Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Mountain For Any Season - Sugarloaf

Sugerloaf Mountain is a unique treasure which sits alone among the unspoiled landscape of Western Montgomery Co., roughly between Washington and Frederick Maryland.  It's unique in several ways, the first being geologic. Sugarloaf is a monadnock, a mountain that remains after the erosion of the surrounding land, in this case a 14 million year process. The stony cliffs on the summit are composed primarily of quartzite, the predominant type of rock on the mountain.

This natural treasure offers something for the avid hiking enthusiast who can start at the base and make the nearly thousand foot ascent to the top via a series of trail options or by those who either through inability or lets face it, laziness, can drive up to several parking areas near the summit which afford some of the best views anyway.  I've been up in all seasons and depending on the time of year there can be a fair amount of traffic but never at levels that dimish the enchanting qualities of the place. 

It's at it's best in late spring when there's a hint of warm air and the wild flowers are in bloom but my best hike took place years ago with my buddy Greg.  For some crazed reason we decided on a winter hike and made it to the summit just in time for a snow squall, moderate but giving us a rare sense of intermingling fully with the environment.  We had enough room for a beer in each pocket (I discovered while researching this that alcohol is not permitted - ooops) when we reached the top and toasted our efforts the beer tasted like ambrosia (Warsteiner endorsement).  We must have been just loopy enough (reason for no alcohol) to manage to get lost for awhile on the descent, the sun was rapidly setting and we were way off course.  We were lost and while not at the point of panic, we did have some concern of becoming two Darwin Award winners.  Needless to say we found our way out just as an inky gloaming extinguised the final rays of light. 

I still keep finding my way back to this nearby treasure.  The whole surrounding area is filled with enough points of interest to make up several of my next postings on their own merit.  This is the part of Montgomery County that is the rally cry of all who want to preserve this area in it's bucolic state.


Sugarloaf came by its name because its shape reminded early hunters and pioneers of the sugar loaves common in those days. A Swiss explorer, in 1707, sketched the earliest known map of the mountain. A written account, penned five years later, described a plain atop the mountain and the delicious chestnuts grown by the trees on its flanks. General Braddock, commander of Brittish troops during the French and Indian War, marched his men past the mountain in 1755. Northern and Southern forces alternated in posting lookouts at its summit during the Civil War. Brave wounded and dying soldiers were hospitalized in a log cabin that still stands at the mountain's foot.

Another unique aspect is the fact that it's a privatly run entitiy and not part of the State or National Park System. This was made possible by the vision and persistance of a remarkable couple, Gordon and Louise Strong. For years prior to their deaths, they purposefully gained ownership of the many tracts making up the present property. They created a private organization, Stronghold, Incorporated, in 1946, to ensure that the mountain would continue to serve their purpose of making natural beauty available to all.

Gordon Strong believed that "... those who appreciate natural beauty will be better people, people who treat each other better." I certainly get that feeling standing at the summit and savor the view of the Monocacy Valley and the mountains to the West.

Directions from Washington -

Go North on Route I-270 to the Hyattstown exit, circle under I-270 and continue on Route 109 to Comus, then right on Comus Road to the Sugarloaf Mountain entrance.

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece on Sugarloaf. Also, you have a great idea (this website) and I look forward to seeing more posts. I plan on adding your link to one of my sites, too. Thanks.