We had a breath of things to come today. Hazy sun, 60 degrees. It was predicted weather and I thought I might swing by the garden, but then my friend Carolyn emailed me and asked if I wanted to go for a walk. Well…
We discussed Dumbarton Oaks for a moment. She has never been there. But the gardens don’t open until 2:00 pm and we wanted to get started earlier. So we quickly decided on Great Falls Park, this time the Maryland side.
The Maryland side of Great Falls has some working portions of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. The C&O, as it is called, was part of transportation history in the US, built to help southern states compete with the Erie Canal. It was used for shipping from 1830 to 1924 and ran 184 miles from Georgetown to Cumberland Maryland.
The canal boats carried all sorts of things, from flour to coal to circuses and their animals. The boats were towed through locks by mules. In the summer, a replica of a canal boat takes people along for a ride and through locks that still function. This means mules and muleskinners! It can be exciting to watch.
The canal was plagued by flood damage that sometimes shut it down for a whole year. In 1924, a flood damaged so many locks, the canal was only in use for 3 months. In 1938 the federal government bought the canal and its right of way from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and it became a park. It was threatened, however, in the 1950s when the interstate highway system was being built. It took concerted efforts of Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, leading a long hike on the canal in 1954, to preserve it in the form Carolyn and I enjoyed it today.
And boy did we enjoy it! Remember that 20 inches of snow I wrote about? Well, all the snow north of here is melting and the Potomac is high. At Great Falls, it’s high and roaring! It’s pushing big trees around, scouring down its narrow gorge and generally being majestic and gorgeous.
We took off down the towpath and marveled at the canal’s width and the ice on it and the old locks. The river feeds the canal and also takes outflow when there is too much water.
We turned around near Old Angler’s Inn and the entry to the Billy Goat Trail, which was flooded. At that point we crossed the canal to head back another way, on the Berma Road (yes, that’s an e in Berma and it was a straight shot).
From the wooded higher ground, we could see the canal, the towpath and the river all in one.
There were also other gorgeous views.
And some geese we had seen feeding on the way out were still feeding on the way back.
There were lichens, which I always like to see.
And what can be better than a long walk with a friend on a warm day in winter? Carpe diem!!!