Our fingers chilled, we grappled with our packs as the wind howled around us. The sun was shining but there was no warmth. Just the bitter, bitter chill of a polar vortex in suburban Maryland.
And that was just the parking lot.
Okay… so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it was pretty darn cold when we started out on the trail. Six women and one dog set out to tackle the Appalachian Trail / Catoctin Trail loop (perhaps more of a horseshoe). This set of trails is one of the nicer ones I’ve done with the group – long days with some decent climbs and great views. I'd been looking forward to doing it again. Saturday was definitely the coldest of the three days we were out. Even escaping to the Cowall Shelter for lunch didn’t get us too much out of the wind, but we kept a nice and swift pace as we churned out the miles on the Appalachian Trail before arriving at our road-walking portion of the day. Rather than take the trail to the easy crossing of the road, one fearless leader may have tried to show off her ninja-like vaulting skills over the guardrail. Her dignity may still be on the side of the road.
Spirits were high as we made our way down the road and to our destination for the night – the lovely ADK shelters at the top of the Catoctin Trail. Five of us squeezed into the shelter for the night, while Denise and Haley set up a nearby hammock. I’d like to say that we had a nice, roaring fire for the night, but our sleeping bags were too warm and, well, the Cabin Fever was nearby. Mimi tried her best to keep the festive atmosphere going, but we all snuggled into our bags way too early in the evening.
The best part of the ADK shelters is watching the sunrise in the morning. We had a great view with our breakfast, and then set off to tackle our 20 mile day. Two minor detours ensued – one where we briefly wandered off trail but quickly found it by the Picnic Area and then another when we decided to follow the signs by Cunningham Falls and not cut across the stream to get to our next trailhead. Unfortunately, our model citizenship found us getting further and further away from the trailhead, and we wound up just bushwhacking our way back to the road. At least we started with good intentions.
The diversion into Catoctin Park took us past all of the highlights – Hog Rock, Thurmont Vista, Wolf Rock, Chimney Rock – and we capped it off with a climb to Cat Rock. Just past Cat Rock, we rejoined the Catoctin Trail and descended down to Hunting Creek for water and an extremely graceful crossing along logs to get us over the water. We chugged up the hill and found a flat spot for the night – once again, giving us great views of the valley below. We managed to stay up just a little later than the night before, but once again, the siren songs of our sleeping bags were a little too hard to ignore. (We tried, Mimi, we tried!)
Monday brought us into the City of Frederick Municipal Forest – the trails didn’t necessarily follow the map, and there was a bit of guesswork with a compass as we aimed for the one that headed south. (Special thanks to Sharon who provided navigation support.) Once again, the leader wowed participants with her ability to get them to a road and then figure out where the #&@^# we wound up. Fortunately, our diversion wasn’t a major one and we quickly rejoined the trail. The remaining miles flew by – maybe we were spurred by the thought of good beer waiting for us at Brewer’s Alley. One by one, we trickled into Brewer’s Alley. Maile had the best idea of the trip – could she get a mix of regular fries and sweet potato fries? The chef wasn’t buying the idea… but seriously, someone needs to do that STAT. And then tell us about so we can go.
All in all, a great weekend. GPS data to come later. Congratulations to Maile and Aileen for achieving Veteran Member status. See you all on the next trip!
Fantabulous report Jen. Of course you left out a few salient details, like the thrill of an exploding water bottle, the ecstasy of Oatmeal Stout, the high drama of a lil car 'kiss'.........
You know, I don't understand why those boardwalks near Cunningham Falls don't join up more usefully. I was exceedingly vague about that in the book chapter. If you don't bushwhack, you end up in a very awkward spot ... I expect to hear about that one someday.
I think I've always bushwhacked...
And the trails in the Frederick Municipal forest aren't so bad, are they? I think my merry group in Nov. only lost the trail twice (and we had two people who've walked the area several times).