The Mountain Club of Maryland (MCM or MCoMD) was founded in 1934, according to tradition, because several enthusiastic souls decided that 5:00 a.m. was a bit too early to leave for Washington to hike with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). Hence, they thought a club of their own would be a good idea. Preliminary meetings were held in the summer, the first hike (now the traditional “Anniversary Hike” from Crampton Gap to Weverton) in October, and the formal meeting for organization in December. In the beginning, the Club was an affiliate of the PATC, with dues prorated accordingly, but this arrangement was of short duration.
The Club grew. So did the number of trips, which now includes several hikes a week. As the years passed the MCM went farther afield, thanks to the five-day week, the three-day weekend, and expressways. The Shenandoah, the Massanuttens, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maine, and Civil War battlefields have all proven popular. Joint trips have been held with neighboring clubs. Three groups have received awards from the Keystone Trails Association for hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Other groups have taken part in the Range Walk in the White Mountains, expeditions to the High Sierras and trips to other parts of the West. Several individuals have hiked the entire Appalachian Trail.
World War II brought curtailment of activities, public transportation being the sine qua non. Work trips had to be suspended until the High Powers decided that they might be considered as such and gasoline might be allowed. A truck was hired and work trips flourished as never before – or since.
While primarily a hiking club, the MCM has always taken an interest in conservation at first on a personal level and later through the Conservation Committee, which has been active in behalf of many concerns.
A highlight of the Club’s history was the meeting of the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) in 1970 at Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, with the MCM as host. The Club’s association with the ATC has been long and close, becoming official early in 1935. In December of that year, a great boulder was dragged to the top of Piney Knob, then the center of the AT, and dedicated with appropriate ceremonies. The plaque affixed thereto was stolen by miscreants long ago, but Piney Knob become Center Point Knob and remains so to this day. The next big event was the “Great Pennsylvania Relocation” of some 22 miles, never again equaled in extent. At present 45 miles from Clarks Ferry to Pine Grove Furnace in Pennsylvania and 9 miles in Maryland are maintained. In addition, approximately 34 miles of theTuscarora Trail have been built and are being maintained. Finally, the Club is involved in the care of local trails in the Gunpowder State Park, thereby helping to provide hiking nearer home. Since 1973, trail and shelter maintenance has been largely on an individual basis, with volunteers assuming responsibility for a section of trail or a shelter.
In the beginning, all-day trips were held on Sundays, Saturday hikes were afternoon affairs, and overnight trips started Saturday afternoon. The reason? People worked on Saturdays, and being free by 1 p.m. was a luxury. Of course, it was easier to walk closer to home, for suburban sprawl had not yet consumed the countryside. The excursions chairman –not chairperson then– planned a schedule with a set pattern of at least one Saturday, one Sunday, and one overnight trip per month, no two occurring on the same weekend. Trips were ordinarily made by private cars, though occasionally charter buses were used.
Then came World War II, and by June 1942, gas rationing was in effect. Areas accessible by the Ma and Pa, the B&O, the Pennsy, and the Western Maryland railroads or the Greyhound and Trailway buses were highlights of the schedule. Participants in local walks were advised to meet at such streetcar terminals as Irvington Loop, Walbrook Junction, Lakeside Terminal and Towson Courthouse. With the close of the War in 1945, the fall schedule utilized trains, buses, and cars. By January 1946, trips were again by car, a rather uncertain business as the vehicles were old, the tires untrustworthy, and participation was limited by a lack of drivers.
One member appears to have set a precedent by leading an all-day Saturday trip to Valley Forge on May 3, 1947. Except for an occasional work trip, no one hastened to emulate him; so for many years he provided one such trip per schedule, often on the Horseshoe Trail in Pennsylvania. There was still no overlapping of trips until 1968, when the population growth and the resultant increased interest in hiking made this become both feasible and desirable. Backpack trips also began to appear on the schedule.
Recognizing that there were a growing number of able retirees, a walk to Lake Roland was organized on Wednesday, October 10, 1973. This was the first of a weekly schedule, consisting largely of local walks, arranged by two members. This group, known as the Midweek Leisure Hikers, has grown from an initial six to as many as fifty participants.
In March 1979, a second mid-week group, originally known as the “Wednesday Truckers” and renamed the “Wednesday Walkers,” was formed by a member in response to a request to join a group of friends who were, in addition to walking with the Leisure Group, enjoying more strenuous hikes on their own. Walks of 6 to 10 miles, not involving a car plant, and seldom more than an hour’s drive from the starting point, were placed on the regular trip schedule.
Through the years, changes have occurred in how one attained membership. At first, a letter from a member sufficed. Later, a meticulous system of accumulating points for various hikes in a given period of time prevailed. This was amended by having the newcomer carry a card to be signed by the trip leaders and submitted to the membership chairperson upon the completion of three hikes. Then, once again, only the recommendation of a sponsor was required. In each of these procedures, the applicants’ names have been submitted to the Council for approval.
Before the War, there had been group leaders for special interest trips: bird study, botany, canoeing, photography, rock climbing and skiing. The last two have been revived from time to time, and a new one, orienteering, has been introduced.
Now, walks are graded on the trip schedule to assist persons unfamiliar with the leaders or the terrain. Membership is open to anyone; no prior walking or sponsorship is required. It is possible for a person to be a member for a number of years and then drop the membership, without ever participating in any club activity. At present, there are no special interest groups with group leaders.
The one-day walk on the AT across Maryland has become a regular biennial event thanks to the planning of several members.
The AT, formerly a private endeavor, has now become a national park, with shared responsibility with the ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry. Congress voted the final funds needed to purchase the last parcels of private land – a tedious process. Members of the ATC, including MCM, have individual monitors with a responsibility for seeing that there are no infractions of the regulations. The club continues to maintain its sections of the existing trail (usually by individuals) as well as building and maintaining shelters.
Many individuals in MCM also help with trails in local areas, such as the Gunpowder State Park.
MCM also participates in hiking-related outreach programs, often with similar organizations or various Maryland State Parks.
In 2002, MCM received a bequest from the estate of Lester Miles, a long time member. The Club resolved that the original bequest along with other bequests and donations in excess of $1000.00 would remain intact and invested, with the dividends and interest being used to award grants to nonprofit organizations for projects in keeping with the with the founding goals of the Mountain Club of Maryland. The Club continues to review and award grants today.
An Activities Schedule and the Club's newsletter, Hiker High Points, are published three times a year. Members of the public can view a limited schedule online. This schedule lists all activities open to the public, provides a description of the activity and contact information. Members are provided a full schedule of all activities and more detailed activity information.
On October 17 2009, we gathered for an anniversary picnic and hike to retrace the footsteps of our founders’ first MCM hike from Crampton Gap to Weverton Cliffs. We then celebrated this special occasion with an anniversary dinner on October 25. Please click on the following link to see more photos of these special events: MCM 75th Anniversary Photos.
Click here to open the book : MCM: In Honor Of Our 75th Anniversary
Click here to open the book : MCM First Person 1934 - 1984 - containing reminisces of the Mountain Club's early leaders about the club's first 50 years.
Our sincere thanks to the club members who helped make the
75th anniversary celebrations such special and memorable occasions.