Archive for the ‘Hancock, MD’ Category

Cohill Station (Mile 130.7 of the C&O Canal)

This is the Cohill Station parking lot.  There is a large gravel pile at the end and room for several cars.

This is the Cohill Station parking lot. There is a large gravel pile at the end and room for several cars.

This is the first thing you see after crossing a footbridge over the canal

This sign is the first thing you see after crossing a footbridge over the canal

Cohill Station is one of those places that I’ve passed on a bike a dozen times, but today’s hike marked the first time I have ever parked in the lot and started anything from this location.  The 23 miles of towpath that nearly parallels the Western Maryland Rail Trail is quieter than much of the C&O because of the alternative paved route, so it’s not surprising that the only person Candee and I saw was a long distance rider, presumably on his way upstream to Cumberland.

A month ago, everything was green.  The lack of leaves does make for some great long distance views!

A month ago, everything was green. The lack of leaves does make for some great long distance views!

We started the hike with a 7.5 mile down-and-back to the Devils Eyebrow in mind, but we stopped at mile marker 128 instead.  Candee has been battling with bronchitis for about five weeks, and on this day, there was something in the air that caused me to have a two hour, nonstop sneezing fit.  Maybe that’s because we haven’t had a “hard” frost up this point.   We’ve had a number of excellent hikes this year, but few of them have been recent because we both haven’t been healthy at the same time since…  I really don’t remember!

Lock 53, the Irishman's Lock

Lock 53, the Irishman’s Lock.  The port-a-john at Leopards Mill is visible in the distance.

Lockhouse 53 ruins

Lockhouse 53 ruins

I’m not sure how a website called “C&O Canal Adventures” has led us to so many other places.  The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP is where our passion for hiking and biking began, so it’s always great to get back to the towpath.  Places like the Leopards Mill hiker/biker campsite and MM 128 offer magnificent views of the river, and the Lockhouse 53 ruins and two culverts along the way throw a bit of history into the mix.  Likewise, the solitude gave us an opportunity to reflect upon our veterans and how much we owe them.  I would first like to thank them for the day off and the opportunity to take a hike, but, more importantly, thanks for our freedom.

Leopards Mill hiker/biker offers a great view of the river.

Leopards Mill hiker/biker offers a great view of the river.

Hopefully, the nagging affects of congestion and allergies will soon be things of the past.  There are still several weeks of autumn remaining, and afterward there’s something about a long winter’s walk in the woods that is exciting from the 7am cup of coffee through to cranking up the Jeep’s heater at the end of the day.  Cohill Station was a good place to kick off the season of leafless trees and nearly wide-open vistas.  After our recent lull, I think many interesting hikes are just around the corner.

This is a nice view of the Potomac from mm 128.  This was a great place to turn around and head back.

This is a nice view of the Potomac from mm 128. This was a great place to turn around and head back.

All That Remains (House at Lock 51)

Lockhouse 51 Ruins

Lock 51 and what’s left of the lockhouse sit at mile 122.6 on the C&O Canal.  I’ve been through this area several times–mostly on a bike–and it never ceases to amaze me how much I’ve missed.  I even did a voluntary cleanup hike here a couple of years ago and managed to completely ignore this site.  I suppose trying to create a website with a blog format has its merits: it makes me look at everything on or near the C&O with a new perspective.

The ruins of this lockhouse are beautiful, and I really do wonder why a stone structure wouldn’t outlast a wooden one–take Lockhouse 56 for example.  Who knows?  There have been numerous floods on the Potomac since the canal opened, and Lockhouse 62 (near the Sorrel Ridge campsite) fell victim to arson.  With this in mind, the possible reasons behind the demise of this house are numerous–water damage, sabotage, neglect, old age, etc.  I know a couple of people who are well-versed in the history of the C&O, and these ruins have me intrigued.  Hopefully, somebody has the answers to these questions.  They’re certainly worth knowing.

Walls and fireplace

Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct

Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct

The Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct is located at mile 122.9 on the C&O Canal, and it’s a short walk from the NPS parking lot near the Hancock Visitor Center.  The aqueduct is a single-arch structure, although (looking upstream) the right side rests on rock and sits much higher than the left.  Thankfully, the river was running pretty low today.  Otherwise, this aqueduct is very difficult to view from the downstream side.

Over the top

Like many aqueducts, this one has a few structural problems.  In fact, it has more than most.  Both the upstream and downstream walls are missing, and each side is supported with steel braces.  On most of these structures, there is a walkway on the downstream wall, but the Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct is equipped with a wooden footbridge, with handrails for safe passage.

Keeping an eye toward the Potomac

Tonoloway Creek is a 31 mile-long tributary of the Potomac River.  It ends very abruptly just on the river side of the aqueduct, but the area above is deep and slow-moving and looks like it might be a good fishing spot.  I particularly like this image from the upstream side of the aqueduct because the arch and reflection combine to create the illusion of looking at the river through a large eye–an eye that sees everything good about the Tonoloway Creek Aqueduct without noticing its many structural flaws.

Upstream looking down

Little Tonoloway Culvert

Looking Upstream

The Little Tonoloway Culvert is a fine example of craftsmanship located at mile 124.3 on the C&O Canal.  Because of it’s location on the Hancock waterfront, it’s easy to find, and–as culverts go–it’s a real eye-popper.  It has always made me wonder where the fine line between a culvert and an aqueduct begins and ends.  I suppose it’s somewhere between the Little Tonoloway and–maybe–Fifteenmile Creek. In fact, this culvert is so big that it has its own sandbar!

As one starts at the Potomac and follows the creek upstream through the culvert, the stream takes a sharp left-hand turn.  This creates a fairly large basin behind Subway and the gas station on the main drag, and when the river is flooding, backwater fills the culvert and creates a large pool in the Little Tonolway that stretches into the edge of town.  In fact, during the March 2010 flood, we went looking for the culvert only to find that both sides were hidden under the dark, muddy water.  As stated, the culvert is easy to find; however, it’s an often-overlooked canal structure that’s well worth the side trip

Early Autumn Scenes Along the C&O Canal

Paw Paw Bends

I really love these digital cameras.  I can take literally hundreds of pictures and keep the ones that aren’t blurry or close-ups of my thumb.  Candee actually has a bit of an eye for photography, but I’m not quite as lucky.  However, the C&O Canal NHP has enough great scenery to allow just about anybody to be a photographer–of sorts.

Paw Paw Tunnel

This image has kind of grown on me over time.  Visiting the Paw Paw Tunnel in the winter and seeing the upstream end boarded up is a little bit anticlimactic, but once you’re inside it’s even darker and scarier.  The “Tunnel Hollow” portal is left clear, so it’s still possible to get a look at the tunnel as it’s supposed to look.

Potomac at Little Orleans

This was taken on a frosty October morning.  An hour or two before, the Potomac Valley was covered in a heavy fog.  I’m actually standing at the Fifteenmile Creek boat ramp, and most of the time I would be about knee deep in water.  It has been a very dry year, and I suppose that’s a good thing, considering all of the work being done around Big Slackwater.

A baby fern on the cliffs of Big Slackwater

The Big Slackwater Project will make life a lot easier for hikers and bikers on the C&O Canal, and it offers a great view of the Potomac River.  However, some of the odd things growing on the bank and cliffs are also worth a look.  I suppose some will come for the river, and others for the trail, but a few will stop to check out the bugs and plants that we’ve been missing for years while taking the detour.

Mushroom on the trail

Fall is the perfect season for odd and colorful mushrooms.  Back in college, I must have gotten an F in Mushroom Identification 101, but apparently this little fellow is edible.  Something nibbled on the cap before deciding to move along.  Whether or not the diner left with a stomach ache is something that I’ll never know.

More Mushrooms

Actually, Candee is the main mushroom photographer.  At some point I yelled, “Give me my camera!  And quit taking pictures of those bleeping mushrooms!”  Nevertheless, when I go back and look through the pictures, some of the mushrooms look like a mixture of outer-space creature and modern art.

Satellite Dish?

Mushrooms seem to come in just about every shape and size.  This one kind of reminds me of the radio telescope at Green Bank, West Virginia.  While we were on the Appalachian Trail a couple of weeks ago, we ran into a group of people picking large, white mushrooms–for consumption I assume.  That all sounds well and good, but until I learn a lot more on the subject, I’ll continue to get my mushrooms from a can, courtesy of the Jolly Green Giant.

House near Bonds Landing

This is the house that can be seen from both the towpath and Kasecamp Road near Bonds Landing (mm 150).  The leaves are starting to change color in the background, and the scenery along the river should be spectacular in a matter of weeks.  The C&O Canal NHP and Green Ridge State Forest surround the house, so it’s an odd site for anybody that comes along, but it does add a bit of something to the view.  With that said, I can hardly wait to hit the canal again to see autumn in all of its glory.