AS CLOSE AS YOU’LL GET TO CAMP DAVID

Camp David

Anyone that has an ear for Presidential politics surely has heard of Camp David, the Presidential retreat that often plays host to a variety of high level meetings and summits (including, most recently, the G8 Summit last year).

But, unlike the White House, how many know where it actually is?

Despite many "big name" National Park units in an around the D.C. metro area, Catoctin Mountain Park is often packed with area hikers.

Despite many “big name” National Park units in an around the D.C. metro area, Catoctin Mountain Park is often packed with area hikers.

Camp David is actually housed within the boundaries of a U.S. National Park site – but you wouldn’t know it from the official brochure’s map. Yes, Catoctin Mountain Park – an hour or so drive from the D.C. beltway, houses Camp David, but you won’t be seeing the President or any of the major buildings while you hike the many fantastic trails offered within the park.

I love mossy forests, my favorite still being the woods of Fundy National Park in New Brunswick (Can.)

I love mossy forests, my favorite still being the woods of Fundy National Park in New Brunswick (Can.)

The park does little to promote the fact that it plays host to the “other” White House, thwarting would be curious onlookers creating unnecessary distractions. The park leaflet does mention the fact that Camp David exists, noting its origins as “Shangri-La” during the FDR administration before assuming the current name (after Dwight Eisenhower’s son, David). In fact, the Camp David sign at the entrance existed for some time before being changed to the “Camp #3” sign you see above. Because, who would care about “Camp #3”? It’s not as if anyone obsesses over Area 51, right…?

This is really the easiest trail in the park, a short walk to a nice view...

This is really the easiest trail in the park, a short walk to a nice view…

I’m not unearthing any secret information here. Google Maps has displayed the exact location of Camp David for some time now. To see the “Camp #3” sign and entrance, all you need to do is get on the park’s main road (Park Central Road) and drive a little further past the most popular trails. The entrance is about a mile past the Hog Rock parking lot. I’m sure many people miss it, only going so far as Hog Rock during their Catoctin visit.

These two took my view, so they made for a nice reference point in the photo instead. Camp David would in the general area to the right of these two, but can't be seen anywhere from along this trail or from any vantage point.

These two took my view, so they made for a nice reference point in the photo instead. Camp David would in the general area to the right of these two, but can’t be seen anywhere from along this trail or from any vantage point.

The park flyer states that you won’t see any of the Camp David buildings from the main road, but an intimidating wire fence surrounds the area and at least two lookout towers can be seen with a sharp eye. This is as close as Joe Public is going to get, and I wasn’t about to press my luck during my visit to the park.

Downtown Gettysburg, with the famous Gettysburg Hotel in the background. The town is only about a half hour drive from Catoctin Mountain Park.

Downtown Gettysburg, with the famous Gettysburg Hotel in the background. The town is only about a half hour drive from Catoctin Mountain Park.

Oh, and about my visit. I’ve always passed up Catoctin (despite knowing about Camp David) on drives from D.C. to Gettysburg. The park is exactly an hour drive for me and yet it took me a little over two years to get there since moving to the D.C. area. A cool day in May makes for perfect hiking at Catoctin and we did the fairly easy Blue Ridge Summit overlook hike. I also made it four states in one day as we scampered up to Pennsylvania for a late lunch (in Gettysburg) and West Virginia for a little gambling in Charles Town before heading back through Virginia and into Maryland. At one point during the trip I crossed from Maryland into Virginia and into West Virginia in less than a minute’s time. This oddity is detailed nicely on twelvemilecircle.

Location info:

(Catoctin Mountain Park Visitor Center – open year round, hours vary – 14707 Park Central Road, Thurmont, MD. (301)-663-9388)

(Camp David – National Park Servicewhitehouse.gov)

5 thoughts on “AS CLOSE AS YOU’LL GET TO CAMP DAVID

  1. Just browsing around and read through your article. I wanted to correct one thing with the photo of the two hikers sitting on the rock. You state that Camp David is to the right of the hikers when in reality it is to the left. This photo was obviously taken from The Blue Ridge Summit Overlook and you’re looking north towards Victor Cullen Center and Sabillasville, MD. I’ve lived in the area my entire life and worked at Victor Cullen for a while. Just wanted to clarify that. Otherwise nice article.

    • I’ve been to Camp David. Really, I have. Used to go there every day. Did so for over a year. Well, that’s only because I was stationed there as part of Marine Security Company, detached from Marine Barracks in DC. After serving in Camp David for a minimum of 12 months we are awarded the Presidential Service Badge and Certificate, a very nice thing to have in my resumé.We were in charge of ALL the security there. It is a very nice place to visit but it is an impossible thing to do unless you have a Top Secret, Category One Security Clearance. Jimmy Carter was there quite often and enjoyed treating the Marines to movies, games, and what not
      Security there is extremely tight, as you must imagine. It is actually a Navy base, what they call a Naval Support Facility. Once you get transfered from there, you will never go back. I, by circumstances, was the only one to ever have done so. There is absolutely no way to get even as far as the fence line without being detected. It is the most immaculately kept place I have ever been, even more so than the White House. Due to security, you don’t know when you’re actually going to be stationed there or leaving; you just get called in and you have about 1 hour to pack all your gear and move. It is a beautiful place and the security rivals that which you would find in a James Bond film.

  2. I’ve been to Camp David. In the 70s my father packed my sister and myself into his old Mustang and drove us as far as we could get on wheels. After that, we had to walk down miles of road and then miles through the woods (I remember crying because my feet hurt from all the walking, and my dad getting a little short with me!). I also recall that when we ran out of water there were a couple of rocky/mossy trickling streams we came to and drank from. I was reluctant at first, but recall my dad saying that the rocks the stream flowed over cleaned the water–and it was surprisingly cold water, considering the heat of the day. At that time, the main interior room of Camp David had a braided rug and a big rocking chair, stone hearth, and, in a word, the, lasting impression I have of it after all these years is “cozy.” I think we must have gone as part of a tour, because there were a few others in the room, even tho we’d walked there alone. I remember my dad pointing out the rockerfor, and for some reason that memory sticks out. I was eight or nine at the time, so don’t recall a lot, but it was a neat experience, even with all the walking.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s