The humidity was high, but the rains held off until we finished our 6 mile loop at Gambrill State Park. The trails were exceptionally well maintained, and even after so much recent rain we encountered no flooding. The Bootjack spring was running well, and the vegetation was lush everywhere.
Gambrill State Park is on Catoctin Mountain, on a tract of land that was originally purchased by Frederick County and donated to the City of Frederick for a municipal park. In September, 1934, the City of Frederick passed the park to the State, and it was later named “Gambrill State Park” in honor of James H. Gambrill, Jr., described on the MD state website as “a Frederick resident and leading advocate of the conservation of natural resources.”
Today’s hike was led by Pat with Mickey; Jeff with Katy; and Cindy with Belle. Joining us were newcomers Phyllis with Cody; Joe with Hunter; Karen and Victor with Loki. Regular K9TB hikers included: Shirley with Princess; and Sarah and Eric with Toby and his friend Poppy. We did the chocolate and biscuits routine at the trailhead, but it was Sarah’s trail mix at the North Frederick overlook that really hit the spot. The group voted her club hostess!
We hiked a large loop starting with a downhill and then a long uphill, which became longer when Pat and Mickey blew on by the next trail junction! Jeff, who was sweeping, radioed a heads-up and the fast hikers retraced their steps back to join the rest of the group for the short climb to Bootjack spring. Dogs and people were delighted to rest and drink the coool water. Then we took off on the newly re-routed black trail which is now a series of switchbacks up to the North Frederick overlook where we enjoyed a nice breeze and an even nicer view of the Frederick Valley. Everyone was sort of hanging out on the native stone benches built in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. Cody sat up and begged. Jeff took some pictures. Sarah shared her special trail mix. Suddenly we heard a soft whining which became grumbling and grew louder and more insistent. Belle had rested enough and was eager to get the show on the road again!
So off we went. It was all downhill from there. Literally. We hiked out wide on the yellow trail, stopping at the overlook to see Middletown Valley, and continuing on down past the Visitor Center. Club naturalist Cindy pointed out Indian pipe stem and explained that it’s not a mushroom but a true flower which is pollinated by small insects, such as the clouds of gnats we were standing in. She also talked about the kniess rock we saw that had flecks of mica and veins of quartz. This rock is formed by pressure deep inside the earth and gradually, over millions of years, hardens and works its way to the surface where we see it as slate.
We turned onto the red trail and went steeply downhill, past the sign warning mountain bikers about the steep descent, and finally the trail flattened out again and we ambled back to the parking area.
There are many varieties of wildlife in the park. Today we saw chipmunks, squirrels and deer but no bears or coyotes or snakes. And we heard songbirds but didn’t see any of the birds of prey. We didn’t see many people or mountain bikes either. It was peaceful in the forest, and we were fortunate to have it pretty much to ourselves.
(click on images for larger pictures)