Skunk Cabbage and Honeysuckle

It’s a bit incongrouous that one of the best smelling plants (honeysuckle) and the worst smelling  (skunk cabbage) flourish at the same time.  About the end of April to early May, the woods of Maryland fill with the wonderfully fragant smell of honeysuckle while the wetter parts fill with fresh green leaves of skunk cabbage.  Fortunately, skunk cabbage does not blossom until the winter.  Because it polinates by attracting carrion insects, it mimicks the smell of rotting bodies.

Posted in Nature

Dargan Bend Cave

 I recently discovered this cave just upstream from Dargan’s Bend (mile marker 65 GPS:39.37012N, 77.743463W),  It’s quite impressive, it could easily sleep 10, maybe 20  people.  It’s tricky to find, it’s not marked.  Watch for the old mill and it’s shortly after that.  The old Mill?  It’s an abadoned limestone kiln (GPS:39.368499N, 77.741897W) that looks like this:

You can learn more about limestone kilns at

Posted in Trip Report

Poole’s General Store near Riley’s Lock to Close

The Poole family plans to close Poole’s General Store in Poolesville at the end of the month. Fans hope they can persuade the landlord to keep it open.

Laura Beck of Potomac, a lifelong customer, has started a petition drive to keep the store open. She is collecting signatures at the Poole Store, The Surrey saddlery in Darnestown and Callithea Farm stable in Potomac. She hopes the petition will convince the building’s owner, the Montgomery County Department of Parks, to hold a public hearing before deciding the store’s future.

“The store is a huge part of this community,” Beck said. “People are devastated.”

The Poole family has run the store along the C&O Canal for 45 years. Read the full story at the Montgomery County Gazette.

Posted in News of the Canal

Canal Quarters program sees 1,200 visitors in its first year

In its first year, the Canal Quarters program has had more than 1,200 guests from 31 states stay in one of three historic lockhouses, far exceeding organizers’ expectations, said Matt Logan, president of the C&O Canal Trust, a nonprofit that operates the program.

“It was really a risk, because nothing like it has been done in a national park system,” Logan said.

Conceived of as a way to provide visitors of the C&O Canal with a unique and educational experience, there are now three historic lockhouses in Bethesda, Potomac and Clear Spring that can house guests overnight. The first year was so successful that plans are in the works to open three more lockhouses in 2011.  Read the rest of the story at Gazette.Net.

If you want to stay at a lockhouse yourself, check their website for availability.

Posted in News of the Canal

Dickerson Hosts the USA Canoe/Kayak Championship 9/24/2010

According to the Washington Post, the kayak course at the Dickerson generating station (Mile 41) will be hosting the USA Canoe/Kayak 2010 Slalom National Championships this Sunday.  You can get the complete story and some excellent graphics showing the layout of the course from their website.  More about the event here.

Posted in News of the Canal

Catotcin Aqueduct and Other Restoration Projects

The last time I visited the Catotcin Aqueduct was a big surprise. For years, the aqueduct was in shambles and an iron truss bridge had been erected in its place. It had been pounded by continual flooding and finally crumbled in 1973.
Recently, the Catotcin Aqueduct Project found all the missing pieces of the ruined aqueduct and stacked them up in a neat pile nearby. The original plan was to sponsor the restoration by having individuals “adopt a stone“. In addition, $3.93 million dollars will be taken from the US taxpayer to pay for the restoration. You can read about it at the National Park Service News at Read more ›

Posted in News of the Canal

Big Slackwater Towpath Restoration

Now this is a big deal. Just as big as the Monocacy Aqueduct restoration. Big Slackwater is an area just above Dam 4. The slack waters that the dams cause are always favorite spots for water sports. But if you’re traveling the canal by foot or bike, it’s where there’s a 4 mile piece missing (between miles 84 and 88) which requires you to take the detour along the road. The original towpath ran very close to the Potomac and has eroded away to just about nothing. Not passable by bike, barely passable by foot. You can take a look at the 40 foot cliff wall where a towpath ought to be at Flicker. But the state of Maryland and the US Government have come up with $16.6M to restore the canal along that stretch.

Read more about the Slackwater restoration and how they’re going to make it work Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

Posted in News of the Canal

50 Miles with Hurricane Agnes

I love your C&O Canal website – it brings back some great memories of my youth in Boy Scouts.  Here’s a story we still tell in our family.

I was part of Troop 681 of Falls Church, Virginia from 1969 – 1975.  Our troop was very active in camping and hiking, and in addition to the four or five weekend hiking campouts we participated in over the year we also took part in a “50 Miler” every summer.  These week-long hikes were not as they are today where the guys have ultra-light packs, freeze-dried foods (or food drops!) and light-weight tents.  We carried everything we needed: a week of dehydrated food – mostly beef stroganoff – cloths and a piece plastic we tossed over a rope for a tent.  Sleeping bags were weightier and everyone wore heavy, durable, supportive hiking boots.  A typical week long hike required a 50+ pound backpack and few of us had hip belts to take the load off our shoulders.  Ah, those were the days! Read more ›

Posted in Trip Report

Dealing With Ticks

I grew up in Canada and hiked there often. When I came to Maryland, I started hiking about this time of year (early summer) and was often amused by these curious insects that had eight legs and crawled slowly. My amusement turned to disgust when one day I had to pick one out of my head. No, not funny at all. It turned out to be only a dog tick, not a deer tick, the species that carries lyme disease but I still didn’t like anything that sucks blood, especially my blood! Read more ›

Posted in Enjoying the Canal

A New Website –

A new C & O Canal website is now up,  It is especially useful for planning bicycle trips.  The Webmaster is Ray Scott.  Visit it now and whenever you are thinking about your next trip.

Posted in News of the Canal