Follow the Potomac River west from Washington, D. C., oh, I’d say about a hundred miles, or so, and you will come to a sweet, little river town that was once in the running for the capital of the United States. Williamsport, Maryland was reviewed by none other than George Washington for a possible location for the United States capital!! Even though it wasn’t chosen as the capital…well, I am sure it was an honor just the same!
I headed to Williamsport to do some flatland hiking since it was way too hot and humid to climb a mountain today (for me anyway 😉 ).
Williamsport is a cool river town with the Potomac River forming a natural boundary on the west and Conococheague Creek hemming it in on the north. The C&O Canal runs along the Potomac River. Many bikers were already on the Canal or taking a break at picnic tables when I rolled into the parking lot.
Another large group of young folks were on their way to the river’s edge with fishing poles, buckets, and bait ready for whatever the river might bring them today. It was quite a bucolic setting to behold. I changed out my flip flops for walking shoes then set off to stroll upstream along the C&O Canal.
Of special interest is the crossing of the Conococheague Aqueduct. The aqueduct is currently undergoing restoration but is still part of the C&O Canal so can be used during restoration.
One convenient aspect of the Canal is having mileage markers! Walkers, bikers, or horse riders can keep track of how far they have gone. I planned on hiking 6 miles, so I noted the first mileage marker, and knew I would need to turn around at mileage marker 103. Side note…One of drawbacks of the Canal is usually having to retrace your footsteps in the opposite direction to get back to your car.
It was a hot morning and I could feel the heaviness of the air settling over the river and the Canal. Occasional breezes which made the towering trees rattle their leaves did little to alleviate the heat and humidity that seemed to surround me. I am indebted to the birds that distracted me with a variety of melodies and, lucky me, an owl also hooted a welcome!
Each section of the Canal takes on its own personality. At the beginning of my hike, and probably for a mile or so, there was farm land on my right and the Potomac River to my left. A farmer was out on a tractor… Oh, I cannot tell you how welcoming it is for me to hear a tractor out in the field! I hail from southern Indiana and this sound takes me back to a place in my childhood that brings a feeling … of what…happiness? well being? comfort? love?…hard to describe, but good, good, good! 🙂
Then the farmland disappeared and all I could see is a huge rocky wall. Boulders have fallen into the Canal here and the whole place takes on a rugged look. I thought about whether it would be possible to climb to the top of the rock wall, just to see over to the other side, but it looked rather overgrown and vertical. And I was hot…well…that energetic, rock star moment didn’t last long. 🙂 Back to putting one foot in front of the other!
Quite a few bikers with packs were making their way down the Canal today. I enjoyed the whoosh of air that accompanied them as they flew past me in groups of two, four, and more. I was hoping for more as I neared my car and the end of my hike!
I trudged up the short incline to my car and ripped off my shoes and socks. I could not put my flip flops back on fast enough!
Hot and Sweaty…Hike On!
Great hike! Loved the account and pictures as well. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks a bunch! 🙂
I went to Shepherd University, (eh, for a semester) and enjoyed the Potomac River. Very beautiful river. Too bad I wasn’t hiking back then. There were tons of things like that to do in Shepherdstown and Berkeley Springs! Not that far away from where I am now. Could be potential spots to pick out later for my daughter and I.
Beautiful area! I love Shepherdstown…the Blue Moon Cafe is my goto for late breakfast or lunch. 🙂
Great post! The C & O Canal is a hidden gem. My family and I love the opportunities it provides. We camp, hike, bike, canoe, and fish – all from the access provided from the towpath.
Thank you! It is a wonderful place! Love that your whole family is out there enjoying it. 🙂 Do you all hop all over DC to Cumberland, or like one particular area? I used to live closer to the southern section and frequented from Fletcher’s Boat House up to Great Falls. My son spent many hours riding his bike there. Now I am in Frederick, so I access the more middle to western sections.
We’re mostly between Taylors Landing and Harpers Ferry. I’m not sure if that section has a name or not, but we sure like it there.
I’ve actually been studying maps for possible longer canoeing trips along the Potomac there. Seems like I can come up w/ a nice paddling plan w/ canal campgrounds as places to stay.