This isn’t the first time that we’ve done a website or blog pertaining to the C&O Canal, and somewhere along the way we’ve left several pictures scattered around the internet in near oblivion. Many of these go back to our earliest days on the canal, and some even help to fill our current void of photos and text pertaining to miles 0-50. These shots bring back a lot of memories. In fact, I can remember the day that Candee suggested that we should take up biking as a hobby. It sounded like a good idea, but our first ride between Williamsport and Fort Frederick in 98 degree heat left me wondering about my sanity. Imagine what I would have missed!
Over the years we have seen a number of interesting sights and creatures. I can’t say that either of us have fancy camera equipment, so many of the critters we have seen have escaped posterity in a blur. However, I do have to brag a little: we’re both experts in turtle photography, and on more than one occasion we have managed to capture an image of a Great Blue Heron posing on a wall. However, one missed opportunity stands out more than the rest. We were riding on the Western Maryland Rail Trail just above the Devil’s Eyebrow when a rider sped up to us and stammered, “B…b…b…bear over th…th…th…th…there!” Candee armed herself with her camera, but the bear was long gone. So…I’ll leave you with a picture that we did manage to get.
Sometimes it’s great being out on the trail. You never know what you’re going to see. Other times the river is the star attraction. For example, in March of 2010 a heavy rain fell on the Potomac Valley, and it melted what was literally feet of snow in the mountains of western Maryland. Needless to say, the river became very angry and threatened the towns along its banks and the C&O Canal NHP itself. We headed out to assess the damage, which fortunately was minimal, but one picture stands out…
Generally, it’s about a 15′ drop from the top of the arch at the Sideling Hill Creek Aqueduct to the creek itself, but that day water filled the entirety of the structure. It was an impressive sight, as was our first ride into Great Falls. It’s hard to imagine such a large river near a metropolitan area containing a massive and dangerous set of rapids. I understand that the view is even more impressive from the Virginia side of the river, but the Maryland side isn’t half-bad either!
I guess you could say that the river offers up something new around every bend, and sometimes the floods deposit a thing or two that catches the eye. When we first started riding, we spent a lot of time parking the bikes and hiking down to the Potomac to check things out. I particularly like a picture we took of some driftwood right below the mouth of Sideling Hill Creek.
In 2009 and 2011, we completed through-rides from Cumberland to Georgetown, but back in 2006 one of our more anticipated short trips was from Great Falls to the 0 mile marker. As it turns out, we didn’t find the marker until several years later, but we were fortunate enough to see the canal boat Georgetown plowing through the water.
Of course, we had no idea how many rangers and volunteers it took to entertain the people or to keep the park in good shape. We were both surprised and impressed to see volunteers in period attire leading tourists and locals on a boat excursion on the canal. Oh…and let’s not forget the hard work of the mules. Back in the day, the success of the canal depended upon them!
The last couple of times that we rolled into Georgetown, it marked the end of a really long three-day bike ride, but back in ’06 it was only the beginning. We love the canal from Cumberland to DC, and one picture in particular reminds me of the way many of us feel about the canal, towpath, river, and mules that powered the old canal boats…
I can hardly wait for the warm weather to come back! It will be great going on more rides, taking pictures, and seeing all of the things we’ve missed before. When your favorite park is 184.5 miles long, it seems like there is something new around every corner!