Archive for the ‘Picking Up Trash’ 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!

 

 

Trash and Beyond!

Garbage at Town Creek

Garbage at Town Creek

Candee and I are fairly well-involved in volunteering in the C&O Canal NHP.  We have both been level walkers (the oldest volunteer group in the park) with the C&O Canal Association for four years, and we recently joined the Canal Steward Program and help out at the Town Creek Aqueduct.  I’ve only been doing that for a couple of months and have  put in a grand total of three hours at the aqueduct, so mentioning that one is still kind of embarrassing, but it’s a work in progress.  In all, that’s a solid effort, and volunteer groups in national parks across the country are an enormous asset to the National Park Service.  But let’s stick with a few facts and figures in regard to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal…

All along the 184.5 miles of the C&O, there are 34 volunteer groups performing duties that are far too numerous to mention.  However, just to toss out a few ideas, there are librarians, interpreters, docents, weed warriors, trash collectors, etc.  I hope the NPS doesn’t mind me borrowing some stats from the blurb on the volunteer calendar, but 4,789 people contributed a combined 72,322 hours during FY 2012, making the C&O’s volunteer program one of the largest in the nation.  That’s staggering!  The end result of this work plus the outstanding effort of the park’s paid staff (rangers and maintenance) help to make the C&O a great destination for anyone interested in the perfect venue for a hike or bike ride.

 

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 !

Back to Level 52

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.