Riding My New Bicycle For the First Time

This is the first new bicycle that I have bought for myself. (I did actually buy a used bike once before – as an unemployed graduate student – for almost zero cost! Maybe that is a story for another day…) The bike I have been riding for the last few years belongs to Teresa. It is a woman’s hybrid bike that has served its purpose, but it is somewhat small for my size, and it was not really built for the heavy-duty usage that I was putting it through. I had somehow managed with her bike, not feeling a necessity to spend money on this background pastime of mine that could be considered non-essential. I kept postponing a final decision about a new bike. But the kids finally put me to shame with a present that they had bought me last year. It was a camera bag that was supposed to attach to my new bike! Where was the bike?!

I did some research before going out to the stores. I test rode a couple of bikes. I did have a couple of bikes in mind when I finally went out shopping, but I ended up buying a completely different bike from those on my list! My final choice was between a somewhat staid REI Co-op CTY 2.1, and the Trek Dual Sport 2 that looked more sporty. Both bikes had similar features. The Trek bike might even have been a little ahead in feature comparison, but I finally got the bike from REI because of the benefits of membership in REI.

I rode the new bike on the towpath for the first time last Thursday. The first challenge was fitting it on to the bike rack on the back of the car. It turns out that the bike barely fits into its position on the carrier. I am going to have to make further adjustments.

It was actually not the best day for a ride, but the bike had been sitting at home for a while, and I was itching to try it out. It was cloudy and chilly, and I could feel the cold of the gentle breeze on the skin as I rode. Fortunately, I was somewhat prepared for the weather – with a long sleeved bike shirt and a sleeveless vest (apparently also called a golf vest – who knew!) on top of it. It took a while for the numbness to go away from my fingers.

Since this was also my first bike ride of the season, I also found it to be somewhat of a relearning experience. I do need to get the muscles that are used in this exercise routine back in shape. And it was also the other simple and basic things that I had to think about while riding. I had to remind myself of the danger of drifting across the trail if I turned my head to look back while riding. I had to get comfortable once again with the experience of passing other people who were on foot or on bikes on the trail. You cannot always predict how somebody else will respond to your presence.

The bluebells have almost all disappeared from the trail, but most of the flowers that I regularly observe in Spring have made their appearances. Getting on the trail, it was this field of buttercups near Pennyfield Lock that first caught my attention.

Once on the trail, I stopped every once in a while to take pictures of the Wild Phlox, Fleabane, Chickweed, Ragwort, Spiderwort, Honeysuckle, Dames Rocket, Yellow Iris, Violets, etc.. The Rosa Multiflora will be flowering soon.

The squirrels and the birds were quite active. The presence of a relatively fast moving bicycle on the trail seemed to confuse some of these creatures. One of the squirrels almost ran into the spokes of the bicycle. Birds would occasionally fly across the front of the moving cycle, and sometimes they would fly ahead of the bicycle and try to land on the trail, seemingly misjudging the speed of my approach towards them. I deliberately made an effort to keep a somewhat slower pace and not speed up. I needed to get more comfortable with the gearing on the new bike first and find out what worked the best for me.

There were plenty of turtles that were out and about.I did notice that the herons were missing in action. (It fact, they have been generally missing in action during our last few outings!) I finally got a sight of one of them in the distance towards the end of the ride at the pond near Rileys Lock.

Even though I was prepared for it, I was surprised to have encounters with snakes this early in the riding season. (I can sense a shudder going through some of the readers!🙂) Both of the snakes I saw were small in size.
I cannot make up my mind about the kind of snake the second one was. It seemed to have the pattern of a Northern Copperhead on its body, but it was darker than the Northern Copperheads I have seen during previous outings. I also do not think the eyes were the right shape. This one had round eyes. Anyway, I kept a safe distance away from it.

And then there was the experience that I mentioned in my previous blog!

All in all, it was a good first ride on the bike!

Getting Up Close In Spring

We started our walk last weekend from the parking lot at Riley’s Lock. Instead of walking beside the river and canal on the towpath, we decided to head out on the Seneca Creek Greenway trail this time. This trail parallels Seneca Creek, and ends at the towpath next to the Potomac river – beside the pond just beyond the aqueduct (just north of Rileys Lock).

It felt nice to be in a somewhat different space from the wide and well paved towpath that we usually walk on. The trail was narrow, wending its way through the woods, now green with the coming of Spring.The sunshine felt good on the shoulders. There were also very few people on the trail.

There was the occasional creek to be crossed,and a few rolling hillsides of Montgomery County to be traversed. This particular hill provided us with a good view of Seneca Creek flowing below us.

The flowers of Spring, some that I have yet to identify, were in abundance around us. The white flowers on the dogwood trees were notable. Butterflies were also beginning to make their appearance.

Our progress on the trail was finally halted in the neighborhood of Berryville Road by the presence of a stream that needed to be crossed. We could not figure out how to get across without getting our feet wet.I had, unwisely it turned out, decided that we did not need trekking poles for this walk. (I was so unprepared that I was actually also wearing my trail running shoes instead of hiking boots for this walk.)

I had the opportunity to take a couple of closeup pictures during the tail end of our walk. The first time was on Tschiffely Road, the section of the Greenway trail that runs between the Potomac river and River Road. This turtle was sitting in the middle of the gravel road.Fortunately for the turtle, there is usually no traffic on this particular road. It terminates at a dead end close to the ruins of an old mill next to the pond I mentioned earlier in this blog.

I was able to bring my camera quite close to the turtle in order to take its picture. It did not flinch. It did not blink, neither did it withdraw into its shell.

The other close encounter we had was with a frog (I think it is a frog and not a toad!) that had parked itself in the middle of the trail on a stretch of the towpath just north of Rileys Lock.Once again, the frog did not seem to mind the camera being this close to it!

We had found the frog enjoying the sunshine at a location that was particularly dangerous for it. The trail was quite busy on a Sunday morning, and there was no shortage of bikers who were speeding along, many of them lost in their own mental space. They could easily run over the frog without even realizing it. I tried to encourage the frog to the side of the trail but it refused to move. It merely raised itself on its haunches as if it were deciding whether it really should jump forward, but it never followed through. We continued our walk thinking that there was a chance we could find the frog completely squashed on the trail during our return. We were happy to see it alive and well, sitting at the edge of the trail. We pointed out the frog to a little child passing by with his parents. He was sitting in a stroller. The child promptly fell out of his stroller when leaning over to look at the frog, then started crying, and eventually lost interest completely. At least we tried….

A Bounty of Bluebells

We usually go to the area just upstream of Noland Ferry to experience the blooming of the Virginia Bluebells during springtime. We will not have to make that trip this year. We got our fill of bluebells last weekend. We were pleasantly surprised find out how widespread these plants also were in the area near Whites Ferry. The flowers were all in full bloom. It was a sea of blue in certain sections of the trail. It was a feast for the eyes.

And, as expected, we also came across many more spring flowers that we were seeing for the first time this year. (These are the ones we saw last weekend!) I have identified all of the flowers in the pictures below in blogs from the past!

The weather was much more pleasant last Saturday when compared to how it had been the previous weekend. We also encountered many more walkers and bikers on the trail.

As you can see from the picture below, the leaves are returning to the trees in this part of the towpath. Spring is here!

The Escape For The Day

We have made only a few Sunday morning trips to the canal so far this year. I am strongly motivated to get back to the routine of our more regular outings of the past. Last weekend, I also felt strongly motivated to go back to some place along the canal further away from home. I felt like escaping my familiar surroundings and absconding to some quiet and peaceful place far away from the hustle and bustle of humanity – at least for a short while.

We ended up at Dam 5, between Williamsport and Hancock. Although we had been to Dam 5 in the past, this was the first time we were going to park our car there. My plan was to walk upstream from this point towards the Four Locks area.The bridge below is across the stop lock next to the dam that used to carry the boats between the river upstream of the dam and the C&O canal downstream of it. There was no canal in the area immediately above the dam.

We found the weather somewhat more challenging than we had expected at the beginning of the walk. It was particularly windy in the section where the canal boats used to pulled along the side of the river itself – beside cliffs that prevented the construction of a canal bed beside the river. We had to double up on our protection against the cold.The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds. I had opportunities to take pictures with some unique lighting conditions during the walk. The Sycamore trees caught my attention.

There was also a little town on the West Virginia side of in the river that was occasionally nicely lit up.

As we continued our way upstream, the canal emerged once again from the river at Lock 45 just beyond the cliffs hugging the river.When traveling upstream in this section of the canal, the mules pulling the boats used to travel along what usually was the berm side of the canal. They moved back to the side of the canal that they normally occupied, on the side of the river itself, at Lock 46. The picture below shows the remains of the bridge at Lock 46 that was used to move the mules from one side to the other.The picture below shows where the trail crosses the old canal bed today.This is a picture of the lock area including the lock house.

The river wanders away from the canal in the area of Four Locks, where the canal takes a shortcut to avoid a significant loop in the meandering path of the river. The towpath changes elevation significantly in a short distance in this section. The picture below manages to capture three of these four locks. The canal makes a turn in this section that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to capture all four locks in a single picture. You can barely make out three of them in this picture.You can see the lock house for the four locks in the above picture in the distance.

There was an attempt, ultimately unsuccessful, to try to get a view of all four locks from below the lowest lock in the sequence of locks.

We walked beyond the Four Locks area to the area of McCoy’s Ferry before turning back. There is a big drive-in campsite at McCoy’s Ferry that is accessed by a road that runs under the canal. This picture shows the camping area beyond the end of the road that runs through the area. There were people camping out for the weekend even in the cold conditions.

There were more Spring flowers to be seen than during our previous walk along the canal two weeks ago. If felt a little strange to see this increased growth because of the cold weather we were experiencing. But Spring is inevitable! Most of the flowers were in the area closer to Dam 5. I had a hard time remembering the names of some of the flowers that we came across. It is time once again to put that part of my brain back to work. Perhaps a reader with a better memory than mine still remembers the names of these plants from my blogs of past years.

There were also a lot of little birds in the area closer to Dam 5, but they were not very cooperative when it came to having their pictures taken. But some of the birds did make up for this behavior by providing some unique sounds to listen to, and some background music.

It looked like a lot of trees had been chopped down in this area just recently. It was sad to see, but I am assuming that this was done to prevent overgrowth and in order to keep the woods healthy. The stumps of the trees that had been chopped did for the most part look like they had belonged to trees that had been healthy.

Looking through my old blogs, I was surprised to discover that the last time we came to this area was in October 2020. For some reason I had been thinking that we had made a more recent visit ot this place. In any case, it was good to be back!

Spring Is In The Air

it was good to get back to normal Spring weather during the walk last Sunday after the frigid temperatures and snow of the previous weekend. Indeed, the day of our first joint walk along the canal this year was also the day of the Spring Equinox. There were signs of the changes that were to come.

Spring Beauty flowers were in the process of opening up in some spaces.

This is the first Virginia Bluebell that I have noticed this year.

This part of the towpath, between Sycamore Landing and Edwards Ferry, draws me in during the Winter and early Spring. The woods and trees have a certain character that comes out especially with the early morning sun behind our backs.

Our retreat into the woods last weekend was marred by an unfortunate discovery that we made as we were walking along the shore of the river near Edwards Ferry. A group of individuals had trashed the space after an evening of partying around a fire next to a river.They did not bother to pick up their garbage. How irresponsible and out-of-touch does one have to be to not care about the damage you are doing? Why would you deliberately attempt to destroy the nature that you have just immersed yourself in and enjoyed? How self-centered do you have to be to only think about yourself and not the people who are coming after you?

By sheer coincidence, we did see some members of a volunteer cleanup crew who were going through the area looking for trash. We did alert them to the location of the garbage. We tried to do our little part in helping, by collecting a few of the empty cans that had been strewn all over the area into one location.

It looks like it is the time for the peak blooms for the Cherry Blossoms in the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC. The two cherry blossom trees in our yard are still changing.

People Get Ready

It snowed on Saturday, March 12th, 2022. It is rare that we have snow storms this late in the season, but it does happen once in a while.

It was cold enough that day the snow stuck to the ground. Prudence led me to set out on a simple walk along the canal the next day, on Sunday, rather than a real hike that would involve the conquest of mountain peaks (hahaha!). I am glad that I did this.

I did not realize how much I missed this place – the towpath. I walked from Rileys Lock to Pennyfield Lock and back. The temperature was about 20°F when I started. Fortunately, there was no wind. There was not a cloud in the blue sky. And the blue waters of Potomac matched the sky in its brilliance.

What I had really missed while I had been away from this trail for quite a while were the little birds that you always find hanging around. They create their own unique sense of atmosphere. Their background noise accompanies you in your time of solitude. Perhaps it helps soothe the soul. It is not as if these birds are even all spectacular looking to the eye. The simple sparrow is my companion on the trail. There they are, all of these different kinds of birds, just going about their business of living, hopping from one branch to another, singing, hanging around on the trail, hanging out with the squirrels, swimming in the water…. There is pleasure to be found in just observing ordinary life on the trail!

And then there was the fox that was running away from the trail in the snow near Pennyfield Lock when I first saw it. It stopped to look at me – to make sure I was not going to pose a danger to it. One look at my camera as it came up to my face and it bounded away even though I was too far away from it to do any kind of damage.

I had concluded in the past that pictures taken of snow are usually not very effective. It can be difficult to capture the proper spirit of winter when you are just seeing white everywhere in the picture. But, it has also been a long time since I visited the canal after a snowfall. The novelty of the experience must be acknowledged. I got a few pictures that I liked that morning.

The bridge over Seneca Creek at Riley’s Lock has been reopened. There is a brand new metal span over the water. I was able to cross over to the northern side of the trail and explore the area near the pond and the Seneca Quarry and Mill.

The cold did not really bother me, but I did notice when I returned to the car after the walk that the skin on different parts of my face had turned red from the exposure. It had warmed up to about 30°F by then.

One of the songs that went through my head during the walk was this one.

Eva Cassidy was a great singer who died young and never achieved the recognition that she deserved. An earlier version of this song sung by Curtis Mayfield was another classic.

Running On Ice – The Towpath In Winter (02/07/2005)

This write up is from my early days on the towpath. The pictures shown were taken with an analog camera, and I just scanned them into the original text for the purpose of this blog.

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I ran from Pennyfield Lock (mile 19.6) to Great Falls (Mile 14) on Saturday. I left home at around 7:15 am, as the sun was rising between the suburban homes that line the roads of Montgomery County, as it began to flood the intersection of Darnestown Road and Quince Orchard Road with a brilliant yellow. The sky was clear except for the jet trail of an airliner – a tiny dot in the sky, carrying human beings on their morning ride to a far off place. Imagine all the souls in that one tiny speck…

I arrived at Pennyfield Lock as the sun was beginning to hit the canal through the trees. It was below freezing as I backed-up the car into an ice-covered spot in the lot. It had snowed on Wednesday, and as I walked on to the trail I noticed that it was still covered with snow. I was uncertain about how far I would be able to go under the conditions. I could see that others had traversed this area after the storm – shoe prints, paw prints and tracks from bicycle tires were clearly visible. I started walking and realized that the soles of my shoes were offering a pretty good grip on the ice and snow. All I had to do was avoid the slippery parts, either where the sun had started to melt the snow, or where the trampling of feet had melted the ice, only to have it refreeze once again in the night. I found out that I could run!

The river was quiet early in the morning and covered with a layer of mist. There was no sign of ice on the water. The canal itself was frozen in parts. The water was pouring out over the gates of the lock and through its cracks, but further away from the lock the canal was a sheet of ice. There were footprints in places, perhaps from when it had been colder, and the ice thicker. There was even a snowman. It did not look too safe to be on the ice today. I could see cracks in places.

Great Falls is an area where the Potomac River drops by about 60 feet through ferocious rapids. The power of the water is awesome. As you approach the falls you can hear the roar of the water. As you cross the bridges that take you to Olmsted Island in the middle of the river, you experience the river at close quarters – the violent rush of water, and the white boiling foam as it blasts through the channels and crashes against the rocks.It was fantastic to be out on the Lookout at the tip of the island in the cold of the morning.I was the only person there, looking down at the roaring rapids and the rocks partially covered with snow below me. The birds that I had seen in summer at the bottom of these cliffs were gone, probably headed south. There were geese flying up in the sky in pairs, honking noisily, and probably also headed south. I started singing loudly to myself – I will survive, as long as I know how to love, I know I will stay alive, I’ve got all my life to live……

I started getting cramps in the calf muscles as I started my way back to Pennyfield Lock. It took me completely by surprise since I had covered greater distances in the past without problems. Perhaps it was the cold and the extra effort being made to ensure that one did not land on one’s butt! The rest of the trip was covered more carefully. As the sun had come up and was in the process of melting the snow and ice, it had also become more slippery on the trail. I negotiated the trail bareheaded and in my T-shirt as I removed my ski cap, track-suit top and gloves to enjoy the feel of the cold against the sweat on the skin. On the way back, I saw something sticking out the ice in the canal. A more careful investigation revealed the head of a deer with the neck all chewed up, probably by birds pecking at it. I then noticed that the rest of the body of the deer was below the melting ice of the canal. I think this was a case of an animal trying to cross the canal and falling through the thin ice. This is nature in action, and should also serve as a warning to us “civilized” folks to be careful out there. I also noticed that the river was not as quiet as it appeared to be at first glance. There were various birds on the rocks. I saw a group of more than 100 ducks and ducklings in the middle of the river, fighting the current. What a sight!

This trip to the outdoors made my weekend (and probably the rest of this week).
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I cannot imagine tackling the cold these days in the way I did in 2005 as far as the clothing is concerned! I would certainly try to run on the snow/ice under similar conditions if I were on my own.

The Doldrums of January

A winter storm came through on Sunday. I was determined to get back to the towpath before the storm hit. Too many weekends had passed without my having had the experience. I would go in spite of the very cold morning that was predicted. And I was prepared to go by myself if that was the only way to make it happen.

It was about 15°F (-9.44°C) when I arrived at Rileys Lock very early in the morning.

Because of the cold, I took the concept of layering of clothes to an extreme for this outing. Four layers of clothing protected the chest and the family jewels. Two layers of socks and gloves, and a skullcap and a hoodie protected the extremities.

The first thing I noticed was the new bridge over Seneca Creek at Rileys Lock. A closer look revealed that the bridge was still under construction and was closed off.

I had no option but to head south towards Pennyfield Lock.

It was a dull and grey morning. The sun struggled from behind a thick layer of clouds that portended the coming of the storm later in the day.The water in the canal was freezing in sections because of the cold.The river still flowed freely on the other side of the trail.

The conditions were such that even the little birds flying around the trail did little to raise my level of enthusiasm. Only the colorful cardinals, now clearly visible against the brown of the deleaved plants and trees, managed to draw my attention for an extended period of time. I was not motivated to take pictures, let alone take off my thick outer later of gloves to fiddle with the camera to try to optimize any picture being taken.

Regardless of all my caution, my fingers and toes began to freeze up.

I kept walking along trying to quieten my mind. I only saw one person on the trail during the early part of the walk. His jacket was a shade of blue that caught your attention from far away, especially in the dull brown background. He turned around as I was approaching him and went back the way he had come. I was very surprised to encounter a bicyclist. He came up from behind very quietly when I thought was the only one on the trail. I might have been singing before he warned me of his presence and passed me by.

I was able to eventually internalize and mentally adapt to the cold. I reached Pennyfield Lock and kept walking past the landmark. The place could have served as a milestone to use to turn back to return to my car. My thought when I had left home that morning was that I would see how it felt walking in the cold, and turn back the moment I felt that I was on a fool’s errand and was putting myself in some danger. At that point many of my fingers were still partially numb. Some had reached an intermediate state of pain which I think had to do with the pressure on the blood vessels as they attempted to open up in my fingers. It was actually usually a good sign. I could manage, even if my extremities were not in a completely good state. I had experience with the situation and knew how bad it would get. It also helped that there was no breeze at that point. I still could feel my nose.

It was a little bit after I passed Pennyfield lock that I decided that I would try to cover about 8 miles. It felt doable. I was comfortable.

I turned back at the point where the trail ran next to the cliffs before Swains Lock. I began to encounter more people on the way back to Rileys Lock. As I was not getting good opportunities for taking pictures, the camera went back into the backpack. I decided to start jogging. It was simply something that I felt like doing at that moment. There was no planning involved.

It was a different experience once I started jogging. First of all, the movement and the rhythm of the breathing came easy even though I had not run on the trail for probably a few years. I could keep going, and the going was easy. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I had done some jogging on the treadmill earlier in the week.

And then something magical began to happen. The blood began to flow through to my extremities more freely. I could feel it. The frozen feeling began to vanish slowly, although painfully. Before long, my fingers and toes were feeling fine and I had found a rhythm on the trail. It was a rhythm that I thought I could manage forever. The miles were passing by effortlessly.

It was about 19°F by the time I got back to the car. I was not feeling the cold in the least bit!

It started snowing in the afternoon.

https://www.gocomics.com/barneyandclyde/2022/01/16

A Morning For The Freight Trains

We walked to the town of Brunswick and its big marshalling yard for the CSX railroad last Sunday. We encountered the freight trains well before we got there.

We were still driving from home towards the parking lot at Lander Lock, the starting point of our walk, when, at Dickerson, I sighted the rear-end of the freight train crossing the bridge over the road. The train was headed towards the bridge at the Monocacy river. When we reached Point Of Rocks about 10 to 15 minutes later, we saw the same train running on the tracks parallel to the road we were on. We then landed up at Lander Lock another 10 to 15 minutes later just as the same train was passing by. We had to stop at the railroad crossing to let it go by before proceeding to the parking lot.

It was in the 30s when we started our walk from next to the lock house.

It was the Sycamore trees that drew my attention early in the walk. One wonders if I ever will tire of their majesty?!

The first stop was Catoctin Aqueduct. You can see how low the sun was in the sky from this picture that was taken from the walkway on one side of the aqueduct.

We could hear the activity in the railroad yard even before we crossed Little Catoctin Creek a little later.We had to go down to the level of the creek to cross the creek. The original culvert over the canal was destroyed in a storm in May 2018 and has still not been replaced.

Little Catoctin Creek is located near the eastern end of the Brunswick railroad yard. The first thing we noticed was the back-and-forth shunting activity going on with a locomotive consist of three engines attached to a number of freight cars carrying containers with J. B. Hunt logos on their sides. (We originally mistook them for containers carrying ketchup and other tomato products!🤨)

The railroad yard was, as usual, full of freight cars dispersed over the different tracks. You could see and hear the occasional locomotive located behind the carriages on the tracks closer to the trail. There is a background rumbling sound of the locomotives at rest, and the occasional creaking and clanging of metal when freight cars are being moved around, when you are walking in this area.

This is a picture from the trail beside the yard.The sky was absolutely clear! This part of the towpath has actually been converted to a gravel road that people can drive on to get to a privately owned family campsite next to the river.

The distance we covered during the walk was a little more than what we usually tackle. The Brunswick parking lot for the towpath was slightly further away than what I had expected. I took some additional time to walk the extra distance on my own, looping back on the road next to the railroad yard to get back to the trail. This is a picture of the Maryland Route 17 bridge at Brunswick taken during that part of the walk.There were a couple of trains parked on the tracks at the far end of the yard.I see trains at this location almost every time I pass by on the road. (You can actually see these trains on the other side of the bridge if you open up the picture of the bridge!)

As we were departing the area of the railroad yard on our way back to Lander Lock, the train that we had seen moving about in the yard let out three blasts of its horn (similar to this sound) and started moving in our direction. It was still moving quite slowly, still picking up speed, when the locomotives passed us by. The train consist itself was much longer than the J. B. Hunt set of container cars that we had originally seen. With its over 160 varied freight cars, it was long enough (and slow enough!) that we even reached the Catoctin Aqueduct on foot on the trail before the train fully passed us by!

We made a stop at the Rocky Point Creamery on our drive back home to pick up some ice cream. We have driven past this place for many years, and this is the first time we stopped to investigate further. The ice cream remains to be consumed at this point in time!

Little Pool

We had visited Big Pool on the C&O Canal earlier this year. We decided to go to Little Pool, its little sister, on Sunday. Little Pool is located just a few miles west of Big Pool. To start a walk at Little Pool, one must get to a parking lot for the canal that is difficult to access, one which does not get much use. The information about the approach to the lot requires a little bit of research. It is possible that not many people know about its existence.

This parking lot, just outside of Hancock, is located off an on-ramp to Interstate 70 going east. The only access to the road leading to this ramp from the highway is from an exit on I-70 heading west. The exit is located in the middle of the countryside. You could miss it easily – in the blink of an eye – if you were were not aware of it, or if you were distracted. There is no exit from I-70 to this parking lot if you are headed east on the highway, and there is no way to get onto I-70 West from the parking lot.

I had found this parking lot many years ago when I was discovering these sections of the C&O canal for the first time. I had only been there once – in 2007. In fact, I had written about this place at that time in an email to friends and family! That outing on the C&O canal was the first time I had made it to the town of Hancock, the furthest west I had been at that point. I had started a run at Little Pool on that day.

Nothing had changed regarding the nature of the parking lot since 2007.We were the only ones there – both when we arrived and when we departed the place after the walk! This parking lot serves both the WMRT and the C&O Canal. (We had been to the WMRT at Pearre, MD, just a few weeks earlier when searching (unsuccessfully!) for the colors of Fall.) You walk down to the WMRT from the parking lot.

You then cross the WMRT to walk down to Little Pool.The pool was bathed in a lovely early morning light. We walked east, towards Big Pool, on the towpath from that point. I had wanted to walk all the way to the aqueduct at Licking Creek, but had misjudged the distance. We turned back before we got there. Here are some pictures from this part of the walk.

We were walking in the direction of the rising sun at this point. It warmed us up nicely in spite of the low early morning temperatures. The last picture in the above sequence shows a trailer park on the West Virginia side of the river, and a freight train crossing a bridge over a minor tributary of the Potomac called Sleepy Creek.

We walked past a couple of locations along the canal where the waste weir for that section of the canal was built on the berm side of the canal, away from the river. The water from the waste weir fed into a culvert under the canal that led to the river. The usual practice, which seems to make more sense, was to build waste weirs on the side of the canal facing the river.

We walked back to Little Pool, and then continued the walk along Little Pool towards Hancock.

We saw a few birds that morning. I even caught sight of an bald eagle in the distance. It was too far away to get a good picture. We saw woodpeckers, bluebirds, cardinals, nuthatches, and even a family of what I suspect were ring-necked ducks on the water.The bluebirds were too small and restless to keep a track of long enough to take a picture of. There was another bird that we could not recognize that kept flying ahead of us over the trail. It would take off as we approached, and then land once again further along on the trail. It then started doing this activity over the canal bed – flying ahead of us as we approached and then landing next to the trail – again and again. I tried to have my camera ready for a photo-opp but was unsuccessful. I finally gave up tracking the bird.

The views of the trail ahead of us got my attention in the morning light.We did not quite reach Hancock before we turned back. We had walked over 8 miles that morning.

This was a morning for strange sightings. We saw what looked like a weasel in the water at Little Pool. But everything I have read so far suggests that weasels are not present in these parts. We also saw what looked like a pig in the median of the highway as we were driving home. That was quite strange. We were left wondering how it got there, and from where!

One more thing that was unusual about this outing was that we did not encounter a single person on the trail that morning. This might have primarily been due to the fact that the WMRT runs parallel to the towpath in this section. Its pavement provides a much smoother surface for bikers who are passing through to ride on than the towpath.