Whatever happened it was going to be impossible to get lost. Well (spoiler alert) it actually was easy to lose the trail but being in the middle of an urban area I was very familiar with I would not be stranded. All I had to do was walk out to the road and walk back that way.
Some Google Mapping revealed that the trail crossed Paper Mill road in Smedley Park at the Trolley parking lot (not a stop just a parking area for the park). I decided to start there. Sure enough I found the first marker right away. For reference the trolley tracks are behind me here.
I decided to go clockwise. This decision was not very scientific. It amounted to doing a 360 circle to see where I could see another marker.
Straight ahead on the tree about equidistant between the slides and the swings. So off I went. I spent the next 45 minutes or so tracking and backtracking through the trails in Smedley Park. I had to yield to two different groups of mountain bikers who were very polite and appropriately noisy so that they wouldn't sneak up on me. I followed blue/yellow blazes as best could. They weren't very consistent. Hence the backtracking. I ended up doing more or less a very wide 180 degree circle back to my car. Not a waste of time by any means. The park's trails are fun and enjoyable.
Not ready to give up, I pulled out a photo of a map that I downloaded from the Springfield Trail's FB page to see if I could figure out where the trail went in a counter clockwise direction. The map showed the trail hugging the trolley tracks and with that I was able to locate the trail.
The tracks are to the right of this photo; the previous marker is to the left and behind me; and the path goes up the hill. First a blue blaze and then a yellow on. Off I went. The trail had a few more blazes here although more blue than yellow and extremely overgrown most of the way making me wonder if I had wandered off course. I knew from my photo map that I would end up crossing the tracks and 320 at some point so I forged ahead with the tracks and the sound of the 320 traffic as my secondary guides.
Finally I came the this .....
At the top is route 320. The close up photo makes the climb look crazier than it was. Before ascending though I backtracked several times to see if I had missed a marker but all markers -- blue and yellow appeared to go here. To the right I could have gone under 320 --- and perhaps that's where I was supposed to go --- but the blazes stopped and the drop off to the trolley tracks deterred me from trying it.
At the top though there was no sign of any more blazes. I walked south on 320 crossing over the trolley tracks and took the station stairs to the bottom. I knew the trail crossed the tracks so at least now I was on the proper side. But no indication where the trail would go from here.
Up ahead along the tracks - in the direction the trail should go - I saw a road crossing. I decided to head for it and if I couldn't find the trail I'd follow the road out to Baltimore Pike and head back to my car that way. Walking along the trolley track bed is likely illegal and I was forcefully honked at by the Trolley that passed but the shoulder was wide so I was in no danger of being hurt (although I wasn't sure about being arrested). As I got closer to the road crossing I noticed a park to my right and recognized it from photos others had taken of this trail. It was Thompson Park and several accounts I read about the trail mentioned a new bridge for the trail there to cross the creek.
Crossing the bridge on the trail here would take me back to the Springfield Mall Trolley station. I decided to go that way so I could see where I missed and to plan on another day to start the trail from this park and try to find the trail continuing counterclockwise. The trail was brightly marked here....
If you are able to magnify this photo you'll see half a dozen brilliant yellow blazes showing the way between the trees. Great, except that after that they died off again. I found a few faded ones and those along with the knowledge that the trail should follow the tracks back to the station I made my way back. However, once at the tracks and the station I turned back and saw no indication that where I had come from was in fact the way to go.
From here I walked through the Springfield Mall backside parking lot and down into Smedley Park to my car.
All and all I spent about 2 hours wandering around. It was a nice day to be out. And except for coming out with sticker bush buds all over me -- I mean ALL OVER --- it was a fun excursion.
Keep smiling and keep moving