Astral Nomads

One man, one woman, one rabbit......traveling with the stars.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catoctin Mountain & Delightful Surprise

Here's Wendy worshiping nature again. Give her some woods and a camera and she's like a kid on Xmas morning. She's at the summit of the delightful surprise we found today in our seemingly endless quest to exhaust the wonders of western Maryland. (More about that below. Yeah, cheap hook, I know. Je ne suis pas un journaliste professionel.) Today we ventured out to Cactocin Mountain Park, which is run by the National Park Service. It was another beautiful day, around 60F, and we did about a 4-mile hike through some fabulous and scenic terrain.

The trail along the ridge that lead to the Thurmont Vista (pictured above) was mostly devoid of underbrush so it was nice to be able to see the tree trunks receding into the distance and the crisp mountain air was redolent of fallen leaves. From most of the beginning of the hike, I think we were pretty alone on the mountain as it was peaceful and very quiet.

The bedrock of the mountain is quartzite so there are lots of chunks of quartz laying around and, even though it was cool in the shade, it was warm in the sunny spots and on the uphill climb portions of the trail. Nonetheless, I keep catching chunks of quartz out of the corner of my eye and thinking it was snow.

There's still a wee bit of color clinging here and it's intermittent nature almost serves to make it that much more eye-catching and beautiful.

Since Wendy is on a photographic Mission of the Gods, I often get pretty far ahead of her on the trail. Here she snuck up and caught me mediating to the sound of the breeze rustling through the remaining leaves. One of the meditation techniques espoused by the great Alan Watts that is quite effective in shutting off the chatter of the mind is to simply focus on the sounds around you.

Well I'm taking some time with my quiet friend
Well I'm takin' some time on my own.
Well I'm makin' some plans for my getaway
There'll be blue skies shining up above
When I'm cloud hidden
Cloud hidden
Whereabouts unknown

Well I've got to get out of the rat-race now
I'm tired of the ways of mice and men
And the empires all turning into rust again.
Out of everything nothing remains the same
That's why I'm cloud hidden
Cloud hidden
Whereabouts unknown

Sittin' up on the mountain-top in my solitude
Where the morning fog comes rollin' in
Just might do me some good.
Van Morrison - Alan Watts Blues

Here's a surprise! The trail from Thurmont Vista had a sign indicating another trail to Wolf Rock. I was expecting some boulder shaped like a wolf when suddenly a huge escarpment of quartzite rose cliff-like from the forest floor. It was at least 30 feet high at it's highest and well over 100 yards in length. Luckily there were a few access points so that the Astral Nomads did not have to scale the sheer cliff face into order to surmount the mighty Wolf Rock. Once on top, my! My! I have to say it was one of the most beautiful and magical places I've seen.

You have to click and expand this one to see Wendy in her Wolf Rock shrine throne celebrating the Wolf Rock groove.

We feasted on the flat rock surface with cheese, apples, and pita.

I too found a Wolf Rock throne.

Even a juvenile Turkey Vulture took some time to catch some rays.

After we were hanging for awhile and just digging the Wolf Rock, we suddenly heard the howl of a wolf! We looked at each other like "Man, we are going to get chewed!" It turned out, it was just the guy from another hiking couple we met that was messing around and howled when he saw the Wolf Rock sign below us. We spent some time jabbering with them and then took each other's pictures with our respective cameras. This is Jim and Arlene. Very nice folks. They said we should check out Chimney Rock, which was about another half-mile down the trail from Wolf Rock. So, we did. (For some home readers, I know you're thinking pizza and I know who you are.)

This is the view from Chimney Rock. It has a better view than Wolf Rock, but the escarpment itself is a lot smaller and much less dramatic.

Is this a rabbit or a goose? Guess correctly and win a prize!

-Gerry (text) and Wendy (most photos)


  1. Greeting from Reddit.
    Way to live.

  2. Excellent!!! Beautiful day and what a fantastic hike. Loved the thrones and yes I was thinking pizza (assuming I was one of the ones you were thinking of GB!).

  3. I wasn't thinking pizza but I was thinking of a place to hang out when you wanted to "skip" school.

    Love that last photo!

  4. I was thinking pizza...but I'm sure you already know that.

  5. Looks like a lovely place and a beautiful day.
    I look forward to reading about your next adventure.

  6. @Anomymous: Hail fellow redditor well met!

    @Barb and Dale: Oh, for a Chimney Rock pie.

    @sandra: Ha! Hacklebarney or Colorado! Yes that last photo rocks. I knew when she took it it was going to be great. The sun was streaming through the trees. Great light.

    @Tree: Certainly was. The healing power of quartzite.