Archive for the ‘Little Orleans, MD’ 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!

 

Fifteen Mile Creek Boat Ramp–Looking Good!

The new look of the Fifteen Mile Creek Boat Ramp

The Fifteen Mile Creek boat ramp was closed for much of the spring boating season, but the final result looks to be well worth the wait.  The campground is pretty much the same as before, but the ramp and its access is paved and has an ample turning area near the river.  Previously, getting to the ramp was fairly difficult (a-la Bonds Landing and Snyders Landing), and parking for boaters was very limited.  The facility isn’t as large as Big Slackwater and a few of the other ramps, but it should be more than sufficient for fishermen who want to try their luck in one of the more scenic and secluded sections of the Potomac River.

Parking!!!

Remembering Bill

Bill's Place

Hearing of the passing of Bill Schoenadel was a sad event for everybody with an interest in the C&O Canal.  The story came to Candee and I via a group email from the C&O Canal Association, in which hundreds of people were informed of the sad news.  However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Bill was also a popular figure amongst motorcyclists, hunters, and fishermen.  It’s accurate to say that Bill’s Place is a regional Mecca for a wide variety of recreational enthusiasts, and, with this in mind, Bill could aptly be described as the ambassador of the western end of the C&O Canal, Green Ridge State Forest, and–for the matter–the upper Potomac Valley.  Our volunteer area, or level, runs from Sideling Hill Creek to Fifteen Mile Creek, and before heading back down the trail we always made it a point to take a break at Bill’s.  Listening to him talk about the local area was a great pleasure, and one has to admire a man with the coolest bar/store around and a national park in his back yard.  Bill will be greatly missed, but the legend lives on.

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.

 

 

Proposed WMRT Route: Walking from Indigo Tunnel to Little Orleans

About a tenth of a mile behind Bill's Place

Late in the spring, I mentioned that the proposed extension of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (WMRT) had three possible results: going all the way to Paw Paw, ending at the eastern portal of Stickpile Tunnel, or simply leaving the trail as it is with the terminus remaining at Pearre Station.  With that in mind, Candee and I hiked from the eastern portal of Indigo Tunnel to Pearre Station, noting all of the dangerous rock outcroppings and work that needed to be done.

WMRT route?

Since June, I haven’t heard a whole lot about extending the WMRT, but we decided to take a walk along the old railroad bed just to have a look.  From the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground, it’s a short walk back to the gate that marks the end of this section of the trail.  The path sits just above the canal, and people taking the towpath didn’t seem to notice us–probably because there isn’t much reason to check out this section of the old railroad

Are my eyes playing tricks on me, or is there a "face" in the rock?

I was expecting to see a lot of the same obstacles that exist on the other side of the tunnel heading toward Pearre Station.  However, this mile or so of trail is in excellent condition.  There aren’t any large trees growing in the path, and none of the rock formations seem capable of producing slides.  With the exception of ankle-high weeds, this is an easy walk, and there are a couple of manmade structures that are worth seeing.  For starters, there is a small culvert that runs under the old railroad, and back in the day, the wet-weather stream appeared to empty itself directly into the canal.

Old railroad culvert

Also, the trail ends at the picturesque western portal of the Indigo Tunnel.  The opening is fitted with a bat gate that was completed in August of 2011.  In my opinion, the western portal is more scenic than its eastern counterpart, and it can be accessed from the C&O Canal towpath in the vicinity of Mile Marker 140.  Heading downstream, the flat spot on the bank above the canal will run into a cliff.  From there, cut across the canal and up the bank, and the portal will be on the right.

Western Portal of the Indigo Tunnel

In conclusion, I would highly recommend a hike on the old Western Maryland Railroad right-of-way.  It’s just above the towpath, but when the leaves disappear in winter, it offers a different vista and perspective of the Potomac River valley.  If the Western Maryland Rail Trail is extended, a lot of thought and work will be required.  Nevertheless, until that happens, it’s okay to walk the trail and daydream about what may be.  If they build it, people will come.

View from the western portal of the Indigo Tunnel