|President Kennedy, son John Jr., and daughter Caroline - March 1963|
This 1963 newspaper article about a Presidential visit to Camp David reports that President Kennedy's helicopter "landed on a recreation field which had been temporarily converted into a riding ring for Mrs. Kennedy and five-year-old Caroline".
|Susan and Steve Ford and friends rode horses at Camp David over Labor Day Weekend in 1974|
The Reagans also enjoyed riding horses at Camp David. However, President Reagan was reportedly "appalled" to find that Richard Nixon had paved over many of the old riding trails so that he could ride around in a golf cart instead. Reagan had the trails restored and the National Park Service rangers brought in horses from nearby stables. Over time, the Reagans extended their rides to include some trails outside the camp perimeter fence.
|President Reagan in 1983 Riding with Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo in 1981|
|President Reagan and Vice President Bush ride horses at Camp David in July 1981|
|President and Mrs. Reagan, son Ron Reagan and wife Doria - October 1983|
In the book The Reagan Diaries, President Reagan wrote on October 3, 1981:
"Windy & cold but we rode & for the first time went out a back gate into the Catoctin National Forest. Followed an old road that led to a stone ruin of what was a summer hotel in 1933 when the lady owner Bessie Darling was murdered by her doctor boyfriend. During World War II it was used for briefing foreign intelligence officers. It's a tumbled ruin now."
I wanted to see if I could find the path President Reagan took that day out the back gate at Camp David to the ruin of the old hotel. According to the National Park Service website, Bessie Darling ran the old Valley View Manor. They have a map on their website that shows the location. A quick check on Google Earth revealed the Camp David back gate and a path that led into the direction of the old Valley View Manor. Below are some screen shots that show the back gate, the path to a clearing, and the ruins of Bessie Darling's house.
|Camp David back gate|
|Trail leading out the back gate to a clearing. The Valley View Manor ruins are further past the clearing|
I came across an interesting blog post written by someone who hiked to the Bessie Darling house on the Halloween anniversary of her murder. It is difficult to view the actual ruins on Google Maps since they are in a heavily wooded area. But who needs Google Maps when you have photos of the actual site?
|Bessie Darling's house - The Valley View Manor Ruins of the house in 2008|
The path from Camp David to the clearing is easily visible. The old road that President Reagan rode on past the clearing to the Bessie Darling House is obscured by trees. I could not find any documentation on the clearing or whether it is related to Camp David or not. Below are some close-ups of the clearing on Google Maps and Bing Maps.
|Close up view of the clearing - from 2007 Google Maps|
The 2007 image above shows the clearing on the way to the Valley View Manor. There appears to be a building on the left (see closeup view from different angle). The same area displayed in a more recent Bing Map below looks like there might be some construction going on in the area of the clearing.
|View from Bing Maps - March 2012|
I went back to Bing Maps a month later and noticed that the map image had changed and a prominent paved path leading to the back gate at Camp David was now visible.
|View from Bing Maps - April 2012|
Sources: John F. Kennedy Library; Ronald Reagan Library; Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library; The President is at Camp David; From Mount Vernon to Crawford; Camp David Tour; Sarasota Herald-Tribune; The Modesto Bee; The Reagans: Portrait of a Marriage; The Reagan Diaries; National Park Service; Mongoose of Mystery; Google Earth; The White House