My first hike along the C&O canal to Mile 0 in Washington, DC, happened in 2004. I had only started visiting the canal and the towpath regularly earlier that year. This is what I wrote at that time about that experience.
I have taken the liberty of adding scans of a few pictures that I took with a 35 mm film camera at that time into the narrative below. I did not have a digital camera then.
A Slice Of Heaven – that was the title I thought I would give to this piece as I was jogging on the towpath, but, when I return home, the first thing I see in the newspaper are the headlines – “In Sudan, Death and Denial”. It appears that it there is a crisis of starvation going on in the Sudan, most likely because of the misdeeds of those in power. One feels an urge to do something concrete, just anything, but what? I have no answers, and if any of you have any, I am all ears – seriously. Meanwhile, I am keeping the title.
I wanted to write today about “How we saved a Sofa’s life” – I am not kidding. This would make sense to you if I told you that we moved furniture yesterday, and made one of our infrequent trips to the County dump (which is a very impressive building in itself). It was going to be a very short story about not throwing away things. I will leave it for another day, perhaps when I find time to write about my wonderful experiences with the furniture program. It is one of the most enriching things that I have done – shows you how little I have done!
But today was a day to forget everything else, the stupid sink hole in the backyard which is going to cost thousands of dollars to fix, the situation at work, etc.. Lets talk about my achievement for the day. Today, I can state that I have covered the first 27.2 miles of the canal towpath by foot – not all in one day, mind you, but over a period of a few weekends. Hurrah! Don’t hurt yourselves applauding. Actually, I can imagine Philip thinking to himself – what a wimp, I can do all of this in one day! If it makes any difference, I had a handicap. Since I had to leave the car in one spot, I actually covered twice the distance, and more – because I have been covering the same ground a number of times over the weekends.
I left home at 6:30 this morning. Started the hike from Glen Echo in Maryland at mile 7 and followed the canal to mile 0, in the middle of Georgetown, Washington DC. That’s right, you need not drive to Georgetown to get to the trendy restaurants. You can do it by foot! From the suburban greenery of the C&O canal in Montgomery County, to the narrow trails crowded against the backsides of the buildings of Georgetown University,into the sleepy small town atmosphere of Georgetown at 8:30 in the morning, the experience varies widely on this part of the canal.You know that you are in a big city when you see the homeless sleeping on the park benches with all their possessions in one traveling bag. You know you are in a big city when you get to the riverside and there are these bushes where the homeless rest, where no one else wants to go.You certainly know you are in a big city when you see that all this is happening just next to the expensive condominiums and restaurants of Georgetown that line the river. And you know what, human beings are so arrogant. They build these expensive structures right next to the river at water level – where it is prone to flooding. Whenever there is a danger of flooding, out come the flood walls that are placed in front of the condo complex to keep the water out. When you have money, you think you can contain nature. Fools! Why do they even indulge in such stupidity?
Coming back from Georgetown, I followed the Capitol Crescent Trail for the while that it parallels the canal towpath.This trail is built on an old railroad bed, and at mile 3.6 it takes off towards Bethesda – 12.6 miles in all. That is a project for another day. I had started the morning jogging, but my muscles began to protest after about 10 miles. I had to walk. Made it back to the car with not much left in my gas tank. In fact, with my destination in sight, I thought I would make a final push and jog the rest of the way. I could not make it since my muscles began to cramp.
It was a great day. Lots of people on the path – serious athletes, people out of shape, young folk, old folk, people of all colors, and, I suspect, people of all economic strata (just a guess). The outdoors may be the great unifier.
Only one story to tell – maybe not for the young ones, but then again it is a good lesson. You see, when you are in the outdoors and you have an urge to go, you just have to do it! I had written to our friends earlier about the importance of good toilet facilities when you spend a night in a cabin, but I can tell you that when you are desperate, it does not matter. Boys and girls, always remember to go to the bathroom before you go out. Yours truly did not. Jogging is certainly good for loosening things up – I would recommend it if you feel constipated. Those of you who are going “eeeewww”, don’t worry. Everything was taken care of in very hygienic way. A great many miles were traversed in great comfort after the incident.
I don’t know if I should try to explain why I picked the title, but the thought came to me when I was running. I was thinking about the fact that Philip and Lisa are big outdoors people and that this would be the ideal set of surroundings for them and the kids. One could use a little slice of heaven on a Sunday.
As a postscript, this trip in 2004 was only the beginning. I have visited many other places along the towpath over the years, finally completing the entire length with high-school friends in 2016.