Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wye Mills, Maryland: Where Stuff Lasts a Really, Really Long Time

First of all, my apologies for the long hiatus. I've been under the weather, and also working about 7,000 hours per week (ok, technically 80 hours per week) and between the two I haven't been feeling up to much walking. Chowder is pretty fed up with the short around-the-block walks he's been settling for. But we're getting back on track now, and find ourselves in Wye Mills, Maryland today, at mile 74 of our walk. Estimated population 414. (You'd think that in that kind of population size, you could get an exact population, not just estimated, wouldn't you?)

Wye Mills was settled in 1668 and was named for its grist mill powered by water from the Wye River, which still grinds flour on two Saturdays a month using two massive grindstones and a water-powered wheel. Not bad considering it was built in 1682. Wonder if any of our current technology will still be running two Saturdays a month in 327 years. It's apparently the oldest operating grist mill in Maryland, and I'm guessing one of the older ones anywhere.

Wye Mills is also famous for the Wye Oak tree, the official state tree of Maryland, and the oldest living thing in the state until it finally collapsed in a thunderstorm in June 2002. It is believed to have sprouted around the year 1500. It was officially recognized as the largest white oak tree in the country in 1940 and continued to hold the title til its demise. It stood 96 feet tall, with a trunk 31 ft 8 inches in circumference, and a crown spreading 119 feet across. Valiant efforts were made to preserve it; cables were installed to brace its massive crown and its hollow trunk was filled with cement in an effort to prevent further deterioration, so that toward the end, it was getting to be a bit more like a sculpture project than a tree.

Fortunately the Wye Oak gave rise to a few clones and lots of baby acorns; seedlings can periodically be purchased from the state Dept. of Natural Resources. There is even one, shown above, growing from within the remains of the trunk of the original in Wye Mills.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Since we're in a long stretch between towns, I thought I'd do a post to properly introduce my walking partner, Chowder. He is 6 years old (we think) and is a mix of Chow and Golden Retriever (we think). Unless the guy from my homeowner's insurance asks, in which case he's a Golden Retriever mix and we have nooooo idea what other breeds might be in him. We found Chowder running through the street in front of our house, dragging a chewed off tie-out behind him. He was terrified of people at first, and it was apparent he hadn't been treated very well, so we didn't exactly try to find his original owners. Four years later he is fat and happy. He still doesn't trust strangers at first, but once he's been properly introduced he does fine.

When not walking across America, Chowder's hobbies include sleeping, scratching himself, and trying to get the cats to play with him. He loves our cats, and will jump around in front of them with his front half down and his butt up in the air, in the international dog signal for "Let's play!" The cats, for their part, stare at him blankly in the international cat signal for "whatever is wrong with you?"

He is a very sweet dog although definitely not the smartest dog God ever made. He has, one more than one occasion, mistaken lawn ornaments for fellow animals. I think he's pretty handsome. However, my mom's first words upon seeing him were "well, you're a funny looking critter, aren't you?" I'll let you judge for yourselves.

Miles to date: 70.5