Posts filed under ‘Maryland’

Mama DENIED! (Family Hike: Cunningham Falls)

A friend of mine told me a story about her 15-year old son. One day she gave him a choice–

  1. He could take out the trash
    – or –
  2. He could give his mother a hug.

“He chose to take out the trash!” my friend laughed.

I knew it was coming, but I thought with a 20 month old son, I had a good decade or so before I would encounter such a snub. Nope! Last month for my 38th Birthday Hike, our little family drove up to Catocin Mountain Park. We parked at the Visitors Center and hiked 1.4 miles to Cunningham Falls, which at 78-feet is the largest cascading falls in Maryland.

Sagan was patiently indifferent to the first 1.2 miles. He did some walking, but for the most part hitched a ride.

Cunningham Falls - Falls Trail - Hitching a Ride With Daddy
Hitching a Ride with Daddy

When we reached the final approach to the falls, however, Sagan found his passion. That last 0.2 miles was a boardwalk and he LOVED running back and forth on it.

Cunningham Falls - Falls Trail - Hi There
YEAH! Now this is where the fun is at!

He loved it so much, in fact, that when I tried to get him to stop for a second to pose for a picture with the falls, he would have none of it! He squirmed, he balked, and then…

He ran away. : )

Cunningham Falls - Falls Trail - Sagan Has More Important Things to Do Than to Pose with Mommy
See ya, Mama! I have places to go!

To be honest, it was rather worth it to see him have so much fun. After some more exploring the boardwalk, we hiked back to the visitors center and indulged in some yummy yummy Cracker Barrell on the way home. All in all, a most excellent day!

More pictures of our hike to Cunningham Falls can be found on my Flickr site.

Cunningham Falls via the Falls Nature Trail

14707 Park Central Road
Thurmont, MD

Length: 2.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 40 Feet



Trail Map

April 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm 3 comments

36th Birthday Hike 2011 – Billy Goat Trail

When I started my birthday hike tradition, I hiked alone. Well, with the dogs. And since we were usually hiking on weekdays in early March, we had the whole Appalachian Trail to ourselves. We owned that wilderness! The hikes were empowering and spiritual and absolutely invigorating. A wonderful way to still feel young and yet thankful for the experiences the ticking years bring.

But the birthday hikes had a more sinister inspiration. Initially they were a means to forget I had no one to celebrate with. March Madness, afterall, was infinitely more entertaining than one person’s birthday. To be fair, who among us could compete with sheets and sheets of printed brackets? Some team names circled, some team names scratched out and the occassional ring-shaped discoloration from a poorly placed beer bottle.  Stiff competition.  : )

Then I started dating Ryan Somma. Just like that, I no longer hiked alone on my birthday. He takes off work and we adventure together. This year for my 36th birthday, we found ourselves in a new town and relied on word of mouth. Our friend Greg Z (who organized the Old Rag hike last year) spoke highly of Maryland’s Billy Goat Trail. It’s a lovely rock scramble along the Potomac River and the cliffs of Mather Gorge. And so on March 18th, we drove up to Potomac, Maryland and hiked.

At times when I stepped off a rock or navigated between boulders, I felt a familiar stirring in my belly. This year I wasn’t hiking alone and I wasn’t just hiking with Ryan Somma. Our son was accompanying us as well. : )

Billy Goat Trail - Vicky by Rock Wall (By Ryan Somma)
Me…With a Little Belly!

We started our journey at the parking lot by The Old Angler’s Inn and took the Towpath to the Billy Goat Trail – Section A. The Billy Goat Trail – Section A is promoted as strenuous and even has warning signs saying as much at both trailheads. There is indeed a lot of rock scrambling, but with the exception of one rock wall it is a relatively flat rock scramble. Without the steep ascents you find on the Appalachian Trail, Ryan and I found the Billy Goat Trail to be a nice, relaxing, moderate hike. The hike is short too— only about 1.7 miles one way. It is a wonderful return on investment for a hike though. You are skirting the Potomac almost the entire way and there are no shortage of views.

Billy Goat Trail - Blaze and Potomac
Blue Blaze and Potomac

Billy Goat Trail - Blaze on Rock
Blue Blaze on Rock

Billy Goat Trail - Blazes Up Rock Wall (Close)
The One Steep Section

Billy Goat Trail - Hikers on Rocks
Hikers on Rocks

Billy Goat Trail - Ryan Checks Out Views
Ryan on Rocks

Most stunning on this hike were the regal, white-barked sycamore trees that lined the shore, but it was also nice (and nostalgic!) to see mountain laurel and red maples along the way. Mountain laurel reminds me of my former home in Blacksburg.  Red maples reminds me of my former home in Elizabeth City.  Since it was still mid-March, we got to see some of the season’s first buds.

Billy Goat Trail - One of Many Majestic Sycamores
One of the Many Majestic Sycamores

Billy Goat Trail - Red Maple on Rocks
Red Maple on Rocks

Billy Goat Trail - Mountain Laurel
Mountain Laurel

Billy Goat Trail - Spring Buds
First Buds

We saw a baby snake on the Towpath on the way to the Billy Goat Trail. We also spied some geese hanging up on the cliffs well above the water. Finally, a peaceful pond along the Billy Goat Trail housed bright orange fish (koi????).

Towpath - Baby Snake
Baby Snake on Towpath

Billy Goat Trail - Geese on Rocks (Close) (By Ryan Somma)
Canadian Geese on Rocks (By Ryan Somma)

Billy Goat Trail - Goldfish in Pond (By Ryan Somma)
Orange Fish in Pond (Photo by Ryan Somma)

Early on the trail before the rocks are hit, we ran across this tree. I affectionately referred to it as “The Scrotum Tree”.

Billy Goat Trail - Tree Scrotum
Scrotum Tree

Want to be humbled? As you take in the views, take note of all the debris in the tree branches. That’s where the water level was! No matter how high up you seem– it was once no match for the river!

Billy Goat Trail - Debris Trees
Debris Trees

After the hike, I have concluded that Greg Z’s word of mouth is a worthy one to follow. The Billy Goat Trail was a wonderful outing and a great way to get enthusiastic about the outdoor opportunities of our new home.

More pictures of my Birthday Hike on the Billy Goat Trail can be found on my Flickr site.

Billy Goat Trail – Section A

Trail Information From Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park

Hike Details From

Trail Map

Length: 1.7 miles one way

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Directions from 495

From I-495, take Exit 41

Take Clara Barton Pkwy towards Carderock

Turn left on MacArthur Blvd

Parking is on the left across from The Old Anglers Inn

May 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm 6 comments

Season Compare: Wye Oak

When a tree is designated as a champion, is the honorary symbol of an entire state and lives for over 450 years, it is bound to show up in a few pictures here and there. The Library of Congress’s Digital Collection includes a Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record. In it, a 1936 picture of the Wye Oak by E. H. Pinkering . It matches up nicely to a picture by Flickr user Leon Reed.

If you look closely at the latter shot, you’ll notice the missing limb on the bottom right of the tree. There are a number of support wires attached to the tree as well.

Wye Oak 1936
Photograph by E. H. Pinkering, 1936

Photograph Courtesy of Leon Reed

For more pictures of the Wye Oak, I recommend Leon Reed’s PhotoStream. He has numerous images of the Wye Oak over the years, including what’s left today.

April 1, 2009 at 10:00 am 8 comments

Arbor Day: Maryland

Wye Oak
(Photo Courtesy of Leon Reed)
Happy Arbor Day, Maryland!

Maryland celebrates its Arbor Day the first Wednesday in April, so Happy Arbor Day to Maryland!

In 1941, when Maryland picked its State Tree, they didn’t just designate a species, they picked an actual tree as well. The species they selected was White Oak and the tree– the Wye Oak from Easton.

Why the Wye Oak? Until it fell in 2002, the Wye Oak reigned for 62 years as the largest White Oak in the U.S. When it died, it was believed to be more than 460 years old. It started its life decades before European settlers arrived in the area. The entire history of Maryland’s statehood could be encompassed in the lifetime of this one tree.

The Wye Oak was so beloved that through the years, the state made sure its products were put to use. In 1953, the tree lost a branch during a storm. The wood was used to make gavels for the state judges. When the whole tree fell near fifty years later, a $25,000 desk was made for the governor’s mansion. Leaves from the fallen giant were captured in copper to make keepsakes and are still available for purchase. Wye Oak seedlings were sold and are planted across the state of Maryland. Two Wye Oak clones reside at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

It may have perished, but Maryland’s honorary State Tree manages to live on.

To find out when your state celebrates Arbor Day, check out Arbor Day Dates Across America at

April 1, 2009 at 1:00 am 11 comments

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