"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Yesterday's Hike: The C&O Canal Trail, Georgetown Area

Yesterday we decided to go hiking again, and we took a go at the C&O Canal Trail. We had both seen it through the trees over the winter driving to and from D.C., so that's the area we headed to. We arrived around 10:00 am, and were there for 3 hours. We did 4 miles on the main trail, but probably covered somewhere between 5 and 6 miles, as we explored many of the side trails leading from the C&O trail to the Potomac, and also crossed some bridges to the other side. We also did some backtracking: the side trails would follow the river for awhile, then dead end, which meant we had to turn around to get to the Canal trail again. We walked the first hour, and I jogged/ran the second hour in 1-2 minute sets with 1 minute of resting inbetween (I remembered why I stopped running altogether in FL; I hate running on flat surfaces. The side trails were much more fun!) We reached the mile 7 marker and turned around; it took us an hour to walk back to the car just sticking to the Canal trail.
The C&O Canal trail is 180 miles long; it starts in Alexandria, VA, and ends in Pennsylvania. Looking at the map later, we realized that of course a part of crosses fairly close to home in MD. We'll be checking that area out next. 

I tried posting this yesterday, but Blogger was being a huge PAIN IN THE ASS about the photos, putting them in random order instead of where I wanted them, so I finished the post today, after having to cut and paste the photos into the correct sequence!

Sign at the entrance to the C&O Canal trail.
Ice skating?

We went up one of the bridges to take these pics.

Going down the stairs to the Canal Trail

Charles gets a rush out of going to places that are full of "Warning" and "Danger" signs...
He took these photos.

We want bikes! This trail is perfect for biking.

Found this paved road off the main trail.

I saw this and decided we had to go boulder climbing...

...while talking on the phone. I'm hard core! Haha...
Mark, our friend from FL, has a beagle he adores that has been going through chemo and it's been quite a roller coaster ride with his treatments. He had called with medication questions. He worries about his pets as much as I do: there is no way in the world that I'd leave him hanging.

Charles got to say hi to Mark :)

The view of the river was beautiful!

Blue heron

Same heron

This one had colors like a Blue Heron, but was smaller and the neck seemed shorter. I can't find  what type of heron/egret it could be.

Mini rapids!

Can you see the herons?

We took a shortcut back through the bike parking area.

It involved hopping onto this wall from some of the larger boulders on the other side.

Can you see all the fishermen?
That's the bridge from which we took the first photos of the Potomac  above

One of the dams along the canal. This was close to the mile 5 marker.

Black-Crowned Night Heron

All the geese we saw had families :)

We walked for the first hour, and I then jogged most of the time we were on the main trail for the second hour.


"You may hear voices from the past whispering their stories."
Oh, you mean GHOSTS! Lol
You know Charles looked this up the minute we got home...

One of the many trails leading away from the main trail. Charles initially said that it was pointless to follow these, as they had to dead-end in the Potomac. After seeing 2 or 3 of these entrances, I insisted on following one.

This was the first one we followed...

...and discovered a fairly long trail right on the edge of the Potomac! We went nuts over this little area.


We thought these markers were for water depth when the river floods.

Marker poles all over the place.

I wish my mare was as keen about exploring as my husband is.

It turned out those markers were a kayaking course! Kayakers had to go inbetween the poles. There was a finish line halfway up the trail.
Her and the dude we saw were hard core. These guys were kayaking upstream against rapids.

These rapids...
And these...

STUNNING view of the Potomac. It flowed forward and sideways over rocks. From a distance it kind of looked like the ocean with breakers.
Of everything we saw and discovered, this spot was our favorite.

Look! I still have guns! Yay!
The push-ups are paying off.

Apparently I still have quads, too.

See? If you're an island person like us, this totally looked like breakers.
Charles being Charles.

This looked really tempting.
During one of my fave camping trips with the Sea Scouts (and thus Charles) to the the Guayama Keys in Puerto Rico, we discovered a rope tied to a mangrove tree right next to a saltwater canal. You could see the bottom of the canal despite it being a good 15 feet deep; the water was that clear des. But to swing from the rope, you had to climb up the tree, some 20 feet above the water. I was the only girl in our group that dared to do it. :) Hey, I had to impress Charles The Adventurer.

I was kind of bummed by the amount of trash we saw on these trails.

Charles sees this building and its counterpart across the bridge every day on his way to work.
He said he's always wanted to try to get inside.
He saw this door, and of course he had to go check it out.

It was locked. (Duh. Lol)

And then he saw that opening, "Oh! THERE'S a way in!"
No, we did not cross the bridge to go check it out. We're still not sure what exactly those buildings are.


We came across this family of geese, who never stopped walking towards us.

That's how close they were. Leader goose and I eyeballed each other, and we both slowed down. "Just coming through."

I'm just a sucker for these birds. I think they're so pretty, and I will probably be secretly fascinated for a long time by the fact that we have the REAL ones up here, not fake plastic dummies. I still do a double take when I see one on the water and it moves...lol

I took a photo of Charles taking the photos above. They just kept walking on past him.

One of the goslings and the adult at the end gave Charles a wide berth. Still, these guys didn't even hiss at us.  They looked at us warily, but kept right on trucking.
Baby ducks!

A coot!

Yeah...so this sign is further upstream.
If you jump into the water from the rope seen in the previous photo, you may die...

This was the last of these little trails that we explored. I ran through something that felt like  I'd been stung by a freaking jellyfish. 3 different spots on my legs burned. I never developed a rash, not even red streaks on my legs, so God knows what it was, but I felt the burn for hours after. Poison ivy, sumac, or oak? I wasn't able to identify the plant that caused it. Note to self: MUST buy Benadryl ointment and tablets to put in the hiking backpack.

Yeah, this trail was pretty overgrown.

Back on the Canal trail, we came upon this bridge, which was one of the ones that Charles wanted to cross.

Steps on the other side of the bridge.

Another bridge. This one was closed off for obvious reasons.

Close-up of plants growing on the unusable bridge.
Support beams of unusable bridge.

Charles next to the sign declaring the dangers of said bridge.

And then we discovered this! It was a little raft boat, with a rope along which it could be pulled from one shore to the other. The raft was tied to land via a chain and padlock.

We saw the sign after. The raft boat and the property across the river is owned by the Sycamore Island Club.
We looked it up later when we got home. It is rather bizarre, and like something out of a book or another era. Here's the info on how to join (really? Only on odd-numbered years?...) The waiting list is 14+ years long; they actually closed the waiting list in 2001. No more applications are being accepted. 

Ropes to pull the raft across the river. 
Sign-in sheet on the boat. I'm not sure why, but we thought this was really cool.
I think someone saw us and got pissed off. When we were headed back this way later, we noticed they had moved the raft to the opposite shore.

Canoe racks across the river.
A beaver dam!

Mile 7 marker. We turned around here.
Liz, what plant is this?

Canal trail, heading back.

Running through the side trails, I got a whiff of a smell that transported me to another era. It stopped me dead in my tracks and made my eyes widen. It was a smell I hadn't smelled in a good 27 years. It is a lovely smell, but initially I couldn't place it.  All I could think was, "It smells like San Antonio." I told Charles, searching for the source in the middle of the woods where we were, but I couldn't find it. The last time I had smelled this, I was 6 years old. It reminded me of hot, bright summers spent catching butterflies in our backyard in San Antonio, TX.
Walking back along the main trail, I stopped again. "Here. It smells like Texas here." I looked up and saw it. This bush. We had one in our backyard in the first house we lived in in San Antonio, and it attracted at least 8 different types of butterfly, including little gray butterflies just like the one in the photo. I loved that bush.
I had to look it up, as I couldn't remember what it was.
White lilac.
A non-Bufo toad.
In South FL, we have a terrible problem with the Bufos. Most toads down there are Bufos. They breed like crazy during the summer wet season. These toads are different from others in that they have huge glands on the sides of their heads that secrete a neurotoxin. Dogs, especially small dogs (the smaller the dog, the more they are affected by the poison), will go after them during their walks at night, and then get rushed into the ER seizuring, with red mucus membranes. I have seen 2 dogs die because they turned out to be allergic to the Bufo's toxin. The third one died because the owners, frantic, stuck a hose down the dog's throat mid-seizure in an attempt to clean out their pet's mouth, and flooded his lungs instead.
Treatment involves carefully wiping the mouth with a moist cloth to remove any poison, diazepam injections IV, an overnight stay in the hospital on IV fluids to flush out the poison, often hooked up to an EKG to monitor cardiac arrythmias. Most dogs make a full recovery, but it is the #1 emergency during the summer time.
Charles said all the photos were of my back.
Wood Duck family struggling through watermeal on canal's surface. 

Another of the bridges over the canal
Another side trail

Afterwards, we stopped by a nearby Starbucks for coffee and sandwiches (I'm all for eating at the local places here, but in the Georgetown area everything is expensive!), then drove home before D.C. traffic started. Around here, rush hour starts at 3:00 pm. We made it home in record time!


  1. Your loon is really a coot (cue: giggle from immature child inside me...coot...cooter....tehehehe). And your berry is wild strawberry - edible.

    1. Lol! Coot! I edited to correct it. Thank you! :D I wondered if that was a wild strawberry...Charles dared me to eat one, too. Haha... I should have texted the photo instead! They were all over the place.