Carole had to go up to Pennsylvania on Saturday, so I tagged along and Carl and I hiked the 5 mile Wolf Rock/Chimney Rock/Thurmont Vista loop at Catoctin - the right hand side of the map above. Great weather but at this time of year the rock path is often covered in leaves which can make for slow going as you find your footing.
Once again proving the Olson theory (If you do a hike in the oppposite direction, it looks completely different) to be valid, we hiked in the counter-clockwise direction which puts the tougher climb at the start and you end with a gradual down hill jaunt - and everything looked brand spanking new.
On Sunday, Carole and I took advantage of the continuing warming trend to first hit Greenberry's Coffee & Tea in McLean and then head over to Great Falls National Park on the Viriginia Side to do another five mile loop.
After passing the famed Madeira School where Jean Harris shot Herman Tarnower (lyrics here) we parked at the Old Georgetown Road parking area, ignored the "Trail Closed" signs and began the loop. A flood several years ago wiped out a section at the start and they have finally gotten around to repairing this stretch. Which means you now scramble on some giant boulders they have dropped in to build a new path along the section of Difficult Run that flooded, rather than have to scramble up and down a muddy hill to bypass that section.
After that you have a nice uphills stretch along the Ridge Trail, then over to the River Trail where you have the traditional view across the Potomac River to the cliffs where the Billy Goat Trail runs on the Maryland side of Great Falls.
After about three miles of up and down, you come to the area where rock climbers (or rope danglers) practice their thing. They are very trusting that random hikers won't untie their knots at the top.
From there it is about another mile to the always impressive view of Great Falls. I've probably taken this shot 20 times in 35 years and it both never changes and never seems the same.
From there we continued to the Visitor Center, where Carole used the disgusting, cold Porta-Potties while I waited until we got back to the Carriage Road Trail to use the clean, heated restrooms that sometimes are closed in the winter. A short climb up and over the ridge that carries the Ridge Trail is followed by a short downhill, and we were back at the car - to then go on a quest to hundreds of fru-fru grocery stores to find weird stuff like gemelli pasta and pomegranate molasses that Carole needs to some kind of concoctions she is cooking up as Thanksgiving nears.