great falls and good days

This morning, my brother and I woke up early and made the drive out to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historic Park. The day was supposed to peak at 93 degrees, but at 7:30 in the morning, the sun was low, the shadows long and cool, and the air less than 80.  It’s difficult to beat that peculiar but lovely clarity of morning light.

We arrived too early to experience the historical park, which we had seen some years earlier, but we wanted to beat the day’s heat and hike. The park has a long dirt towpath that runs a few miles but has several places to depart for more rugged terrain along the way, the first being to Olmsted Island, the Maryland side of the Great Falls of the Potomac River.

The area is a well-preserved but rare example of a bedrock terrace forest. When empty of people, there is an odd, primordial charm to the low green trees and shrubs covering the island and the rush of deep turquoise water through jagged rock.

Venturing again off the towpath, we made our way to the Billy Goat Trail, a hiking trail that winds along the craggy shoreline of the Potomac for about 5 miles. Not a trail for the weak of heart, most of it involves scrambling over boulders, including a 150-foot climb up a rock face.

We saw herons, geese, and other birds, a few lizards, and more excitingly, these two little fawns who ran across the trail and stared at us (dare I say: doe-eyed?) until we passed.

Though a fairly popular DC trail, the air was quiet on an early Friday morning and the water still. The way itself alternated between sun-baked rocky portions that seemed to magnify the oppressive effects of the sun and still, shady woodland. It wasn’t a long hike, but the heat and the bouldering were intense and invigorating, but mostly, I loved taking in these peaceful views.


Here are some parting words:

I would like to learn to be more at peace with quiet, to know when to carry the conversation and when rest is better. Do not be afraid of silence, but do not feel resigned to it.

I would like to remember to be thankful more often for the health and strength that can carry me to places like this: for sure footing on the rocks and the conversion of energy.

I would like to thank whatever powers there be for this rare and lovely place and the quiet renewal of a morning.


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