We came to Catoctin Mountain Park to see the leaves. On October 19th we saw a beautiful display - it had to be near peak color. We visited on a clear, crisp, slightly windy day - and the leaves were some of the most amazing that I had ever seen.
I was hoping to stop by the visitor center to ask where to hike with my mom and 4 year old. But, the parking lot at the visitor center was overflowing. (I would assume that is not typical.) So, we just drove the main road until we found a good parking spot.
We were looking for a short hike and spotted the hike to the Thurmont Vista. The first third of the hike was a bit uphill and the leaves were amazing. The remainder of the half mile hike was uphill and the leaves weren't as spectacular. We all made it to the vista.
I got back home and looked at the park webpage. I think we would have been better off looking for a hike in the Hog Rock area -where the hikes to the vistas are not as long or steep. We just wanted a viewpoint where we could see the colorful trees on the side of the mountains.
The fall foliage in this area is very spectacular. It's five stars in that respect. But, aside from the fall colors - I'm not sure that the park has too much else to offer.
I have had the most “interesting” experience today at my niece’s birthday party at Jump In Jax in Jacksonville NC. The party had been planned for 20 kids, but fifteen minutes after starting time, no other kids were there yet. The parties there are not cheap. The “deluxe party”, featuring “Frozen” decorations and young woman dressed as Queen Elsa cost $425. I asked if we could speak to the manager about the price of the party, since she was going to have a lot fewer guests than were planned for. The party hostess reached her on the phone. I’m actually not sure if this was a manager or the owner, from the conversation it sounded like the owner, but I don’t recall her saying or giving me her name. I tried to appeal to her possible sense of good business practices in a small community. She complained how she had to lay out the cost of the decorations and food and tableware and wasn’t really making much of a profit. I challenged this because I have bought many the party decorations and food and can’t see how this could be true. My high estimate for this, including 2 employees time for 2 hours is about $225. That is still a margin of $200 dollars. You could argue about the cost of the recreation the kids would have access too, but the place is already open and running, whether the kids from this party are there or not. I only wanted to negotiate. OK. I was probably venting because we were upset about the turn out. But I didn’t threaten not to pay, I didn’t say anything insulting or rude, I didn’t even raise my voice. The women cut off almost my every attempt at a sentence. She didn’t even try to hear my side. THEN SHE SAID SHE WAS GOING TO CALL THE POLICE, AND HUNG UP ON ME. Interestingly, the police never showed up. I guess she was either bluffing or they had better things to do. So the party went on. 6 children did eventually show up. And there were 10 adults who ended up eating pizza and cake so at least it didn’t totally go to waste. The party hostess and other staff were all very nice. And I’m sorry if the ordeal made them feel uncomfortable. “Queen Elsa” was very charming and sweet and my niece seemed to have a good time. We asked to see a copy of the contract to verify the terms and the price that had been agreed to. This was not brought to us until more than 2 hours after it was requested. When I went to the desk to pay the balance, the clerk said she had to speak to the manager/owner again because she was planning on charging us extra because we had stayed in the party room longer than 1 hour. Most of the children had left before this, but the adults had stayed in the room talking. NO ONE HAD ASKED US TO LEAVE. The staff was still cleaning up the room and we did not appear to be in their way from what I could tell. I told the clerk I had no intentions of paying anything extra. She had a phone conversation with the owner/manager and apparently this issue was resolved. I was even more appalled. This manager/owner has absolutely no customer service skills. She may want to invest in some if she plans on staying in business. This is a small town that runs by word of mouth and she isn’t building any bridges with this type of behavior. Buyer beware, and have your next party somewhere else instead.
Only 10 minutes from Harper's Ferry, this church converted into a café is a brilliant place to stop for lunch, coffee or just a snack. I had high expectations based on what I had read about this little place - but they were all exceeded. Because not only is the food yummy, it is so kid-friendly.
There were a few families eating at the café while we visited. Several kids under the age of eight or so played nicely and quietly in a corner of the café. My five year old daughter enjoyed making "friends." There was a small dollhouse, blocks, a table, and a fire truck to play with. It's not a kid's play space, but a café with a small place for kids to be kids.
The food here is excellent quality, tastes homemade - it's really yummy. I had a ham, pear and brie sandwich. We finished our lunch with pecan pie - although we had a very difficult time making a decision because so many of the treats looked so good.
Being a coffee house, the beverage selection is enormous.
There were families, couples, a knitting group, friends all enjoying the same café on the afternoon of our visit.
And, there are couches and stained glass windows.
I can't wait to go back.
Of course, my family has not hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. We did walk about a half mile on the section through Harper's Ferry. It's a popular place to take a scenic walk.
This section of the trail crosses the Potomac River on an old railroad bridge right at the point where the Shenandoah River meets the Potomac.
There is a prominent sign here that marks the mileage to each end of the Appalachian Trail. It is the unofficial mid-point of the trail.
The views in this area are amazing. There are stairs on the Maryland side of the bridge. The trail going along the Maryland side of the river is wide and many people were biking on it the day of our visit.
Even the youngest kids can enjoy this portion of the trail. While the bridge is high, there is fencing. It impedes views - but keeps people safe.
Visiting Harper's Ferry is as much about the scenery as the history. Make sure that you plan your visit while looking at a schedule of living history events, or come to see the Fall color.
We visited on a Saturday in Fall. I'm so glad that we arrived early. When we caught the bus around 10 AM, there were few people wandering about. Driving out around noon, there were lines of cars everywhere that we looked. We walked right onto the shuttle bus; there were lines at noon just to catch the shuttle.
I had read there was a bus/shuttle, and I wanted to try to avoid it. We did end up taking the shuttle; now, I am convinced that the shuttle is definitely the best way to get to Harper's Ferry. There is a road, but it is narrow and part of the historic village. Parking is minimal in town. The shuttle originates at the visitor center just outside of town - all signs will point you in the right direction.
There is a lot of history in Harper's Ferry. The small town is set up with a historic inn, general store and other historic buildings. The church on the hill is gorgeous - and it was open to visitors when we visited. Adjacent to the park, there is a real town with touristy stores and places to grab a snack.
We started our visit by walking the portion of the Appalachian Trail that goes through Harper's Ferry. It is a scenic walk. Much of Harper's Ferry is outdoors.
We checked out the visitor center in town briefly. The ranger showed us which buildings had videos playing in case the weather took a turn for the worse. She also told us that we should consider the 20 minute climb up to he Jefferson's Rock vista point if the weather cleared.
The living history demonstration that we saw was enjoyable; it was apple cider making and storing food for the winter.
Our visit lasted about 2 hours. A family could easily spend a few hours looking around if there are living history events in the park that day.