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Catoctin Mountain Park: Home of Camp David and still open to the public
posted by John : July 23, 2017

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The rain has ended

History, history, history! I love history! But sometimes the hiker in me decides I need to put feet on an actual trail and forget about the past. I looked longingly at the turnoff to Catoctin Mountain Park as we buzzed by on the way from Monocacy to Gettysburg and was delighted when the family opted for an early end to the day by the pool. Why? Because there's an informal agreement that I won't complain about pool time if I can sneak off for a hike.

I'm used to driving nearly obscene distances to hike so 25 miles on a highway was no big deal. I had hoped to sneak in just before the visitor center closed so I could get passport stamps for the others, but I missed it by three minutes. No worries.

As I stepped away from the car a few raindrops fell. A half mile later the skies opened up. In the PNW it rains a lot, but not all at once. We can have an entire day of constant rain, but it's usually just a drizzle. This rain was a deluge. I could hardly see and I was thoroughly drenched. A half mile later the rain stopped and the sun came out. WHAT? So wrong. Rain is supposed to last for a long time. East Coast storms have no endurance. At least it had cooled off.

Being cooler than the surrounding areas, including Washington, D.C., is one of the reasons Camp Hi-Catoctin was chosen to eventually become Camp David, the Presidential Retreat. The temperature was supposed to be better for President Roosevelt's health and... WAIT! This isn't supposed to be about history!

Ah, but it's not all history. When the rain stopped I was ready to turn up hill. That's where a sign closes the trail when Camp David is occupied. Happily, the trails were open and I started the climb. Why is it closed during a visit? Because the trail gets really close:

There are no massive views from the trail. I saw a bit of sky at Hog Rock, Blue Ridge Summit Vista, and Thurmont Vista. Had the weather been a bit better or if I'd had more time I'd have hit Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock. Both promise better views, but an extra 2.1 miles was not happening on this evening hike.

What the trail does offer is a rolling route through the Maryland woods in complete solitude. It was amazingly lush and well signed with blazes on trees and each junction nicely marked. The trails are obviously well maintained since they didn't hold the water from the earlier storm and there were no mud holes.

So... only a little history, a good trail, and time breathing hard in the woods. Just what I needed to get a feel for the area and escape the heat of the last days. And yes, we returned the next day for the kids to get their Junior Ranger badges and passport stamps.

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