Take an enticing trek

A Saturday hike on Baltimore's east side will focus on architecture



Exercise can be such a dirty word.

But throw in a little sightseeing, good friends and a bag of trail mix and you've got an enjoyable activity that makes the phrase "take a hike" actually seem enticing.

The Mountain Club of Maryland hosts three or four year-round outdoor treks per week around several sections of the state.

Each trip is usually set to a theme. Saturday's walk through the city's east side will focus on architecture. Hikers will view such landmarks as the Pagoda, American Brewery and Clifton Mansion and neighborhoods such as Patterson Park and Butchers Hill.

In operation for 71 years, the Mountain Club has gained a healthy following of more than 700 members. Though you don't need an exclusive membership to join the hiking trips, a $15 annual membership waives the $2 fee for each walk. Members also receive the club's newsletter and a hike schedule.

The club was established in the 1930s when a few Baltimoreans became "fed up with waking up at 5 a.m. and driving into D.C." to participate in tours, says Ellen Worthing, the club's spokeswoman. Back then, the closest walking-tour group was the D.C.-based Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. With enough local interest and participation, the Mountain Club was formed and was up and walking in no time, she said.

Open to the general public, the club's tours range from around Baltimore to the Appalachian Trail and the Catoctin and Shenandoah mountain ranges. The club rates the intensity of the hikes A (very easy) through E (very difficult).

One reason that hikers join or tag along with the Mountain Club is the view, Worthing said.

"A lot of people just like to see the scenery," she said.

Fall in particular is the perfect time to hike into the mountains of Maryland, she said. With leaves changing colors and crisp mountain air, there's no better time to strap on that backpack and head for the hills.

Taking in the great outdoors is not the only reason hikers join the club. Worthing said some treks are geared toward "singles and people looking to meet other outdoorsy people."

Scenic views, good company and a chance to raise heart rates are all good reasons to get off the couch and join the club for a day outdoors. But for those interested in really getting their hands dirty, the club also manages the maintenance routines of the Appalachian Trail. Volunteers are welcome to help with cleanup along other trails throughout the state, Worthing said.

The current president of the Mountain Club of Maryland, Mike O'Connor, has incorporated a lineup of at least 50 hike leaders who are also volunteers, Worthing said.

The Mountain Club's popularity among other walking tour groups, Worthing said, can be attributed to the fact that it is a "well-run club that provides a wide variety of hikes" throughout the year.

The Mountain Club of Maryland will host a 10-mile walking tour through Baltimore's east side at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The trip starts in Patterson Park, at Eastern and South Linwood avenues, and costs $2. Call 410-303-1963 or e-mail Ellen Worthing at eworthing@netzero.net for more information.


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