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Connector Trail, James S Long and Silver Lake Parks, VA Day Hike

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This was the first official POPUMC Hiking Group hike since COVID-19 hit in mid March, 2020. Because of the recent spikes in COVID-19 cases I did not expect many people on this one. So it was only me.

Maybe I'm too much of a perfectionist. I insist on the trail that I maintain within Prince William Forest be blazed, be passable and have a good, smooth trail bed. That's probably why I was angry and frustrated at the condition of the Connector Trail between Silver Lake and James S. Long Parks near Haymarket, VA that I hiked today.

I hiked this two mile up/two mile back trail four or five years ago when it first opened. It was a woodchip based trail, well designed and was located between US15 and Waverly Farms DR within the Dominion Valley subdivision. It was also parallel to Catharpin Creek. The vegitation was neatly cut and it was a pleasure to hike on.

However, when I went to hike it today it took me about 20 minutes just to find where the trail started. All the woodchips that were initially put down had washed away. It had been mowed but not anytime this year. As usual, there were no blazes, no signs, the map was outdated and only one of the kiosks had any information on them. What happened?

After about twenty minutes of searching for something that was familiar I finally found the trail beside Catharpin Creek. I then saw a few wood chips on the trail that had not washed away. For the next mile or so the trail was somewhat level but had a lot of overgrowth on it. There was also a lot of trash on it. I brought 3 plastic bottles home with me. What was weird was that a paved trail paralleled this trail for over a quarter of a mile. Why didn't they just combine these trails? Probably because the trail that I was on was a horse/pedestrian trail.

I talked to a local couple that were on one of the parallel paved paths (yes, I kept a six foot distance). They told me that this trail was a proffer (bribe) by Toll Brothers when they wanted to build the Dominion Valley development. They did a great job building it but it now looked like no one was maintaining it. I will have to investigate who is responsible for maintaining this trail, Prince William County or Toll Brothers.

Anyway, I made it to Waverly Farms RD, turned left on it, then turned right onto Tanning House WY, then took a right into the woods just before I got to Ronald Reagan Middle School. I then took a gravel path about a quarter mile to Silver Lake. I made it!

So since it was hot and I was tired, I decided that rather than try to find the paved path that ran on the other side of Catharpin Creek, I would just retrace my steps. However, when I got to Tanning House WA I noticed a parallel horse trail to this road. So I took it. About half way up Tanning House WA the horse trail turned sharply to the left and away from this road. I wasn't sure where it came out so I bushwhacked around what looked like a utility building of some sort. I got back to Tanning House WA but my arms and legs were all bloody from the sticker bushes that I had to wade through. I looked at Google maps when I got home. This horse trail did not appear on Google Maps. Neither did the Connector Trail for that matter. It looked like this horse trail looped around and joined an extension of the Connector Trail. The locals that I talked to earlier told me that this trail extension now goes all the way to Waterfall Drive, a distance of three additional miles. I'll have to go back some day and do some more reconning. It seems like Dominion Valley is guarding these trail locations so that only residents can use them.

So I retraced my steps and made it back to my vehicle right around 11:00 AM. The temperature was 75 when I started and 91 on my vehicle thermometer when I finished. It was very hot in the sun but very comfortable in the woods. I'm glad that I accomplished my goal of hiking from James S. Long Regional Park to Silver Lake Park. Now I have to complain about the condition of a trail to PWC and Toll brothers :(

Earlier this week I saw a neat video on YouTube about a couple of guys that thru hiked the 98 mile Doughnut Hole Trail in north central PA. This is a mostly circular loop that goes through some of the most remote and tough terrain in that state. You can see that video


That video inspired me to try making a video of this hike. They say it's better to try and fail than to never try at all. So I tried making a video of this hike. I was terrible at this! I had all sorts of problems. But I learned more about this today. The link to the video is below. Please don't flame me too badly

Mike C

Connector Trail Video, 6:57

07/27/2020- I went back and reconned the other side of Waverly Farms DR and verified that the trail does get to Silver Lake wihout walking on residential streets. You can read about that


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