We wondered if people would bail when they saw the weather forecast, but all 12 hardy hikers and their dogs came well prepared and eager to hike. Hike leaders today were Jeff with Katy, and Pat with Mickey. We welcomed newcomers Ruth and Mike with Shu who came dressed for the weather! Lisa and Chuck brought Jester in his winter coat; and Sarah and Eric came with Toby and Poppy who wore her winter coat as well. Also joining us today were Mary with Casper; Alice with Diva; Karen with Loki; and Shirley with Princess. Everyone braced themselves against the stiff winds as we did the meet and greet. Then we all drank water and stashed both Alice’s Dove chocolates and the K9TB Tootsie Pops in our pockets and packs to keep our inner furnaces going against the 19-degree temperature before setting out on the River Trail along the Potomac.
We hiked up and over the icy rocks along the cliff above Mather Gorge to Cow Hoof Rock, where we took a water break and watched kayakers threading their way through the ice on the Potomac. We continued on to the Difficult Run trail where we took a side trip to see the small falls which were frozen and where Sarah shared homemade peanut butter cookies with everyone, including a couple of dogs whose owners just couldn't refuse their pleading eyes. After everyone was fed and hydrated, and getting cold again, we started back up the icy rocks to the trail and then set out at a brisk pace for Matildaville, which was a very busy town until the canal closed. Built in 1790 under the guidance of Washington’s friend "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, also a hero of the Revolutionary War, Matildaville died after the B&O Railroad replaced the canal as the means of moving people and goods West and now only a few foundations remain.
After walking around the area of the town we visited Locke #1 of the old canal, and then headed back to the Visitor Center to see the Great Falls, which were thick with ice. We also saw the totem pole showing the dates and levels reached by various floods. We were disappointed that our recent storm, Isabelle, was not there. But when we saw the levels reached by the really BIG floods we understood.
This was a challenging hike! Thanks, Mike, for stepping forward to offer a hand to those of us who found maneuvering down a steep step from one icy rock to another with a leashed dog was easier with a helping hand. And thanks to everyone who kept us laughing with silly sayings and silly songs. We saw very few people on the trails, but we were glad to be there and the dogs loved it, too.
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