K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
(click on thumbnail images for full size picture)
Distance: 6 miles
Sunday, November 18th dawned chilly and foggy but 12 intrepid hikers and 9 eager dogs were not deterred. We gathered at Sugar Loaf Mountain to welcome several new hikers and share a few jokes. Then we fortified ourselves with Snickers and our dogs with Milkbones before setting off on the Northern Peaks trail. We climbed up and down rocky trails for 5 miles, stopping occasionally for water/snacks, and we attained 4 of the 5 peaks on Sugar Loaf. Fog filled the valleys as we peered through bare branches for the occasional glimpse of towns and farms below. Two people and two dogs summitted Sugar Loaf’s main peak, 1282 feet, and climbed the rock with the geological survey marker to celebrate. By then the fog had lifted so we enjoyed a view of the Potomac River and watched buzzards circle, at our eye level but high above the valley below. In the days before air conditioning, people from Washington D.C. came ‘all the way out’ to Sugar Loaf to enjoy a respite from the heat and humidity of our nation’s capital. Today people come from all over to enjoy a wild place so conveniently situated ‘close in’ and offering paved roads and well marked trails.
Sugar Loaf is a "monadnock," a rocky mountain that remains after surrounding land erodes over the course of millions of years. In the case of Sugar Loaf, the mountain is mostly quartzite and the process took approximately 14 million years. It is home to 500 species of plants, and the last timber rattlesnake hibernaculum remaining in Montgomery County. We didn’t see any snakes, but we saw deer, squirrels, some interesting plants and trees and surprisingly few people. Sugar Loaf has long been prized for its views. It served as a lookout during the Civil War and, in more recent times, barely escaped being turned into a very large, scenic parking structure that was being designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Today it is privately owned and maintained by the Stonghold Corporation which opens the trails to the public year round free of charge and provides portable toilets, picnic areas and trail maps. Year round, the mountain offers a wonderful opportunity for close-up viewing of the changing seasons, from the first violets in early spring to the magical beauty of snow in the depths of winter.