Catoctin Trail Trek
(map courtesy Potomac Appalachian Trail Club)
At 0530 Caren and I start from the Hamburg Road crossing of the Catoctin Trail. We head north past half a dozen ponds, up and down countless ridges, across boggy marshes, and through shallow (but cold!) mountain streams. Seven miles later we arrive at a dramatic overview just inside Cunningham Falls State Park. We eat, drink, swat at gnats, and take photos before commencing the return journey.

2008-05-14 - Rock Creek Park

~9 miles @ ~12 min/mi

A free midweek evening means it's time to run! At 6pm I set off at the end of the front steps and trot the ~3 miles (via the CCT to RCT) to Rock Creek Park, where the Western Ridge Trail beckons muddy from heavy rains a few days ago, path churned by horses. Christina phones as I'm walking up a long hill; she warns of approaching rains. Faster runners pass me. At the intersection with Pinehurst Branch I start to continue south along the WRT but come to my senses and take PBT eastward. Tributary streams are swollen and I slip off a stone at the third water crossing, wetting my left foot. At Beach Drive I turn south, cross Rock Creek on an ancient concrete pedestrian bridge, and proceed upstream on the severely-eroded Valley Trail. Fallen trees interrupt the path and clog the creek. I walk on more hills and probably average 13-14 min/mi for the trail segments overall, but on the paved path I'm in the 10.5-11 min/mi zone. Just before 8pm I'm home.

2008-05-17 - CJSVT with Mary

6+ miles @ ~14 min/mi

Mary Ewell is waiting at the River Rd parking area for the Cabin John Stream Valley Trail when I arrive at 0730. We strap on our gear and trot northward, enjoying the cool morning and chatting about our various pains and training woes. A huge tree lies fallen across the trail half a mile upstream of our start, but I manage to pick my way through gaps between the branches while Mary clambers mostly across the top of the mass, trying not to fall through onto me. After we cross Bradley Blvd (~18 minutes in) and do another half mile Mary picks up the pace. Muddy puddles partially block the path, but we pick our way around them while trying to avoid poison ivy. On the other side of Seven Locks Rd we join the blue-blazed CJSVT outbound via a driveway-like connector, climb the hill, cross Democracy Blvd, and continue a bit farther north before turning back (~50 minute mark). On the return trip we find the proper branch of the trail on the east side of Seven Locks after following a false path, then avoid the worst of the bogs by staying on the sidewalk until a rude semi-paved driveway leads us back to the CJT on the south side of a tributary stream. An off-road cyclist meets us near Bradley, and again when we've just returned to our cars (~95 min). He tells us about an alternate trail on top of the eastern ridge that let him avoid the fallen tree, and as Mary practices her modest beach-towel quick-change routine describes another good loop trail near the Capital Crescent Trail and the Dalecarlia Reservoir on the DC-MD border. Mary gives me some banana bread + chocolate chip muffins she has baked — they're scrumptious!

2008-05-18 - Catoctin Trail with Caren

14+ miles @ ~20 min/mi

At 0450 Caren Jew awaits me at the Clopper Rd parking lot off I-270. Soon my gear is stashed in her car and we're off to Gambrill State Park, where in 2006 on 21 October and 24 December we ran a segment of the rugged Catoctin Trail. We didn't quite make it to Hamburg Rd either time, so today Caren drives us there. Starting at dawn we proceed northward through some lovely woods and past Delauter Rd (52 min) and Fishing Creek Rd (40 min) to the scenic outlook point (45 min) marked "View" on Caren's map, look about, then return at almost exactly the same pace. On the pathway we encounter some slightly-scary looking mountain men (Caren and I are both happy to have each other's company! — we're reminded of the movie Deliverance), a pack of five fast trail runners, and a similar number of off-road bikers. We talk about our favorite songs and books, and I synopsize the plot of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (Dark Lord makes Ring, Dark Lord loses Ring, Hobbit finds Ring, Hobbit destroys Ring). Caren slips on a stick and sits down far too abruptly for comfort, fortunately without major injury. We discover that our pace is only a few minutes too slow to have made some of the cutoffs for the Catoctin 50k. Unfortunately that race is more than twice as long and takes place in late summer when heat and humidity are as daunting as the rocky hills.

(cf. Thirteen Eagles (2008-01-28), Seneca Creek Stumble (2008-02-03), Comfortably Numb (2008-03-13), Sunrise Service at Seneca Creek (2008-03-24), Sharp Focus (2008-04-30), Ducky Rock Creek Trail (2008-05-12), ...) - ^z - 2008-05-19

(correlates: ArtfulQuotes, 2008-09-18 - Anacostia Evening Loop, 2006-12-24 - Catoctin Trail II, ...)