Archive for the ‘Level 52’ Category

Towson Tigers to the Rescue

Trouble on the towpath

Trouble on the towpath

The picture doesn’t really do this monstrosity justice.  This large, hanging snag was blocking the towpath near the Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueduct earlier today, and I must have looked pretty silly cutting off the smaller branches with my hacksaw.  One thing is certain: I wasn’t getting anywhere.  Fortunately, four students on Spring break from Towson University  (near Baltimore) asked me if I needed any help, and I quickly accepted!

The good news was that we had a team working on the project, but the bad news was that the precariously balanced limb was in the neighborhood of thirty feet long and weighed literally hundreds (maybe thousands!) of pounds.  Fortunately, the students produced a roll of paracord, and the rest of the story involves a little bit of leverage and a whole lot of muscle.  In the end, the towpath was cleared of a dangerous obstruction, and I would like to give a shout out to Joshua, Pete, Jack, and Daniel.

I’ve been reading a few Appalachian Trail narratives lately, and all of them mention a type of divine intervention known as trail magic.  Nature has a way of putting obstacles in our paths, but when we least expect it, good news is usually on the way.  I’ve found that one generally meets a classy, generous type of people in our parks and on our trails, and such was the case today.  After a brief struggle with nature, we left the C&O Canal a little bit safer than it was when we started, and I couldn’t have done any of it on my own.

Thanks again guys!

Thanks again guys!

 

Into the Fog (Re-hashing 2013 and Looking Forward to 2014)

Fog on the Potomac and towpath

Fog on the Potomac and towpath

Today, we headed out to our volunteer area for our last level walk of 2013,  It was a strangely beautiful day, with an odd combination of light rain and fog that was offset by an unseasonable temperature in the mid-sixties.  We encountered one passerby in a car at Fifteen Mile Creek, but, other than that, we were completely alone for the better part of 3.5 hours, or nine miles.  That’s rare, even in one of the more remote sections of the C&O.

Scene at Indigo Neck

Scene at Indigo Neck

It seems like the warm weather wasn’t enough to awaken any prospective hikers from the spell of the recently melted snow.  Nevertheless, a good samaritan did come along at some point and pick up the fallen trash bag box at the Indigo Neck hiker/biker campsite.  There were a couple of fallen limbs and about a half bag of trash, so we did accomplish something.  Even so, there was plenty to think about and lots of time for doing it.  As the park is concerned, my New Year’s resolutions are to stay in one of the lockhouses and do at least a couple of hikes in Georgetown.  I’ve biked below Mile Marker 12 several times, but I can’t say that I’ve ever hiked it.  Winter might be the perfect time to beat the crowds.  We’ll see. One way to kill both birds with one stone would be to spend the night in Lockhouse 6.  That would be the perfect spot for a long round-trip trek all the way to the end of the line.

Beaver at work

Beaver at work

Yes, I suppose this is the right time of the year for daydreaming and resolutions, but there’s always today, and today turned out to be a great day for a hike.  Off in the distance, we counted four deer.  They were more spooked than usual but that’s probably a result of Maryland’s recent deer season.  Beavers are also very active around Indigo Neck, although we haven’t been lucky enough to see one, and that spans approximately thirty hikes in this area in a four or five year period.

Eastern garter snake on the towpath

Eastern garter snake on the towpath

Honestly, every time Candee and I hike between Pearre Station and Little Orleans, I think running into a beaver is a distinct possibility.  But a snake on the 22nd of December?  The garter snake pictured above is one of the largest I have ever seen, and it had a personality to match.  It struck at us on three different occasions–completely unprovoked, unless you consider the fact that I was in its mug trying to get a picture.  I suppose you could say that seeing this unpleasant chap was a pleasant surprise–just not for the snake.  After snapping a couple of pictures, we walked away, and this cold-blooded rascal was nowhere to be found when we headed back down the trail.

Looking back, 2013 appears to have been a mixed bag along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.  There was a closure downstream from the Paw Paw Tunnel because of falling rocks, and the park itself was closed for sixteen days because of government cutbacks.  However, I do feel fortunate to have a national park twenty minutes from where I live, and I’m going to continue to try to convince everybody that it’s just as cool as Yosemite or the Grand Canyon.  That’s a tall order!  In the meantime, we’re going to try to see and write about places that we’ve missed up to this point, and there’s also a great blog or two that we regularly follow.  When all is said and done, 2014 should be a great year on the canal.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to one and all!

 

 

The Indigo Witch Project?

How on earth did this get here?

How on earth did this get here?

Candee and I volunteer on the C&O, and we have been pretty anxious to get back out on the towpath. Nevertheless, the recent government shutdown has kept all visitors out of the park–or has it? Today, when we reached the remains of Lockhouse 57, near the Indigo Neck hiker/biker campsite, we weren’t too surprised to see a large log straddling the foundation of the old cellar. Trees and limbs fall. Enough said. However, there was an odd shrine or decoration directly below the log, made up of woven branches and placed atop two stone cairns.

Remembering the closure, my thoughts turned to ghosts, ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. Could it be that the wee people of the forest held sway over the C&O Canal while we foolish mortals were blocked from entering their domain? After seeing this odd site, I could almost imagine a tribe of leprechauns dancing hand-in-hand around this structure, away from the usual prying eyes of hikers, bikers, campers , and park rangers. I’m not sure what kind of chicanery we encountered, but as All Hallows Eve approaches, keep a sharp lookout while walking down the towpath. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Looks kind of Blair Witch-y to me !

Looks kind of Blair Witch-y to me !

Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct

Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct (Downstream View)

The Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct is a 110′ single-arch span that was completed in 1848.  It’s located at mile 136.6 and is available via a  short walk upstream from the NPS parking lot at Lock 56 (Pearre Station).  For Candee and I, however, it marks the start of our volunteer area in the park.  It’s equipped with metal braces and is missing the upstream wall, so it’s not quite as pretty as the Antietam or Catoctin Aqueducts, but to us it’s beautiful all the same.  Also, it’s interesting to note that Sideling Hill Creek marks the border of Allegheny and Washington Counties, and heading upstream from Georgetown, the aqueduct is the eighth of eleven such structures on the C&O Canal.

Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct--upstream view

Where’s the beav?

A toothy critter at work

The wildlife is pretty diverse along the C&O Canal towpath.  The park gives deer and squirrels a place to run and hide during hunting season, and, likewise, the Potomac and watered sections of the canal give beavers a place to do their thing without fear of stepping into a steel trap.  At least this seems to be the case near mile marker 138.  The canal is pretty dry at the moment, and a walk down to the river didn’t reveal any signs of a lodge, so maybe this crazy critter was just lunching on some tree bark.  Who knows?

Tim-berrr! Well, not quite

Actually, the truth is that we have seen a lot of beaver sign in this area for the last three years, but we have yet to catch a glimpse of the busy fellow responsible for all of the chaos.  Back in 2010, a beaver started to tackle some really large trees in the swampy area just downstream from the Indigo Neck hiker/biker campground.  Being volunteers, we reported the potential damage to the level walker chair, and he passed on the information to the NPS.  I’m assuming that something less-than-tasty was sprayed on the trees because the gnawing stopped there.  I do feel guilty about that: who wants to be known as the stool pigeon who ratted-out a beaver?

This piece was very fresh. We may have even startled our toothy friend while we noisily walked up the leaf covered, crunchy towpath.