Gathland State Park was once the mountain home of George Alfred Townsend, a Civil War journalist. In the late 1800's, Gathland featured a unique collection of buildings and structures designed and constructed by Townsend. Two of the structures, the Main Hall and Lodge, were partially restored in the 1950's. A large stone monument dedicated to the memory of Civil War correspondents is the outstanding attraction of this day-use park. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail traverses the park and passes the monument base.
Although I've never hiked this as a single 10 mile loop, this area is one of my favorite local places to hike. The climb up Lamb's Knoll is a good workout and most days you are rewarded with a nice view of the valley, the ridgeline, and hawks soaring on the thermals. A loop trail to a locked cabin provides a nice training hike if you're planning a trip on a more rugged section of the AT. Don't miss the Civil War exhibit across the road from the trailhead on Reno Monument Road, or the ruins at Gathland State Park if you use that trailhead.
Decided to complete the section of the Appalachian Trail between Gathland State Park at Crampton Gap, South Mountain in Maryland to Rocky Run shelter near Boonsboro, Maryland. The total section distance was 5.4 miles. We hiked this as an in and out with some blue blaze for a total of 11 miles and one night at Rocky Run shelter. Gathland State Park is a beautiful park with public restrooms, piped water available in winter, and a picnic pavilion. There is a neat museum there and the War Correspondent’s Arch. Information about the park can be found here: http://dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/western/gathland.aspx
The trail starts north near the remnants of a large stone foundation and is marginally steep. Once up on the ridge, the trail is relatively flat until you reach Lamb’s Knoll, where there is a slight ascent up to the site of the old fire tower which has been torn down and replaced with a commercial tower that is not accessible to the public. As the AT passes to the south of the summit, a side trail that the maintainers try and keep covered with fallen limbs leads to the peak and the tower facilities. Also at the summit is a really neat “former” Federal military microwave communications facility and concrete tower, now used by the FAA.
Some interesting history on the facility may be found here: http://blog.historian4hire.net/2010/07/15/coldwarsites/
The paved access road is used by bikers and hiker shortcut to Reno Monument Road. Nearby is a wonderful view from White Rocks.
This time of year, the hike is very beautiful, with oodles of May Apples that look like Smurf umbrellas growing everywhere. Just past the peak, the trail winds down, crosses the access road, and then descends steeply and eventually meets with the Rocky Run Shelter side trail (blue blaze). The shelter is quite nice and fairly new. Down further by the water source which was very plentiful during this hike as well as last fall, there is the old shelter that is still functional. The privy at the new shelter is far better than the one at the old. Lots of space for tenting in this area. During our overnight, we met up with Flip Flop hiker “Travelin’ Tom”, who was very interesting to get to know, a die hard hippie from years gone by with a knack for playing the recorder. We also passed another Northbound flopper “shoelace” who was moving along at a quick pace.