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Blue Mash Trail

Montgomery County Former Landfill Becomes Blue Mash Trail

A hike on the Blue Mash Trail means a chance to see the former landfill's wildlife, including deer and cardinals. Dave Ross, right, of Washington Grove settles in at the nearby Pistachio Bakery in Laytonsville.
A hike on the Blue Mash Trail means a chance to see the former landfill's wildlife, including deer and cardinals. Dave Ross, right, of Washington Grove settles in at the nearby Pistachio Bakery in Laytonsville. (Photos By Stephen M. Shoemaker For The Washington Post)
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Friday, December 26, 2008

A landfill is probably the last place one would look for a pastoral midday hike, but the Blue Mash Trail near Laytonsville is just that.

The 550-acre Oaks Landfill was open from 1982 to 1997, and with the exception of a sign, there is little to hint of the grassy hill's former use. Hiking at what was once a landfill is to have a front-row seat to Mother Nature reclaiming what is hers.

And what a job she has done. Trees have sprouted, herds of white-tailed deer bound up and down the slope, rabbits dart into the undergrowth and more than 30 species of birds flutter by. Even in the winter, the area is thriving.

The trail around the base can be as short as 1.25 miles or as long as 3.75 miles. It's flat, making it ideal for families, horses and dogs, but it's also excessively muddy after a rain.

The area has an interesting history. Before the Civil War, it was inhabited by freed slaves. It was also often used as a hiding place for those who had escaped.

Begin the hike at the parking lot at Route 108 and Fieldcrest Road in Laytonsville. The first part of the trail follows the outermost part of the property, close to Route 108 and then Riggs Road, through a flat, grassy field. Follow blue blazes through a wooded section of the trail until it opens up to a marshy field.

At this point the trail loops, so going either direction will bring you back to the entrance to the woods. With its tall stalks of milkweed and shallow ponds, this area offers a third terrain. A second loop trail joins up to the main path and leads to another parking lot along Zion Road. If you take the loop to the parking lot, it will add about 1.25 miles to your hike. (It can also be hiked as a separate trail if you start at the Zion Road lot.)

Hiking in the winter has its perks (no mosquitoes!), but it can be chilly. So after the hike, consider warming up at Pistachio Bakery (along Route 108, 1.5 miles northwest of the Fieldcrest Road parking lot). The plush seats near the fireplace are the ideal spot to loosen the laces on your hiking boots and indulge in the bakery's warm specialties: Chilean empanadas and croissants.

-- Amy Orndorff

WHERE IS IT? Laytonsville. Parking lots are at Route 108 and Fieldcrest Road or at Zion Road between Brookeville and Riggs roads. Pistachio Bakery is 6860 Route 108 (Olney-Laytonsville Road) in Laytonsville.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST? Free.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION? Print out a map to take with you at http://www.montgomeryparks.org (click "Park & Trail Directory," "Trails" and then "Trail Maps"). For information about Pistachio Bakery, visit http://www.pistachiobakery.comor call 301-216-2783.

IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN THREE HOURS: Visit the county's Agricultural History Farm Park, 18400 Muncaster Rd., Derwood. 301-948-5053.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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