Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Short Hike in Catoctin Mountain Park

December is always busy and sometimes the whole month will get by without a hike, at least until Christmas is over.  Yesterday, we found ourselves with a few hours and nice weather, so we decided to make a quick getaway.  We met WanderMindfully and drove to the visitor center at Catoctin Mountain Park.  We started around noon and crossed the highway for a mile-long hike along Big Hunting Creek.  There isn't really a trail along that section of the creek, but there is a pretty distinct fishermens path along most of it.  The woods were fairly open, if a little muddy, so it wasn't too difficult to make our way down the creek.  We stopped for lunch beside a pretty little waterfall.

After a mile, we crossed the road again and began the climb up to Chimney Rock.  We had to quickly shed layers as we warmed up from the climb:  short sleeves in December.  Remarkable.  I'm not complaining, but it is a little weird.  At Chimney Rock, we found that the valleys were still filled with hazy fog, giving the mountains a blue cast that is usually associated with those mountains further south and west.  We continued north to Wolf Rock, a large outcrop which was part of the seafloor 500 million years ago (per the sign at the outcrop).  There is no view at Wolf Rock, but the outcrop itself is pretty interesting, with large blocks of quartzite and deep cracks.

From Wolf Rock, we continued to Thurmont Vista and then on to Hog Rock, before descending back to the car at the visitor center just before sunset.  Our hike was only 7.5 miles, but it was a pleasant walk through the woods and a nice break from pre-Christmas preparations.

Pictures (click to enlarge):

 The view southwest from Chimney Rock.
 A small waterfall at our lunch stop on Big Hunting Creek.
 Big Hunting Creek.
 A fungus on a downed log.
 The trail near Hog Rock.
The view east from Hog Rock in the fading light.

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