DC Area Hiking — C&O Canal

I’m continually amazed at all the outdoor opportuniities close to DC. Not only cycling, but also hiking.

I joined the local chapter of the Sierra Club for a hike along some bluffs overlooking the Maryland side of the Potomac River. We started out at one of the wooden locks maintained (but no longer in use) by the National Park Service along the C&O Canal. There’s a 180-mile walking path all along it, from Georgetown to Cumberland, MD. My landlords said that before they became parents they used to bike a big section of it once a year.

The start of the hike was in Potomac, MD, one of the wealthiest communities in the US, with huge mansions and horse farms, and only a 40-minute drive from my apartment. Yet, in sharp contrast, on the rural road leading down to this particular set of locks is an area known as Tobytown that has been home to poor African-Americans for 150 years. Just that day there was an article in the Washington Post about their poverty and isolation, without any bus service to get to jobs.

It was a pretty easy walk up some wooded trails to an overlook of the river, through some trees still ablaze in fall foliage. It’s interesting now being in Civil War country, as opposed to Revolutionary War (Saratoga) and French and Indian War (Lake George) territory.  We came upon some archeological digs where Union soldiers had encamped for several years, fighting the Rebels across the river.

A hearty few in our group of 23 — they don’t limit the size of hiking groups here, and you don’t even need to sign up ahead of time, so you don’t know how many you’ll be with — bushwhacked down a hillside to check out the ruins of an old cabin. Then we joined the rest of the group for an easy walk back to our cars via the canal path, which we shared with cyclists and people out walking their dogs. I learned that in the summer the Park Service operates a canal boat along the waterway from Georgetown, which would be fun to check out.


About mariannedc

I just moved from Albany, NY, to the Washington, DC, area and many friends and former co-workers want to hear about my life here. So this seemed like a great way to do that.
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