August 28, 2013

8/17/13 - Catoctin Mountain Park

Ever heard of Catoctin Mountain Park?  Ever heard of Camp David in Maryland? Where the Presidential Retreat is?  Camp David is in Catoctin Mountain Park.  (I think it's in that big section on the park map where there are no roads shown.  Not that I'd suggest checking it out...the Secret Service would probably get all testy or something.)

The park was created during the Depression as Catoctin Recreational Demonstration Area, a place for people to reconnect with nature.  They created 46 RDAs in 24 states, and most eventually became state or national parks.  (As many national parks as we've been in, I never heard of that program before.  Weird, huh?)

The WPA and the CCC both had projects here that gave jobs to hundreds of local men in the 1930s.  During WWII it was used as a rehabilitation center for sailors and marines (proving once again how healing nature is).  They also set up a training facility for the Office of Strategic Command (whatever that is).  President Roosevelt (Franklin D., not Teddy) set up a retreat there--because Presidents need nature too.
They call it a mountain park, although I was hard pressed to find one.  (Mt. Rainier wasn't visible through the sunshine that day.)  The Appalachian Trail does cross Hwy. 77 just west of the park, so the Appalachians must be around somewhere.  Highest elevation in the park is 1,500'.

The ranger at the Visitor Center (prettiest place we saw all day) suggested the Falls Nature Trail.  (We should have gone on the more interesting Blue Blazes Whiskey Still Trail, but our hindsight vision hadn't kicked in yet.)  
At one point, George was either lagging way behind or I was forging way ahead when I saw a big black wolf bouncing across a rise off to the right!  "Wow, a wolf!" I thought.  Then I thought, "They don't have wolves here, Mary Jane.  Some stupid idiot's probably got a Newfoundland running around without a leash."  Then didn't think anymore about it until...
...until I caught up with some people who were stopped and looking out in the woods, all excited about a bear!  We all stood watching it bounding off in the same direction as my wolf/dog.  (This critter was much smaller than the one I'd seen; George said it was a cub.)  Wow!  If that was a bear cub, then the Newfie I saw must have actually been his mom!  So after all the tree stumps I've identified as bears in forests all over the country, I now have a confirmed sighting of a bear!!!!!   (However, since I initially thought it was a dog, I have no pictures.  If you'd like to see one, you can get a pretty good idea if you look at a fairly largish tree stump back in the shadows next time you're in a forest.  Works for me!)

 It was a rather nothing walk through woods too close to the highway on to Cunningham Falls (although we didn't actually get TO them.  After crossing Hwy 77, there's a boardwalk trail that dead-ends up with a very distant view of not-very-big Cunningham Falls through the trees.

Look between the trees to see the falls!

Didn't work?  How's this?
After a drive along Park Central Road through the park, we headed back to West Virginia.  We did make a small detour to the C&O Canal Towpath on the way.

Link to more pics of Catoctin Mountain park

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