My wife and I decided one Saturday morning and came across Owens Creek online. They had reservations available and I jumped on the chance and reserved a spot. Forty-five minutes later, my wife and I packed the car and grabbed the dog and headed out the door. An hour and a half later we were in the mountains and pulling up to a very pretty campground. We quickly found our spot and set up camp. After setting up camp, we went for a walk along the creek and played in the water. We had a great trip. The campsites were spread out enough to give each site its privacy yet not separated too far. I would thoroughly recommend this campground to anyone who has the chance and we look forward to the chance to go back.
Standard Car Camping camp ground. Most sites are either elevated above your car or are below the car, all In the woods, whIch does provide some measure of privacy. Very busy on a weekend in the summer but gives you really good access to family friendly hiking trails and Gettysburg Battlefield.
We used this as our home base for exploring Harpers Ferry and Antietam. After camping a week on the beach, our stop here was a godsend. The sites are very cool and wooded with a lot of privacy. The bathhouse could use a renovation. It seemed kind of dirty and outdated to me. Other than that, I look back at this stop and really want to go back and spend more time here.
You have to reserve online. You can do it once you find a spot or before you arrive. Campsites are well maintained. Really great for tents and small rvs
Owens Creek Campground is located in Catoctin Mountain Park, a National Park Service in Sabillasville, Maryland, a few miles outside of Thurmont. www.recreation.gov/camping/owens-creek-campground/r/campgroundDetails.do?contractCode=NRSO&parkId=114139
Owens Creek Campground, on its own and at first glance, appears fairly small. Reservations are made soley through recreation.gov website or toll-free number and are $30.00 a night. There are 50 campsites, clearly numbered and all fairly level as it is set on a hillside. Almost all sites are terraced up or down from the site parking pad (Keep in mind the weather…water tends to travel downhill). Parkng pads are 22', so take that into consideration if you are trailering/RVing. The campground road is one way, but you have two cut-through lanes should you not want to travel the outside loop.
Campsites were well-maintained for mid-Spring. It appeared that chipped wood from downed trees was used to cover all the campsites, giving it a very clean appearance and eliminating any gravel or mud. The campground is situated in a dense, old growth forest of maple, oak, hickory, poplar and black walnut, so sunlight does not really make its way through the tall thick canopy. So the woodchips were pretty damp and more difficult to smooth out under the tent. Each site has a very nice synthetic picnic table, a lantern/trash bag pole, a fire ring and separate tent pad. I felt each site was methodically placed for the maximum amount of sites, yet offered pretty decent privacy from one site to the next. Outer rim sites offer more room and privacy.
The campground does have a host, located near the first shower house, but was not present during our stay. Two restrooms are located on the two cut-through lanes that bisect the outer loop. The first (or lower) shower house has showers and bathrooms, the second (upper) is bathrooms only. The shower house was clean and stocked. However, at the time of our visit there was no hot water…and it was cold out. Both restrooms have a utility room with sink situated outside between the men and women's restrooms. The utility sink has a dual purpose…your source of drinking water (other than Owen's Creek, use a filter!) and for washing dishes. The plentiful warning signage gives one the idea that bears are a potential problem.
Midweek saw two of us campers in this quiet campground. Owens Creek Campground does offer group camping higher up the mountain at The Poplar Grove group camp. This group camp area has a nice pavilion, water spigot and three pit latrines, one brand spanking new. Big positive…cell phone service!
A historical log cutting mill powered by Owens Creek stands at the entrance and is handicap accessible via boardwalk. During our stay, several bus loads of children were stopping to take in the historical site. An ampitheather is also at the entrance, across the roadway from the log mill.
Trails at the campground are not easily identifiable for first-timers, and no trail maps existed at the campground information board. So it took some searching to find the blue blaze marks and a park system marker. During our trail hike, we located a trail map further up the mountain at The Poplar Grove group campsite information board. The trail we used is marked multi-use, and by plentiful hoofprints, appeared to be used mostly by equestrians.
Peaceful, relaxing and cool…but spendy for so few amenities. Birds were abundant, active and singing. Woodpeckers rose early to begin their tree tapping. During the night, faint road noise could be heard at the campsite but wasn't bothersome…although it picks up during the day as the sole national park road. Despite an ample coating of Sawyer insect spray on the tent…ants coated the rainfly exterior (another by-product of using wood chips - carpenter ants).
The NPS Visitor's Center is at the opposite end of the park roadway. The NPS Ranger was extremely helpful and filled us in on all park information. A touchscreen wall monitor doled out useful park information. Trail maps were in abundance at the Visitor's Center.
Trail signage along the park roadway indicate popular trails, such as Thurmont Vista and Hog Rock. Chimney Rock and Cunningham Falls are also worthwhile hikes nearby. Cunningham Falls being the highest/longest cascading waterfall in Maryland.
The NPS Ranger also informed us that while Owens Creek Campground seemed unattended during our stay, they had 1500 visitors on the named trails and 4000 guest through the visitors center. We preferred the miles of unnamed, empty trails to the busy ones. There are over 26 miles of trails in this NPS.
Important Note: With Camp David occupying part of this NPS, your hiking plans could be immediately and entirely foiled with a "visit" from the President or any dignitary. Parts of the park road and trails are closed down tight! And yes, if you venture too far you will be detained and questioned.Do not at any time hike toward or close to Camp David. So call ahead for any known information and then as the Ranger put it, "hope for the best."
Gear Review: Gregory Paragon 58 Backpack
As a TheDyrt.com Ranger, I was recently given the opportunity to test and evaluate a Gregory backpack. http://gregorypacks.com/backpacking/lightweight/paragon-58/6985PAR58.html On occasion, as reviewers, we are supplied outdoor products, at no cost or discounted cost to evaluate and report on…this is one of those occasions. I chose the Paragon 58 in Omega Blue.
Having used various backpacks over the past three decades, I know what I, myself, am looking for in a pack…and I am fairly demanding of my gear. Most of the big name packs I've owned in the past, I own no longer…mostly due to lack of comfort. Gregory packs have set a high standard. Gregory's flagship pack, the Baltoro 85, received both Backpacker Magazine's Editior's Choice Gold and Outside Magazine's Gear of the Year Award in 2015. So Gregory has a history of making durable, comfortable, feature rich backpacks. I would have chosen that pack…but I already own it.
The New Gregory Paragon 58 comes in as a lighter version of a multi-day backpack, weighing in at mere 3.9 pounds. That, my friends, is pretty light. Simply hoisting the pack, you immediately notice the Paragon 58 has been put on a diet. Weight has been trimmed through the Aerolon Suspension-using lightweight 7001 Aluminum, the Matrix Ventilation System-breathable mesh, the 3D shoulder harness & hipbelt with LifeSpan EVA foam, along with thinner/lighter straps and lighter buckles.
Admittedly, I am not an Ultra-light hiker willing to cast off pounds for faster/further trekking. However, I am weight conscious…if I can trim ounces without sacrificing comfort, durability and reliability…I will do so. That said, I often view "lighter" offerings, in any category, with the tainted eye of skepticism. Here's my take:
- Sub 4 lbs.
- SideKick Reservoir holder/Summit-Day Pack
- Lightweight option for top cover (included)
- Raincover (included in it's own labeled pocket)
- Larger Hipbelt zippered pockets
- Sidewinder bottle pocket
- Mesh side pockets
- I want more room…should have chosen the Paragon 68
- Iffy on the thinner straps and lighter/smaller buckles
The test: I laid out 4 days worth of gear and food next to the pack and had my doubts that it'd all fit in the pack. I packed the main compartment to the brim, but could've had more room if I used a smaller compression sack for my sleeping bag (it could ball up tighter). The zippered compartments in the hood had more room to stuff smaller items. It is likely I could have squeezed in a week's worth. I do not like to lash items on the outside, due to exposure to the elements and the possibility of the pack raincover not giving full coverage over lashed-on items. It seems I cannot venture too far without rain being my constant companion.
The front pack pocket is comprised of a mesh/perforated material and I found it perfect for stowing my rainjacket and lightweight camp sandals. You don't want to stick too much in there, because you may find it difficult to remove the rain cover from its labeled pocket which is located on the front of the pack behind the buckled mesh pocket.
The Hipbelt pockets were enlarged, probably from suggestions of the Baltoro hipbelt pockets being too small (too small for today's smartphones). My smartphone is housed inside a Pelican Marine 7 waterproof case and it slides in and out with plenty of room. You will find that a great deal of items can fit nicely into those pockets. Neither are waterproof pockets like the Baltoro offers. The left is a net/mesh zippered pouch and the zippered right is the same material as the pack body, concealing the contents. Pocket zipper pull tabs are a combination of paracord and polymer loop, offering a positive grip to open and close.
The Gregory Paragon 58 SideWinder angled waterbottle sleeve works. That simple. The average Thru-hiker seems to prefer the 32 oz SmartWater bottle for several reasons, which will fit perfectly. I was able to do one-handed retrieval and re-holstering without issue (however, I used a 23 oz bottle. I did notice with my smaller water bottle, that when I set the pack down or tilted it, the smaller bottle wanted to slide out. Not a big deal, but be mindful of it.
The side mesh pocket/sleeves worked great to slide my tent poles down into, utilizing the side compression straps to keep them secured.
If you are unfamiliar with the interior SideKick water reservoir holder…it is removeable and is actually a small, lightweight, shoulder-strapped day/summit pack. Ingenious! The panel that separates the main pack interior compartment from the bottom sleeping bag compartment can be removed and used as a lighter alternative to the heavier multi-pocket pack hood. I don't see myself using that feature, so it'll remain as a divider.
The Hipbelt strap and buckle are the same used in the larger packs, but the tensioning straps and shoulder straps have been reduced in width. I have not had issue with them, but my concern is thin webbing offers a smaller surface area for stitching so if there is potential failure…it will likely be there. Purely speculation and my conjecture. The New Baltoro 75 GZ (Goal Zero) also utilizes the same thinner straps and smaller buckles. I'm sure my default is "bigger is better."
The Hipbelt contour and cushion are excellent. The Gription Lumberpad just plain works. I had no slippage whatsoever with my hipbelt. Though I do tend to cinch it down pretty tight. Shoulder and Chest straps are always a work in progess when adjusting, but once I got them where I wanted them, I was impressed by the comfort. The whole back and shoulder straps use an airflow system that really does keep you cooler…which in turn, keeps you more comfortable.
The Paragon 58 is not considered an expedition-sized pack, but when fully loaded it is still 31" long, yet, I was able to move, bend and twist without it feeling cumbersome or throwing me off balance.
For long weekend jaunts or short week-long forays, seriously put Gregory's Paragon 58 on the top of your list. For its intended purpose, I give it a 10/10. As I continue to put more trail miles on the Paragon 58, I'll edit this post with any changes.