Favorite Place

The subject of this week’s challenge  is an easy one for me to tackle, and obvious to folks who know me.  You will find me any free weekend exploring some section of the 184.5 mile long C&O Canal towpath.  Last weekend took us to a section near Point of Rocks for our Sunday walk.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe branches of the sycamore tree stand out in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are the locks and lockhouses,

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Lockhouse for Landers Lock

the aqueducts,

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Catoctin Aqueduct

and the Potomac river (which looked especially blue that morning).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mergansers come around only in winter.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge at Point of Rocks looked stunning in the morning lightOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and this almost looks like a piece of art when the endorphins are flowing on a lovely morning like the one we we had!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Search of a Story

My blogs have had the tagline of “Anything Goes” since the beginning, which could indicate either an aimless drift in a random direction, or, if you want to be kind, some sort of attempt on my part to include all of my disconnected interests in my postings.  You decide!  But one of the things that I hope you do discover in the blogs is that some of them tell stories of some kind or the other, be it that of the tree that grows in the woods, or something as silly as talking about the experience of consuming a bowl of cereal, or perhaps something else that takes my fancy at some particular moment in time. With this kind of a mindset, my response the topic of this week’s challenge comes somewhat easily.

My story for the day touches upon the “bomb cyclone“, a term that I had not heard of until very recently.  As I understand it, a bomb cyclone weather phenomenon is characterized by a rapid and large drop in barometric pressure, which leads to extreme wind speeds that can cause a lot of damage.   It leads to the story, in pictures, of last weekend’s walk along the C&O canal. This particular outing happened to take place after a bomb cyclone had passed through the region.

It was a sunny morning on the trail as we set out on our walk.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe encountered quite a few fallen branches on the trail due to the aftereffects of the storm, and, being good citizens, we spent a significant bit of our time cleaning up the trail for those who were going to come after us.  (We were not about to break any speed records that day.)  And then there were the sections where we could do little to help, sections that would require professional equipment for cleanup.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did encounter cyclists who must have had to carry their bikes over fallen trees.

We did make it to our destination close to the mile 31 marker where Edwards FerryOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand lock 25 are locatedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbefore turning back to return to our starting point.

The story would not be complete without a picture of the bald eagle that we encountered,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand a picture of the chopped up pieces of a fallen tree that we saw beside the trail, a little too late for Valentine’s  day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We did about 7 1/2 miles of walking that morning.  That is my story and I am sticking to it! 🙂

 

Autumn Finds Its Way To Our Neck Of The Woods

It has been a somewhat disappointing transition process in our surroundings so far this autumn season.  Other than the occasional exceptions, leaves have been slowly but surely falling off the trees without a hint of how colorful and pretty that process can be on a good year.   It must be the weather.  Nevertheless, we have persisted in looking for the signs of significant change as we walk the C&O canal towpath during the weekends.  Last weekend was a particularly drab one, with the threat of bad weather discouraging others in our group from walking with us.  But the two of us did go out to check out the changing of the seasons.

Regardless of how pretty the process of autumn is in our parts, one cannot escape the feeling of change in the air. The cooler, and soon to be cold, weather forces you to contemplate the winter months that lie ahead.  The changes in the landscape remind you that soon it will be time once again to batten down the hatches and power through a time of year that provides a challenge and a mood of its own.  The cycle goes on.

Chasing the Deer

The scene unfolded during our Sunday morning walk along the C&O Canal.

We were headed back from Swains Lock to Pennyfield Lock along the towpath (the trail).  The canal, which happens to have water flowing in it in these parts, was to our right, and to our left was vegetation and a somewhat sharp drop off to the Potomac river.  The only people on the trail in front of us were a middle aged couple who walking towards us from the distance.

We heard a commotion behind us.  After initially ignoring it, I turned back to see that there were two deer running on the towpath in our direction, being followed by two bicyclists.  One of the deer was bigger than then other, probably a parent.  Even though the deer had seen us, they keep coming, veering neither left or right.  They were scared by the cyclists, and also of what lay on both sides of the trail.

We turned to face the deer.  I feared a possible collision and I moved to protect my broken ribs.  The deer finally stopped not too far from us.  The bigger one then jumped into the trees and bushes on its left, towards the river, and the young one followed.  The bicyclists went by.

As the people coming towards us got closer, the bigger deer crashed out of the bushes beside the river and ran across the trail into the canal.  It swam across to the other side of the canal and climbed up the hill beside the canal.  You could barely see it behind the trees. There was no sign of the smaller deer, but we knew that it was still on the other side of the trail, separated from the deer that was probably its parent.

As the folks approaching us went by, the little deer jumped out of the bushes beside the river in front of them.  It saw the people approaching.  It took off in the opposite direction along the trail, heading back towards where it had originally come from, and away from the other deer.  The folks who are now walking behind the sprinting deer are pantomiming and trying signal to the deer to cross the canal to be with the other one.  The deer is in a panic, neither can it understand human communications.  Go back and get your young one, we ourselves say to the bigger deer who is on the other side of the canal.  Of course, we are not speaking the deer’s language.

We did not wait to see how the drama of the lost deer finally played out.  I would not be surprised if the two deer eventually found each other.  While they might be considered creatures without intelligence by some human beings, animals have capabilities that would surprise many of us.  They are not necessarily limited by the kinds of senses that we human beings normally use.  (Check this out!)

The places that we frequent during the weekends allow us to experience things that may be considered out of the ordinary, things that we do not see during the normal course of the day in our usual surroundings.  It may simply be that the turtles are hanging out on the logs, or the great blue heron are fishing, or that the wren is singing on a tree as you pass by.  You just need to keep your senses open and a different world opens up to you. But our experience last Sunday was unique even by those standards.

Bridging the Gaps

I am a big fan of bridges, and I admit that I have taken too many pictures of them.  I think that some of the bigger ones, especially the suspension bridges, are marvels of engineering design.  The fact that we have figured out ways to use the laws of physics to construct these gigantic, and often beautiful and majestic, structures to leap across wide open spaces and voids in such a seemingly effortless manner (a perception that is deceptive) is remarkable.  The manner in which the roadways hang in the air, suspended from cables attached to elegant piers that rise from the ground or the water into the air to tower over the bridges themselves, is amazing.  And many of us take these structures for granted while using them in our everyday lives, with not an appreciation or understanding of, or interest in, the ingenuity that went into their construction.

But having said all that, I would like to take a different tack for this week’s challenge.  I will just focus on some more down-to-earth “bridge” encounters from our recent trip to New England.  These are simpler bridge stories from the other end of the spectrum.  The physics involved is quite simple in many cases.  These pictures will show that as far as the simple act of walking or hiking is involved, there are many basic ways that are used to bridge obstacles that may appear in front of you.  In some cases, even the simple rocks found in nature will offer you a bridge!

The following pictures are from the Camden State Park in Maine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is from a hike up Gorham mountain on Mt. Desert Island in Maine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese bridges are a few of the many on a trail in the Flume Gorge area in New Hampshire.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis bridge carries a trail across the Winooski River in Montpelier, VT.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABridges, in many different forms, are an essential part of our lives today.

On Your Left

This phrase is a call used as a common courtesy on the trails in these parts, usually uttered when a bicyclist is coming up on either a walker or another cyclist from behind.  It serves as a warning to the slower person about your approach, and also a request for the person to move towards the right side of the trail if he or she is blocking the trail.  You hear the phrase  quite frequently on crowded trails, and the responses to this call can vary quite a bit. Sometimes folks do not hear you unless you yell because they have their  earphones on and are listening to something or the other on their mobile devices. Sometimes folks do something unexpected like moving into your path.  But the call works often enough that its usage is a common practice.  I do not know what the etiquette of overtaking on a trail is in other places.  Perhaps in the UK, they say “On your right!”

It happened when I was barrelling downhill on the Capital Crescent Trail (CCT), heading from Bethesda to Fletcher’s Cove on the C&O Canal.  Traffic on the trail was unusually light that morning.  It was a cool morning, actually unusually cool for this time of year, and I was wearing extra gear to keep out the chill.  I felt an occasional drop of water from the overcast skies.  The forecasters had predicted that it would all clear up, but perhaps even this slight threat of inclement weather had been sufficient to deter other bikers from the trail.  (Or maybe it was because people have left town on vacations because of the start of summer.)

My goal for the ride was to tackle two trails that had slopes that were challenging.  I needed the training to be better prepared for the Rockies.   The Capital Crescent Trail and the Custis trail, both trails that I had found difficult in the past in this context, were within reachable distance of each other.

As I was speeding down the nearly empty CCT, I spied this kid in front of me who was walking down the middle of the trail in the same direction that I was riding.  I tried to warn him “On your left!”, but I got no response.  He had his earphones on!  I had to slow down.  I kept repeating myself with increasing urgency as I got closer to him and continued to slow down.  He heard me at the last minute and jumped to the side.  He turned to me with a sheepish grin on his face.  “Sorry, my bad.”  But I was not upset at all. In fact, I had to smile in spite of the fact that he had slowed me down significantly.  It was partly due to the look on his face, and the spirit in which he apologized.  There was no sign of annoyance in his demeanor at being startled, and he also openly accepted his responsibility.  Also, I was not really in a hurry (in spite of my speed), and I was happily distracted by the thought of a kid taking a walk on the trail in the middle of the morning, enjoying the outdoors.  Hopefully he had not bunked school, but in any case, he seemed to be involved a healthy outdoor diversion that was better than idling in front of an electronic display of some sort at home.  I was not upset.IMG_20170607_102733902_HDRLater on during the ride, while on a section of the W&OD trail in Virginia, I sighted a mother (I think!) and her little girl on the trail in front of me.  The two of them moved to the side of the trail when the mother noticed my approach.  The mother sat herself next to the kid, pointed my way, and the two of them waited for me to come by.  As I got closer she waved to me, and the kid gave me a big smile that would have melted any reasonable person’s heart.  I waved back with a smile on my face.  I got a big lift that lasted for a significant portion of the rest of the ride.IMG_20170607_115652484It is sometimes the small things that you remember from these type of outings, and I hope many such opportunities for smaller memories continue to present themselves during the next few weeks of training.IMG_20170602_092609202I managed to tackle the hills on both the Capital Crescent and Custis trails without having to get off the bike and push it uphill.  I am also learning how to better relax while doing rides like this that require some endurance.  I took breaks from riding whenever I felt like it without feeling a need to push myself and keep going.  I eased up on imaginary challenges that I tend to set for myself while riding.  In spite of this outlook, I did manage to keep a good pace.  In the end I covered about 46 miles, and I was in the groove towards the end, hitting four and a half minute miles on the rough trail.  Perhaps I am in decent shape for the final ride already.