Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category

Christmas on the Canal~2011

What a beautiful day!

My Christmas plans were about the same as any other year–you know, open a few presents and then lay around watching reruns of Man vs. Food the rest of the day.  Candee and her family, however, had other plans, so I was rousted out of bed early and headed for the C&O Canal.  I was kind of reminded of my pre-school days of watching The Electric Company on PBS.  This day was sponsored by the letter C:

Christmas, Candee, C&O, Canal…

Amazing Blue Sky on Christmas Day


Anyway, after packing up some drinks and sandwiches we headed off toward our usual parking spot at Pearre Station.  Yes, we’ve been spending a lot of time up there, and I promise to write about another part of the park soon.

Where was I…okay….got it.  We were greeted by a beautiful blue sky and temperatures in the mid-fifties, so the hike was both pleasant and comfortable.



Food For Our Fine Feathered Friends!


Candee strung up a decoration consisting or Cheerios, craisins, and popcorn so we could share the Christmas spirit with our furry and feathered friends.  She placed it on the fallen remains of her favorite Sycamore tree as we ate our lunch along the trail.  There are a few things in this life that I’m sure of.  For starters, everybody loves Christmas, and we love the C&O.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be an annual tradition.  Either way, it will be a Christmas to remember.


Broken Tree Ornament?

Tunnel Hill Trail (Paw Paw Tunnel)

View of the Paw Paw Tunnel as we start up the Tunnel Hill Trail. Notice that it's boarded up for winter, and interestingly enough, the other end is left open.

Not everybody likes to walk through long, dark tunnels, and those who are claustrophobic actually have another  way of getting around the Paw Paw Bends and continuing to hike on the C&O Canal towpath.  I’m referring to the Tunnel Hill Trail, which is a nice alternative to walking through the Paw Paw Tunnel.

Fall Leaves...Blue Sky


Recently, the NPS added several interpretive signs that add to the experience, and there are now directional markers that make the hike a bit less confusing.  Those who have taken a wrong turn at the criss-crossing paths at the top of the hill know what I mean.




Heading Up the Tunnel Hill Trail


Giant Ribcage!



To get to the the trail, simply walk to the tunnel–as usual–then veer to the right at the Tunnel Hill Trail sign.  It’s two miles in length and begins with a series of relatively steep switchbacks that lead to the top of the hill.  The reward is a gorgeous view of the Potomac River.



Railroad Trestle in the Distance

An Example of One of the Many Interpretive Signs on the Tunnel Hill Trail



Now for a little history–all of which is borrowed from the interpretive signs.  The Paw Paw  Bends made for several miles of travel that covered very little actual distance.  This left three possible options:  continue the canal around the bends; dam the river for slackwater navigation; or build a tunnel. Obviously the engineers chose the latter.



Heading Back Down...

Interesting Tree!




A tunnel of this magnitude required blasting from above and a place to dump the rubble.  Thus, the present trail is basically the former work station for the laborers.  The German and Irish immigrants who were involved removed 200,000 cubic yards of shale spoil over a fourteen year period (1836-1850) that saw them suffer through cholera outbreaks, labor friction, and financial shortages.  The paychecks were often late, and perhaps that’s why a daily ration of whiskey was included with their food and lodging.



Random Glove on the Trail

One Perfect Pine Cone



Speaking of lodging, workers stayed in either tents or small wooden houses in the area of the trail.  Many workers had their families in tow, which led to the construction of the Sulphur Springs (aka Tunnel Hollow) School in 1840.  The school was a single room brick structure, and much to our surprise, several of the bricks can still be found at the old site.



Tom isn't 'liken' the fact that I'm using this picture in this post! The area near the old school house site was dotted with silvery-green patches of Lichen.

Ice Display




In all, I would highly recommend a hike on the Tunnel Hill Trail, particularly in late autumn.  The colors and the vistas are breathtaking, and–yes–the signs make for a nice thumbnail history lesson of the area.




Back on the Towpath at Tunnel Hollow

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.

Caves Along the C&O Canal

Yoo-hoo, Anybody home?


A quick look on Google reveals that there are several caves in the vicinity of Snyders Landing.  It’s true that many of the citizens of Sharpsburg, Md. hid out in these caves during a Civil War battle that took place there, but our only previous experience with them was to duck out of a cold October rain a few years ago while biking.  We ditched our bikes in the canal and shivered in the opening until it became really obvious that the rain wasn’t going to stop.

Tree Art!


It’s really amazing what one can miss on a bike, but we’re trying to turn over a new leaf and check out some of the interesting places along the C&O Canal.  Our first post on this website was about a bike ride that we started at Snyders Landing, and we promised to return there…someday, so on a last minute whim we decided to find the cave we hid out in long ago.  As usual, the trip wasn’t disappointing.



As I’m writing this, we’re in the midst of another cool evening, and a few more leaves will no doubt change color before the night passes.  It’s odd that the leaves exchange the cool colors of summer for the warm pastels of autumn, but that’s just the way it is.  However, the reds, browns, and oranges of fall offer a spectacular backdrop for the scenic Potomac River.  The waning sunlight danced on the water and offered up a picture that’s well-suited for a postcard.

Blazing Yellow!

Fall Colors reflecting in the Potomac River...




Near mile marker 76, a small stream flows underneath a culvert and emerges into the river in a small delta, but that’s when the Potomac is running low to normal.  Sometime in the coming months, the snow will fall and melt and the spring rains will raise the river again.  The river will rise, and the muddy brown water will erase the memories of today’s scene.



Culvert near Snyders Landing

Until then, I can only daydream about next year’s big bike ride from Cumberland to Georgetown.  I suppose the only thing to do is to explore all of the little things that the C&O has to offer.  Hmmm….Where should we go next?




My Favorite Tree-Part 2

Today was a beautiful day, in fact, it was the perfect kind of day to be out on the towpath doing a level walk… that’s exactly what we did!  After a hearty breakfast,we headed to Pearre Station, the closest access point to the beginning of our level–Level 52.  After walking a few minutes it quickly became apparent that the area must have had high winds lately, because the path was littered with branches, twigs, and other natural materials.  We  came across two large branches that were partially blocking the path.  Tom had his handy-dandy Wyoming Saw with him, so he was able to quickly cut apart the branches and toss them out of the way.

Wyoming Saw in Action....oh, Tom, too!

After! Tom, great clean up!


We walked for awhile before getting to my favorite tree, and as I got closer, I realized that my tree was gone!  The massive Sycamore had fallen victim to the high winds!   I stood in the middle of the path and mourned the loss of the towering giant that I looked forward to seeing each time we walked past.  I have no idea how tall it was, but it must have sounded like an explosion when it went down.  Trees were splintered beneath it, and the top of the tree shattered when it hit the ground. Fortunately the tree fell away from the towpath, as it would have created a lot of work for the NPS crew!  I walked into the woods to get a closer look and snapped a few pictures…

This picture gives you a good idea of how big the tree was....I'm standing inside of the trunk!


Split open...

I was feeling a bit artistic with this picture!

This was a REALLY BIG tree!

This picture shows how the top of the tree 'shattered' when it hit the ground, crushing everything beneath it!

This is a picture of a very unhappy me, but it shows the scale of the tree....huge! This only shows a small portion of the tree!

On August 24th, I posted a few pictures of my favorite tree when it was still standing strong….Check it out! 

Further down the path, Tom was in action again!