Sat, May 21 2005 - Mod.-Diff. Day Hike at Catoctin Mountain (View Original Event Details)|
|Participants:||Leo Seung, John Fogle, Kirsten Day, Amy Hatfield, Sarah Dannenfelser, Herb Volker, Jeff Schneider, Theresa Vorreyer, Liz Mountz, Tammy Weber, Jong Kadesch, Donna Westervelt, Paula Moran, Steven Dieterle|
The preceding day's weather cast an element of suspense over the 24 hours leading up to our hike at Catoctin Mountain National Park near Thurmont, MD. Saturday, however, dawned bright and clear, that most positive of omens every organizer hopes for to start things right. In fact, it was merely the first in a chain of fortuitous events that made this hike go just about as smoothly as anyone could want.
Anticipating having to wait a bit for all the carpoolers to arrive at the Howard County meeting spot, I was somewhat taken aback when everyone showed up either early or on time at the park 'n ride. This immediately put us ahead of schedule, and that's NOT a complaint, folks! Consequently we carpoolers arrived at the park's visitor center half an hour early and were able to take our time gathering the remainder of the group. They arrived individually in short order, and when Jeff pulled up right at 9:30 on the dot we had the complete group of 15 hikers--all on time! I would like to express my appreciation to everyone for their punctuality, and even to those who couldn't make it and had canceled their registrations. All those in the latter category had the courtesy to cancel through channels on the web site. This resulted in 100% attendance per the roster and not a single no-show! Perhaps I was the beneficiary of beginner's luck as this was my first MOC lead, but in any case such an occurrence is very gratifying to any event organizer.
We began our trek shortly after 9:30. Maryland Route 77 divides two large areas of park land: Cunningham Falls State Park to the south and Catoctin Mountain National Park to the north. Most of our hike was to take place within the latter, but a visit to the falls on the south side was certainly on our agenda! From the visitor's center we started west on the Falls Trail and paralleled MD 77 for nearly a mile and a half. At this point we crossed the road and went a short distance in the state park to Cunningham Falls. Here the group took a break for snacks, and as the rocks were mostly dry a few did a bit of light rock scrambling to enjoy the falls closer up. After perhaps 15 or 20 minutes we saddled up and re-crossed the road to resume our hike on the Catoctin side.
We were immediately confronted by a steady climb on the trail northward that gave everyone a bit of an impromptu cardio workout. But soon the trail leveled off and we made our way past Hog Rock, continuing onward at a good pace. As the forest was almost completely leafed out our hike was mostly shaded, rendering sunscreen largely optional for this event. We took short breaks at a wayside rest room (where at least one hiker admired the exterior architecture of the toilet building. The interior, as several of us can attest, was somewhat less impressive), then further along the trail at two lookouts. These were Blue Ridge Summit overlook and Thurmont vista. At this latter I received an inquiry as to the approximate time remaining until lunch. This is a clear danger signal that leaders ignore at their own peril! Everyone was promptly assured that our next stop--Wolf Rock--would be a good setting for our lunch break.
So it was that we began our main break of the day around 12:30 PM at what is arguably the best-known feature of Catoctin Mountain Park. The name "Wolf Rock" was purportedly coined by settlers long ago who thought the formation resembled a giant wolf sleeping. Whether this may be attributed to the settlers' keen awareness of the natural world around them or to the presence of mind altering drugs even during colonial times is a matter of debate among historians. In any event, the formation is massive and contains huge crevices. It also has plenty of room for visitors to sit and enjoy a leisurely lunch. We ate, talked, laughed, watched the soaring birds, and several of us explored the rocks--keeping a wary eye out for snakes or sudden drop-offs. Eventually it was time to move on, so biddin
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