Soldier’s Delight: A Hiker’s Paradise

By Amanda Minkove

There’s nothing like being out in nature and taking a hike in a beautiful barren area with a never-ending view of green. Soldier’s Delight is such a beautiful, relaxing area, and with its 1,900 acres of barren land and over seven miles of hiking trails, it’s easy to feel relaxed and at ease. Soldier’s Delight also holds over 39 rare, threatened, or endangered plant species, as well as rare insects, rocks, and minerals.

I’ve gone to Soldiers Delight many times, and I’m always taken aback by how calming it is. The trails can be rather rocky and hard to walk on, but it’s not a big deal compared to the interesting things you’ll come across on the trails. I went on the Serpentine Trail, which is roughly two and a half miles, with my best friends, Jessica and Sylvia, in early September and that was probably one of the best hikes I’ve ever been on, although it was kind of muddy from all of the rain we had gotten in the days leading up to the hike.

As we were walking along the trail, we were not only trying to keep balance on all of the rocks that we were walking on, we also got passed by this guy running on the trail. “What the heck? How is he running on this trail? I can barely walk on it, let alone run,” I said. And it seemed like he came out of nowhere. We didn’t hear him coming and then he seemingly disappeared into thin air. We didn’t see where he came from or where he went. He went as quickly and as quietly as he came. Soon enough, he passed us a second time. We were all confused because we wanted to know where he was coming from. We weren’t sure where we were going, and it seemed like we had been on the trail forever. We wanted to know how he got around so quickly, and we were trying to figure out how to get to where he did. We were trying to follow where he went, but he had gone way too quickly for us to keep up. So we just kept going and hoped for the best.

Eventually we came across this little pond, and you couldn’t find a funnier sight than the three of us trying to get over it without getting wet and without getting our phones messed up. We all looked at the rocks and were trying to figure out how to step on them without falling in and without dropping anything. Sylvia made the first attempt to cross. She gave me her things and with success, she crossed over. I crossed second and almost fell in. Then came Jessica. She was the most comical. Sylvia and I reached our hands out to try to help, but Jessica didn’t want our help. She wanted to try to get across without breaking her phone but didn’t want to give it to us to hold.After a good ten minutes or so, we finally crossed the river seemingly unscathed, aside from being a little wet, and boy, were we relieved.

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Photo Credit Sylvia Wanjugu

We kept walking and soon came to a detour. Of all of the times I’d been on this trail I never remembered there being detours. But we did the best we could with trying to figure out where to go. At one detour, we made a left and somehow ended up on the top of this big hill with power sources. We were so confused about where we were and how we got there and where to go, but it was so pretty. You could see so much from the top of that hill. I felt like I was standing on top of the world. I was kind of glad we accidentally ended up there because it was so pretty seeing the land below us. It seemed as if we could see the whole world from where we were.

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Photo Credit Sylvia Wanjugu

We stood on the hill for a little while and eventually decided to keep going and we somehow ended up in the woods. Thankfully, though, the trail was straightforward, and we were able to find our way pretty easily. Plus, some of trees had white paint on them to represent the trail that we were on. I kind of felt like Hansel and Gretel trying to find my way with the bread crumbs. In the distance we started to see a building and we saw a sign not too far away, so we walked up to the sign and realized that the building we saw was the Visitor’s Center. “Wait,” Jessica said. “I see a little cottage over there. Let’s go look at it.” We saw the cutest little cottage that looked like it was rather old. We walked around the cottage to see if anything or anyone was inside and to try to see if we could figure out what it could have been used for. We couldn’t figure out what it was used for, but we just assumed someone used to live there. It was so quiet back in the area where the cottage was, and it felt nice to be away from everything and everyone for a while.

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Photo Credit Jessica Samuels

When I went on a hike with my friends Darrell and Mike on the Choate Mine trail of Soldier’s Delight, Darrell was telling me that Soldier’s Delight used to be a battle ground, so the more I thought about it, the more I thought that maybe the little cottage could have been used as a storage unit or a hiding place during the time of battle. Darrell was also saying that his wife, Jessica, refused to go to Soldier’s Delight because it was supposedly haunted by the soldiers who fought there.

We soon forgot about the Visitor’s Center and just kept going. After about another 15 minutes, we started to hear cars on the road and got excited because we figured we were getting closer to where we had started. We finally got back to where we started after having been out on the trail for about an hour and a half, but yet again we were confused because on the trail, we were supposed to come out on another side, but we had come back the same exact way we started on the trail. We stood there and thought for a minute how that could happen, but we ultimately decided that it didn’t matter because we were back to where we began in one piece, and we made it back relatively unscathed. Needless to say, the three of us will probably never go on a hike together again unless we have other people who know where they’re going.

When I went to Soldier’s Delight with Darrell and Mike, the trail we went on was mesmerizing too. There wasn’t as much to see on the Choate Mine Trail, which is the trail we went on, but it seemed so much livelier than the Serpentine Trail.  It was probably because we went at a time when it wasn’t as hot and the weather was a lot nicer, probably because we went in mid-October when the temperature was a lot cooler. There were so many people walking on the trails with their kids and dogs and everyone seemed so friendly. We didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone on the trail except for giving a quick “hello,” but there was just something about seeing everyone getting out and enjoying the weather and nature that was welcoming.

This trail was definitely not as pretty as the Serpentine Trail and wasn’t nearly as long, with it being only about a mile long, but it was still relaxing in its own way. It was just nice to get out and feel the breeze and see the great outdoors and not being cooped up inside. The Choate Mine Trail did have some pretty cool mines, hence the name, near the end of our hike. There were two that we saw and both were fenced off. They both looked as if they hadn’t been used in years, but in one of the gated off areas, there was a ladder that was off to the side of the mine. The other mine looked like it had part of a railroad track off to its side. I had never seen anything like it. Mike, Darrell, and I stood there for a good five minutes or so just taking a good look at the mines and trying to figure out what they were used for. My guess is they were used as underground tunnels for soldiers to hide in or escape through during battle. They didn’t look like they were well protected, though. “Any idiot could get in there,” Darrell said. The gates weren’t that tall and there was only a padlock keeping the gates shut, so it seemed as if anyone who would want to get in there could. I took a couple pictures at the mines and when I looked back at them, I saw a few orbs. My guess is that some of the soldiers who fought in the battle were still hanging around the area.

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Choate Mine Trail Mine
Photo Credit Amanda Minkove

After each hike, I talked to my friends to get their reactions to the hikes, and I went into the Visitor’s Center to gather more information about the history of the area. Through the information I gathered at the Visitor’s Center, I learned that this was the site of the first hanging in Maryland. In 1751, a 21-year-old colonist named John Berry was found guilty of killing his stepmother with an ax and almost killing his stepfather in the same manner. Although that’s kind of scary, it’s still fascinating to realize that something so horrific could happen so close to where I grew up.

Through discussions with my friends, I got a feel for how they saw the hikes, and I got a different perspective of the trails than just my own. Sylvia was saying that the most memorable part of the hike to her was getting lost and trying to find our way back. She loved seeing the beautiful landscape and getting the opportunity to take pictures and capture what we saw. For Jessica, the most memorable part of the hike was trying to figure out how to cross the pond without messing up anything. We didn’t want to drop our phones and we didn’t want to get our shoes muddy, so we had to try to be resourceful and use the rocks in the pond to our advantage. Her favorite part of the hike was stumbling upon the cute little cottage. “I don’t remember what its purpose was, but I remember thinking how happy I would be if I could just live in a simple cottage with a puppy and a goldfish,” she said. It seemed like it would be a really relaxing place to live or stay because it was so quiet and peaceful. With it being in the middle of nowhere, it would be easy to just slip away and get away from everyone and everything.

I would definitely go back to both of these trails. They were very relaxing and it was nice to go out and see something different. I saw things on those trails that I’ve never seen before and they were just gorgeous. The area is so peaceful and with its history, it makes going on the trails so much more fun.

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