Kudzu, Rocks, and Cars

Did you know that hiking is a contact sport? I am getting ahead of myself.

I wanted to do something physical but the idea of driving for 90 minutes or more to get away from the city wasn’t appealing. So I decided to do a loop hike on the Potomac Heritage Trail. This trail begins at the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot and goes ten miles up river to the beltway at the American Legion Bridge. My route would take me from Rosslyn down to the parking lot (which was full) then on the trail frorfour miles up river to Chain Bridge, then across the bridge to the C&O Canal in Maryland, back on the canal towpath to Georgetown then across the river on Key Bridge.

The trail runs between the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Potomac River. Occasionally the trail is right next to the Parkway. This is not exactly idyllic but you take what you can get when you are so close to town.

The trail surface switches back and forth between smooth dirt and rocks. Until the approach to Chain Bridge it is generally flat. I found myself jogging from time to time on the smooth parts then I’d slow to a crawl, sometimes literally, to get over some rocks or under a downed tree.  The trail is also quite narrow. Some of the trail users had dogs. Mostly the dogs were unleashed but remarkably well behaved. One dog owner had his dog on a leash. The dog was lunging to get at me which I didn’t appreciate since I had to step into the brush alongside the trial to avoid getting bitten or jumped on. Note to dog owners: if you have an aggressive dog, don’t take him on a narrow hiking trail. It’s rude. It’s obnoxious. And there are an infinite number of more appropriate places to take him/her. You might also get a clue and get the animal trained.

From time to time, the trail was obstructed by kudzu. This exotic vine covers millions of trees throughout the southern states. It’s basically impossible to get rid off.

About 1/2 mile from Chain Bridge there is a major rock scramble straight uphill. By this point I was sick of the rocks and just wanted to get over the the towpath so I wasn’t having much fun.  Of course, once you go up you immediately must come straight down to get under the Parkway. I became confused thinking the under pass was beneath Chain Bridge. Just as I was about to clear the far side of the underpass, I whacked my head on one of the steel beams supporting the roadbead above. Ow!

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A few minutes later I realized that I was off course (there were no blazes anywhere to be found). Finally, i figured things out and headed down to the river and under Chain Bridge.

The sidewalk across Chain Bridge was a nice break for the rocky trail. And it has a great view of the gorge through which the Potomac RIver flows.

On the Maryland side of the river, I picked up the C&O Canal towpath. The hike back to the start went much more quickly as the towpath is flat. I played leapfrog with a jogger all the way back to Georgetown. She kept stopping to adjust her tunes. What a shame she wasn’t listening to the music of the canal.

Near Georgertown, a great blue heron crossed directly in front of me. I slowed and pullled out my camera. He posed very calmly. Just as I approached her took to the air, flying over the waterfilled canal.

I took the stairs up to Key Park in Georgetown. There three women, obviously tourists were getting their bearings. I gave them some advice on where to find restaurants (basically anywhere on or near the main drags of M and Wisconsin), as well as advice as to where they could go to see lovely old homes (basically anywhere off of M or Wisconsin.

The walk across Key Bridge came with a surprisingly strong cross winds. I made it back to the car without getting blown away like a tumbleweed.

It’s been a few weeks since my last hike so today’s nine miles was plenty of exercise for me.

There are a bunch of pictures from today’s festivities on my Flickr page.

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