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.