I recently returned from back-to-back weekends at the Maple Treehouse Camp and had a very pleasant experience. It was my sixth trip out there over the last two years and it has always been a good time. I generally go in the off-season, when colder temperatures are the norm, because a lot of other people don’t. The camp is dog-friendly and I bring my three whenever I go out. There are lots of places nearby to give them a good run. The area is knee-deep in history, and the Treehouse Camp provides a very comfortable and convenient location to all the things that interest me.
The Treehouse Camp is located in Crampton’s Gap, on the western slope of South Mountain, overlooking Pleasant Valley. Pleasant Valley is aptly named and provides a very pretty scenic vista to the west. From October Through December, flocks of migratory geese fly over shortly after dawn. It is a nice way to greet the day. The valley itself is dotted with lots of farms and not much else to spoil the view.
Cramptons’s Gap is one of three local depressions along the ridgeline of South Mountain, the other two being Fox’s and Turner’s Gaps. The Appalachian Trail runs along the crest of the ridge and can be accessed at a trailhead about a quarter of a mile from the Camp. All tree areas played an important role in the Civil War, during the Battle of South Mountain, days before Antietam. Each gap has something unique to offer, from the Arc de Triumphesque memorial to the fallen war correspondents at Crampton’s Gap, to the original Washington Monument (from which one can see into Pennsylvania/ great place for migratory raptor watching) at Turner’s Gap, to Fox’s Gap where General Reno of Reno Road fame (NW, DC) is buried. Fox’s Gap also boasts one of the most brilliant bronze castings that I have ever come across, dedicated to the soldiers from North Carolina who fell there.
There are a wide variety of options, within minutes of the Camp, to stop and grab a bite to eat. On the eastern side of South Mountain, just 10 minutes northeast of the Treehouse Camp is the South Mountain Creamery. Their products taste the way dairy is meant to taste and their meat selection is very nice as well. Crawford’s Confectionary, in Boonsboro is a good joint to grab breakfast or lunch. Can get biscuits and gravy, a birthday card and hunting supplies at the same time. The Mountainside Deli (take-out) in Boonsboro has a really good pit beef sandwich, served with fresh horseradish and a nice tangy BBQ sauce. I am generally not a fan of BBQ sauce, but this one is pretty damn good, and the meat falls apart. The coleslaw and potato salad are solid as well. Boonsboro also has a 24-hour supermarket that has any last second stuff I need to pick up. Nutter’s Ice Cream Shop in Sharpsburg is also worth a stop, even in winter. They make a great shake. I love shakes and it is one of the best that I have tasted.
Shepherdstown, WV is a super little town. Something always seems to be going on there. Their post-Thanksgiving (Black Friday) Christmas event was a really neat experience. Small town ringing in the Christmas season in a non-commercial way. Big bonfires up and down Main Street. Caroler’s singing songs and really good chili and corn bread. Even the Grinch showed up. There are lots of places to grab some food or drink. It is worth spending some time bumping around in. It has a fair number of places of interest, whatever your interests. The cemeteries take you back to the Revolutionary War, while my girlfriend prefers the quaint little shops. We always find something that we like there.
If one goes out to the area, a drive through the Antietam battlefield is well worth the diversion. Unlike Gettysburg, it does not get many visitors. It is a very moving place. Even if you don’t care about history, the stark contrast between the beauty of the landscape and the events that went on there that day make you think. It was the bloodiest day in American history. It is part of our history. Little has changed in the area since the battle and there are lots of reference materials / tour guides available that bring the place to life. Harper’s Ferry is also a quick drive from the camp and offers a pleasant historical trip, as well as numerous places that offer white-water rafting excursions. It has been well preserved in it’s 19th-Century state and offers great views of both the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. The Park Service has a number of exhibit’s dedicated to John Brown’s raid the Civil War actions that went on there. There is also a MARC station and some places to grab a snack.
The Treehouse Camp offers everything that I need to have a pleasant stay in the area. I use the tree cabins when I go up, because if I wanted to pitch a tent, I would hike the Trail. While I enjoy the backcountry experience, the comforts offered by the cabins in the camp make the cold weather months much more enjoyable. The wood-burning stoves heat the cabins to well over 70 degrees. They also double as cooking surfaces. I have prepared some great meals on those stoves. It takes a bit longer, but when you are in a simple environment, everything does. It forces one to slow down and the food seems to taste that much better.
The cabins offer a rustic experience, but something that any novice could be comfortable in with a little bit of preparation. What you bring will determine how comfortable you are. Knowing how to build a fire is very important to maintaining one’s level of comfort. Bring lots of newspaper to get the fire going. Once the cabin starts to heat, everything is good. The cabins, both old and new alike, retain their heat well. You will have to get up in the middle of the night to restock the fire, if you hope to be toasty in the morning.
The cabins differ in age, but I have had positive experiences in both the older and newer ones. I prefer one of the older ones just because it’s old stove does everything so well. The quality of the beds differs from one cabin to the other, as do the sizes of the beds. Cabins sleep six (two 2-person beds and two 1-person beds). They are bunked. I bring a foam egg crate to put on top of the mattresses, which I recommend, and sleep like a baby. Flannel sheets are worth bringing in those colder months as well. There is no electricity so one needs to bring lanterns, battery-powered devices and books/games. The bathrooms and Port-a-johns are very clean and conveniently located to the cabins, and the outdoor showers, while low-flow, get the job done. The showers shut down after it starts to freeze, but there is usually an indoor one available if you need it. Each cabin has a good BBQ and fire pit outside. Sites are located far enough from one another that you don’t feel like you have a neighbor, at least in the off-season. One can see a bonfire through the dark of night, but the cabins are pretty well spaced out. I have never felt crowded. Summertime crowds would bring a different experience I would imagine, but I have other accommodations out that way during those months, so I cannot say.
The owner of the Treehouse Camp, and her staff, have always been very accommodating towards me when I have come out. I often arrive well after dark, and the wood for my stove is waiting for me, so I can get things going. They have been pleasant and hospitable to me on all of my visits, which is why I keep going back. For a quick drive from the city, I can wake up in a completely different environment. It is well worth the commute and the modest cost to rent a cabin. I look forward to my next trip out that way.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- One and a half hours from D.C. and Baltimore we have a small tree house campground and are open year round. There are a variety of camping options, the Hobbit House and Tree Cottages have wood stoves and mattresses, there are new ones and older ones. There are a variety of tree houses, they do not have mattresses or wood stoves. Each site has a fire circle, picnic table, and grill.The bathrooms and showers are centrally located. We have secluded tent sites. We are 7 miles from river rafting, tubing, horseback riding, zip-lining, and a ten-minute walk from the Appalachian Trail. Also, 10 minutes from a train into D.C. ... more less
- Also Known As:
- Maple Tree Campground Hotel Gapland
- Maple Tree Campground Maryland/Gapland