Anyway, we decided to travel to Catoctin Mountain to try out one of their trails. This is an area that is not too far from the actual Appalachian Trail, and it's and area that is equidistant between the members of our hiking group. It also has the most rugged terrain we've hiked so far- closer to the terrain we would encounter on our trip in October.
We opted to go on the 5 mile round trip hike that took us from the parking lot at the Visitor's Center onto the Falls Nature Trail that leads to Cunningham Falls (also known as McAfee Falls to locals) then on to the Hog Rock Nature Trail to the Blue Ridge Summit Overlook and back down the mountain to the parking lot. My mom and I both had our packs along to try them out for the first time, and I also had my new "Indiana Jones" hat on for a trial run.
We started out on the trail easy enough, but it didn't take long for those hills to start killing me. Basically, I think everyone on the hike realized they had some more work to do to be in trail shape. My pack, which is the new anti-gravity Osprey Aura 65L, was comfortable. The added weight killed me, but that was because I'm just not in shape and not because of the pack. I love the pack. However, my "Indiana Jones" hat isn't going to work for the trail with a pack. The back of the hat hits the top of the pack and, quite frankly, it drove me insane. So my son now gets to wear the hat whenever he wants to without having to share it with me (except now he's realized that my cousin has the same Mothman hat that I do, and now he plans on wearing my Mothman hat, which is the baseball cap I planned to use- I can never win). And I discovered that if I already didn't think hiking poles were essential, I would now. They really do help take the strain off of your joints, especially on the downhills, which really are worse than the uphills just like everyone says. In fact, my cousin ended up using my son's poles (he got tired of them) and she has since decided she needs a set of her own.
It was a gorgeous day- our first real taste of spring after getting hit with some snow earlier in the week. The views from the summit were spectacular and Cunningham Falls was beautiful as always. I definitely want to hike here again, and there are a few other trails that we haven't been on yet, though I hear they have pretty steep uphills. As it was, my son, who has a fear of heights, was pretty nervous near the summit. His exact words were, "I'm pretty sure there's an 80% chance of dying here. I've been looking, but I haven't seen any skulls yet."
Despite the abnormally high chance of death, the aches and pains and feelings of discouragement, I enjoyed the hike. I think that was something we could all agree on. And I was extremely proud of my son who managed the whole difficult 5 miles without too much whining- I'm pretty sure I whined more and tool more breaks than he did.