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Today’s outing had an odd feel to it–kind of like an episode of In Search Of… I’m sure most people remember the old TV show, narrated by Leonard Nimoy, in which various investigators went looking for ghosts, goblins, Bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster. One could say that we had a similar journey today, and like most hunters of odd places and things, we came up empty handed. Heck, we didn’t even see Mr. Nimoy hiking on the C&O Canal towpath!
Anyway, if you’ll bear with me, here’s how our story begins. I had the bright idea of taking a hike on the C&O and finding the Stickpile Tunnel–an abandoned structure on the old Western Maryland Railroad. Armed with flashlights and misinformation, the trek began in Little Orleans.
I had read that the tunnel is located a scant 2.5 miles past the Fifteen Mile Creek Campground, so we walked to the railroad trestle just beyond mile marker 143 with the idea of backtracking our way to the tunnel. About two miles out, we passed another hiker and didn’t think much of it, but I’ll get to that later…
We took a few pictures of the trestle and headed back on a gravel road that marks the old railroad bed and the the future path of the Western Maryland Rail Trail. After about ten minutes, Candee looked down the road and said, “Hey, isn’t that Bill’s Place?”
I looked at her like she was crazy. We started at Bill’s and walked for forty-five minutes only to…what?…find ourselves where we started in precisely twelve minutes. As we were walking to our car, the hiker we passed earlier looked at us like he was in the Twilight Zone! How on earth had we passed somebody while heading in the opposite direction and then beat him back to the starting point?
Okay, as it turns out the C&O Canal towpath follows the many bends of the Potomac River, while the old WMR took a straight shot through the Little Orleans area. That’s an easy explanation, and the hiker also set us straight in regard to the location of the Stickpile Tunnel. He stated that it’s located closer to Bond’s Landing, so we set out on the Oldtown/Orleans road and took a left on Mertens Avenue (about ten miles away) and headed for Kasecamp Road. By now, we had picked up an internet signal on our cell phones and “googled” what we thought was the location of the tunnel. We followed Kasecamp Road in a full circle and struck out completely.
As I write this, I feel somewhat justified in spite of my failures. Christopher Columbus died a broken man who never found a sea route to India, and at least we DID bring back some pictures! (Check out this crazy mushroom!)
We consider ourselves to be C&O aficionados who are capable of finding anything in or around the park, but we found out today that this isn’t exactly the truth. The moral of this story is to get good information and keep a copy of the Boy Scout’s C&O Canal pamphlet handy. Otherwise, this is Rod Serling, and I’ll see you in the Twilight Zone!
Until next week….
It’s such a beautiful day. I found myself looking out the window at work and wishing that I was walking along the canal. I guess it will have to wait until Sunday!
Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually have a favorite tree! It’s located on Level 52 of the C&O Canal. It’s crooked and probably very old, but it makes me smile whenever I see it.
We spend a lot of time volunteering on the C&O Canal between the Sideling Hill and Fifteen Mile Creek Aqueducts, and our little section has turned into a home-away-from-home over the past couple of years. We headed to good ol’ Level 52 with a bit of trepidation today because of the recent passing of Hurricane Irene and a relatively significant earthquake that occurred about a week earlier.
Fortunately, all of the local canal structures stood up the the jolt of the ‘quake, and the thirsty ground soaked up the biggest part of the recent rain. Instead of a soggy mess, we found a relatively dry towpath, and several animals were at play in the park.
Most of the time, the hikers and bikers in the park keep things pretty clean, and today wasn’t any different. We filled two kitchen garbage bags with trash and kicked a few fallen limbs out of the way of the bicyclists.
In fact, as I think back on today’s hike, I can only muster one major complaint: the gnats were out in droves, and the Deep Woods Off didn’t serve as much of a deterrent! If anybody knows of a method or product that holds these pests at bay, feel free to leave a comment!
Also, the bat gate project at the Indigo Tunnel appears to be completed. Our last post on this topic shows a large empty hole in the middle of the gate, but I’m pleased to announce that the doors have since been added. In all, it was a beautiful and satisfying day to take a hike in the C&O Canal NHP!
Before anybody moans or cries out, “Oh, no! Not another blog post about the Paw Paw Tunnel!” let me explain. I readily admit that this is our obligatory homage to the tunnel, so let’s keep this short and sweet.
In other words, there are dozens of places on the internet that’ll tell you how long the tunnel is and when it was (yawn) built. Instead, here are a couple of oddball pictures that don’t generally turn up in the usual write-up of the most famous and popular destination on the C&O Canal. BTW–bring a flashlight. It’s dark in there!
Volunteering in a national park can take a person to some out-of-the-way places, and the Twigg Hollow section of the C&O Canal NHP doesn’t tend to get many visitors–in spite of its close proximity to the popular Paw Paw Tunnel.
Traditionally, Level 57 starts at Lock 61 and ends at Lock 63 1/3, but, as usual, we do most things backward, and this isn’t any different!
This isn’t our ‘official’ section to pick up trash, but when did the walk in May the canal was filled with water and a plethora of frogs and ducks. What a difference a few months makes! This time around, the canal bed and the stream at Gross Hollow were bone dry, but beautiful just the same.
The Gross Hollow Culvert generally allows a fast-flowing mountain stream to pass underneath of the canal. It is a brick-lined structure that looks like the Paw Paw Tunnel in miniature from the inside. Hikers and bikers tend to either walk or ride past many interesting structures, and I would recommend a guide book to anyone who wants to get the most out of a trip down the canal.
After a hike of about 1.5 miles, we reached our destination at Lock 61. We didn’t have much trash to show for our effort, but sometimes that’s a good thing–it shows that most visitors enjoy their outings without making a mess out of the scenery.