The Pleasures of Spring on the Towpath

Spring has returned with a vengeance to the C&O Canal towpath.  One’s spirits are lifted at the sight of a trail lined with flowers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are so many different kinds spring flowers to be seen, some of which I still cannot identify in spite of all the years I have spent on the trail!

Suffice to say that a walk along the canal is the spring time can do wonders for you!

Morning Sights on the Trail

We were able to go for walks on the C&O canal towpath on both Saturday and Sunday last weekend.  Winter has its own charm when you are in the woods.  The cold is also not a bother unless it is windy. Your body warms up as you exercise.

The woods seem more open in winter because of the bare trees.  You can see things that are not usually visible in summer, including the river beyond the tree trunks, and the birds hidden in the branches of the trees.  The browns and greys of the trees in winter form their own unique patterns along the trail as it disappears into the distance.

We were able to sight this wren hidden away in the branches singing its morning song.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bikers brightened up the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe great blue heron watched the proceedings from its perch high over the towpath.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Park Service police kept an eye on things.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe robin watched me as I tried to focus the camera on it through the tangled branches.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left the marked trail and explored the woods by the river, ending up with this view of a culvert under the C&O canal and the towpath trail. This is where the Muddy Branch flows past the canal as it makes its way to the Potomac.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA walk in the woods rejuvenates the spirits!

Our Local Sunday Walk

I thought that a few pictures from our usual morning walk on Sunday would be appropriate for this week’s photo theme.  We walk along the trails in our local parks, more often than not landing up on the C&O Canal towpath by the Potomac River.

We started this weekend’s walk at White’s Ferry.  The mist was still rising from the river when we got there even though it was somewhat late in the morning.  The ferry was operating with a light load.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw some giant puffball mushrooms during our walk.  I do not recall having seen these before.  They are apparently edible if consumed before the spores have begun to form.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked up to Lock 26 on the towpath to see the historic silver maple tree near the Dickerson Conservation Center.  It is huge! This tree is on the current list of Montgomery County Champion trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are a couple of shots of the woods and the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got back to Whites Ferry in time to get some sandwiches for lunch at the store by the ferry.  These kinds of places are far away from regular commercial locations and depend on a different kind of clientele to stay in business. They are usually operated by some locals just trying to get a little bit of money.  (I still remember the Schoolhouse Kitchen in Oldtown, MD, operated out of a closed school building, that we ended up at during the KVIITM75 bike ride.)  You can see the bare-bones nature of the operation and  get a sense that they are just getting by.  We sat at a picnic bench and watched the Jubal A. Early in operation.  The sky had cleared up during our walk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur Sunday walks are something that I look forward to.

The Mules of Great Falls

I have been wandering along the C&O canal for many years and this is the first time I have seen the mules in action.  We came upon the boat ride being offered by the National Park Service on the canal at Great Falls by chance.

The Charles F. Mercer, the boat used for the tour, is a replica of the original canal boats.  It replaced the previous canal boat replica, The Canal Clipper III, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, in 2006. There is some nice information about the boat here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Incidentally, it looks like excursion boats have been operating on the C&O Canal for a very long time.  There is a document about excursion boats on the C&O canal that has been posted online at this locationThis is the current version of the document.  There are fascinating pictures in the document.  The “Reminiscences about Mules” in Appendix B is very interesting.