So I missed a few weekends in the State/National Park challenge, but last weekend I made it out to Catoctin Mountain Park, a National Park in Northern Maryland close to the Pennsylvania border. That part of Maryland is home to four big protected forest areas all within 50 miles of each other: Catoctin, Cunningham Falls State Park, Gambrills State Park and South Mountain State Park. Catoctin is most famous as the location of Camp David, a rural retreat for many presidents since the Eisenhower. Camp David is not open to the public however.
There are a lot of trails to hike in Catoctin, from easy to moderate. I hiked from Thurmont Vista to Blue Ridge Summit, to the Hog Rock, and then backtracked to Thurmont Vista. It was a beautiful day to hike with an overcast but bright sky and no humidity. The woods themselves were very typical of the Maryland woods I've been encountering on my hikes so far. I think on my next trip I'm going to have to shake things up and go to the wetlands or further south if I want to see some different plant diversity. What was noticeable was the absence of pine areas in this forest compared to Gambrills and Gunpowder. However there were many more beautiful rock formations, particularly in the Hog Rock area. From the Catoctin NP website: "The Catoctin Formation, in the area around Blue Ridge Summit Overlook, Hog Rock Overlook and Cunningham Falls, contains metabasalt. The Catoctin Formation, on the far western part of the park that includes Owens Creek Campground, contains metarhyolite."
Overall this was a beautiful park, lots of lush mossbeds that formed patterns on the ground like nature's fabric. Lots of old growth trees with wispy tall grass varieties growing on the hillsides underneath. I took lots of photos with the Fujica 690, so we shall soon see how those turned out. I am planning on doing a new art series (similar to the "Forest Mystics" series) of the parks of Maryland with the four I've already visited.