I moved to Montgomery, MD in 1997 and soon thereafter started to notice a large hill/small mountain far to the west of the county. I would see it from freeway overpasses and other vantage points while learning to deal with the rat race called Washington D.C. I noticed on a local map this prominence was Sugarloaf Mountain. That summer I climbed it for the first time and quickly fell in love with the mountain. It became a place of solitude for me and my dogs when we hiked alone and a great family recreation place when I went with my wife and kids. That started the climbing bug in me. Before I knew it, I was using Sugarloaf to train for my climb of Longs Peak in my wife's native Colorado and later for my climb of Mt Rainier.
Writing the SP page for the mountain caused me to explore more of the trails and get into the history of the hill. When I moved my family to Colorado Springs in May '04 I did not think that I would miss Sugarloaf that much since I would have the Front Range literally in my backyard.
Last week I had the chance to go back to Maryland for a long weekend with my son. While he spent Saturday afternoon with a couple of his old friends I found myself making a beeline for Sugarloaf. I had two hours on the mountain and loved every minute of it. I took the Sunrise Trail to the summit. At the bottom of the trail I realized how beat up it was from hikers and erosion, but was glad to see the a boundry rope and sign were placed higher up keeping people on the trail and warning of erosion damage. After reaching the top I found a quiet rock to sit on. All the memories I had of the mountain came rushing back. I remembered the many hikes I did with my dog, Grace, on the Northern Peaks trail and all the times we were the first living creatures on the mountain on weekend mornings, often with fresh snow on the ground during the rough winter of 2003. I remembered all the times I climbed the hill with my kids, especially when my daughter, who was 5 at the time, made her first summit. I remembered how my son would insist on bringing anyone who was visiting us from out of state to Sugarloaf. He loved sharing the mountain with people for the first time. I remembered ordering Chinese carry-out and bringing it to the mountain and having dinner with the family at the west Potomac overlook. It was a place of refuge for us in what was often 7 chaotic and stressful years in Maryland. I took the A.M. Thomas trail down from the summit and saw many rock climbers tooling around on the steep faces of the west side of the mountain. It reminded me how this hill offers so many different things to so many different people.
Driving back to pick up my son, it struck me how much I missed Maryland and this hill I called "my mountain." I live in the glory of the Rockies now and would not trade if for anything. The list of Colorado climbing memories is growing faster than it ever did in Maryland. Still, the memories I have of Sugarloaf will always be unique for me. The elevation of a mountain does not make a climb worthwhile. I have enjoyed some of my hikes on Sugarloaf more than some of the Colorado 14ers that I have climbed. For me it is the joy and freedom of being in the hills and I was able to experience this one more time on "my mountain." If you live or travel anywhere near Sugarloaf, by all means go climb it and take some great memories with you.
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