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!

If You Drive Slow, You Can Get There Faster (4/29/2013)

And the three men I admire most:,
The father, son, and the holy ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died


(In case you are curious, the song from which these lines are taken is not about religion.  It is about three well regarded musicians who lost their lives in a plane accident in the 60s – Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson.)

I had just stopped under a tree after I got on the trail at Williamsport on the C&O Canal this morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was out and a bird was singing away to glory, hidden in one of the branches.  As I was looking up, searching for it, a older lady, all wrapped up in warm clothes, came walking by and wished me good morning.  I gave up on the bird and started walking along with her.  She seemed to be grateful for the company.  She said that she usually walked a couple of miles, and she thanked me for walking with her.  She said that she was over 80 years old, and at that age, two miles was a good distance.  She looked fit and she was very chatty.  She had come across the river from West Virginia.  Apparently, her husband has big strides, and the two of them do not walk well together. So he goes in one direction while she goes in the other.  She informed me about the “happenings” along that section of the canal and about the work going on at the lock.  She only walked a short distance with me to the place where the woods began, and then turned back.  Sweet person!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw a homeless person on the trail today.  It is the first time in many years that this has happened.  The lady I had walked with had told me about him, and so I was not completely surprised.  Apparently he is from the town of Williamsport.  He was sitting on a branch beside the trail eating what looked like a donut.   He appeared to have all his belongings on a trailer that was attached to his bicycle.  He seemed to be OK.  I was wondering if he was perhaps happier in his own way than some of us who have more material belongings.

I listened to an interview on the radio this morning as I was heading to the canal.  The person being interviewed was a poet, and she happened to mention the line in the subject line of this posting during that interview.  It was apparently uttered by her young daughter while on a drive, when their car was overtaken by another.   It was a moment of Zen…  Eventually, they overtook the other car when they were both stuck at a toll-booth.  But it did get me thinking, not specifically about driving slow, but about driving in the wrong direction, or driving towards an destination that does not make too much sense in the big picture, or even getting distracted and focusing on the wrong destination.  All of these get you to your destination later than you intended.

There was another interesting point made during the radio conversation, where the poet talked about asking some kids a simple question – can you talk about something in particular that you observed this morning?  Apparently, this question stumps the kids, and it can take some time to engage them properly in conversation on this topic.   This is because their senses are not totally engaged in what they are doing.  They are not paying attention. Perhaps it is true for adults also….

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
….

In The Still of The Day

I was driving on the road from the parking lot at Pennyfield Lock.  I was driving quite slowly.  It was not just the numerous potholes in the road that were slowing me down.  It was very quiet and relaxing out there and I was in no hurry.  Besides, there was an older gentleman walking briskly in the middle of the road in front of me with headphones covering his ears.

I had observed this older gentleman on the trail at Pennyfield lock a few minutes earlier where I had stopped to check out the fall colors.  The colors in our neighborhoods (except for that red maple that we planted behind our house) seemed to be somewhat muted this year relative to other years, but things seemed to be getting better a the tail end of the falling of the leaves.  I drove to the parks in spite of a weather prediction (that turned out to be accurate) that the sky would become cloudier as the morning passed by and that there was a chance of some rain.

In any case, the gentleman was walking with a purpose.  He looked like he did this kind of stuff regularly.  He was proceeding quite briskly in his yellow coveralls.  He had a backpack and I saw a camera hanging from a strap attached to it.  I did not see his water supply, but I am sure he was carrying some.  He had his music.

As the car got closer to this gentleman, I began to wonder if he realized that I was there.  The combination of the headphones he was wearing and fact that I was driving  a Prius that was in its quiet super-efficient mode because of my speed, could have made me difficult to notice. Since he was in the middle of the road,  I decided to drift off to the side of the road and get closer to him at a slower pace.  I was not about to honk the horn.

I got a response from him.  He shifted the position of his head as if to acknowledge me, and I was not sure if he was irritated by my approach.  All of a sudden he started crossing the road in front of me, to the side I was trying to pass him on.  I had not wanted him to change his position on the road just for me, but I figured out that this was what he was doing.  I reacted by turning the wheel so that the car moved back towards the middle of the road.

The guys raised his hands and signaled, it seemed somewhat aggressively, for me to stop.  As I halted the car, he broke off a stick from a fallen branch beside the road and walked with it across the road right in front of me. Soon he was pushing something that was on the road off of it.  I then saw it.  It was a small turtle and it looked very familiar!  After he had moved the turtle, he signaled for me to proceed. My mind quickly rewound to the incident many years ago when I had also moved a turtle off  a road. That incident had  motivated me to start writing about random stuff, and in some way led to the existence of this blog!  It felt, in a very irrational way, that there was some kind of connection being made across the different times of my life.  Weird!

As I eventually passed the gentleman in my car, I told him that he had done a very nice thing.  He was wearing his headphones, but he nodded to acknowledge me, and continued with his brisk walk.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.  I need to get out today to find out if I will find better conditions for fall photography.  It actually looks much nicer in some spots than I expected, but I also need better lighting to try to bring it all out.

 

A Boat Passes Through Lock 20 at Great Falls

A little while ago I posted a blog about the operation of a boat on the C&O canal in the area of Great Falls, the boat being pulled by mules walking along the towpath.  When the boat gets to the lock at Great Falls, which is lock 20 on the C&O canal, the mules are unhitched from the boat, and the boat makes its way downstream through the lock following the process below.

As the boat approaches the lock, the upstream gates are in the open position and the gates downstream of the lock are closed  so that the water in the lock is at the level of the water upstream of the lock. The boat enters the lock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the boat has completely entered the lock, the upstream gates are closed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next step is to open up the valves in the downstream gate so that water can escape downstream and the level of water within the lock can begin to go down.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the water level has gone down to the level of the canal below the lock, the downstream gates are opened completely.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boat now proceeds out of the lock.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd finally it is clear of the lock!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe National Park Service offers tours on the Charles F. Mercer on weekends between spring and fall.

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.

Weekly Photo Challenge: H2O

This looks like a very broad category to me.  I have so many pictures that cover so many different aspects of H2O!  I remember the early morning scenes with the mist and fog over the river, reflections of the fall colors over the waters of a lake, the beauty of snow and ice of winter, the sea at sunrise or sunrise from a beach, the storms with the heavy rains and even flooding, and even the pollution of the H2O caused by humanity.  And that is not a complete list….

But this time I am going back to my recently completed bike ride from Pittsburgh, PA, to Whites Ferry in Maryland to address the theme.  It seems to be a good fit, because the ride, for the most part, took place beside rivers.  ( Read on and you might also get a short lesson in geography!) The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail that we followed from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, essentially followed some of the tributaries of the Ohio River (which itself is a tributary of the great Mississippi that empties itself in the Gulf of Mexico).  From Cumberland onward, we rode the C&O Canal towpath which runs along the Potomac river. This river runs east, the opposite direction to the rivers we rode beside up to that point, and it empties into the Chesapeake Bay and the mighty Atlantic Ocean.  The Potomac and the Ohio and its tributaries flow into two distinct watershed areas on the two different sides of the Eastern Continental Divide and the Appalachian mountains that we rode over.

The Ohio river forms in Pittsburgh at the confluence of Monongahela and the Allegheny rivers and flows in a northwesterly direction out of the city.  We began our trip by riding upstream along the Monongahela river  (in a southeasterly direction).  We crossed the river over a former railroad bridge at one point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got to McKeesport, PA, where the Youghiogheny River joins the Monongahela.  From then onward it was further upstream and continuing southeasterly along the Yough. The skies were clear on the first day. We crossed under the Banning Railroad bridge.  (I found a video of this bridge in use in 2011.  I don’t know if it is still in use.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The river was extremely muddy on the morning of the second day of the ride due to overnight rain.  You can see the mud from the abandoned railroad bridge below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sediment had cleared up by the time we crossed the Ohiopyle low bridge over the Yough into Ohiopyle, PA.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Casselman River meets up with the Yough at Confluence, PA, and from that point on the GAP followed the Casselman on its way upstream. It was misty early in the day when we left Confluence.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This is view of the town of Confluence from a bridge over the Casselman.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The skies had cleared by the time we got to Rockwood, PA.  The Casselman river looked more like a gentle stream at this point.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We crossed the Eastern Continental Divide on the GAP and descended into Cumberland, MD. The rest of the ride up to the final destination of Whites Ferry followed the C&O canal along the Potomac river. This was what the canal looked like in the area near Lock 75.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a section near Hancock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Paw Paw tunnel burrowed under a mountain to allow the canal a more direct route  that avoided the bends in a meandering section of the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We saw many aqueducts over the canal along the way. The remains of the Licking Creek Aqueduct are shown below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The river itself was quite peaceful for the most part.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We also saw a couple of dams that were used to supply water from the river to the canal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And there there were some other H2O related experiences during the trip that I remember. This picture was taken on a pedestrian bridge over the Casselman river in Confluence early in the morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The following picture is of the house at Fallingwater built by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The house is built over a waterfall.  You can take steps down from your living room directly to the water that flowed under the house.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe red waterfall shown below is the acid mine drainage (AMD) from a former mine along a section of the GAP closer to Pittsburgh.  We did (and continue to do) a lot of damage to our environment!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We experienced H2O everywhere during our trip (and hopefully H2O is also seen in all of the pictures I selected for this blog!).  And I should not fail to mention that without large quantities of H2O to drink, we would not have survived the long hot days during our bicycle ride!

 

 

The 2016 KVIITM75 Bike Ride – Day 5

At the end of our fifth day of riding there is a sense of being tired, but also the sense that something unique and remarkable in our experiences is coming to an end.  I am looking forward to getting home, but at the same time I could do this forever!

Our ride from Hancock, MD, to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, was somewhat more mellow than the previous two days’ rides. It might have been due to the fact that we covered a shorter distance, and it was over flatter territory.  The experience on the towpath is very different from that on the more challenging and exciting Great Allegheny Passage.  We started the ride on a cloudy morning after a nice breakfast at the Riverrun Bed and Breakfast place that we had stayed at overnight.  Yes, there was stretching taking place before riding, and icing of sore muscles at the end of the day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It had rained during the night, but it was not expected to rain while we were riding. The first part of the ride was on the smoother Western Maryland Rail Trail that parallels the towpath.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stopped at McCoys Ferry for a break.P9012346.jpgThen it was downhill at Four Locks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We rode by a slackwater area where the canal disappears for a short while. The boats used to be pulled along the river in this section.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Dam 5, one of the dams used to route water from the river to the canal.P9012364.jpgThen it was back on the towpath.

P9012374.jpgLunchtime was in Williamsport, MD.  We crossed over the Conococheague Aqueduct to take the road into town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took a short break at Fallingwater.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had to take shelter during a short rainstorm.

P9012386.jpgThere was another short stop at McMahon’s mill.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We encountered this turtle who must have been surprised by all the attention.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A stop at Dam 4 on the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We had to climb from the towpath to the Rumsey bridge to get over to Shepherdstown where we had dinner and then proceeded to our hotel for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Tomorrow is our final day of riding.