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Rockin' the fanny pack!



In a Dos Equis commercial, the most interesting man in the world is asked about fanny packs, and his response is less than flattering: “You lost me at the word fanny.”  However, when hitting the trail and volunteering on the C&O Canal, one can’t juggle two bottles of water, a saw, a small notebook, etc.   Actually, the pack comes in pretty handy, and I can’t say that anybody has made fun of me yet.  At least not as I’ve heard.  On this particular occasion, there was a vine hanging at about eye level over the towpath.  It was an easy fix.  really, life is a series of easy fixes, and volunteering makes me feel pretty good at the end of the day.



I suppose the first thing that I’d like to stress is that the C&O Canal NHP is a trash free park, and every plastic bottle, candy wrapper, MRE container, and empty propane cylinder has to be carried for up to five miles and then taken home and put out on the curb with the rest of the trash.

On the other hand, Candee and I (and dozens of other volunteers) spend a lot of time in the park, and being locals, our detail allows us the opportunity to give something back.  Besides, we received a good-looking free hat from the C&O Canal Association and a pin from the National Park Service.  Pretty cool, huh?

'Walking Canoe'



Today, we ran into Chuck and Michele from Mt. Airy, Maryland, and they were having a bit of a problem.  They parked at the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground and paddled downstream to Indigo Neck with their camping gear, but the Potomac River wasn’t being cooperative as they tried to paddle upstream.  Finally, they had to give up and carry their gear up the towpath.

Candee and I decided that we should help, and that led to a pleasant half-hour conversation as we toted some of their gear back to their car.  Like most people who enjoy outdoor recreation, we had plenty to talk about, and at the end of the line, they shared a couple of cokes with us.



There was a time a few years ago when we were biking many miles away from Hancock when one of us got a flat tire.  Our handy-dandy CO2 pump failed us, but a few minutes later, a man rode up to us and offered the use of his pump.  I offered him a token of my appreciation, but he answered by saying, “Pay it forward.”

We’ve had a few opportunities to do just that since, and we’ve benefited from a little help from some friends too.  That’s the way it is on a rough trail that’s hard on tires–or a temperamental river that sometimes has a mind of its own.

Lending Chuck a Helping Hand



Know what though? After a second look, that fanny pack does look pretty ridiculous, and I’m thinking that the Dos Equis guy might have a point.

Oh, well.  At the end of the day we picked up two bags of garbage and removed several hanging snags from the trees.  At the end of the trail, we were surprised to see that the improvements being made at the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground have reached a standstill.  I’ve since heard that it’s a joint project of the NPS and the State of Maryland, and at the moment money is pretty tight.  Hopefully,  the funds will be available soon.



Most people work pretty hard and deserve a bit of recreation when the weekend comes.  Anyway, at the end of the day we were able to look back on a good walk.  We met some interesting people and contributed to the greater good of the C&O Canal.  Mission accomplished.


Floodplain Debris

Just the beginning

On first glance, it appears that we were off filming Belle the Wonder Beagle vs. The Giant Blob, but the fact is that the grass that hid much of the garbage on the Potomac River floodplain for the past nine months is dormant for the winter.  As a result, lots of ugly trash has become visible between the towpath and the river.  I don’t recall seeing a kitchen sink on the bank, but we saw just about everything else, including tires, basketballs, and propane cylinders.

During the warm season, we have an antagonist nicknamed MRE Man who scatters meal packets throughout our volunteer area.  We have no idea who he is, but we can’t blame him or anybody else for the garbage located on the river side of the towpath.  The fact is that the mighty Potomac picks up large amounts of human and natural debris during floods and deposits it along the river bank.

Just below Little Orleans the river makes a long, sweeping right hand turn, and between mile markers 140 and 141 we have a natural trash depository.  The winter months are the best time to take care of the mess because snakes and other animals aren’t hidden in the long grass waiting for unsuspecting volunteers.  Okay, I’m being a bit dramatic, but cleaning up the park and safety should go hand-in-hand.  I’m guessing that we’re about halfway done with our winter cleanup, and we’re hoping that our new friend Belle stops by to keep us company again soon.

Walking the Western Maryland Rail Trail Extension

We may be volunteers on the C&O Canal NHP, but we’re also avid bike riders who love the Western Maryland Rail Trail.  Like most people, we are looking forward to seeing the work on the proposed extension from Pearre Station to Little Orleans get started.  The bat gate at the Indigo Tunnel is the opening act of this process, and it has been finished.  However, the completion of the trail itself will be a long, arduous process.

Rock Slide!

A great view of the rock 'face' above the proposed WMRT




Recently, we took a walk on the old railroad right-of-way from Sideling Hill Creek to the Indigo Tunnel, and the trail offers a beautiful view of the Potomac River–even moreso than the C&O Canal towpath.

Fortunately (and unfortunately), this future stretch of the WMRT is also a geologist’s dream.  The high cliffs above the trail are striking!  I can’t say that I know much about rocks, but the story here is obvious, to say the least.





I'm not so sure I would want to ride under this! Would you?


The green leaves of summer hide a lot from the hikers and bikers on the C&O; however, the barren trees of winter no longer block the numerous rock slides on and above the old railroad path.  I’m no engineer, but the rugged cliffs above the future WMRT have an ominous look to them.  With that said, it will be interesting to see how the rail trail progresses.  The WMRT has the potential to be one of the premier rails-to-trails paths on the east coast, but this won’t happen without a lot of work.


View of the towpath and river from the future WMRT

Single Feather

Hawk? Woodpecker? Owl?

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?