On a warm summer morning, Maryland’s Indian Head Rail Trail is buzzing with activity. Not with the two-wheeled or two-footed variety; people and their machines are scarce on this weekday. It’s the winged, finned, shelled, furred and other forms of life that dominate a marshy stretch alongside this 13-mile asphalt path.
Red-headed woodpeckers flit back and forth between their roosts in dead tree trunks and stands of oak across the trail. Frogs thrump and squeak. Fish splash briefly to the surface of the water. A red-winged blackbird darts into a stand of cattails, calling raucously. Bluebirds and cardinals sing as they move through the trees. Painted turtles sunbathe on a log floating only a few feet from a beaver lodge. Dragonflies hover and zoom out of sight. Down the trail, a young deer browses in the grass while rabbits hop for cover. The sweet scent of lizard’s tail—a plant whose flower has a fragrance somewhere between jasmine and honeysuckle—washes through the air.
“This is the first rail-trail conversion in southern Maryland,” Roland says proudly. “Since 2009, we’ve probably had close to 170,000 visitors, and it’s been very well-accepted by our community. We’re seeing families, runners, bikers, birders, photographers, artists. It has been really nice.”