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July 12, 2010

Connecting with people and the outdoors at Patapsco Valley

Christopher Brooks found Patapsco Valley State Park about 20 years ago by following a tiny creek from his Elkridge neighborhood to the river four miles away.

"The park was an oasis for me," he says.

Today, he is the park ranger and the creator of this segment of the Maryland Park Service's Park Quest challenge.

The father of a 4-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter, Brooks was sensitive to the criticism that his Quest was a little too long for smaller youngsters. So, he quickly devised an alternative hike that hits the park's highlights and seven Quest clues while giving tiny feet a break.

The Patapsco River creates a soothing sound as it passes under Swinging Bridge. Brooks and I use the bridge as a high-level platform to look for fish. I see one dark form along the bank near a downed tree.

Brooks waves to early-morning joggers and bike riders. Most days, he'll stop to chat with anglers and hikers.

"That's how you break bread with people," he says. "You talk to them for a few minutes and they come back."

He stamps my Park Quest passport — No. 18 — and sends me on my way.

"I'll be back," I tell him.

"I know you will," he says, smiling.

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Christopher Brooks

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Park Quest 24/7 tracker

Posted by Candus Thomson at 9:26 AM |
Categories: Park Quest 2010
        
About Candus Thomson
In a world of paper vs. plastic and candy mint vs. breath mint, my early memories involved a debate about the merits of freshwater vs. saltwater.

On the one hand, a great uncle’s fishing cabin on the Susquehanna River beckoned, but so did family gatherings on the Jersey Shore.

The correct answer, thankfully, was, “both.”

As The Sun’s outdoors writer for more than a decade, I’ve fished across Maryland in one day, hiked the width of the state in one hour, camped overnight in the median of I-95 to experience the wildlife between the fast lanes and chased mountain bikers in a 24-hour marathon race.

Those are some of the highlights. I’ve also fallen in a raging Gunpowder River during a trout survey (photo available upon request), had a shark spill its guts on my clothes and been stuck in a sub-freezing Vermont wilderness with men armed with flintlocks and hatchets, shuffling along on ancient wooden snowshoes.

And, in my travels I’ve met lots of you, who share a love of the outdoors and the good times and mishaps that go along with it.
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