Friday, May 6, 2011

C&O Here We Go

After a couple days spent with old friends Scott and Sue as well as dinner with a new one,a vivacious lass named Ellen, I headed off on the metro to Foggy Bottom station. A short distance from my stop is the beginning of the Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath, which stretches from Georgetown, DC to Cumberland, Maryland. The ADT follows it until Oldtown, Maryland, eighteen miles before the end.
As you walk the canal is to your right and the Potomac to the left. I wondered at first whether the water in the canal might be a more effective murder weapon than arsenic. After a few miles the muck cleaned up a little and I began to spot life - herons, turtles, and ducks roamed about. A great blue heron allowed a glimpse into the underwater world by snatching a herring from the waters and devouring it in front of me.
My favorite stretch of the canal was mile 13-14, where the waterway widens and small rocky cliffs line the edges. At the end of that mile the Potomac butted in with an even more impressive sight to the right - Great Falls. Little Falls at mile 5 had given me a concept of the amazing volume of the river (4 billion tons empty into the estuary each day) and Great Falls showed me the power. The Falls lasted for nearly a mile, with the coupe de grace coming as the river narrowed and massive waves collided in a cacophony of sound.
I finished a total of 18 miles on my first day - 16.6 on the C&O and a little more on a detour to Glen Echo for lunch, plus the jaunt from the station to the towpath.
Exhausted, I pitched my tent* at Swains Lock, the first of many free campsites along the canal, and prepared for another day.

*I learned later I was setting the tent up completely wrong. Somehow the structure stayed together through the night despite my profound stupidity. God bless REI.

16 miles/125 total miles

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