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Catoctin Trail, MD Backpacking Trip

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This was a 27 mile, 1 overnight trip that covered the entire Catoctin Trail in MD. Paticipants in this hike, which occured on February 9-11, 1996 were: Jerry Robey, who led the hike, Mike Calabrese, Doug Knowles, Keith and Nikki Patterson and Marty Manzano.
View from US15 of the Catoctin Mountains, MD

At right, view from US15 of the Catoctin Mountains, MD
By Mike Calabrese

This trail transverses Catoctin National Park, Cunningham Falls State Park, Frederick County watershed area and Gambrill State Park. The weather was surprisingly warm this weekend. That was good because I was really dreading camping out in cold weather. We all met at Jerry R's house at 7am Saturday morning and drove to the youth area campground parking lot to leave some of the cars. We then shuttled people to the northern trailhead and Jerry R's wife drove his car back home.

Once we were all at the trailhead we started out on a 12.5 mile hike the first day. The elevation changes were pretty steep but we did OK. There was also ice and snow on the trail. Doug K was the only one who came prepared
with crampons so while the rest of us were falling on our rear ends Doug K had good traction. We passed close to Camp David, the presidential retreat and Cunningham Falls.

A miracle happened on this hike. I attached my winter jacket to the back of my backpack as we were heading down the trail . When we got to camp that night my jacket was not on my backpack. I was really upset at the prospect of freezing overnight and having to buy a new jacket. However, when we were setting up camp a car drove by our site and a couple asked us if any of us had lost a jacket. They passed us day hiking, picked up my jacket and were trying to find the owner. I was very grateful for the good deed done by this couple. It saved me from freezing, having to buy a new jacket and being very grumpy the rest of this trip.

The scenery was sort of errie in that there was no foliage on the trees.

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18.5 years later I returned here to RV camp at the Manor Area

Also, alot of trees were damaged either by winter storms or by Gypsy Moth infestation.

The next morning Jerry R's wife came by and brought us water. Some us us decided to stow our gear in her car and pick it up that night at the end of the hike. It was a good thing that we did. The second day would have us hiking 15 miles over some pretty good elevation
View of Little Hunting Creek, MD

At left, view of Little Hunting Creek, MD
By Mike Calabrese.

changes. Lack of blazing and blowdowns also made this second day very challenging. There was a good view looking down on the state fish hatchery and US 15. It was so warm out for February that I was sweating in my longsleaved shirt. However, the water in the streams was nice and cold and refreshing!

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The scenery was very nice for this time of the year. The warm weather brought out alot of mountain bikers that day. I have mixed feelings about sharing a trail with mountain bikers. Being a mountain biker myself I think that hikers and bikers can coexist on trails, provided that proper ediquette is used by both groups. However, the trail is more peaceful with just hikers when you are hiking on it.

Towards the end of the hike we all got very tired. We were also battling against an early sunset. I was the last one to reach the southern trailhead at around 6:45 pm that night. (Keep in mind that we started at 7:30 that morning. However, as tired as I was we all went to Jerry R's that night and his wife Anne fixed a fantastic dinner for all of us that hit the spot.

This was an interesting hike. However, I would recommend this as a backpacking trip only for those that are experienced. The restrictions placed on camping by the state of Maryland as well as the length of this trail make it possible to do in 2 days, but probably more enjoyable in 3 days or hiked in sections as a day hike.

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Mike C

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