin Branches RD, VA

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This one took place on Wednesday, November 2, 2022. It was supposed to be 5.9 miles but ended up being somewhere around 6.5 miles. It was just me on this one.

This was it. The final trip. I left Manassas, VA around 8:30 AM. I gassed up, got breakfast and lunch at 7-Eleven and hit the road. Waze took me on a very good route and I got to the corner of Twin Branches RD and Glade LA in Reston, VA before 9:30 AM. I parked right at that intersection and tried to hail an Uber from this location. Unfortionately, I had no cell reception. Cell

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Plan your adventure along the FFX CCT with my Jerry Conolly Fairfax Cross County Trail Distance Calculator

phones have been around since the 1990's. You'd think that they would provide better reception then they have by now.

I then panicked. What do I do now? If I did two up and back trips of about 3 miles each way or a 12 mile hike it would take me all day. Or I could come back and do another section another day. I didn't want to do that. So I tried driving further up the street and to a higher elevation. That worked and I was then able to summon an Uber. I would later learn something amazing about this street at the very end of this hike.

After about 15 minutes the Uber arrived. My driver was named Barbara and she had a late model red Hyundai Elantra. This was a comfortable vehicle to ride in. We had some nice conversations along the way. Barbara dropped me off at the corner of Leigh Mill and Kelso RDS in Great Falls, VA. I then started the hike around 10:30 AM.

I first had to walk through Leigh Mill - Ramey Meadow Park. It was a small tract of land on a hill. There was also an orange blaze on the CCT sign post. Was the CCT blazed orange on this stretch? The perimeter was mowed. So I walked around the perimeter looking for the CCT. But I couldn't find it. So I walked around the perimeter again. Still no CCT. The leaves must have covered up the trail. Again I panicked. Did I come all this way for nothing? How do I get onto the trail now?

There was a CCT map at the entrance to this park. I studied it and noticed that the next street south that the trail crossed was called Brian Jac. So I decided to walk Kelso RD to Brian Jac, turned right onto it and there should be a side trail leading to the CCT there. The problem was that there was a Brian Jac CT and a Brian Jac LA. I hiked about a quarter mile down the court. It was a dead end and no trail. So I hiked back out to Kelso RD, turned right, hiked up a hill for about a quarter mile, turned right onto Brian Jac LA and hiked that about a half mile to what used to be the end of that street.

Google Maps showed a side trail on the right side of the road that would lead me to the CCT. However, at some point, this road was reconfigured and extended. What used to be the end of this road was now a cul-de-sac that lead to an extension of Brian Jac LA. And this side trail entrance was now on the left side of the road. I guessed that this was that side trail. There was another orange blaze on the sign post. So this must be the correct way.

I had lost an hour by these series of events. But I would make up the time later. The side trail did lead to the CCT. I turned left and hiked the CCT for about a mile until it got to VA7 Leesburg PK and Carpers Farm WA. The trail itself was dirt and the surrounding foliage was very thick so I couldn't see a lot around me. I crossed Difficult Run once on a low water crossing that had those cement stepping stones. Oh, and the orange blazes were not for the CCT but they ended at a series of sewer caps along the trail. Very strange. It was now 12 noon.

I was concerned about the time so I picked up the pace south of Leesburg PK. The trail was very flat and level here so making the miles was easy. The area between here and the W&OD Trail was within a wide valley between two ridges. There were not many trees within this valley. Maybe Difficult Run was a raging river here long ago. And more recently, maybe this area was utilized for farming. It's interesting how one's mind wonders when hiking.

I got to Browns Mill RD around 12:30 PM. Not sure if the Authorized Parking Only signs pertained to hikers or not but I will find out. I crossed Difficult Run again on a large grouping of boulders. I then turned right and continued along the CCT. I had only done 2 miles at this point. 3 miles with the road walking. So I picked up the pace again.

Next I came to a section of the CCT that was refurbished just recently. The trail leading to the Dulles Tollroad was recently paved with asphalt and had shoulders. The trail under the Dulles Tollroad had fresh concrete. I know this because I called Fairfax County Park Authority in late September, 2022 and asked whether this project would be done by November 2, 2022. They told me that it had just been completed.

So I went under the tollroad overpass. There was massive grafitti on the walls there. I crossed over Difficult Run again on those concrete stepping stones and then started a long trek through Tamarack Park. I was getting hungry so I stopped at a fallen log at around 1:00 PM and ate lunch. I was at about 4 miles now. 5 when the area on roads was counted. I then hit the eastern junction with the W&OD Trail at around 1:30 PM. I had done 4.7 miles at this point. I really wanted to get done.

I did about a mile on the W&OD. It was crowded. I passed Hunter Mill RD, then turned off of the W&OD at around 2:00. I was now on the final stretch at 4.9 miles. All that I had left was a section of the CCT that went along the Twin Branches Nature Trail. I had only 1 mile to go. This was a nice stream bed trail. I walked with the stream flow so it was level or slightly downhill. However, there was only one CCT marker that I saw along this trail. Someone had penciled in "CCT" and a right arrow on a wooden post at an important point along this trail. I would have passed this intersection by if not for this. Then, about a half mile later, the trail left the streambed and went over a small dam of some sort. I again almost went the wrong way. I asked a lady walking her dog which way was was Twin Branches RD. She pointed me in the opposite direction that I was going to go.

Now I was getting really anxious to get this hike over with. Then I saw it. Twin Branches RD was built on top of the dam that holds the water in Lake

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Audobon in Reston, VA. According to:

This website

this dam is 299 feet high! You don't notice this when you are on Twin Branches RD. But when on the CCT it looks mammoth! I was too tired to take a picture of it. The trail went right up the left side of this earthen dam. It was a terrible up. I had to take numerous breaks. I saw my vehicle on Twin Branches when I was near the top of the dam. I was so tired that I bushwhacked along the top of the dam out to Twin Branches RD, crossed it and got to my vehicle. I left around 2:30 PM and was home by around 3:15 PM.

I'm glad that I acomplished hiking this 41 mile trail. But it wasn't easy. And I will report trail issues to Fairfax County Park Authority. I can now say that I've "been there, done that" and I am ready for the next adventure.

Mike C

Parking along the Connolly Fairfax Cross County Trail VA

List of My Section Hike Trips on the FFX CCT


Selfie
   Selfie.
   By Mike Calabrese

Leigh Mill-Ramey Meadow Park    Leigh Mill-Ramey Meadow Park
   By Mike Calabrese

Brian Jac LA Side Trail    Brian Jac LA Side Trail.
   By Mike Calabrese

CCT between Brian Jac LA & VA7    CCT between Brian Jac LA & VA7
   By Mike Calabrese

Construction @ VA7    Construction @ VA7.
   By Mike Calabrese

CCT between VA7 & Browns Mill RD    CCT between VA7 &Browns Mill RD.
   By Mike Calabrese



Can we park @ Browns Mill RD?    Can we park @ Browns Mill RD?
   By Mike Calabrese

Rock crossing S of Browns Mill RD    Rock crossing S of Browns Mill RD.
   By Mike Calabrese

Dulles Tollroad Overpass    Dulles Tollroad Overpass.
   By Mike Calabrese

Recently rehabbed trail    Recently rehabbed trail.
   By Mike Calabrese

Grafiti under tollroad    Grafiti under tollroad.
   By Mike Calabrese

Stepping stones over Difficult Run    Stepping stones over Difficult Run.
   By Mike Calabrese

E JCT, CCT and W&OD Trails    E JCT, CCT and W&OD Trails.
   By Mike Calabrese

Hunter Mill RD Xing    Hunter Mill RD Xing.
   By Mike Calabrese



W JCT, CCT and W&OD Trails    W JCT, CCT and W&OD Trails.
   By Mike Calabrese

Map 8 where I hiked    Map 8 where I hiked.
   By FCPA

Map 9 where I hiked    Map 9 where I hiked.
   By FCPA



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