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For this considering an outing to Nighthawk700's new hydrocaching series on Lake Roland, in Robert E. Lee park in southern Baltimore County, Simon and I tackled them yesterday, and here is our after action report:
Our total distance paddled was 3.06 miles, and the length of our trip was 2 hours and 36 minutes, including time searching for retrieving and logging hides, and taking photos. Launch: The posted parking coordinates are at the boat launch area, and are really the only place available to put in. Regulations require boaters wear a life preserver at all times, and children under 18 must be accompanied by adult. No motors of any kind. No permit require. No trailering. There is a cement quay wall there with old iron rings to tie up to; not ideal for kayak or canoe launch, as there is a fair drop depending on the water level in the lake. Directly to the left of this quay wall is a very small beachhead from which we launched. It would not be overtaxing to portage your vessel from anywhere in the parking lot; it is quite small. Available parking (at least on a nice Sunday afternoon) may be tight. Park is open dawn to dusk. Caches: We found them all with little trouble, and our individual experience with each one is well documented in our logs. Navigation: The launch point, and the sixth hide in the series are both just above the dam. While not inherently obvious, there IS a current pulling you towards the dam, so self-awareness and good judgment is the order of the day. The first hide in the series is also in this area of the lake, although further upstream. Good deep water abounds, with no shoaling, but the possibility of snags on fallen trees in areas along the shore. There is one cordoned off swimming area for dogs as a part of the local dog park on the northwest side of the lake opposite the boat launch. The remainder of the hides are up-lake requiring passage underneath the railroad bridge currently used by the light rail system that runs north-south in and out of Baltimore up to Hunt Valley. This is an active rail line, and it is prudent to avoid being under the bridge when trains pass overhead. On our visit, the clearance above my head (6 foot man sitting in kayak) was roughly 14-18 inches. This will vary with water level on the lake. There are also numerous swallows nests within the bridge structure, and they dart in and out; it would be easy to be startled by them , duck and roll your vessel, so be forewarned. Once through the bridge narrows, you are on the upper portion of the impoundment. As you traverse to the north, the water shoals, and stumps and fallen logs are visible both above and below the water. Polarized sunglasses are of considerable utility to reduce the glare and see beneath the water. Numerous turtles, both snappers and terrapins were sighted. For the hides that were along the eastern side, we were sometimes in 6"-8" of water, but were able to paddle all the way to every hide. The most challenging hide was #4, "End of the line." This requires attentive navigation up a shoaley and snag ridden narrow channel that will clearly vary and change depending on lake height, run-off and currents over time. Current was not an issue here, although it was noted in these upper reaches of the Jones Falls. Something of a maze to find your way back here, we found that the western passage was the only navigable one on our visit. We also attempted "By Boot or by Boat" on the way out, but decided in the interest of staying dry that boot was a better choice. No real good way to land a kayak at the old railroad structure where this cache is hidden, although we did get within forty one feet of ground zero. This is a fine series of hides well worth your time; we think kayak would be a better choice here than canoe, due to vertical clearance issues at the bridge, along the shoreline and enroute to hide #4.