Documents 1970-1980 and History
Cat Rock and Bob's Hill National Area, Frederick County, MD, USA
by El Penski

Sometime around 1970, I went on a hike over Bob's Hill and Cat Rock with Carson and Alice Billingsley. Having visited a few great natural areas and Maryland's only Wildland at the time, I was struck by the beauty, magnificence and remoteness of Bob's Hill and Cat Rock area. I decided in later months that I did not want to see other rubbish dumps, like the one pictured on the "Front Page", at the top of those exquisite hills. A few beautiful places had to be preserved. Although I found little support and much discouragement when I began proposing it as a Maryland Wildland; the MCM, Betty (my wife) and I went ahead with the project and picked up support along the way.1, 2

Some of the key letters were not found and included here, but the following documents cover most of the factors considered at the time and deserve to be preserved. The internet is the only way I know to preserve documents as I have learned from hundreds of days of searching through old archives that formal archives lose documents or misplace them frequently.

Some of the hikes relevant to wildlands and preservation are recorded below:
Relevant Formal MCM Hikes
  • On August 3rd of 1968, I led a 8 mile hike that started where the building of the city of Columbia, Howard County, MD was beginning, and then we hiked in the nearby beautiful fields and woods that would soon be only history and forgotten. In the 1940s, Howard County had been mostly farms, woods, tiny villages, and a very old Ellicott City, with a jerk water streetcar running from Catonsville.
  • I led a hike on September 14, 1968 that started with a guided tour of Mettler's Woods, New Jersey, reputed to be a small primeval forest, the only one of its size east of the Mississippi River. The tour was followed by a walk along the Delaware and Raritan Canal. The documented history of Mettler's Woods begins in 1701 when the area was acquired by a group of Dutch settlers. It was not cut by descendants of the settlers. The average age of living white oak trees in the forest is 235 years. Some trees that died in the past two decades have been 350 years old. Mettler's Woods is "known worldwide for long-term ecological, botanical and zoological research" resulting in "250 scientific publications."3
  • On November 21, 1972, my wife, Betty, and I led a hike that was 8 miles in Cunningham State Park, MD. The hike featured the 40 foot high Cunningham Falls and the Catoctin Mountains.
  • On March 3, 1973, Betty and I led a hike called the "Wildlands Exploration Trip," over Bob's Hill, Cunningham State Park, MD. The hikers were warned that this trip was an exploration hike that might involve bushwhacking, rock scrambling, mud, briers, slow pace, and many stops to study terrain and flora.
  • On October 7, 1973, Betty and I led a hike called the "Catoctin Fund Raiser" (The First MCM Benefit Hike). The money collected went to the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club Land Acquisition Fund. The hike was 7 miles in Cunningham State Park, MD.


Proposal in about June 1973 of the Maryland Conservation Council.

This photograph shows the way charcoal was made in America, including Cunningham State Park, from the 1600s until roughly 1840. The wood was burned slowly from the center bottom with a very limited oxygen supply, diminished by covering the wood pile with turf, leaves, dirt or moistened clay. The slow burning and cooling took about half a month with 24 hour attention. The fire was started at the center bottom by removing the vertical log at the center.

Charcoal burns hotter and cleaner than wood. Thus, it was used for fuel for both the production in iron mills and shaping smaller pieces of iron by blacksmiths. Charcoal still has many important uses including cooking, making gunpowder, purification, medicine, art, metallurgical processing, etc. 4

The Catoctin Iron Works, near the base of Bob's Hill, operated from 1776 until 1903 making stoves, pans, other kitchen utensils, and cannon balls. It seems that there were several limestone mines and good quality iron ore mines within a few miles of the furnace or closer.5 Limestone binds with silica and other impurities to remove them from the iron ore when in blast furnaces. In 1873 the Catoctin furnace stopped burning charcoal and was switched to burning coke roasted from bituminous coal. 6

Mrs. Hartline was Chair of the MD Wildland Committee, a great help, and the wife of a Nobel Prize Winner. She and her husband went on one of my informal exploration hikes over Bob's Hill.

November 27, 1973
H. William Kramer, Jr.
Natural Resource Planner
Dept. of Natural Resources
Tawes State Office Bldg.
Annapolis, Md. 21401

Dear Mr. Kramer:

I read your letter of November 19 to Elwin Penski regarding Bobís Hill area, and I take exception to your hope that a walk-in camping area will be compatible with a wildlands designation there. An area set up to serve as many as 50 users and located and located only about 450 yards from a vehicle parking area is not likely to fit in with genuine wildlands concept. In the first place, bringing vehicles into the area, much more in reality, already bring a density of use that precludes preservation of natural terrain and sufficient rustic isolation. Secondly, this would be a community project or operation located in the trees, where a wildland would then would no longer exist. I suspect there is an incompatibility of concepts here.

There may indeed be nothing wrong with walk-in camping in wildlands, per se; after all, we have these areas in the Shenandoah National Park at certain places that are remote. But in order to preserve the primitivity of the natural setting, the kind of camping that occurs must be sparse indeed; the area must be hard to get to, with water, with motor access at least 5 mile away. Otherwise, there is little to distinguish that kind of campground from the regular type almost at roadside -- the only difference being that one does not have his camper Ė trailer with him. The usual campsite of this sort is a base from which one walks some distance away (from people) in order to feel or sense what the wildlands are like.

I hope you will reconsider this situation and your plans with respect to Bobís Hill.

Sincerely yours

Thurstan Griggs, President
Mountain Club of Maryland
cc: Mr. Coulter
This letter was retyped from a hard to read carbon copy.

Dr. Thurston Griggs was a great man; and the more I got to know him, the more he amazed me. He joined the Mountain Club of Maryland (MCM) in 1959, serving as its President from 1972-1974 and 1990-1992. I hiked with him for many years in the 1960s until about the 1990s. I knew him as a dedicated father, rugged hiker, a very quiet man, very hard working, and kindly man. When I knew him, he was a faculty member of the University of Maryland at College Park where he served as Professor of East Asia Studies and Administrator of the Physics Department.

Thurston wrote the following books based on his life. They are titled: "Americans in China: Some Chinese Views", "Human Foibles: Six Plays", and "One Man's Window on the 20th Century" (autobiography).7, 8, 9 The autobiography describes the numerous aspects of his life, including 3 months spent in Germany when the Nazi party was starting to consolidate power, his graduate education at Harvard, his experiences during World War II, and his life in mainland China in Canton and Peking (Beijing) before and after World War II. Furthermore, there is his ground-breaking invention (5 patents) of a computerized speech-transcription process for voice recognition in the 1960's.

Thurston Griggs died at the age of 95 in 2011. He has a feeder trail to the Appalachian Trail near Smithsburg, Maryland named after him. He was dedicated to the Appalachian Trail and the conservation of the forests around the trail for 5 decades.

The following five pages were written by the State of Maryland for internal presentations with the slides (photographs) shown on this website. A few times I presented the slides as part of lectures to organizations like the Sierra Club of Baltimore before the State borrowed and returned the slides.


1 A Few of Betty's and El's Conservation Efforts, from the book titled MCM, First Person, 1934-1984, published around 1985. Mountain Club of Maryland (MCM),, Accessed September 15, 2014.

2 Roberts, K.A. and Kozier, M.R., Garrett, Allegany, and Fredrick Counties Wildland Assessment, Recommendations for Discussion, Maryland Wildlands Preservation Systems, 1974-1975.

3 Mettler's Woods, William L. Hutcheson Memorial Forest, Rutgers University,, Accessed September 8, 2014.

4Charcoal, Wikipedia,, Accessed: September 15, 2014.

5 Bastion, T., Historical and Archeological Significance of an Abandoned Mine in Cunningham State Park near Catoctin Furnace, Fredrick County, Maryland, Maryland Geological Survey, August 1973.

6 Anderson, E.Y., Catoctin Furnace, Portriat of an Iron-Making Village, The History Press, Charleston, SC, 2013.

7Griggs, T, and Neumann, W.L., Americans in China: Some Chinese Views, Literary Licensing, LLC, Whitefish, MT, 2013.

8Griggs, T, Human Foibles: Six Plays, Elderberry Press, LLC, Oakland, Oregon, 2003.

9Griggs, T, One Man's Window on the 20th Century, Vantage Press, Burlington, Vermont, 2003.

For those who want to visit the area, I recommend the guidebook: Means, J., Maryland's Catoctin Mountain Parks, The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Granville, Ohio, 2012.

CFSP Wildland, Front Page
CFSP Wildland Documents 1970-1980
CFSP Wildland Aerial Photographs
Bobís Hill Photographs
Bobís Hill Rocks Photographs
Wigville Trail Photographs
Cat Rock Hill Photographs
CFSP Wildland Plants and Animals Photographs
El Penski's Research Studies