C&O Canal: Billy Goat Trail, Section C, Carderock

Billy Goat Trail, Section A is one of the most popular hiking trails in the DC area.  But this post is about Billy Goat Trail, Section C which I like equally as much.  The closest parking lot for this trail is 2 miles from the beltway at the Carderock Recreational Area on the C&O Canal.  Here are some pictures from my recent hike:

Billy Goat Trail – Follow the blue markers
Learned how to climb with ropes when I was younger here.
Views of a quiet side stream of the Potomac River
Follow the markers!
Beautiful overlooks all along the trail.
The sweeping current of the Potomac River
Rushing rapids
Rapids in the Potomac River provide beautiful background sound while hiking!
Woodpecker – I had to super zoom to get this!  Disclaimer: I am not a bird watcher.
Tidewater pond
The DC Beltway!
Me :o)
Unofficial east end of Billy Goat Trail, see the Beltway down the towpath.
Lock 14 just north of the Beltway
Lucky Lock 13 is under the Beltway!  All the times I’ve driven over it and didn’t know…
Official East End of Billy Goat Trail, Section C.  I followed the trail further to an unofficial exit along a creek.

C&O Canal: Swains Lock to Great Falls

Growing up in the Washington, DC area has given me the pleasure of a lifetime of memories at the C&O Canal.  This canal is 185 miles long and it starts in Georgetown and goes all the way along the Potomac River west through Maryland.  
 
I’ve learned how to canoe, bicycle, and rock climb along the different section of the C&O Canal’s towpath.  I would love to eventually share information on all the different sections of the canal.  There is so much history to see and experience in addition to all the different sporting activities you can do along the towpath.  
 
Here are a couple winter time pictures I took walking along the section from Swains Lock to Great Falls.  There are nice opportunities to view the Potomac River along this section.  Swains Lock has free parking and is around 2 miles from Great Falls where the parking costs money.  So if you’re a walker and you want to see the falls for free, park here and hoof it!
 
 
Lots of Ducks!
 
Duck Bums!
An odd patch of bamboo… ??
 
Bald Eagle
Rocks along the canal
Birds
 
Thanks for reading!  If you have a National Parks Passport Book, then you should visit the Great Falls Visitor Center for a stamp.  
 

For more information about visiting the C&O Canal: http://www.nps.gov/choh

Ciao Venezia

All of a sudden there’s water on both sides of the train.  Tiny islands here and there in the open water.  I’m only a few minutes from the last stop on the train, Venice!
 
I step out from the train station with an instant view of the Grand Canal with a beautiful arching bridge and Venetian architecture in every direction.  I inhale the fresh, crisp waterfront air as I slowly step down the sweeping steps of the train station.
 
My hostel was just over the bridge in front of the station and to the left on the Grand Canal.  Of course, like all routes in Venice, you have to walk a twisted route to get there.  The Grand Canal does not have a sidewalk along its sides the whole way…. only on sections, so you have to walk away and zig zag back to the canal sometimes… But it’s kind of charming for that reason.
 
I found my hostel and was super excited when I saw the view from my dorm room, overlooking the Grand Canal!  I had the perfect view of a three way canal intersection that was constantly bustling with boat traffic.  Directly across at the canal corner was a church, with a statue of the Virgin facing towards the water, for the boat traffic to admire. 
 
View from my room
Unfortunately, not far from my window was a water bus stop and water bus-boats make a lot of noise when they switch gears into reverse when docking.  The bus starts running at 5 AM every morning and the rumble of the boat engines would shake my bed at times.  But again, it’s part of the charm!
 
My view of canal intersection
I stowed my stuff away and headed out to explore and find food and coffee.  When I first started walking, I realized as I made one turn and then another, that I could easily get lost in this maze of ancient alley-ways.  The only landmarks are graffiti, architectural features, bridges, and flower boxes. 
 
I begin to wish I had sidewalk chalk so I could draw arrows for myself to get back home.  All I need are some bread crumbs!  I try to make my route simple, but nothings simple in Venice.
 
I discover a fairly large square with a church and a couple cafes.  It’s bustling with children playing and adults chatting over coffee and cigarettes.  There are dogs running freely playing with each other.  It strikes me that Venice is a pedestrian only city, so the dogs and children are safe to play as they please.  How pleasant to not have to worry about cars?!
 
Churchyard square – Venetian gathering place
I grab a seat at a café and enjoy my sandwich and cappuccino.  At the shop across from my table, a small dog stands in the doorway watching the world go by while its owner sits inside reading her newspaper.  Life feels simple and relaxed here.  I wished at that moment more than ever that I could speak Italian so I could get an even richer Venetian experience. 
 
After dinner, I decided I needed to try the Venetian spritz drink I’d wanted to try ever since I saw Anthony Bourdain get blitz in Venice on the Travel Channel.  I take a turn down an alley and see a crowd of smokers outside a bar… BINGO!
 
The bar has free potato chips set out as the appertivo.  I get an explanation from the bartender in mostly English about the two different spritzes I can have.  Sweet or Bitter, Aperol or Campari.  I go for the Aperol spritz first.  It’s red and spritzy, garnished with an olive and a slice of orange.  Yum!
 
Me and my bitter spritz
Next, I try the bitter spritz made with Campari.  Well the bitter spritz tastes awful!  Maybe if you like liquorice you would like it.  I held my nose and tried to gulp it down. Ugh! 
 
Of course, I got another sweet spritz to fix the flavor in my mouth.  Yum again!  Cutest thing about this bar was the spittoon on the floor by the bar for people to spit their olive pits into.  It’s genius.  I held onto my first olive pit for a minute until I saw someone else spit their pit into the brass spittoon.  How convenient?
 
After my spritzes, I decided I had accomplished enough for my first night in Venice, so I wandered back to my hostel the long way… but I found it.  Walking the streets of Venice at night is a beautiful and peaceful experience.  Even getting lost in Venice is a pleasure!
Venice at night

Milan, Not Just a Fashion Runway

When I arrived in Milan, I had no idea what to expect.  I kept seeing fashion runways in my head. Turns out, there’s more to the city than fashion.
 
               I only stayed in Milan one night, with plans to take the train to Venice first thing the next day.  I was really excited to see Venice!
 
 
               My hotel told me to take the metro to the Duomo.  The duomo is the cathedral and it was beautiful.  The cathedral faces a big square where there’s lot of people and pigeons.  It was a Saturday, so it was super crowded.  Then as you walk away from the square there are several pedestrian only roads with lots of shopping and coffee shops. 
 
 
               The coffee shops in Milan are beautiful, with an array of perfectly designed pastries and bustling espresso counters.  Luckily, I walked into one where a waiter spoke English.  The waiter was the head waiter and he was wearing a very fancy suit for just serving coffee and cookies, but hey it’s Milan!  He brought hot chocolate syrup with my cappuccino.  It tasted amazing!
 
               I wandered through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is an immense ancient indoor mall basically.  It’s a street covered with a lovely arching glass ceiling.  I walked past Gucci and Louis Vutton and went on my way to the Sforzesco Castle.
 
               This castle is very large and looks like it’s been through some battles.  You can walk freely from courtyard to courtyard and you realize how big the compound is.  I can imagine a large army bustling about the courtyards in the past, but of course I have no idea what the real history is.
 
               At the back of the castle, I came upon a beautiful view of the Parco Sempione.  This park is very green with walkways going every which way.  At the far end of the park I could see the Arco Della Pace, a beautiful archway with the statue of a man in a chariot with four horses on top.  It was a beautiful view from the back of the castle, but I was hitting my maximum of walking for my feet. 
 
               I headed back to the hotel to rest and refresh.  I was hitting a wall, because I had taken the red eye from JFK to Milan and I hadn’t really gone to sleep yet.  I took a nap and got up in time to go out for a late dinner and drinks.
 
               I asked the hotel where to go and I ended up in the Navigli District.  It’s a cute strip of restaurants and bars with apperativos along a canal.  I found a crowded bar with loads of apperativos on the bar.  I bellied up to the bar and took in the atmosphere.
 
               The bartenders were amazing, shaking and dancing as they made every cocktail.  I stared for I don’t know how long as they made beautiful cocktails, with all fresh squeezed juices as their mixers.  After finishing my beer, I asked for a fancy cocktail.  The bartender laughed and asked what kind of liquor I like.  I said Vodka, but he said he was going to make me a gin cocktail.  He said by the time I finished my drink I’d be a gin fan.  I laughed and agreed to give it a shot.
 
               He mashed up some mint, squeezed some fresh citrus and I missed a couple ingredients, but next thing I knew I had a big cognac glass with a very tasty gin drink in it.  After I finished the drink, I told him that gin is good when he makes it for me.  Next, I asked for a red drink, so he made me something kind of pink and served it in a champagne flute.  It was frothy and it had a beautiful twist of lemon peel on top.  I savored it to the last drop. 
 
               Overall, I enjoyed my day in Milan a lot more than I expected.  I was very impressed with the cathedral and the nightlife I found.  But Venice was calling to me!

C&O Canal: Riley’s Lock

Riley’s Lock is one of the many places along the C&O Canal that you can park to access the towpath.  The C&O Canal is a National Park with 134 miles of trail which starts in Washington DC and follows the Potomac River west.
Aqueduct at Riley’s Lock

Riley’s Lock has a small boat ramp so recreational boaters and fishers can access the Potomac River.  The ramp is on Seneca Creek, giving boats a gentle start before they enter the fast currents of the Potomac.  These pictures were taken when the creek and river were both very swollen from a week of non-stop rain.

Side wall of the Aqueduct
Riley’s Lock House
View of Seneca Creek from the Aqueduct
View of swollen rapids on the Potomac River from C&O Canal towpath
Swollen Potomac waterfall near Violette’s Lock
Brave kayaker
Violette’s Lock, just south of Riley’s Lock
Paddle Boarders enjoying the peaceful C&O canal
Potomac River, overflowing it’s bank all the way to the retaining wall.
Potomac River, You can see how high the water is.  Poor bushes..
Lovely C&O Canal
Reflective waters of the C&O Canal
Towpath along the C&O Canal
Seashells so far from the sea!
For more information on visiting the C&O Canal, visit: http://www.nps.gov/choh