Big Hikes and Little Streams

We’ve continued our adventures in Catoctin Mountain Park with great gusto! Melissa and Flint were here for the long weekend, but after they left it was up to Jed and I to explore the rest on our own. Yesterday we did a hike up to Cat Rock, which is actually in Cunningham Falls State Park. It was a lot of up for Jed, but he powered through and made it all the way to the top for our lunch. And there we were met with a few surprises. First, lots of millipedes, probably 4 to 5 inches each. I also managed to get close to one of the skinks, which normally run away so fast that they just look like a little brown and blue blur. But most exciting of all was this guy:

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Those of you who are up on your snake species will recognize this as a Copperhead, one of the two venomous snakes in the park (the other is a pine rattler). This was a very young one, probably just 14-16 inches long, and fortunately he didn’t move the whole time we were there, which was fine with us!

Jed and I have also been spending a little time on Big Hunting Creek. Jed’s been tossing in a line and I’ve been wandering the shoreline, searching for the right photos. I really think that these quiet wetland creeks are coming to define the park for me. Sure, it has some nice hikes to high lookouts, but it seems like the core experiences of the park are nestled in these valleys. At least that is where I have found the most life and peace.

So, we’re wrapping up our trip soon. I plan on visiting a few more of my favorite spots again between rain showers (the sun decided to hide in our last few days here) and then it will be back to home. I’m including a few shots below that I’m liking right now, with some simple edits tied out on them. It probably isn’t how they’ll end up, but at least you can see some of my experimentation in process.

Rest at the Edge

Last night I got the chance to hike up to Wolf Rock and Chimney Rock by myself while Melissa watched the boys after dinner. I took the much steeper trail than what Jed and I had taken earlier to Wolf Rock, but it was more direct. It was slightly strenuous, but it was nice to be completely alone. In fact, I only saw 4 other hikers the whole time, and they were all leaving the trail just as I was starting up.

I revisited Wolf Rock, this time approaching from a different angle, getting much closer to the “wolf” itself. I can definitely see how it got its name. I think if I were in to climbing, I would have been tempted to climb it or one of the many other places along that ridge.

Then I proceeded on to Chimney Rock. It has probably the best view of the park and consists of several tall rocks protruding out on a high ridge. It was great to have time to slowly explore my way around the rocks and figure out a way to the top. I found that I had to navigate through a narrow cut through the rock in order to get to the very edge. Once there I kicked back and enjoyed a little time at the edge, looking over the whole mountain and valley. Below I shared a few photos snapped with my phone along the way.

Catoctin Excitement on the Weekend

We have been keeping busy! Jed and I have been hiking and fishing every day, slowly but surely reaching all corners of the park. And now Melissa and Flint are here for a long weekend of even more hiking, camping, art and of course, s’mores. I’ll just share a few images I’ve been making because it’s time to fix dinner and the trails are calling my name!

Experimental Directions

I’m writing this on Wednesday evening, sitting in the library and soaking in the cool after a hot day (90!). Jed and I have managed to explore a lot of the park and despite some scrapes and bruises, he’s powered through and done an awesome job (next time you see him you should tell him so). Today we even did the Wolf Rock hike. It’s not too far in terms of mileage (3 miles round trip), but there is significant elevation gain and lots of rocky, uneven terrain. I didn’t get the chance to edit any of those photos yet, but I’m sure I’ll get to post them later.

Now I’m at the point where it would be helpful to decide what type of imagery I want to focus on for the park. That will help my decision making process for what I hike to much easier. So, I’ll share with you 1 style of editing I’ve been trying out. One feature of Catoctin that has jumped out is the vibrant green everywhere. I’m not sure if it is always like that or if it’s just the time of year, but the leaves, grass and every plant in between seems to be the same shade of bright yellow-green. So much so that it’s almost overwhelming in color photos. So I’ve been experimenting with a digital process that emulates black and white infrared photography. Now, to any purists out there, it’s probably not even close to the real thing, but if I view it not as emulation but rather just one more possibility for how I process a digital image, then I’m fine with the results. So, I’ll post some samples below. Let me know what you think.

Little Explorations in Catoctin

We’re now full tilt exploring Catoctin. Yesterday we hiked to Cunningham Falls. Melissa carried Flint, I carried all the camera stuff and Jed blazed the trail. The falls were impressive, but since it was a weekend it was pretty crowded. I think Jed and I will take an alternate route there another day this week.

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Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail

Melissa and Flint headed back home last night because she’s still working, but she’ll be back for a long weekend next week. This morning Jed and I went to Hunting Creek Lake and he fished for a little (but came up empty). Then we explored a little of the William Houck Campground and the surrounding area before heading home. In the afternoon we hiked the Blue Blazes Whiskey Still trail, which is where I’ll be leading my photography walk later next week. It’s just an easy trail meandering along a gentle stream, but I’m looking forward to the walking tour I’ll be delivering to hopefully inspire some budding photographers.

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William Houck Recreation Area

Last, I thought I should mention all the wildlife we’ve seen so far. Nothing huge, but lots of variety for only a couple days. In no particular order: Pileated Woodpecker, Baltimore Oriel, Eastern Milksnake, a giant millipede, and then of course frogs, trout and a salamander. Hopefully there is more yet to come!

Arrived in Catoctin!

We’re here!

We arrived in Thurmont MD at Catoctin Mountain Park yesterday evening. It was pouring raining the whole drive, but when we got here the rain let up enough for us to go on our first exploration hike on Thurmont Vista trail. It’s a quick half mile up to the top of a ridge that overlooks the town of Thurmont far below.

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The forest struck us as an incredible shade of yellow green.

Our first impression was that the forest is an incredible shade of yellow green. I think since the tree trunks were still all dark from the rain, the leaves really jumped out at us as being astoundingly vivid.

We’re excited today to meet with the park rangers and get the lay of the land a little better. I’m looking forward to all the sights and adventures we’ll find in the coming weeks and I’m happy to be sharing them with you. I won’t have regular access to internet, so I can’t promise every day updates, but I will be posting as often as possible, especially to Instagram. So be sure you’re following along @bpanter.

Off to more fun!