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

Catoctin Mountain Park

I recently went hiking with some friends at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland.  I had never been before, but had always thought about going as I would drive by the entrance on my way to Cunningham Falls.  It was MLK Day weekend, so entrance to National Parks was free, but it looked like the park doesn’t charge for entrance anyways.  Also, just as an FYI, they close the park road during the winter so you can only park at the Visitor Center and hike up the trails from there.

So we started at the Visitor Center and hiked up, up, up to the Thurmont Vista.  The vista is like 600 feet up the mountain with a beautiful view of Thurmont, MD.  During the summer you can drive up the mountain and park closer to the vista, which would allow you to avoid the 600 foot, one mile climb.

Here are my pictures from the hike:

Mossy Green Hillside
Enhanced Hillside
Trail to Thurmont Vista
Snack Break at the Vista
View from the Thurmont Vista
Sign
Me and the Vista
Hiking Girls
Summit! LOL
Trail options
Sun and Shadows on the Mountain
Greenery in the Winter

Fun in Ocean City, Maryland

The mid-Atlantic beaches may not have crystal blue water like the Caribbean with palm trees, but when I think of going to the beach, this is where my mind goes.  I’ve grown up with these beaches.  On occasion I have been to prettier beaches, warmer beaches, with fancier hotels and restaurants.  But Ocean City, Maryland is what I’m really familiar to.


For those of you who turn your nose up at Ocean City, I’d like to share what I think is fun about the place.  Maybe there are too many rowdy teenagers on the boardwalk at times, but Ocean City is a big place, with lots to do!

Enjoy the view from an ocean front balcony!  Share a couple drinks with friends and soak up the sun.  If you don’t mind the sand, then go set up camp on the beach instead.  There’s something about sitting at the seaside, watching the waves.  

Go fishing on the bay with friends.  It’s pretty inexpensive to go out on a head boat on the bay or ocean, you just have to wake up early!  However, it’s never too early for beer.  Whether you catch a fish, a stingray, or nothing but seaweed, the boat ride is a blast all on it’s own.  

Wasn’t allowed to keep this one…

Seeking some faster paced thrills?  Check out the rides on the boardwalk.  They have a mutli-loop roller coaster and a bunch of other rides that swirl you around and get you dizzy.  Day time has shorter lines, but at night you get to see all the lights.  Both times of day you can get a good view from some of the rides.  

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Drop into one of the corny hotel bars and dance the electric slide!  If you don’t feel like waiting in line at Seacrets, there’s nothing wrong with checking out one of these bars.  They usually have live music or a DJ.

But if you don’t mind waiting in line, Seacrets is a good time!  Grab a seat at one of the many beach bars or bay side tables to watch the sunset.  You can also take your drinks out to their tables or floats in the water.  This place is fun no matter what time of day.  They have multiple stages and different music in the different areas.  I would say the crowd is younger at night, but in general everyone loves Seacrets!

 

Wine Tour at Linganore Winecellars

    Who doesn’t love a good wine tour?  You get to drink and learn about what you’re drinking.  And usually wineries are set in beautiful locations, with sweeping views of fields with vines and farms.  


    I recently took a tour of Linganore Winecellars near Mt. Airy, Maryland.  I had a Groupon!  I had been there in the summer for one of their famous festivals before.  This time I was going on Halloween weekend and the weather had taken a freak twist of fate and decided to snow…  Very odd for Maryland on Halloween.

    I realized that snow and autumn leaf colors make a beautiful picture!  You just don’t see it very often. 


Linganore Winecellars is located in the Linganore  American Viticultural Area, which means it’s a very good place to grow grapes for wine.  So they have estate wines there and none estate wines.  If you haven’t had their wine before, they have a variety of regular dry reds and whites, in addition to a popular line of fruity wines.

The tour of the facilities is free to all visitors.  I was told if you take the tour on a weekday, you’ll see the magic at work, with workers processing the grapes after harvest.  I recommend a visit to Linganore if you haven’t been before.  It looks like they have a lot of outdoor seating for the warm months, but there aren’t many seats inside.  For more information, visit their website: http://www.linganore-wine.com/

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

White Rock at Sugarloaf

I recently hiked the 5 mile blue trail at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.  I took this awesome video of some eagles soaring at the White Rock overlook.  This overlook is about 3 miles from the west parking lot and totally worth the hike.  Below are some pictures I took along the way…

View along the beginning of the blue trail
McCormick Overlook
Rocks
Man-made rock formation at one of the lesser summits along the blue trail
Colorful Turtle hanging out in the middle of the trail.  Watch Your Step!
White Rock
White Rock
Me and my view at White Rock
White Rock, looking towards Frederick, MD
Eagles
Historic military fort near west end parking lot
View of Virginia from historic military

Robbed By Crabs

After sleeping through Hurricane Irene, I decided it was perfect timing to hit the beach before the next hurricane. I was lucky where I live in Maryland, we were barely affected. Didn’t even lose power! But my heart goes out to Vermont with all the flooding caused by Irene.
After the storm cleared, my dad and I packed up the car and headed to Ocean City, MD. I had been wanting to visit my parent’s beach condo for a while, but it had been booked solid for the busy season. So I was excited, but also nervous to assess any damage caused by Irene. Upon arrival we saw that water had seeped through the sliding glass doors on both balconies and gotten the carpet wet. Nothing major, time to party!
My dad invited his friend to come down with his boat. His friend had a daughter working at a bar in Ocean City for the summer also, so plans were set for us all to go out on the boat. I love boats, especially private boats so you can go where ever you want and do whatever.
So next day we dropped the 20 foot motor boat into the water and headed out into the Assawoman Bay to go fishing. The goal was Flounder. I asked the guy in charge of the boat ramp where the best spot to get big Flounder was. He told me to go to Super Fresh, the grocery store up the street. Not too encouraging… but I laughed it off and we shoved off on our 3 hour tour.
We came prepared with 3 cases of beer, inflatable floats, chicken wings, and bait. We cut the engine in the middle of the bay, with not another boat in site most of the time. I think a lot of people had their boats safely tucked away for the hurricane, so traffic was minimal.
We dropped the chicken on crab lines into the water and took our positions all around the boat with our poles. It was a beautful day with perfect blue skies and the temperature was mild for summer. For the most part, little Maryland blue crabs feasted on our fishing pole bait, as well as our crab line bait. Unfortunately, the crabs were all under the legal size. That didn’t stop us from taunting them a little before letting them go.
All of a sudden my dad announces he’s got something. I look over and his pole is bending at a sharp angle and his line is moving fast through the water. This is no ordinary fish. At first, we couldn’t see what it was at all. We yelled for him to reel it in closer. I think he was having trouble simply holding onto his pole, but finally the creature came near the surface.
At first glimpse, it looked like a little shark! But we soon recognized that it was a sting ray. It was quite a big sting ray for the bay, probably two feet across. So we took a couple pictures, but eventually realized there was no way we were going to be able to reel in the ray and get the hook out of his mouth. So we cut the line eventually and watched the poor creature swim off into the abyss. 

After that, my dad proceeded to catch 2 blue fish, both under the legal size, so we quickly released them. I convinced my dad to let me try his pole, since it seemed to be so lucky. I sat around with the pole, sipping on my beer, and felt some nibbles on my line. I assumed they were crabs stealing my bait, since there was never a strong tug, but when I finally pulled up my line, I saw that I had caught a flounder! My flounder was only a third the legal size, but I was very proud to be the one to catch the first and only flounder on our flounder fishing trip.
After the flounder, I retired from fishing, blew up my float, attached my float to the boat with a rope and jumped in. The water was perfect, so I drank a couple beers in my tube and had a blast.
We topped off the perfect Ocean City day with dinner on the bay-side deck at Fager’s Island. A couple beers and some good food tided us over while the sun set across the bay. Hard to believe a hurricane had threatened all this only a few days prior.

Black Rock – Not Just a Song

Seneca Creek

Hello OAR fans!  Yes, today I went hiking at the actual place that OAR sings about.  They went to high school in my area and Black Rock is a beautiful area for hikers.  The trail that runs past Black Rock Mill is called the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail.

My Hiking Buddy



    Seneca Creek Greenway Trail is over 16 miles long, running across Montgomery County, Maryland, ending at Riley’s Lock on the Potomac River.  It has many parking areas along the way, so you can pick up the trail anywhere you want.  I’ve been working on covering all the sections and with the help of my favorite hiking buddy, we’ll get her done this fall.



    Black Rock is a mill next to Seneca Creek.  The ruins are pretty well preserved… minus the roof, floors, and windows.  It’s a pretty spot by the creek with a rope setup from a tree, just waiting for the kids to come swing and splash around on a hot Maryland day.  I highly recommend this spot to locals who haven’t been there before.  Bring a picnic and make a day of it!

Rain at Swallow Falls

    On a rainy weekend in June, my friends and I went camping at Maryland’s Swallow Falls State Park.  It’s very close to Deep Creek, which I’ve been to multiple times, but I’d never been to Swallow Falls.  Now that I’ve been, I’m disappointed that I hadn’t been there sooner.  It’s very beautiful, with 4 waterfalls on an easy hiking trail.  Now if any one mentions they’re going to Deep Creek for the weekend, I tell them to take an hour and stop by Swallow Falls.
Swallow Falls
    Most people would be extremely dissapointed if they were camping in the rain, but we had a different experience.  We had plenty of tarps and ropes, so we set up our little tent city with a tarp roof system over our picnic tables.  During the day it was only a drizzle, but at night, it was a heavy downpour, each night.  Thank you Coleman, for a sturdy tent by the way.
     While hiking around the falls during the day, it felt like we were walking through a rain forest.  I haven’t been to the rain forests in the north west US, but I imagine this is what they’re like.  It was very beautiful, admiring the waterfalls in the mist.  While walking along the trails, under the thick tree cover, you couldn’t tell if it was raining or not.
    We went swimming at the falls pictured above and the first picture below.  The water is quite shallow but a little chilly.  We were able to walk up to the falls on the right side and popped underneath the falls into a little alcove beneath.  The alcove or cave is not very big and it made me a bit claustrophobic with the pounding water right behind me, but it made feel brave for a moment.  From the right side, we slowly worked our way to the left, where you can sit down on large rocks, with only 3 inches of water flowing accross the top.  The only trouble is fighting the current on the slippery rocks.  One slip and you’re floating away in the quick current.  But we made it and sat down in the white water on the flat rocks and enjoyed the scenery as tourists hiked by taking pictures.
Swallow Falls, panoramic from the top of the falls

Just past Swallow Falls, the trail follows a creek, to Tolliver Falls, pictured below, which was actually my favorite part.  This was the most beautiful set of mini cascades.  The forest encompasses you so well at this fall, that you feel like you’re in a private room, with a water fall.  There’s less traffic at this fall, so it’s a great place to relax.  Our campsite wasn’t far from the falls, just 200 feet up hill, so we could hear the roar of the falls in the distance and revisit the falls easily whenever we wanted.

Tolliver Falls in Swallow Falls State Park

Sunday morning I woke up early and walked down to Tolliver by myself.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  The perfect place to enjoy my cup of coffee, before breaking down camp.  Standing there by Tolliver Falls, I made a promise to myself, that this would not be my last visit.