Our Visit to Camp David

Posted By BrokenClaw on July 1, 1998

After a cold rainy weekend in April, 1996, the sun finally came out on Tuesday, a day we had off from work together. We decided to drive out to the Catoctin Mountain Park near Thurmont, MD, for some hiking. The Orioles Opening Day had been postponed from Monday, so Broken Claw took his radio along to listen to the game.

Without a map, we weren’t sure how to get there, and we ended up taking a round-about route to the park. Finally we drove through the park, then into Thurmont for lunch. We found a little pizza and sub shop on Main Street. We are not impressed by the service, but the food was acceptable. We drove back to Catoctin and found a small parking lot where a trail led uphill.

The Orioles game was just starting as we headed up the trail. We listened as President Clinton threw out the first pitch. We walked about 4 miles in a route that included the Thurmont Overlook. It was nearly 4:30 when we got back to the car. We drove down to the Park Office to use the facilities, then we decided to take a drive to explore the rest of Catoctin Mountain before dusk.

Near the top of the hill, we saw a turnoff, with several vehicles driving in and out. For no reason other than curiosity, Broken Claw made the fateful turn into the drive. We immediately saw signs, parallel to our original route, that read Do Not Enter…, but another vehicle had already pulled in behind us. Broken Claw pulled over to let them pass so we could turn around. The vehicle stopped behind us, apparently as confused as we were. So then we tried to make a U-turn, but by then our path was deliberately blocked by another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. Four young men in civilian clothes jumped out, identified themselves as Marines, and told us that we were trespassing on federal property.

They told us, along with the other three vehicles, that we would have to wait for the Park Ranger. The whole thing seemed a bit silly, since we had barely turned onto the drive. Broken Claw tried to engage the Marines in a logical debate on the subject, but it quickly became evident that the situation was not open to negotiation. Up ahead, we could see the vehicle we had originally followed stopped at an armed gate. When the Park Ranger arrived, we were required to provide ID and vehicle registration. It finally occurred to us that we had inadvertently stumbled onto Camp David! Over the next 45 minutes, we stood by while Trailwalker’s car was searched by uniformed, armed Marines, complete with mirrors to check the underside. Fortunately, she had no firearms or her hunting bow packed in her car, or who knows where we would have ended up. The only thing in the trunk was her bowling bag, which they also searched, and a case of dog food. The Marines took a full report of our identity, including a physical description of us and the car.

When the Park Ranger returned, he issued Broken Claw a Warning Notice (see below), in lieu of citation or fine, for “disobeying official sign”, a violation of Park Service Regulation 36CFR, subsection 4.12. He told us that the driver who actually continued on to the gate received a harsher penalty. As an aside, he asked if we had figured out where we were. Broken Claw mentioned Camp David, and the Ranger did not deny our suspicion. So you see, our visit to Camp David consisted entirely of seeing the gate from the outside and wishing we hadn’t.

USDI Warning Notice



One Response to “Our Visit to Camp David”

  1. brokenclaw says:

    When I told this tale of woe to a pilot friend of mine, he told me that that area is clearly marked as a no-fly zone on all flight maps. He said that if you happen to wander too close, the next sound you hear will be the roar of F-14′s from Andrews AFB.

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