People scouring the Internet for interesting places to see on vacation search for their passion. History buffs want to see ruins and Civil War battlefields. Antique enthusiasts head for North Carolina and the furniture workshops there. Country music lovers go to Nashville, Tennessee. Ah, but those who search for trees and water and the endless peace of the mountain dawn go to Maryland. Some incredible countryside and mountaintops live in Maryland and of them Gambrill State Park in Thurmont, Maryland is pretty incredible. Far from the squawk and hustle of Washington, D.C. and nestled in the Catoctin Mountain ridge of Frederick County, Gambrill State Park has a lot to offer.
The Delmarva peninsula is justly famous for its hiking trails. Lying among mountain ridges and rocky outcroppings in nature preserves and state parks, these trails are often hiked by military personnel to keep fit and range from easy to moderate to difficult. Trails in Gambrill State Park fit the bill. 1,137 acres are home to 16 trails, camping and picnicking facilities in two recreation areas, Rock Run and High Knob, and sweeping vistas of farmlands and deep valleys. The flora and fauna to be witnessed along these trails vary from season to season and the fauna include black bears and white tailed deer.
Gambrill State Park is closed at night except to campers but during the day visitors can stop at one of the three overlooks constructed of native stone and see in the distance the sites of Civil War battles. To the south lies Crampton’s Gap, a Civil War landmark that is now part of a park and to the west the visitor will see South Mountain, the scene of many battles between North and South. History buffs will enjoy these views! The Catoctin Mountains and valleys comprise views to the north and east.
The park is a gathering place for families enjoying picnicking and a stone lodge, built in the Depression, exists for large family get-togethers such as family reunions and birthdays. This is located in High Knob not far from Rock Run and includes stone balconies from which those sweeping vistas can be viewed. The lodge has a giant stone fireplace, a kitchen, and can accommodate up to 75 people. The roof beams in an A shape and the beautiful woods in the walls and floors are like nothing you’ve seen before and you won’t be able to wait until you can build a fire!
About those trails: providing you choose a trail for which your level of fitness is adequate, each season has its glories. Spring, of course, is a wonderland filled with dogwood, azalea, cherry blossoms, willows, mimosa and so much more. Hiking the trails in spring is dangerous because the visitor is so busy checking out the blooms he often forgets to watch where he puts his feet. But hand in hand with those glories go unpleasant visitations. Hikers should be aware that Maryland is home to many poisonous snakes. The proximity of bears and other wildlife native to the mountains should be remembered and care taken upon meeting one of them. Guided tours and hikes exist to help the visitor with just such an occurrence.
Mountain air can be invigorating to those with health problems. Getting enough oxygen while working out aids the body in better use of musculature and in oxygenating the blood which helps the heart function better. But that mountain air can get pretty cold at the higher elevations, even in summer, so pack a sweater. Another thing about mountain air is that it can make the head feel light and like it’s swimming. Plan for a break here and there in order to help your body regulate itself to its surroundings. Thinner air at high elevations also means sounds travel quite far. The visitor should be able to hear those bears searching for their lunch among the berries and vegetation!
Gambrill State Park in Thurmont, Maryland (301.271.7574) is a deeply green and beautiful spot tucked into the hills of upper Maryland with exciting views and satisfying glimpses of native wildlife and flora. A nature lover couldn’t ask for a more lovely or peaceful vacation spot in the mountains.