Have an ice day! (Unused pictures and random thoughts)

Canal access

Canal access

This is my annual winter post where I have a handful of unused pictures and a couple of things that I’ve been thinking about for one reason or another.  For starters, Candee was wondering why it took me so long to do the post on the Virginia State Arboretum.  Honestly, I know very little about trees, and conjuring up 800 words to say about them wasn’t an easy task.  This, however, should be a breeze!  My plan is to start pounding on keys as something new pops into my head.  We’ve had some really good hikes this winter, but the usual Sunday trek will likely be stifled by a wind chill that is projected to be well below zero.  Even three laps around the inner-concourse of the local mall sounds hideous at the moment!

Frozen Potomac downstream from Antietam

Frozen Potomac downstream from Antietam

The hot topic along the C&O Canal this winter was the fee proposal.  Amidst the negative response at a series of meetings in towns up and down the canal, the proposal has been (for the most part) scrapped.  Civic leaders and canal go’ers alike have emerged victorious, and a good argument can be made that taxpayers shouldn’t be charged to walk or bike on what is essentially their own land.  Likewise, fewer visitors on the towpath could have had an adverse affect upon businesses in places like Hancock, Williamsport, and Brunswick.  I talked to a few people at work who were vehemently against the fees, and they presented  a good argument.  However, there are two sides to every story…

Uh, oh.  This isn't going to end well!

Uh, oh. This isn’t going to end well!

There are others, such as the board of directors of the C&O Canal Association, who came out in favor of the proposed fees, and their reasons are pretty sound as well.  I’m not going into a whole lot of details here, but some of the structures on the canal are in need of repair.  Off the top of my head, there are a few culverts that are crumbling, silted-in, etc., and at least five of the aqueducts are in less-than-stellar condition.  Additional funding would go a long way in fixing these problems, and some of the money could have been used to water the canal in places like Williamsport–particularly across the Conococheague Aqueduct.

Where there's a will, there's a way!

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

There really doesn’t seem to have been a good answer.  Personally, I straddled the fence on this issue throughout.  I read somewhere that the park staff decreased from 93 to 73 in recent years, and Candee and I saw that firsthand last year.  A ranger who was instrumental in one of the volunteer programs was laid off in one of the cutbacks, and losing good people from any staff is a significant setback.  There would have been good and bad with either result,but I do think our government severely undervalues public recreation, and laying off rangers and allowing history to crumble is a travesty–with or without an entrance fee.

Fifteen Mile Creek on ice

Fifteen Mile Creek on ice

On a lighter note, we’ve had a number of bald eagle sightings along the Potomac this winter.  On two occasions, we’ve seen a pair in the vicinity of mile marker 67, and the second time we watched them perch in a tree on the West Virginia side for several minutes.  Before that, I had a good look as one took off from a tree in a cleared area.  It was perhaps 75 feet out at its closest point, but I don’t think Wyatt Earp could have cleared leather with his camera and gotten a good picture.  Another sighting occurred close to mile marker 137, and the birds appeared to have turned up Sideling Hill Creek. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a nest in either place.

Frozen canal in Oldtown

Frozen canal in Oldtown

We’ve certainly had some good times on the canal, but we’ve managed to take advantage of the cold weather and small crowds in a number of parks in Maryland and Virginia.  It’s true that the bleak landscape doesn’t allow for seeing any given area in its best light, but what we’ve missed in this lack of greenery and wildflowers has been replaced by being able to choose any parking space that we’d like.  The last of these trips was to Cunningham Falls State Park, near Thurmont, Maryland.  We had the second best view of the falls from the Catoctin Mountain side a few weeks ago, and our attempt to get a closer look was thwarted by the ice-covered, impassable trail.  The result was a create-a-hike trek around Hunting Creek Lake that included a tricky stream crossing and detour around the dam.  There really isn’t a trail for any of this, but it didn’t turn out too badly.

Hunting Creek Lake, Cunningham Falls State Park

Hunting Creek Lake, Cunningham Falls State Park

Spring is right around the corner, and the goal for the remainder of the year is to have an up-close-and-personal encounter with a bear.  We’ve been to some great places, but I think we’ve failed because sometimes we sound like a marching band coming through the woods.  Candee and I don’t really agree where we’re going to see this bear.  She thinks it will be some wild and wooly place on the Appalachian Trail, but I believe we have a better chance on the C&O–where there’s a great source of food and water around every bend.  Chance are we’ll both be wrong–again!

A lonely life preserver on Hunting Creek Lake

A lonely life preserver on Hunting Creek Lake

And here we are…  It’s the 14th of February, and our area is in the middle of a cold snap.  If nothing else, I have succeeded in using several pictures and finally putting a new post on the site.  Hopefully, somebody will have an opinion on the fees, a recent eagle sighing, or some idea where Candee will come across her magical bear.  I’ll leave you with a prayer for warmer weather and a wish that your next hike will be a good one!

A feeder stream entering Hunting Creek Lake

A feeder stream entering Hunting Creek Lake

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Jamie on February 17, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    About 25 years or so ago, my wife, young son and I went camping at Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks. One night another party pulled into the campground across the way. They had a trailer behind their pick-up. The trailer was low-sided, housed their gear and was covered with a tarp.

    We were awakened to a commotion that night. Bears! It wasn’t until morning that we saw the damage. The tarp had been destroyed and those unfortunate campers had lost their entire supply of beverages — there were beer and soda cans strewn all over the place.

    So just a simple word of caution: If you do have a close encounter with a bear, be careful… you just never know what it may have been drinking!

    Reply

  2. Posted by LevelWalker on February 17, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    This is a great (and funny) cautionary bear country story. I wouldn’t want to shake the hand (paw) of a drunken bear. I can see why they would go after soda and beer–easy calories.

    Reply

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