My New Zealand vacation - a two week whirlwind that included an ultramarathon and backpacking two of the country’s “Great Walks” - took place over two months ago, and I haven’t been able to distill all the activities into separate blog posts as I thought might be ideal - organized by activity, summarized with action items and resource links - you know the kind. I’ve tried several time, but instead, I keep coming back to a journal entry I made at the trip’s end. It recaps my sentiments exactly, and if there’s more to say, I suppose it’ll come later.
One note of explanation - I wrote this as a message to Erin, my best friend and travel buddy. In our two years of friendship, we’ve traveled to more new places than I’d been in the previous five, our wanderlust matched only by a mutual thirst for adventure and desire to explore everything this diverse, beautiful, chaotic world has to offer.
Maryland's first-ever State Park, Patapsco Valley, is located in Catonsville, Maryland, not far from Baltimore, and about 45 minutes' drive from DC. I visited the park on a whim, in the mood for a hike, and Patapsco Valley did not disappoint.
The park's entrance is not far from I-95, and the park itself is easy to navigate thanks to the many signs, trail markers and maps available. It's a carry-in/carry-out operation, so trash cans are one thing you won't find available here - be sure to plan accordingly and bring your own bags.
My hike started on the Cascade Trail, connected with Morning Choice, then wound back to my starting point on Ridge Trail (link to trail map). The Cascade Trail appears to be among the most popular, crossing a beautiful waterfall just steps from the trailhead. I'd recommend starting early if you wish to avoid the crowds that visit specifically for the photo op it provides.
A note to extreme adventurers - this park is flanked by residential communities, which are visible from the trail at times. If you're looking for a secluded experience, this is probably not the place for you. That being said, the trails at Patapsco were lightly trafficked, extremely well marked and clean. It's especially conducive to mountain bikers, who were out in great numbers on this warm fall weekend. Overall, a really nice spot to spend day outdoors.
Located in Ashcroft, CO, just a short drive from Aspen, the Cathedral Lake trail lives up to its “strenuous” categorization at 5.6 miles roundtrip and 2,000 ft net elevation gain, almost all of which occurs in the first half of the trail.
I hiked this recently on a beautiful July afternoon, which was sunny and in the upper 70's - thankfully not too hot. The entire trek spanned 3 hours - 2 on the first half/uphill portion, and 1 hour back down to the trailhead.
Now that I’ve conquered the trail once, I know I’ll do a few thing differently on future visits, including:
Cathedral Lake was one of the more challenging trails I’ve hiked without a doubt - rivaling even the Mirador las Torres trail in Patagonian Chile (which is twice as long and equally as harrowing) - but the sheer majesty and grandeur of the scenery with every step was well worth it. And seriously, if I lived anywhere close to this trail, it would be a regular part of my ultra-training routine. This trail is an endurance athlete’s dream.
For more detail on Cathedral Lake, including driving directions and terrain breakdown, click here.