Winter is upon us here in Dahlgren, Virginia, and the temperatures sure are chilly! So far in 2021, I think we’ve only gotten below 20 degrees once or twice at night. Generally, the day provides us temperatures in the 40s, which is a great forecast for the trail. With pleasant weather and increased free time around the holidays, we have seen increased use of the trail (and we are so excited about it)! Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting with some walkers on the western end of the trail. They had gone to Comorn Road parking area around trail mile marker 4, which is turning into a popular trailhead. They found the lot packed! So, they instead came to the trailhead at Bloomsbury Road which hosts plenty of free parking. Many trail users are also brining their dogs along for the journey; we are always happy to see canine friends, as long as they are on a leash.
We want to encourage and support all the increased trail use that we have been seeing. The Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail Board of Directors is currently in discussions with neighboring land owners at Comorn Road and Owens Road about buying small parcels which would allow us to expand our parking facilities. If those acquisitions come to fruition, we’ll use some recently awarded grant funds to do the necessary work to turn the parcels into graded and graveled parking areas.
Planning continues for several upcoming races that will occur on the trail; we are delighted to work with our partners at Arsenal Events and the Sheetz2Sheetz Run to provide fun and safe opportunities for the local trail runners and walkers, as well as give back to those in need within our community. For more information about upcoming races, please read further into this monthly newsletter, and check out the event page on our website, here.
Lastly, we are proud to welcome two new members to our board. Jim Buckley, a Marine Corps retiree, has been an avid trail volunteer for years and is most welcome addition to our leadership. Champe Burnley is the immediate past president of the Virginia Bicycling Federation and a frequent citizen lobbyist for cycling interests in the Virginia legislature. We’re glad to have them both and thank them for their willingness to serve.
This is the start of a fresh year, full of new initiatives and projects, and days well spent on the beautiful Dahlgren Trail. I hope to see you out there soon!
Fall is a really great time of year to be out on a trail, any trail, but especially the Dahlgren Trail. I’m seeing many notable things on my frequent visits: more cars at our parking areas, and more walkers and cyclists. Dog lovers have found the trail too; we give thanks to our wonderful trail users for keeping all pets on a leash. I also saw several local scout groups completing a 20-mile hike for their hiking merit badge!
We were recently awarded a grant to improve our parking at two parking areas: the Comorn Road and Indiantown Road crossings. Many thanks to our friends at the Fredericksburg Community Foundation for giving us the opportunity to make these critical improvements which will lead to increased access for our beloved trail. We’re very appreciative of our trail users who let us know about conditions on the trail that need attention. Believe it or not, the most reliable way for us to know about a fallen tree is through an email or Facebook note from a trail user. We generally see up to five downed trees a month on the trail. Our chain saw gang (aka: The Flying Lumberjacks) can get it cleared pretty quickly – if you see an issue on the trail, reach out to us!
We’re also thrilled about upcoming events on the trail! A new King George Race Series will be inaugurated in 2021. The races to be in the series are the Dahlgren Trail Winter Half-Marathon in February, the Sheetz-to-Sheetz Run in March, the 3H Half-Marathon in August, and the Howlin’ Coyote 10k at Caledon State Park in October. We want to give a huge acknowledgement and thanks to Kristen Loescher of Arsenal Events, Justyn Cox, Friends of Caledon, and Chris Chalkley for spearheading this initiative. Runners can sign up now for the series or for individual races at arsenal-events.com.
When we’re out for a walk, run or ride, we don’t always think about the topography and hydrology of the trail. The trail, while mostly level, rises slightly going east to west. The rise starts at about mile 7, and continues on a slight grade until approximately mile marker 4 where it crosses the “ridge” separating the Potomac and the Rappahannock watersheds - King George’s own “continental divide.”
There are a lot of streams, both perennial and intermittent, that flow under the trail. They feed into Lamb’s Creek flowing south to the Rappahannock, and into Peppermill and Williams Creeks flowing eventually to the Potomac. The streams flow under the trail through culverts or pipes. Ian Littlejohn has started to catalog the location and status of these culverts and pipes, and he has been noting which ones need clearing. It’s our responsibility to keep the culverts and pipes clear so the streams and rainfall water can flow freely. In addition to the pipes and culverts, the ditches alongside of the trail sometimes become clogged and blocked in a few places, so we need to get those cleared out too. If you’d like to help with this job, consider joining our maintenance crew.
And finally, we owe our thanks to an Eagle Scout candidate, Gary Garay, who was finished replacing the canvas roof on our vintage RF&P caboose. His was a big job and was much needed to maintain the water-tightness of the car. We’ll have a more complete report on Gary’s project in an upcoming newsletter.
As most of you know, the trail depends on volunteers and donations to keep things going. Anything you can chip in is appreciated. If you haven’t, please consider donating to our “Treasure the Trail” fundraiser, in which proceeds will go right back into tangible trail improvements so that the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail is an enjoyable, accessible, and healthy place for everyone, year-round.
It is hard to beat the nice crisp weather this time of year! I hope to see you on the trail sometime!
Each March, the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail hosts the Sheetz-to-Sheetz Trail Run, an untimed, relaxed event benefiting local children in need. As its name implies, the course begins and ends at Sheetz convenience stores. It starts at the Sheetz across from King George Middle School, traverses Route 3 (with an escort by the King George Sherriff’s Office), and connects to the trail at the Comorn Rd. trailhead near mile marker 4. The course then follows the trail all the way to the Dahlgren Sheetz, 14 miles in total.
Just before COVID-19 changed the world forever in March 2020, 150 runners from as far away as Wilmington, North Carolina, took on the Sheetz-to-Sheetz challenge. Fueled largely by word-of-mouth, the event sold out quickly and more than doubled in size with strong representation from northern Virginia. Of note to friends of the trail, the event introduced many local and not-so-local residents to the trail -- according to a post-run survey, just over half of participants had never visited the DRHT before. Another 21% had visited the trail before but had not experienced the section from mile marker 4 to the eastern terminus. They must have liked what they saw because the same survey showed a very high Net Promoter Score (86), and 100% of respondents reported feeling “extremely safe” or “very safe” on the course.
The event is intentionally designed to stray from the typical half marathon formula, striving to be unique and quirky and pushing a fun, non-competitive vibe. For starters, there’s no race clock – participants are encouraged to take their time, enjoy the trail and bond with other runners. To further encourage breaks, the mid-trail camp site was turned into a “Party Zone,” complete with a roaring campfire, s’mores, hot cider, candies, other snacks and even a hammock in case any runners really want to take a break. Boy Scouts and King George HS cheerleader volunteers ensured runners got the encouragement and support they needed from the aid station. Fun signage along the course and social media blasts leading up to the event also helped keep the mood decidedly light. Upon finishing, runners received a generous “swag bag” courtesy of Sheetz. Instead of the typical race medal and t-shirt, Sheetz-to-Sheetz finishers earned an insulated stainless-steel travel mug, Sheetz snacks, and vouchers for Sheetz Made-to-Order (MTO) food and drink. After partaking of complimentary coffee, runners then boarded a King George County school bus for the trip back to the start line parking area.
There was one serious component to the event – the charity benefit. $2,100 was donated to assist local children in need via the Sheetz employee-led charity, Sheetz-for-the-Kidz. Those funds are being spent this holiday season to buy toys, clothes, and necessities for up to 48 underprivileged children right here in the King George area. A donation was also made to Friends of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail to help with trail maintenance and programs.
For many runners, the 2020 event marked the unexpected last race of the year as event related COVID restrictions started shortly thereafter. In-person racing continues, albeit with significant modifications to ensure social distancing and related requirements. After studying best practices and Virginia’s evolving event guidelines, Sheetz-to-Sheetz Trail Run organizers have planned a 2021 event that’s not only safe but features many significant improvements and upgrades. Scheduled for Saturday, March 13th, the 2021 event expands to 200 runners, features a new virtual run option, offers t-shirts, and includes an emcee and improved signage. The event is also part of a new King George Trail Series organized by Arsenal Events. You’ll hear more about this exciting new series soon as it brings together several DRHT and Caledon State Park events: The Dahlgren Trail Half, the Sheetz-to-Sheetz Trail Run, the 3H (Hazy, Hot & Humid) Trail Half, and the Howlin’ Coyote 10K.
For more information on the Sheetz-to-Sheetz Trail Run including hundreds of photos from the 2020 event, please visit www. sheetz2sheetz.com.
Written by Ian Littlejohn
In the early 1940's, the Navy commissioned the establishment of the Dahlgren Railroad to Dahlgren for transportation purposes. A series of plats was engineered showing the layout, location and elevation of the terrain over which the railroad bed would ride. Since the railroad bed itself needed to be mostly level with minimal slopes (grades), large quantities of fill were required to allow for a level road bed.
With the addition of the fill, drainage-ways and streams became blocked, causing wide-spread flooding on adjoining properties as streams were dammed up and closed off. Engineering was performed to calculate water flows and run-offs. Using that data, suitably sized culverts were installed at locations where water would build up. This information was documented in those plats.
As computers became available, the original survey work from the 1942 era was transferred to Navy computers. That data may be lost today. However, several years ago, hard copies of the original 1942 plats were obtained and scanned into electronic files for easy use. Those files are now available on the Dahlgren Trail website.
Both elevation data and distance data is shown on the plats, but the distance information is shown in “Stations”, which is commonly used and understood by people who build roads but not by everyday people who use feet and miles. The stationing system is very easy to understand once the method is explained. One “station” represents 100.00 feet. So station 10 is 1000 feet down the road from Station 00, which is the beginning.
Several years ago, the Dahlgren Trail established a mile marker system to be used for distance identification purposes and races. The problem arises that the mile marker system’s accuracy is not known and was not correlated to the stationing system used during railroad construction. Work is now being done to correlate the two systems.
An effort is also underway to identify and catalog the various culvert locations, sizes, and types using the mile marker system into a general maintenance table. A maintenance issue arises when culverts are used - they must be kept clear of debris and kept clear so adjoining lands are not flooded if a culvert gets clogged. The Navy, according to a local land owner, hired a contractor to do that work. Since culvert details are identified on the Navy plats by “Station”, not by mile marker, work is hard to perform. Using the mile marker system will allow Dahlgren trail maintenance personnel to better manage the maintenance of the culvert system to preclude damages that might occur if culverts become clogged with debris. For example, there are two culverts just west of MM-0 that are not even identifiable as culverts due to clogging. But they are shown on the Navy plat.
Once all culverts are identified and located by mile marker, people who assume maintenance of sections of the trail can monitor the culverts in their area for issues. Trail management teams can take any required action to keep the drainage system functioning properly and safely.
#GivingTuesday is a monumental day of opportunity for nonprofit organizations all around the world. It is a global movement that unleashes the power of dedicated people and organizations to transform their communities. This movement includes us - the Friends of the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail - and every person who has treasured this slice of paradise in King George County, VA. As a group of passionate volunteers who are an active voice for the trail, we ask you to join forces with us to ensure that #GivingTuesday and the entire #GivingSeason make a lasting, positive impact on this place we cherish.
Funds raised during #GivingTuesday and #GivingSeason will be directly used to improve access and user experiences on the trail. We are planning an expansion of parking and trail access areas, improvement of fire pits and camping spaces, consistent trail maintenance, and the sharing of relevant news and trail updates within the trail's information kiosks.
If you share our passion for the trail, please donate on December 1st and share our fundraiser with your friends and family using Facebook and Instagram. "Like" our page and follow along as we pursue our goal of raising $5,000!
By Jim Lynch, president, Friends of the DRHT
It's been a busy month on the trail. We had rain interspersed with some nice days. Our friend and expert photographer Chris McClintock is out there almost every morning taking fabulous photos, which she posts on her Facebook page. Check them out — especially if you aren't lucky enough to be able to visit the DRHT daily.
This fellow — or gal, we don't know gender — is making its home on the DRHT near the caboose.
Since it has adopted the trail, we figure we should adopt it in return.
Help us name our resident groundhog. Send us your suggestions and we'll share the favorites for a vote.
Thanks to Warren Veazey for the portrait of the groundhog in its home environment.
The Big Wow is one of our premier events on the Dahlgren Trail. WOW stands for Walk On Wilson’s, an annual event held in locations worldwide by the Wilson’s Disease Association to raise awareness and support to fight the devastating disease. Our post-walk activities were scaled back this year due to COVID-19 precautions, but we still gathered a sizable group for the walk. Constantin Langa, who suffers from Wilson’s Disease, led the way along with his wife, Nichole, and children Traian and Adina.
One of the things I look forward to every year is the fall colors on the trail. The DRHT is a great place to view the turning leaves; some of our photographers capture the scenes wonderfully. Watch for their photos on our website and social media channels, including Instagram. Even better, get out and enjoy it yourself — I’ll see you out there!
After last month's trail races and all the work to get the trail ready for them, we've taken it a bit easy this past month, tending to normal trail maintenance. A number of Friends of DRHT board members have participated in meetings with trail colleagues to inquire about best practices, continue work on a master plan, and start to plan some events for the fall — in modified form because of COVID-19.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.