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Monday, May 30, 2016

RETURN TO ROCKY GAP -- May 30, 2016

In the early 1980s my mom and dad began taking my brother, Jake, and I camping at Rocky Gap State Park near Cumberland, Maryland.  During the summer months we seemingly went every weekend.  I loved it there.   Rocky Gap was just a short drive from our home in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  We spent our days playing on the beach and fishing in the lake.  My mother made incredible meals for us at the campground and each evening my dad would make a campfire.  The campfire was my favorite part.  My dad made mountain pies, my mom would make popcorn over the fire, and my brother and I would roast marshmallows and hot dogs.  Our camping trips ended in the late 80s when both my brother and I reached high school.   Our schedules were just too hectic.  That was the last I would see of Rocky Gap for 25 years.  

Rocky Gap State Park and campgrounds sits at the base of Evitts Mountain in western Maryland -- May 30, 2016
When I began dating my wife in 2010 I was surprised to learn that she like to camp.  I never would have guessed it.  Since we've been together, Robin and I have set aside Memorial Day weekend as time for us to spend alone.  On our first Memorial Day weekend together (2011) we took a weekend trip to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia and Antietam Battlefield in Maryland.  In 2011, at the last minute, we decided to try to find a camp site somewhere.  We ended up camping in Caledonia State Park just west of Gettysburg, PA.  We had a nice weekend at Caledonia...and we did a lot of fun things...but it made me miss the camping trips that my mom and dad took me on as a child.  As soon as I arrived home I got on line and booked a campsite for Robin and I at Rocky Gap for the following year.  Since then, with the exception of last year, Robin and I have made a return to Rocky Gap a yearly thing.  

My campsite for Memorial Day weekend 2016 (and 2017!)  Site 54 in the Chestnut loop at Rocky Gap State Park, MD -- May 28, 2016
The campgrounds are just like I remember them...with one notable change:  cabins.  There are a total of ten of them in the camping loops (I already booked mine for next year!)  We've always tent camped...and I have really nice tents...but tent camping in the rain is zero fun. The cabin eliminates the "zero fun" factor and makes our trip so much more relaxing.  As a matter of fact, it rained a little last night.  I built a fire, put the chairs up on the porch, cooked dinner for Robin & I, and watched all the people in the tent sites around me scurry to cover their belongings.  I've never flown in first class...but I imagine this is what it feels like!

Trail Map of Rocky Gap State Park
Our hike from our campsite up Evitts Mountain and across the Mason Dixon Line into Bedford County, Pennsylvania -- May 29, 2016
One of the things that Robin and I love to do together is hike...especially when we go camping. The trails out of the campgrounds lead to one of the toughest hikes that Robin and I have done...Evitts Homesite Trail.  Evitts Mountain, which sits aside of the campgrounds is named after Mr. Evart who was, according to local history, the first white settler living in Allegheny County.  He apparently came to the area in the early 1700s to escape civilization and live as a hermit.  Hiking out of our camping loop, Robin and I began our day by navigating the 1.5 miles of rocky terrain aptly named Rocky Trail.  The trail is clearly marked with yellow blazes.  Just beware of the random puddles of stagnant water and downed trees.  My favorite part of the trail is the mountain laurel that is close to full bloom this time of year. 

Robin & David Raymond on Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

Mountain Lauren near full bloom on Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016

Rocky Trail is marked with yellow blazes...it's impossible to lose your way -- May 29, 2016


More mountain laurel lining both sides of Rocky Trail -- May 29, 2016


No hike would be complete without a few obstacles to navigate -- May 29, 2016

Rocky Trail will eventually intersect with Evitts Homesite Trail which is marked with white blazes.  Now the fun really begins.  According to my Garmin, Evitts' Homesite Trail will climb approximately 1,400 feet from this point to the Mason Dixon Line at the top of the mountain!  The trail is wide but changes from rock to mud to gravel to sand to ankle high grass throughout your trek to the top.  As you make your way up the trail. Mr. Evart's homesite is clearly marked.  Remnants of the homesite (stone walls, a well, and his orchard) are still visible and accessible...if you're not squeamish about ticks!  

A sign marking the entrance to Evart's Homesite -- May 29, 2016

Mr. Evart's well.  Don't fall in....seriously -- May 24, 2014

Remnants of stone walls near Evart's homesite -- May 29, 2016

Leaving Evart's homesite, Robin and I have another mile to go before getting to the Mason Dixon Line at the top of the mountain -- May 29, 2016
The next mile of the hike doesn't flatten out much...but the trip is worth it.  At the top of the mountain you will find a really cool fire tower (which I will climb someday) and an old Mason Dixon Line marker.  If you continue just a couple yards further you will reach a cut line in the mountain where a gas line runs.  The view from the top is absolutely breath taking! 

An extra cool fire tower on Evitts Homesite Trail just prior to the Mason Dixon Line -- May 29, 2016

On the left side of the trail you will see this entrance to the old Mason Dixon marker -- May 29, 2016

Hanging out on my home side (Pennsylvania) -- May 29, 2016

A not so old, but just as cool, Mason Dixon line marker on Evitts Homesite Trail -- May 29, 2016

The westward view from the gas line on top of Evitts Mountain -- May 29, 2016

Robin and I conquering Evitts Homesite Trail -- May 24, 2014

In all seriousness, two years ago,  Robin and I witnessed an incredible feat of human strength and courage.  A friend of ours, Lynn, who having just finished chemo and who just won her battle with cancer visited us while we were camping at Rocky Gap.  Lynn came with us that day (May 24, 2014) to hike Evitts Homesite Trail.  Lynn totally kicked that mountain's ass.  
Truly amazing.

Lynn Nichols -- May 24, 2014



This picture puts Lynn's accomplishment into perspective.  This is the road leading into the camp grounds at Rocky Gap.  Circled in red is the gas line cut out that is at the top of Evitt's Homesite Trail.  Amazing!  -- May 30, 2016

Lynn isn't the only person to visit us at Rocky Gap.  It's also been a tradition the past few years for my dad and Mary Jane to come for dinner around the campfire.  I think this is my favorite part the entire trip.  My father worked so hard for our family when I was young and somehow he found the time and energy to create great memories for my brother and I.  A lot of those memories were forged  here at this campground.  I'm so happy that, even though my mother is no longer with us, he and Mary Jane can come and share in the joy of this special place with us.  The only difference is now I am the one building the fire and making dinner.  Dad gets to sit and watch.   Thank you, Dad....you get a well deserved rest.

Mary Jane, Dave, Robin, & David Raymond -- May 29, 2016

This year my step daughter, Mia (and her dog, Vader) came for dinner too!  -- May 29, 2016

Robin and Mary Jane Raymond -- May 29, 2016

Thank you for the memories dad, I love you!  David and Dave Raymond -- May 29, 2016

Life is a journey, not a destination.

David A. Raymond  -- May 30, 2016

Robin & David Raymond -- May 26, 2013