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C&O Canal MP 77.0-88.1, MD
mini location map2021-04-02
20 by photographer avatarkingsnake
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C&O Canal MP 77.0-88.1, MD 
C&O Canal MP 77.0-88.1, MD
 
Hiking avatar Apr 02 2021
kingsnake
Hiking12.83 Miles 289 AEG
Hiking12.83 Miles   3 Hrs   58 Mns   3.23 mph
289 ft AEG
 
1st trip
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The distance from MP 77.0 to MP 88.1 is 11.1 miles. Duh. But my mileage is greater due to exploring, and backtracking. 😉

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in 2019, I decided to day hike the C&O Canal Towpath during our biannual trips to visit family in Hagerstown. My plan was to do two 8-12 mile segments on each visit, finishing in Spring, 2025. Then, Chinese Lung AIDs happened. My Easter, 2020, hikes got delayed to Halloween. Trying to make up for lost time, I stretched my next hike from Edward’s Ferry to Noland’s Ferry ( [ photoset ] ), got a massive blood blister, and had to cancel my second hike. 🤨

That second Halloween, 2020, from Noland’s Ferry to the Weverton Cliffs, was supposed to be this Easter’s first hike. But it was so cold in Hagerstown before Easter, that I did today’s shorter / closer to town hike first, so I could start later in the morning, when — theoretically — it had warmed up.

When I arrived at Snyder’s Landing, on the outskirts of Sharpsburg ( [ photoset ] ), at 9:50, it was 27℉, by three degrees the coldest I’ve hiked. (The Appalachian Trail, on South Mountain, from Crampton Gap to Turner’s Gap.) At least this time I was smart enough to layer up.

⅔ of a mile past the Horseshoe Bend CG (MP 79.7), on the river side of the trail, a rusty fifth wheel trailer frame is wrapped around a tree. Wrecks are a fairly common find in the wilds of Arizona — heck there are three in the small canyon behind my house! — but that is the first I’ve seen along the C&O Canal. 👨🏻‍🔧

About a mile past Big Woods CG (MP 82.5), on the canal side of the towpath, I spotted a cave with a steady trickle of water running out of it. The inside of the cave was wet & slippery, so I only went in about 50 yards. 🔦

Dam 4 (MP 84.6) is heard before it is seen. The original Dam 4 was rebuilt in 1856, after being destroyed by floods. The current hydro-electric gravity dam was built in 1913 and modified in 1994. Dam 4 is 800 ft. across the Potomac River and 20 ft. tall or — more accurately — deep, as none of it shows above the river’s surface. The wooden building over the C&O Canal is the winch house for the stop gate, which prevented river floods from entering the canal channel. The calm waters above Dam 4 is Big Slackwater.

200 yds. past Big Slackwater Boat Ramp (MP 85.5), is Guard Lock 4, its control gate and inlet weir. Together, they allowed boats and water back into the C&O Canal.

Big Slackwater was necessary for canal boats to navigate in the Potomac River, as cliffs made digging a canal bed cost prohibitive. However, the boats still needed to be towed, and starting at MP 86.6 the towpath hugs the cliffs. In 1996, severe flooding wiped out the dirt towpath. From 2010-2012, a new concrete path was built. The wind was strong enough, I could hear waves lapping the underside of the path, like a boat dock. The temp had warmed up to 34℉, but the windchill sucked. 🥶

I don’t like hiking on roads, but the Big Slackwater concrete path was the highlight of my day!

Hike Video: https://vimeo.com/535242698
Meteorology
Meteorology
Icicle
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
I had only been hiking on the C&O Canal Towpath for a few minutes when it became obvious that there were two species of flowers which were loving the freezing temperature: common grape hyacinth and Virginia bluebell. Both were common, the latter moreso, and often found in large patches from Snyder’s Landing until the canal disappears at Big Slackwater.
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