Archive for the ‘C&O Canal Association’ Category

Ringing in the New Year

Meeting Place...

Each January 1st, the C&O Canal Association brings in the New Year with a hike in Cumberland, Maryland.  The temperature was a surprisingly warm fifty-three degrees, and nineteen people turned out for the walk.  After meeting at the mule statue in front of the railroad station, Mary Huebner led the crew downstream on the canal for approximately 1.5 miles.

All Show and No Go!



As the canal goes, Cumberland is a relatively urban setting.  However, in spite of the interstate and railroad traffic, the Queen City drew us back for the third year in a row.  In the sparsely populated areas of the C&O, one can walk for miles without seeing anything touristy, but Cumberland is…well…different.




After the mule statue and shops, the Cumberland (a replica canal boat) comes into view, and upon rounding the first bend, the trail offers and interesting look back at the Cumberland skyline.  The towpath plays host to numerous hikers, bikers, dogs (and of course their owners), runners, and history buffs through out the year, so being there on the first day of the year always starts us off on the right foot!


The Queen City


Walking in the New Year!


Cumberland has always been a transportation hub.  In the past, it was a major railroad town and marked the western terminus of the C&O Canal (Think canal boats and mules). Today, I-68 runs above the city, and The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and C&O towpath are hotbeds for hikers and bikers of all ages.  Oh, how the times have changed!




North Branch of the Potomac River--looking towards Cumberland

Near mile marker 183, a new wooden bridge crosses over the North Branch of the Potomac River.  The West Virginia side is the home of the Carpendale Tunnel.  At 1,500 feet in length, the tunnel is just long and dark enough to make things interesting.  Unlike many of the other tunnels on the towpath, this one is equipped with light posts approximately every 200 feet. (so it really isn’t scary at all!)  We have also read that there are cameras posted in there as well.  The path continues on the other side of the tunnel, but we aren’t sure how much further it goes.  I suppose that will be an adventure for another day.

This new bridge is part of the Carpendale Rail Trail connection to the C&O Canal towpath near mile marker 183

Tom is excited to see the tunnel! You can't really tell, but he's giving it two thumbs up.

View of the Carpendale Tunnel from the 'Other' Side





All-in-all, the bridge and tunnel is definitely a worthwhile diversion for towpath enthusiasts.





We have really enjoyed our New Year’s Day Hike tradition over the last few years, and barring all of the Mayan doomsday scenarios, we will be back again for 2013 hike.  All kidding aside, see ya at the mule statue next January 1st!

Heading Back!



Catoctin Creek Aqueduct Restoration Project~Completed!

Newly Rebuilt Catoctin Creek Aqueduct

Many thanks to everyone involved!

For years, the two major structural flaws in the C&O Canal NHP were the two missing spans of the Catoctin Creek Aqueduct and the eroded towpath at Big Slackwater.  Fixing both of these problems has been in the works for a while, and I’m pleased to sat that the Catoctin Aqueduct has been restored to its original beauty.  During our last two through rides, we have noticed the progress being made on the aqueduct, so we decided to take a look at the recently completed product.  It may have been a forty mile drive, but it was time well spent–the new span is nothing short of breathtaking!

This is one of the original aqueduct stones, but it was recovered too late to be used in the restoration project. It is made from Patapsco Granite that was mined near Ellicot City, MD in 1833-1834.

This is an example of the new stones that were used in the Aqueduct. It's made from Woodbury Granite and quarried near Kingston, RI in 2010.




In 1973, most of the old aqueduct fell into the creek, and those who traveled the towpath crossed the stream on a wooden-planked steel bridge (no longer standing).






View From the Top of the Aqueduct

Stone with grooves....



We have mainly biked this section of the canal, and it’s very easy to miss the scenery at 10-12 mph.  However, this immaculate stone structure is sure to stop even those with the worst cases of tunnel vision.




Perfect timing.....view from the aqueduct in the other direction

One of the more interesting aspects of the rebuilding of the aqueduct is that people were able to donate money specifically for the placement of individual stones.  As members of the C&O Canal Association, we recognized the names of more than one contributor.  Now were lamenting that fact that we didn’t buy a stone of our own.

Natural Beauty Near the Aqueduct

As stated, the aqueduct is a thing of beauty, and that leaves Big Slackwater as the next big thing on the structural to-do list.  It is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2012.  I guess you could say that the future of the C&O Canal NHP is looking good.

C&O Canal Association Bird Walk

Today Kurt Schwarz of the Maryland Ornithological Society led a bird walk that started at the Cushwa Basin on the C&O Canal.  In spite of a cold rain and a temperature of forty-five degrees, the hike was both enjoyable and productive.  Most people who hike, bike, or jog on the towpath have tunnel vision and often miss out on the subtleties that nature has to offer.   We would generally include ourselves with this crowd, but today was different.  We stopped, looked, listened, and learned plenty of interesting facts about our feathered friends.

What do you see?

Candee was very enthused about the birds, but I have to admit that I did more people watching and was fascinated that Kurt and several others in group easily spotted (and heard) their quarry.  Using binoculars to locate birds truly is a talent in and of itself and takes a little bit of practice.   We learned to spot a fixed landmark near the bird, such as a forked branch or a patch of colorful leaves, and then finding the bird became much easier when peering through the lenses.  If you look through the binoculars first, you will spend the rest of the day scanning the tress while everyone else has spotted their bird and moved on.

We were especially thrilled to see two Bald Eagles flying on the West Virginia side of the Potomac.  Unfortunately, birds are pretty elusive, and without expensive camera equipment, we managed only to get a picture of the Mute Swan and a Mockingbird.

Can you see him?


The Destroyer: Although beautiful, the Mute Swan poses a threat to native wildlife because it competes for food, territory, and nesting areas.


The Mute Swan (Cygus olor) is a non-native species that is frowned upon by many local bird watchers.  This large aggressive bird has a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters, and has been successfully introduced in North America.    The problem is that they generally overgraze on aquatic vegetation and drive other similarly sized native birds (Canada Geese and Trumpeter Swans) off of their nesting grounds.  Watch out!  They’ll even attack people who wander into their territory!



Here’s a list of the birds that we were able to spot today (Kurt saw many more!):

  • Mute Swan
  • Northern Mocking Bird
  • Northern Rough Winged Swallow
  • Great Blue Heron
  • European Starling
  • Killdeer (Will pretend to be wounded to lure predators away from its nest. Its call sounds like Kill-DEEE!)
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Great Egret
  • Mallard
  • Robin
  • Cardinal: male & female
  • Goldfinch
  • Catbird  (Makes a cat-like mewing sound)
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  • Black-Capped Chickadee (Its call sounds like chick-a-dee-dee-dee.)
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Eastern Pheobe

Level Walker Hats!

Thanks Steve! We love our hats!

This morning we attended the C&O Association Fall Bird Walk led by Maryland Ornithological Society member Kurt Schwarz.  Not only were we able to  take part in this great activity, but we finally had the opportunity to meet Steve Dean, C&O Level Walker Chairman and Second VP.  Steve presented us each with  C&O NPS volunteer hat and pin, and thanked us for a job well done.  It’s nice to be thanked for something that we love to do!   Steve is always on the look out for new Level Walkers, so please contact him if you’re interested in helping out.