Archive for the ‘Miles 101-150’ Category

Cohill Station (Mile 130.7 of the C&O Canal)

This is the Cohill Station parking lot.  There is a large gravel pile at the end and room for several cars.

This is the Cohill Station parking lot. There is a large gravel pile at the end and room for several cars.

This is the first thing you see after crossing a footbridge over the canal

This sign is the first thing you see after crossing a footbridge over the canal

Cohill Station is one of those places that I’ve passed on a bike a dozen times, but today’s hike marked the first time I have ever parked in the lot and started anything from this location.  The 23 miles of towpath that nearly parallels the Western Maryland Rail Trail is quieter than much of the C&O because of the alternative paved route, so it’s not surprising that the only person Candee and I saw was a long distance rider, presumably on his way upstream to Cumberland.

A month ago, everything was green.  The lack of leaves does make for some great long distance views!

A month ago, everything was green. The lack of leaves does make for some great long distance views!

We started the hike with a 7.5 mile down-and-back to the Devils Eyebrow in mind, but we stopped at mile marker 128 instead.  Candee has been battling with bronchitis for about five weeks, and on this day, there was something in the air that caused me to have a two hour, nonstop sneezing fit.  Maybe that’s because we haven’t had a “hard” frost up this point.   We’ve had a number of excellent hikes this year, but few of them have been recent because we both haven’t been healthy at the same time since…  I really don’t remember!

Lock 53, the Irishman's Lock

Lock 53, the Irishman’s Lock.  The port-a-john at Leopards Mill is visible in the distance.

Lockhouse 53 ruins

Lockhouse 53 ruins

I’m not sure how a website called “C&O Canal Adventures” has led us to so many other places.  The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP is where our passion for hiking and biking began, so it’s always great to get back to the towpath.  Places like the Leopards Mill hiker/biker campsite and MM 128 offer magnificent views of the river, and the Lockhouse 53 ruins and two culverts along the way throw a bit of history into the mix.  Likewise, the solitude gave us an opportunity to reflect upon our veterans and how much we owe them.  I would first like to thank them for the day off and the opportunity to take a hike, but, more importantly, thanks for our freedom.

Leopards Mill hiker/biker offers a great view of the river.

Leopards Mill hiker/biker offers a great view of the river.

Hopefully, the nagging affects of congestion and allergies will soon be things of the past.  There are still several weeks of autumn remaining, and afterward there’s something about a long winter’s walk in the woods that is exciting from the 7am cup of coffee through to cranking up the Jeep’s heater at the end of the day.  Cohill Station was a good place to kick off the season of leafless trees and nearly wide-open vistas.  After our recent lull, I think many interesting hikes are just around the corner.

This is a nice view of the Potomac from mm 128.  This was a great place to turn around and head back.

This is a nice view of the Potomac from mm 128. This was a great place to turn around and head back.

Mostly Green (The C&O Canal Near Sideling Hill Creek)

Looking across at Sideling Hill in West Virginia from the towpath.

Looking across at Sideling Hill in West Virginia from the towpath.  There are a few signs of fall, but green is still large and in charge!

Is it possible to have both positive and negative feelings about the same thing simultaneously?  Maybe.  I’m pretty pleased with the warm October we’re having up to this point, but the lack of fall colors is a little bit disappointing.  A recent trip to 3000+’ heights in Shenandoah National Park showed that green was still the dominant color, so I’m not sure what I was expecting along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath a mere three days later.  Anyway, the greens of summer are still dominant along the Potomac River.  A cold snap is on the way, so the warm hues of autumn should be days away.  Candee had some pictures taken in Green Ridge State Forest last September, and there was plenty of color.  Mother Nature is running a few weeks behind this year, but she is definitely on her way.

Basil Balm

Monarda clinopodia

Monarda clinopodia, basil balm

Wildflowers, in general, make me a little bit crazy.  I’m a lot better at identifying them than I am mushrooms and birds, but occasionally I get stumped–mainly because our pictures don’t match anything that pops up on the internet.  That’s when I defer to Candee and let her do the dirty work; she has a much better eye for these things.  The trouble is that she’s on a long-distance hike in the Netherlands, and I’m kind of on my own here.

I don’t recall ever seeing this flower along the C&O’s towpath, but it popped up near MM 137 and MM 140.  When I returned home, I found a quick match on a wildflower website, but I’ve since seen this plant referred to as white bergamot.  Both seem to fall under the title of monarda clinopodia, so I’m fairly comfortable with either.

Another site describes the plant as having a sweet flower that is popular with butterflies and further states that the leaves make an excellent tea.  I had to scratch my head on that one.  Is this the same bergamot used in Earl Gray?  I’m certainly unqualified to answer that question!

As stated, this pinkish version of the same plant turned up a few miles up the towpath.  The plant grows to a height of about 3', and with a general lack of wildflowers at the moment (outside of an infinite number of day-lilies!), these plants are really hard to miss wherever they may be.

As stated, this pinkish version of the same plant turned up a few miles up the towpath. The plant grows to a height of about 3′, and with a general lack of wildflowers at the moment (outside of an infinite number of day-lilies!), they are really hard to miss wherever they may be.

Calling All Moms: We Have Your Flowers Here!

A section of the  C&O Canal towpath above Pearre Station (roughly mm 138)

A section of the C&O Canal towpath above Pearre Station (roughly mm 138)

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I welcome all comments–especially those that correct my less-than-stellar plant identification skills.  With that said, I did spend a couple of hours trying to ID several wildflowers, and in a few cases I obtained second–and even third–opinions.  Years ago, our hiking and biking excursions on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal took root upstream from Pearre Station, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t have anything new or unusual to say about today’s hike/level walk, but Mother Nature fittingly delivered an abundance of flowers on Mother’s Day!

Star of Bethlehem

Star of Bethlehem

I’m going to start things off with the Star of Bethlehem.  For whatever reason, this one was the most difficult to ID.  A few weeks ago, Candee and I noticed this wildflower just beginning to open about 65 miles downstream (near Shepherdstown).  Our Peterson’s pocket guide wasn’t much help, so I eventually rolled the dice and searched the internet for white wildflowers with six petals.  While we have seen this flower occasionally, it doesn’t appear to be terribly common along the towpath.

Wild Stonecrop

Wild stonecrop

The Wild stonecrop (see above) is a wildflower that neither of us can recall seeing on the C&O Canal prior to today.  The reading I’ve done states that this plant thrives in shaded woodlands, but it’s found most often on bare slopes or around rocks.  Surprisingly, we located this specimen a few feet from the towpath on the river side.  Because of the difference in our location and its usual habitat, I feel lucky to have seen this plant at all.

Golden ragwort

Golden ragwort

We saw a few small patches of golden ragwort along the way.  The plant requires full sun to light shade, and in conditions with more light, the plant needs moister soil.  The towpath between the Sideling Hill Creek and Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueducts seems to meet some–but not all–of the criteria, so it isn’t too surprising that golden ragwort didn’t dominate any particular part of the trail.

Philadelphia fleabane

Philadelphia fleabane

Philadelphia fleabane has a similar look to asters, but the difference is that the former can be seen in the spring, while the latter occur in the summer and early fall.  My Peterson’s guide states that it occurs along roadsides or in wastelands, so I suppose seeing it along the towpath isn’t all that surprising.  Nevertheless, it was fairly sparse in comparison to a couple of the other wildflowers.

Mayapple bloom

Mayapple bloom

Mayapples, on the other hand, were nearly everywhere along the towpath.  They were blooming near Shepherdstown a few days ago, but the first few that we saw today didn’t have any flowers.  Nevertheless, as we headed up the trail, the large, white flowers became numerous.  However, the fading dame’s rocket and thriving garlic mustard (not pictured) were even more common.  Both of these plants have been described as invasive, but it’s the garlic mustard that has “inspired” volunteers to remove it in volume all along the canal.  From what we saw today, it’s going to be an uphill fight!

Dame's rocket

Dame’s rocket

In all, Mother’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to get back to the C&O Canal after a bit of an absence.  Wildflowers were out in force, and there will certainly be numerous changes in the coming weeks.  Dutchman’s breeches are long gone, and the flowers of the Virginia bluebell are already few and far between.  Being an amateur, I would have to look back on some of our older posts to even have a guess at what’s coming next, but it’s bound to be interesting.

I'm not much of a herpetologist either, but the owner of a pet corn snake told me that's what this is.

I’m not much of a herpetologist either, but the owner of a pet corn snake told me that’s what this is.

 

Around Fort Frederick

Nobody's home.  Just me, Candee, and her shadow.

Nobody’s home. Just me, Candee, and her shadow.

Fort Frederick is about forty minutes from Martinsburg, but we haven’t visited it very often over the years.  This past Friday happened to be the perfect opportunity: we virtually had the entire place to ourselves.  We saw two or three cars and a ranger roaming around, but the hike was very quiet and relaxing.  Of course, that means the visitor center and the fort itself were closed, so the learning experience was all about a few tidbits we picked up on our own.

1936 Potomac flood high water mark

1936 Potomac flood high water mark

Heading down the road from the fort, this marker sits a few feet (in elevation) above the towpath.  Statistically, the 1936 flood topped out at 48.6′ in Williamsport, with  flood stage being 23′.  Looking around, it became obvious that the towpath would have been under several feet of water, while nearby Big Pool was totally engulfed by the river.  The C&O’s aqueducts were completely submerged, and structures such as culverts and waste weirs must have been under 20+’ of water.  This marker tells an interesting story because it’s not exactly a short hop down to the river from this point.  Upstream at Bonds Landing, the high water mark is located on a tree just above the boat ramp.  That one is a little bit more telling because you can actually look up at the tree and see how far under water you would have been.

Managed deer hunt on nearby state lands

Managed deer hunt on nearby state lands

This sign speaks for itself and serves as a warning for hikers and bikers on the C&O Canal towpath downstream from Fort Frederick.  We ran into a local man walking his dog, and he informed us that this hunt has been occurring annually for several years.   I’m sure the DNR has everything under control, but I would pick a different stretch to hike on those days.  Nevertheless, I have encountered duck hunters crossing the towpath on a couple of occasions (near Town Creek), and one time in particular they were conversing with a Maryland DNR officer.  I’m not too familiar with the laws, but apparently, seeing a hunter with an unloaded shotgun crossing the towpath isn’t always a cause for alarm.

Finally, Candee has a new favorite tree!  As you enter Fort Frederick State Park, bear to the right toward the visitor center.  Toward the bottom of a large clearing, there’s an amazing sycamore just off of the right side of the road.  There are many impressive sycamores along the towpath and Potomac, but this one loomed large with no other trees around.  I can’t say that I have a favorite tree, but this one is certainly on the short list.

Sycamore in Fort Frederick State Park

Sycamore in Fort Frederick State Park