Maryland Outdoor Club
Sun, Nov 27 2005 - Difficult Catoctin Mountain Hike (View Original Event Details)

Event Organizer(s): Jeff Schneider, Michael Strzelecki
Participants:Jeff Schneider, Michael Strzelecki, Nicholas Cirri, Christine Edell, Jennifer Hansen, Alice Chan, Lucas Fisher, dzung nguyen, Herb Volker, Andre McCabe, KC Yi, Chris Whalen

Write Up:
Chilly weather, an early start, steep climbs, and a rocky footpath did not dissuade 14 hearty hikers from challenging one of Maryland's toughest trails. The Catoctin Trail runs for about 27 miles between Frederick and Thurmont. It spans Gambrill State Park, state game lands, Cunningham Falls State Park, and Catoctin Mountain Park. On this particular day, the MOC tackled an unusually rugged section in Cunningham Falls State Park.

The day's first order of business was to reduce the hike's length from 15 miles to about 11 miles. This provided hikers not accustomed to such difficult terrain a shorter bail-out option, and also allowed the leader--a fervent Ravens fan--to catch the second half of the debacle against the Bengals. The hike began in a most ungracious manner, with a two-mile climb up Bob's Hill, the highest point on the Catoctin Trail. The elevation gain of almost 1,000 feet stoked the furnaces and burned the thighs. A decent lookout atop offered a reward--crisp morning views of Carroll and Frederick County farmland.

Next, a flat, windy section of trail led across a high plateau. It was here we departed from the Catoctin Trail in favor of a side path to another popular lookout. Cat Rock is a conical tower of granite boulders that rises above the tree line. We rested our legs and sandwiches were had by all. This stretch served as a reminder of how barren this trail becomes once the leaves drop and the touristy hikers stay clear. Cat Rock is a popular hangout of rattlesnakes in warm weather, but there were no problems on this day with the temperatures hovering just above freezing.

It is here where the group opted to forgo another lookout at Chimney Rock (in Catoctin Mountain Park), and instead catch a short, poorly marked side trail off the mountain to Catoctin Hollow Road. Lovely views of Hunting Creek Lake made the tough descent special. Following a mile-or-so jaunt up the road, hikers rejoined the Catoctin Trail and prepped for one last ascent and descent of Bob's Hill--this one more gentle and calf-friendly.

Hikers spaced out over the final miles, with some attacking the final downhill and others easing in to the finish. Fatigued thighs, however, were the one thread common to all hikers. Eleven miles on the Catoctin can be brutal not only for the inexperienced, but for seasoned mountain goats as well. A thought was passed around of tagging four or five miles onto the hike by heading east on the Catoctin Trail to yet another high-slung lookout, but this was scrapped for the better goal of nachos and beer at Brewer's Alley, in Frederick. The ales were the perfect tonic for a tough workout. Word is the mahi mahi was tasty, but not enough to compensate for the small portion.

--Michael Strzelecki

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