Catoctin Run & 5x5x5 $$$ for WCK

Supporting domestic manufacturing is a top goal for me in starting Mill & Mountain ( I figure if people have an option to buy Made in US, they’ll want to, at least some of the time - and that helps to keep things rolling for the farmers that grow the cotton, the mills that weave the cloth, the workers that cut & sew the clothes, etc. And, yet …. it’s a big world and things are all connected and (even if you wanted to) you can’t help seeing that there are places around the world that are in a world of hurt right now - like Ukraine.

What can I do?! I had been thinking about a number of runs I wanted to try in coming months, and it occurred to me that maybe I could do the runs and help people a little in Ukraine as well by raising money along the way. Hence this new project - which I’m calling 5x5x5: my goal to do FIVE long, iconic trail runs over the next FIVE months (or less) to raise FIVE thousand dollars for World Central Kitchen, the awesome non-profit that feeds people in war and disaster areas around the world, including in Ukraine. I’ll go do the runs, and I’ll beg people to sponsor me (

Maybe some of you reading this will even want to come along? Let me know!

Anyway, so how is this like starting a clothing brand?! Well, it’s a journey… And it’s about something bigger than me. It’s also true that while I feel like I’m “running for good“ here, the folks I’m hoping to help are literally running for their lives.

OK, here’s what I’ve set out to do: running (1) the Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim and back ( about 48 miles, with 11,000 feet of climbing), (2) the Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming (about 40 miles, with about 9,000 feet of climbing), (3) the Pemigewasset Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains (about 31 miles with 9,000 feet of climbing), (4) the Devil’s Path Trail in New York (about 25 miles with about 9,000 feet of climbing), and (5) the Catoctin Trail in Maryland (about 28 miles with about 4,400 feet of climbing).

OK, maybe the last one is more of a warm-up to the others, but it’s close by, I had to start somewhere, and that’s what I’m writing about today!! Here goes:

The Catoctin Trail. The Catoctin trail is a 28-mile trail in the Catoctin mountains north of Frederick, Maryland. Geologically the Catoctin‘s are super old, which means they’re basically bumps in the landscape - but there is a lot of vertical, and I definitely felt it.

Logistics. Easy drive from Washington, DC - no more than an hour. I parked at the southern trailhead (Google “Gambrill State Park ‘lower lot’" for for the exact spot). I had brought my bike so I could ride to the northern end of the trail where I’d start the run, and then run back to my car. The northern end of the trail is on Mt. Zion Rd. at the north end of the park (Google "Catoctin Trail Trailhead (North Terminus)” for the exact spot). The ride was about 17 miles, which took about 90 minutes. Awesome ride on a spring morning, by the way. I stashed the bike in the woods and started going.

The Trail. Lots of up and down (see pic below)! Even though the Catoctin‘s are basically a single north-south ridge, there are quite a few gaps so lots of climbing. Tons of rocks made it hard to run consistently, for sure. Multiple great views, particularly on the east side of the park. A few cliffs here and there. Interestingly, I found that spring's new plant growth in the Catoctins was about a week or two behind the flatlands. (Makes sense because it’s probably about 1400 feet higher elevation.) Anyway, with the leaves not yet out it was quite a bit sunnier than I had expected.

Hardly any people! I hadn’t done a run this long for a year+ that wasn’t a race of some kind with tons of people. This run, by contrast, was solo 99.9% of the time. I saw maybe 10-15 people all day. It definitely was a motivation factor (that is, without other people passing me I had less motivation to keep running vs stopping to walk if I felt tired)!

Training Beforehand. Not enough! I planned to do this a week later but some family stuff came up and and this was the day I had to make it work. I have to get in better shape to do the others!

Gear. On my feet, Hoka Speedgoat 4 GTX trail runners. They did fine. A small & light running pack. Poles. A bunch of gels (in weird flavors that I didn’t know if I could stomach but ended up all tasting great). Not enough food! About a quart of water, plus a lifestraw I could use if I got super thirsty. I did not have food and water dialed for this run … need to work on that for next time!

That’s about it! It’s a fun one-day trip, especially with the bike ride at the beginning. If you’re in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s a great way to get a lot of vertical and not many people!