The end of summer? Get outdoors!

August 30, 2005|by Lydia Hadfield

You can spend Labor Day weekend watching TV, playing video games or staring at the fly on the ceiling. But why? Why not think outside the TV, outside the house, outside the boxes?

Why not take a hike, you know, outside?

Instead of sitting around the house moaning about getting back to school work, why not visit a park and enjoy yourself?

It's a good way to kill time, get some exercise and maybe have fun.

Plenty of state parks in the Tri-State area offer scenic opportunities for getting a breath of fresh air. Try a hiking or mountain biking trail; most parks have paths suited for varying levels of experience.

  • Cunningham Falls State Park near Thurmont, Md., offers the half-mile Lower Trail for beginners in addition to the difficult Cliff Trail, which is a quarter-mile longer. Both end at 78-foot-high Cunningham Falls.

  • Gambrill State Park contains six trails ranging from the easy half-mile White Oak Trail to the moderate 4.6-mile Yellow Poplar Trail and the strenuous Green Ash Trail. The Gambrill and Cunningham Falls state parks are on Catoctin Hollow Road west of Thurmont, about half an hour from Hagerstown.

Hiking aimlessly is OK, but an interesting destination is good motivation. Several day hikes along the Appalachian Trail begin in state parks and end at impressive lookout points such as Weverton Cliffs and Annapolis Rock.

  • The moderately difficult 2.2-mile Annapolis Rock hike ends with a spectacular view. Access the trail via a parking lot one-quarter mile east of Greenbrier State Park on U.S. 40.

  • If you're looking for a more challenging trek, try the six-mile Weverton Cliffs hike and view the dynamic Potomac River scenery. Park cars at both ends of the trail - in Gathland State Park and at the Weverton Road access point - to avoid backtracking. Gathland State Park is one mile west of Burkittsville, Md.

Parks offer many other pursuits aside from hiking and biking. Escaping from the heat by canoeing and swimming is possible in parks with lakes, rivers or pools. For $4 per person, you can swim in the lake at Greenbrier State Park.

Other parks give historical tours upon request.

  • Fort Frederick, part of Fort Frederick State Park near Big Pool, defended the Maryland frontier during the French and Indian War in the 1750s and was also used 30 year later as a prison during the American Revolution. A stone fort has been built on the site of the original fort.

Other local parks also have historical importance. Gathland State Park south of Rohrersville, commemorates a Civil War battle at Crampton's Gap and is also home to the Civil War Correspondents Memorial. In fact, the park encompasses the former homestead of Civil War journalist George Alfred Townsend.

If nothing at your local park piques your interest, create your own excitement! Many parks have space for playing football or soccer with friends. Pack a picnic lunch and jabber in the shade. Take time to appreciate the beauty of nature.

Parks are somewhere to go, something to do, and certainly more interesting than the fly on the ceiling. Why not give it a try?

Check out a park's Web site before visiting. Though many parks are completely free, others have fees for recreational activities.

Go outdoors prepared

Remember basic safety and courtesy when hiking in a park or on the Appalachian Trail.

  • Wear sturdy shoes.

  • Use insect repellent.

  • Bring plenty of water.

  • Always let someone know where you're going.

  • Hike with another person.

  • Do not hike off the trails or disturb wildlife.

  • Never litter.
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