AT-Mt. Catoctin Trail, 50-mile Loop Trip Report ("Booty Heaven")

Posted by Michael Martin on

When all was said and done, it was Jen, Carrie, Brian, and I who met up at Grosvenor this past Saturday morning. For awhile there, we had hoped to have more, but DougW was feeling under the weather, Shelby had to do a business call on Sunday (we were going to try to do it from a mountain top, but no dice), and Twinkle Toes was laid up with a swollen ankle from the previous week.

So we four, we happy four, rolled out from DC, congratulating ourselves for staying close to the city in January. The weather looked splendid, the anchor car was soon parked (with the full permission of the authorities) at Gambril State Park, and we were at the trailhead for the AT at Annapolis Rock before my coffee could cool. There was a moment of regret that we did not start at Turners Gap, but it turned out that that decision was probably for the best.

We sallied north along the AT in great spirits, with the sun shining down on us from a blue-bird sky (very little snow and ice on the ground). The 13 or so miles of the AT went by very quickly--Annapolis Rocks, Black Rock, Wolfsville Road, Foxville Road, to Ravens Rock Road. We had lunch in the sun, and saw way more backpackers (mainly headed south to Harpers Ferry) than we would have guessed. In the afternoon, we had to do our spell of roadwalking. We discussed the difference between Class 1 and Class 2 fun as we walked up Hells Delight Road. Brian pondered his plans to offer specialty trips, such as "Skirts Only" trips. I told him he'd end up with a bunch of hairy guys in kilts.

Soon, we reached the Mt. Catoctin Trail parking lot on Mt. Zion Road. Instead of following it, we turned north and nosed out the Adirondacks shelters I had reserved for us. We slept in the shelters that night, and enjoyed a pleasant campfire. Here it was revealed that three of us had Feathered Friends booties, but one of us did not. Carrie Graff, in her boots, was victimized by endless booty jokes, which somehow became the trip's theme. She earned her trail name, Booty-Less, and it stuck. I believe, however, that she has a pair of FF booties in the mail now.

Ordinarily, having a few women along raises the tone of our conversation. Somehow, that didn't happen this time. ;)

Sunday morning, we woke at 6am and were on the trail at 7:15am, just before sunrise. We cruised south along the Catoctin Trail, making nice time to Cunningham Falls. Here, I took us on a long extra detour, figuring that all the neat stuff to see wasn't actually on the Catoctin Trail. We visited the falls, then Hog Rock, Blue Ridge Vista, Thurmont Vista, Wolf Rock, Chimney Rock, Cat Rock, then rejoined the CT at Bob's Hill. So, this is where the extra mileage came from. The views, though, were just too nice to be missed, and though the weather was a little blustery, it was fine walking weather.

After a sharp descent from Bob's Hill and a creek crossing that was good practice for Sweden, the GPS turned 20 on the ensuing ascent. We got off the trail and found a stealthy little site. Amusingly, we actually found a site that someone else had used. (The stretch from Gambril to Manor is really rather long for there to be "no camping" along its entire length, and we saw signs of lots of improvised camping. They'd do better to establish a backcountry site. I'm going to suggest this to someone.) We talked about Jen's plan to climb Mt. Washington this coming weekend, and fell asleep to the sounds of the "Booty Song," which Booty-Less somehow had on her phone. Discount booty, chocolate booty, doublewide booty .... You get the idea.

Monday morning, we were up at 6am on the trail about 7:30am after a gorgeous sunrise. It was colder and things were freezing up; my shoes and socks were one frozen mess and I had to warm them in my jacket while I ate breakfast. A note: I slept both nights in my O-Ware bivy (shelter the first night, tarp the second), and really liked it. No condensation, and I was warm. It accomodates both a winter pad and bag. We soon learned that there was more than "6 miles" left. After about 2 miles, I tried to use my pack to block the "12 mile" sign we encountered, but they were way too smart for me. Everybody laughed and kept on walking.

We reached Gambril State Park in the afternoon, with a final split of 16-20-14. A big shout out to Booty-Less, who walked her first 20-mile day in January with winter gear--a major accomplishment, especially when you consider how torn up her feet were. Nine blisters, three hot spots, and one missing toe nail. Serious toughness to keep walking through that, and well earned veteran member status. And she had the heaviest pack. As I told her, the pain is temporary, the glory eternal.

We retraced the shuttle and enjoyed good beer in Frederick before heading home.

All in all, a wonderful, demanding trip with the best company in the world!

MM (U-Turn)

Michael Martin posted on

Just a little update. When I uploaded the .gpx file to Google Earth, it showed that we walked 46.8 miles total, with 8,868 ft. of gain and 8,736 ft. of loss.

I don't fully understand how the handheld unit reads the same file as 50.3 miles and Google Earth comes up with 46.8 with the exact same set of points. But that does seem to be the pattern.

Anyway, by the end of the weekend, I plan to share the Google Earth file as well as the draft chapter with you folks who walked the trip.


Carrie Graff posted on

Alas, one more casualty to the great boot failure of 2013.....lost another toenail at swim class tonight from the damage I am missing both pinky toenails! That's never happened before! Doesn't show up well in a photo so not sure I can post it in the injury forum.

Michael Martin posted on

Poor thing!

How are your feet feeling, generally? Have you tried out your new shoes?

If you want, you could post one of my "booty" shots from the end of the trip to the injury forum, even though it may not capture the damage. I was actually thinking that could become a good resource for people, as well as being a funny place to trade war stories.


John Callahan posted on


Google Earth is not including the elevation gain and loss in the total distance traveled, I think.

(8868 + 8736) = 17,604/5280 = 3.33 miles

46.8 + 3.33 = 50.13 miles (the remaining difference .17/50.3 is only 0.33%)

"Just a little update. When I uploaded the .gpx file to Google Earth, it showed that we walked 46.8 miles total, with 8,868 ft. of gain and 8,736 ft. of loss." Your GPS calculated 50.3 miles.


Michael Martin posted on

Ha, John, you're brilliant!

But you have no idea what a hassle this little glitch in Google Earth is going to cause me.

Are we going to see you on the trail, soon?


Carrie Graff posted on

Told you! My feet knew we hiked all 50 miles! I think I can fix your distance may not like the fix or it may not work for you.

[quote]Ha, John, you're brilliant!

But you have no idea what a hassle this little glitch in Google Earth is going to cause me.

Are we going to see you on the trail, soon?


Michael Martin posted on

Carrie, will you be available to chat maps on Saturday? I'm on my way home tomorrow morning.

Carrie Graff posted on

I'm actually away this weekend on a cabin trip. There is a way to "calculate" the extra distance Google Earth isn't calculating a la the previous message, but that's a bit clunky. I'd like to match the distances you have calculated in Google Earth for your waypoints (trail junctions, campsites, etc.) from a previous trip against what Topo 9.0 would give me with the same .gpx file and see how far off (if at all) it is. Not sure if that would interest you.

Michael Martin posted on

We'll have to do something like that for the eight chapters that are already written, but I'd like to establish a better workflow for the next 22 chapters so that things go a little more smoothly. Perhaps we should just switch entirely to Delorme's software? I imagine you will nod your head vigorously at that.