Archive for the ‘Miles 51-100’ Category

March/April Wildflowers on the C&O Canal Between Mile Markers 71 and 72

Star of Bethlehem.  This plant is highly invasive and--at the moment--outnumbers the dreaded garlic mustard on this section of the towpath.

Star of Bethlehem. This plant is highly invasive and–at the moment–outnumbers the dreaded garlic mustard on this section of the towpath.

This plant is also prevalent along the canal.  It has been around for a number of weeks, and I've noticed it (as a weed) in many yards in our hometown of Martinsburg, WV.

This plant (purple dead nettle)  is also prevalent along the canal. It has been around for a number of weeks, and I’ve noticed it (as a weed) in many yards in our hometown of Martinsburg, WV.

Dutchman's breeches have been around for several weeks and occupy many large patches along the canal and river.

Dutchman’s breeches have been around for several weeks and occupy many large patches along the canal and river.

Blood root grew more sporadically in this area and is already gone.  After a recent hard wind, petals from this flower were scattered.

Blood root grew more sporadically in this area and is already gone. After a recent hard wind, petals from this flower were scattered.

Trout lilies have been around for a bit over a week.  There are several patches of their "mottled" leaves in the area, but the immature single-leaved plants don't  produce a flower.  The mature plants with double leafs produce this interesting looking specimen.

Trout lilies have been around for a bit over a week. There are several patches of their “mottled” leaves in the area, but the immature single-leaf plants don’t produce a flower. The mature plants with double leaves produce this interesting looking specimen.

Virginia bluebells are generally blue, but we did see a single cluster with white flowers.

Virginia bluebells are generally blue, but we did see a single cluster with white flowers.

Bluebells in their more traditional color

Bluebells in their more traditional color

Violets

Violets

Cut-leaf toothwort.  They are fading fast!

Cut-leaf toothwort. They are fading fast!

Golden ragwort

Golden ragwort

White violet

White violet

The grape hyacinth was plentiful early on, but they are going, going, almost gone.

The grape hyacinth was plentiful early on, but they are going, going, almost gone.

Ground ivy

Ground ivy

Garlic mustard is the most-hated invasive plant along the towpath.

Garlic mustard is the most-hated invasive plant along the towpath.

Spring beauties

Spring beauties

And then there's the dandelion.  You would like to forget about it, but it won't let you!

And then there’s the dandelion. You would like to forget about it, but it won’t let you!

 

What’s in a name?: Falling Waters

Falling Waters isa name that pops up on both the West Virginia and Maryland sides of the Potomac a few miles below Williamsport, Md.  Here's why!

Falling Waters is a name that pops up on both the West Virginia and Maryland sides of the Potomac a few miles below Williamsport, Md. Here’s why!

I’ve always been fascinated with place names, and, locally, I’ve been intrigued with the name “Falling Waters” for a number of years.  First off, there’s a small town by that name between Martinsburg, WV and Williamsport, Md. on Route 11.  Secondly, on the Maryland side, there is a Falling Waters hiker/biker campsite on the C&O Canal.  But why?  As I’ve biked the towpath in that area, I’ve never seen any waters actually falling on the Potomac.

Landmark sign

Landmark sign

Instead, the “falling waters” are on the West Virginia side, as a small Potomac tributary drops approximately 20-25′ right above its merger with the river.  There were two Civil War battles fought in the area (July 2, 1861 and July 14, 1863), and the skirmishes, like the town in West Virginia and the hiker/biker campsite in Maryland, were both named after the “falling waters” pictured above.  The reason for the battles being named after Falling Waters is that the Federals tended to name engagements after natural landmarks.  I’ve lived in Martinsburg for 21 years, but I had no idea about any of this until a couple of weeks ago.  I need to get with it!

And a little bit of the local Civil War history!

And a little bit of the local Civil War history!

The Big Thaw

Ice on the Potomac River at Big Slackwater

Ice on the Potomac River at Big Slackwater

After a bone-chilling February and a couple of late winter snows in the area, something had to give.  Along the Potomac at Big Slackwater, a warming trend led to the accumulation of river-wide shards of ice and debris flowing at a fairly rapid rate toward Dam 4.  Snow melted and ice cracked, leading to high water that freed up the clearing of the Potomac and its tributaries.  The accompanying soundtrack consisted of the usual grinding, sloshing, and cracking that comes with the changing of the seasons.  It may not have been as sensational as spring coming to the Yukon, but it got my attention.

River-wide flowing ice!

River-wide flowing ice!

Ice gathering along the Big Slackwater towpath

Ice gathering along the Big Slackwater towpath

Looking upstream

Looking upstream

Final shot

Final shot

Watering Williamsport

This is news to me!

This is news to me!

During a short walk upstream fro Williamsport, I noticed all of the stones is the canal prism, but I didn’t think much about it.  However, this sign made me stop and ponder the possibilities: what exactly is “the design of the Conococheague Aqueduct?”  I’ve heard stories for a couple of years about watering the aqueduct, but the missing upstream wall is a major problem. That’s when the light bulb came on: hence, the large, squared stones in the prism.  Sometimes it takes me a little while to grasp a concept…

Stones in the canal prism!

Stones in the canal prism!

Actually, the project is a combined effort between the Town of Williamsport and the National Park Service.  Williamsport is already one of the most visited spots along the canal, but adding a mule drawn boat that goes over a creek, underneath a railroad bridge, and through a lock would be a tremendous boon for both the town and the park.  Such an upgrade would bring in an estimated 100,000 additional visitors, who would spend $1,8 million.  Spread that over a year, and you’re looking at 274 more people a day, and they would spend about $4900 Per Diem.  That’s a lot of Desert Rose sandwiches, Tony’s pizzas, and souvenirs at the visitor center, etc.  Needless to say, the “wow factor” would be as important as the revenue.  The project is slated to be finished in the summer of 2016, and I can guarantee that if the NPS and Williamsport build it, people will come.

Getting the aqueduct's "good" side

Getting the aqueduct’s “good” side

Hockey at Cushwa Basin

Checking out the hockey game at Cushwa Basin!

Checking out the hockey game at Cushwa Basin!

Earlier this afternoon, Candee and I drove to Williamsport to check out the recent snowfall on the towpath, and we were surprised to see a group of kids playing hockey on the C&O Canal at Cushwa Basin.  They were having a great time and didn’t have a care in the world, but we wondered how they knew the ice was thick enough to be safe.  Being the more curious of the two of us, Candee decided to ask, and one of the young men told her that an adult had drilled a hole in the ice.  He said that the ice is presently 6″ thick, and anything over 3″ is safe.  The whole thing suddenly sounded pretty simple, and I’m not sure why neither of us thought of it.  Nevertheless, it looks like the cold snap is going to last a few more days, so the fun and games will last a while longer!