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Canal Story

Canal Story #37: Janine Wilkin

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Janine Wilkin, Visitor to the C&O Canal National Historical Park

When I was a kid, my family had a weekend cabin in the Pocono Mountains where my dad helped to instill a love of nature in me through canoeing and fishing adventures. My dad was a plumber and as plumbing humor goes, back at the cabin he liked to cut off the hot water while we were showering, bucketing us immediately with brisk mountain-spring cold. He also was famous for stealthily pocketing a piece of a puzzle we were working on. After my siblings and I had crawled under the table and looked under the couch searching for the last missing piece, he would come over to the table and with a hearty laugh, triumphantly pull it from his pocket and lock it in. 

He’s been gone for sixteen years now, and I miss seeing his ornery grin and hearing his full-bellied laugh. He gave me my love of the outdoors and a love of solving puzzles, both on the table, and in life. 

When I started walking on the C&O Canal years ago near my home in Arlington, Virginia, it was simply a trail near my house. I’d walked with my friend Heather 3 to 4 mile round-trip segments from Chain Bridge going south to Georgetown and Chain Bridge north towards Great Falls. It was our time to catch up.

These short hikes were followed by a hike in Harper’s Ferry with my friend Sandy, where we headed south on the canal to Brunswick and stumbled upon a wonderful church-turned cafe called Beans in the Belfry. It was around the time of this hike, Sandy and I hatched the idea of section hiking the whole length from DC to Cumberland, MD. The C&O Canal was a puzzle we wanted to solve, by completing it in its entirety, one piece at a time. 

Early on, we both printed off the mile-post marker of the Canal and while this may sound absurd to some, we loved coming home to highlight the segments as we completed them. Edwards Ferry to Seneca Creek. Harper’s Ferry to Shepherdstown. Fifteen Mile-Creek to Paw Paw. And the list goes on. 

Along the way, we shared the beauty of the trail with deer, beavers, turtles, bugs, snakes and our girlfriends as they were able to join us. It became walk-talk therapy time, a place to restore in the cradle of nature. We’ve seen the Canal in all seasons, full with color in fall, dense with green in summer, budding with the hopefulness of spring and still and silent in the winter. 

As the distance from our homes became further, we stayed at some of the lockhouses. It was enchanting to feel and experience the history at Edwards Ferry (pro-tip, it’s cold in November, but doable!) and at Clear Spring as we ascended narrow stairs to our bunks for the night and heated water for our coffee over old stoves in the morning. Alternatively, we also backpacked and camped several nights trying out several of the hiker-biker sites where the sounds of the running Potomac lulled us to sleep. 

We’re teed up to finish the last segment in October, where we will camp at Spring Gap and walk the final 11ish miles to Cumberland. It’s more than a nearby trail now. It’s a piece of my life story that I am so grateful to have shared with friends. Like my dad used to do, I look forward to locking in this last piece.

Canal Story #36: Lee Goodwin

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Lee Goodwin, Photographer and Supporter of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history / relationship with the C&O Canal?
Lee: I started coming to the Canal more than forty years ago when we moved to a house just a few miles from Great Falls. Since then, I have regularly hiked the towpath and canoed in the canal. But my favorite activity at the Canal is photographing the beautiful landscape, and the wildlife that the Canal attracts. I have been a serious photographer since I was a child, and I feel fortunate to live so close to such a fantastic subject. Every time that I think I may have exhausted the photographic potential of the Canal, the weather will change, or the leaves will turn, and a whole new world of possibilities will open up. Over the years my Canal photographs have been exhibited at the Great Falls Tavern and in exhibits around Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, and sales of my photographs have raised thousands of dollars for the C&O Canal Trust at the Trust’s Park After Dark fundraiser.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your photography process?
Lee: Like many photographers my age, I learned my craft using a variety of small, medium and large format film cameras, and developing and printing black and white photographs in a traditional darkroom. However, several years ago I was drawn to the creative possibilities offered by digital photography.  While I like the detail and the rich tones that I achieved with traditional processes, I appreciate the flexibility offered by the digital medium. The photographs included in this story were taken with a variety of classic and contemporary cameras. Currently, my day-to-day cameras are Nikon Z7 and Fuji X-T3 mirrorless digital cameras.

Lock Seven in Fog by Lee Goodwin

C&O Canal Trust: What is your personal favorite photo you have taken on the canal?
Lee: My favorite photo is “Lock 7 in Fog”, which was taken from the foot bridge over Lock 7, looking downstream into a foggy morning.  The photo was taken with a Mamiya 7 medium format film camera, and over the years it has been one of my most popular photos. However, while I love the photo, it is also bittersweet for me, because it highlights the changes that have come to the Canal over time. This photo could not be taken today because the National Park Service has had to add braces to stabilize the lock walls.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?
Lee: In addition to my photography, I like to get out and hike on the towpath. Especially during the pandemic, the towpath has been a refuge where I can get out and enjoy the fresh air in relative solitude, without worrying so much about the rest of the world.

Kayaker Over Great Falls by Lee Goodwin

 

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Lee: My favorite memory goes back to when my daughters were young. There used to be canoes for rent at Swains Lock, and I would take the girls out on the canal on weekend mornings (after I had cleared out any spiders lurking in the canoe). They enjoyed being out in nature, and they made a game out of counting the turtles that crawled out to sun themselves on logs and rocks along the canal.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park? 
Lee: I love the two miles between Anglers and the Great Falls Tavern. It has a little bit of everything, and many of my favorite photos were taken in that stretch of the canal. The colors in the widewater section are special in the fall, and Great Falls is particularly spectacular when the river is full in the spring.

Anglers in Autumn by Lee Goodwin

If you want to see more of my Canal photographs, you can find galleries for the Canal, the Anglers and Widewater section, and Great Falls park on my website:  https://lee-goodwin.squarespace.com/ 

Canal Story #35: Molly Lynch

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Molly Lynch, Program Manager at Community Bridges

C&O Canal Trust:  Introduce yourself! What do you do with Community Bridges?
Molly: I am Molly, the Community Bridges Middle School Program Manager.
C&O Canal Trust: What is Community Bridges?
Molly: Community Bridges is a nonprofit in Silver Spring, MD that works alongside girls to empower them to be positive leaders, exceptional students and healthy young women.
C&O Canal Trust: How and when did you first become involved with the C&O Canal Trust?
Molly: CB has had a long relationship with the C&O Canal. We have done many field trips over the years to the lockhouses, hikes, and community volunteer days.
C&O Canal Trust:  This summer, Community Bridges participated in a few summer Canal For All programs. What did the kids do as a part of this program?
Molly: We participated in a hike and trash pick up, we also brought girls and families to the Latino Conservation Week Event. These events brought many girls and families to the park for the first time to see Great Falls, to enjoy hikes, and to learn history and science.
C&O Canal Trust: What do you think was the most impactful moment of the Canal For All program for the kids this summer? What did they have the most fun learning about?
Molly: There were many impactful moments for our participants. Whenever we went hiking they shared how much they enjoyed being outside and in nature. They were in awe of all of the beautiful views along the river. They also learned about different species and hiking safety! They loved sharing the facts they learned after their guided hike.
C&O Canal Trust: Did you learn anything new about the Park?
Molly: We learned about how the lockhouses, their histories, and how the lock system works.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite place on the canal?
Molly: We loved hiking the Billy Goat trail and visiting the Great Falls.
C&O Canal Trust: What does the Park mean to you?
Molly: The park is a reminder of how important it is to preserve our natural world, to care for our environment, and to appreciate our connection to nature.

Canal Story #34: Thomas Lynch

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Thomas Lynch, Thru-Ride Biker

Thomas: In 1989, I decided to bike the C&O Canal, starting from my then-home in Alexandria, to Cumberland, MD, where I would be picked up at the Western Maryland Train Station by a friend’s family, who live in Burlington WV. The Burlington Apple Harvest Festival was going that weekend, so I was going to make a long weekend of it. I started on Friday morning, to overcast skies and cool October weather. By the time I made it to White’s Ferry, the skies opened up and a strong thunderstorm made my continued travel impossible. I tucked under the eaves of one of the buildings there to ride out the storm. The storm passed quickly, but made the journey one of battling puddles and mud…mud…mud! I struggled, riding my 1984 Raleigh Record road bike (!!) but made it to my midpoint overnight, in Shepherdstown WV. I checked in at the Thomas Shepherd Inn, a gorgeous Bed and Breakfast in the middle of town. The inkeeper met me at the door and saw me covered head-to-toe in mud. She didn’t blink, got me towels and showed me to the shower. I was tired but pleased, and wanted some food! Pizza was at the top of my list. The innkeep scowled at the notion of wanting pizza in a visit to Shepherdstown, with the Yellow Brick Bank and The Bavarian Inn in close proximity. Alas, Pizza and beer prevailed, so she begrudgingly pointed me to a Shepherd College haunt nearby. It was one of the best meals of my life. I hobbled back to the B&B and tucked in for a much needed sleep. The next morning I awoke and ambled downstairs where the innkeeper was preparing breakfast of poached eggs, toast, and fresh squeezed orange juice for the guests. I didn’t like the idea of waiting too long to get back on the towpath, but I couldn’t pass up breakfast. After a pleasant meal and conversation with the inkeep and guests, I mounted up and hit the road. The weather had cleared beautifully, It was crisp and clear – a perfect early fall day on the towpath awaited. I took my time admiring the locks and aqueducts and especially the Paw Paw Tunnel. The guardrails in the tunnel boasted deep grooves worn and polished into the wood by barge tow lines from over one hundred years prior. Rolling though Oldtown the day turned into evening and darkened, so my final miles on the towpath were in the dark. I was nervous, but completed the journey with no troubles. My friend’s father, a former Marine, was at the Western Maryland train station waiting for me. I heard him chatting with someone there about my trip, and the person told him that someone he knew (also a Marine) had made the trip on bicycle in one day! I couldn’t imagine making that kind of speed, but I was proud of my accomplishment regardless. The beautiful canal and Potomac River scenery, its history, the wildlife, the little towns and and people I met along the way are forever embedded in my memory

Canal Story #33: Bill Justice

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Bill Justice, Former Chief of Interpretation

Bill Justice: It all started with a hike on the towpath.

I grew up in western Maryland. When I was a scout the park created the 184 Miles of Adventure hikes with the Boy Scout councils. We could earn patches and rockers for completing sections. So our troop went on many of those hikes, canoed the Paw Paw Bends, stayed in the group campground at 15 Mile Creek, listened to the trains come through the tunnels all night. It was also a great place for day hikes and family canoe trips, so it became a part of growing up there.

Fast forward to 1974. I was looking for a summer job. At the unemployment office I sat at the guy’s desk and naively asked if they had any jobs involving history since that was my major in college. He pulled out a file card and told me to see the ranger at Four Locks. That summer my job was to keep people from parking on the grass at the Four Locks parking area. It was pretty boring so I learned what I could about the park history and began to share that with visitors. I ended up spending four summer seasons patrolling from Williamsport to the downstream end of the tunnel and doing programs at areas along the canal.

Fast forward to 2000, I took the job of Chief of Interpretation at the park. Over those ten years we improved the canal boat operations, coordinated the 50th anniversary of the Hike that Created a Park, improved several visitor centers, supported the start and growth of the Trust, created the interpretive elements of the Canal Quarters program, replaced almost every wayside exhibit in the park, expanded the Bike Patrol program, and hired some amazing people who have moved on to great things. I left to be the Superintendent of Abraham Lincoln Birthplace in 2011. In 2015 I became Superintendent of Vicksburg National Military Park.

While you might think that being the Superintendent of Vicksburg had little to do with C&O Canal two of the park division chiefs I hired have C&O Canal backgrounds too. Chief Ranger Rachel Strain Davidson started her career as a park ranger in Cumberland. Among other things she worked with the Bike Patrol there. More recently Brendan Wilson moved from Georgetown to the Chief of Interpretation, Education, and Partnerships at Vicksburg. My involvement in the early years of the Trust helped me support a now rapidly growing friends group, the Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park and Campaign. They have been very successful in raising funds for a $500K project supporting the expansion of Vicksburg.

Now I’ve retired from the Service. Of all the parks I’ve worked in C&O Canal is the one I’ve spent most time in and learned most from. Working with the communities and the partners, particularly the Trust, the Association, and all of the park volunteers, has been a great honor and privilege. I’m happy that I could help.

It all started with a hike on the towpath.

 

Canal Story #32: Ed Purcell

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Ed Purcell, Former Park Ranger for NPS

ED Purcell: Between my love of history and hiking and being a former park ranger, I am always looking for a park to visit. My first visit to the C&O Canal happened when I was checking out Washington, DC for a potential job. It just so happened, that a friend of mine worked as a costumed interpreter on the canal boat in Georgetown. So I went on a ride and saw the towpath that I would soon become very familiar with.

I landed the DC job and wound up working in Foggy Bottom and living in Germantown, MD. After work, I would occasionally go for a run up the towpath. On the weekends, I would ride my bike on different sections of the towpath up to Harpers Ferry. Over the course of five years, I became very familiar with the beauty of the park from Georgetown to Harpers Ferry. Whether running, walking or biking the towpath it was always a refreshing experience.

After five years of living in the DC area, I moved to New Jersey and the C&O Canal became a pleasant memory. That is until five years, when I joined FreeWalkers.ORG. They are a group that promotes the benefits of long distance walking, primarily in the Metro New York area. However, every February, they venture down to Potomac, MD for a fifty-mile Kennedy walk along the C&O Canal. They start walking at Old Anglers Inn at 3:30am! Fast walkers cover the 50 miles to Harpers Ferry by sunset with the rest finishing by 10:00pm.

A Kennedy walk commemorates the 1963 walking challenge made by President Kennedy. In an attempt to promote physical fitness, he challenged Americans to walk 50 miles in a day. The President enlisted his brother, Bobby Kennedy, to help promote the cause. On February 12, 1963, Bobby walked the 50 miles from Old Anglers to Harpers Ferry and helped spark (albeit a short lived) national walking craze.

For the last four years, I have enjoyed getting reacquainted with the C&O Canal. It is a truly beautiful place. I am thankful to all who take care of the park. I particularly liked one Facebook post about the volunteers who are painting the brown mileage markers. The markers are very helpful in keeping track of how far you have to go. Late in the day, it always seems that the markers are more than a mile apart.

There was no Kennedy 50 this year due to the pandemic. But returning to the C&O Canal in the dead of winter next year to walk 50 miles is high on my “post pandemic to do list.”

 

Canal Story #31: Emily Ewing

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Emily Ewing, Neighbor to Lockhouse 10

My name is Emily Ewing, I am 19 years old and live a few miles from Lock 10. The canal has always been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, especially frequent hikes on the Billy Goat Trail with my family! When I was in elementary school my Girl Scout Troop also volunteered at Riley’s Lock which was a wonderful experience. With the canal being so important to me, I decided for my senior year of high school capstone project (during the COVID lockdown in spring 2020) to write and illustrate a historical fiction short story about a girl whose family runs one of the locks near Widewater during the late 1800s. It is geared towards elementary-aged readers and is about 80 pages in a paperback format.

Read my story Ada Pierce, Canal Girl here.

Canal Story #30: Jeffrey Blander

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Jeffrey Blander, Photographer for the C&O Canal Trust

My Canal Story, Jeff Blander: A place of kindness, wonder, friendship, and healing

The C&O is truly special and magical for our family.

Upon first relocating to Maryland from being in residence for years in East Africa and Cambridge MA, we were immediately drawn to the beauty of the C&O. The breathtaking sunsets, diversity of wildlife, and welcomed escape from the intensity of the beltway.

When I think of the C&O, the first thought that comes to mind is kindness. Our dearest friend Pat, before his illness and passing, worked the concession stand for years, at Great Falls, Maryland. Remembered for his bright smile, friendly demeanor, and tending a small ‘secret’ garden. When our daughter was a newborn, he would call out to us, “Daddy, how are you doing today?”, while handing us extra water on a hot summer’s day. We always feel Pat’s ‘presence’ as we pass by the stand, knowing those we love remain with us always.

Over the years we have of course enjoyed an array of stunningly flowers, swaying cattails, fragrant Springtime breezes, as well as beautiful creatures, including frogs, deer, hawks, bald eagles, beavers, catfish, snakes, blue herons, swallowtail butterflies, unidentified ‘fuzzy wuzzy’s, and even a’rainbowed’ painted bunting! Often inspiring us to share photos with friends and submit to the popular monthly contest. We estimate hundreds of posts have been viewed by many thousands around the world. Bringing joy and a smile to many.

As a distance walker, I have traveled the equivalent of several thousand miles along the towpath, taking in natural wonders, passing historic battlefields, and crossing over engineering marvels. This experience has included participating in the annual Kennedy 50 Mile Walk, traditionally taking place in February. There is truly nothing like being on one’s feet for 17 hours, braving the elements, to trek the 50 miles from the Old Angler’s Inn to Harpers Ferry with over 60 friends. Helping and encouraging each other along the way. Because we are all in it together.

But our family’s appreciation of the C&O has truly been magnified during an extraordinarily difficult year. Where a terrible pandemic stole so much from all of us. Yet, a constant salve throughout has been the beauty, peace, and tranquility the park has offered to all. Reminding us as Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

Canal Story #29: Abbie Ricketts

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Abbie Ricketts, Chairman of the Board of the Canal Towns Partnership

Abbie: My canal story begins long ago, even before the C&O canal became a national park, when as a small child, my father and mother began taking me camping on the Maryland side of the Potomac River along the towpath. In those days, my father could drive “Martha”, our beloved old fishing car, on the towpath to our cabin or tent destinations as sections were once open to motor vehicles. The ride was a bumpy one.

What wonderful times we had riding our bikes from our cabin at Brunswick to the Catoctin Aqueduct and back. Always was there something intriguing to see, something to hear, something to smell and something to imagine- how the canal must have looked when water once filled its basin. As a child, the canal was desolate to me in some ways, signs of its abandonment strongly present, a place lost in time. 

Fast forward to present day, I have come full circle and the old canal is now one of the most visited national parks. It no longer feels desolate and it’s still keeping me busy!  Serving on the Board of the Canal Towns Partnership for nine years, I am currently the chairman. Every day I do something involving the canal, whether communicating with others on projects and ideas or working to promote tourism related economic development in our ten Canal Towns. In addition, I’m a member of the Programs Committee of the Canal Trust. I’m also proud to be a Canal Steward and worked recently to establish a program in Brunswick led by Smoketown Rotary Club.

When I’m not working in my family business or volunteering, I enjoy taking day long trips with my family to either end of the canal and visiting the towns and points of interest in between. There is so much to see and do and all of our towns are so charming and inviting. I’m content in my canal world which is for me is a symbiosis of my passion for small town revitalization, heritage based tourism, nature, and outdoor recreation.

Canal Story #28: Kevin Belanger

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Kevin Belanger, Manager of Trail Planning at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

C&O Canal Trust: When did you first learn of the C&O Canal?
Kevin: I moved to Frederick, Maryland when I was 11. Growing up in New England, I had never heard of it before then. But I joined a Scout troop and we did an overnight bike trip on the canal sometime soon after moving there. It was tough on my department store bicycle, but it was so cool to know that a trail existed that could take me all the way into Washington, DC or all the way to Cumberland and beyond.

C&O Canal Trust: What is it like working for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy? What is your job?
Kevin: I am the Manager of Trail Planning at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. It is the kind of job I didn’t know existed when I was growing up, but all of my life choices were guiding me to it without even knowing it! I support the planning side of several of our trail network-building projects around the country, most notably the Great American Rail-Trail, which is a multi-use, cross-country trail that is already more than 53% complete. The C&O Canal Towpath is a major section of that route. It is an exciting job, working with all of the partners across the route who help develop and maintain the trails that make up the Great American Rail-Trail. I want to give a major kudos to the Park for working on a 5-year resurfacing plan for the towpath as well. Keeping the surface in good condition will encourage more people to use it, including those with disabilities, which helps level the playing field.

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us more about your through-bike ride last summer. How long did it take to complete your ride and what was your favorite part?
Kevin: My friend, Price, and I made a plan to bike from Pittsburgh to DC a few years ago, and we were committed to doing it in summer 2020. Well, the pandemic happened, and we assumed we would have to postpone. However, as the spring turned into summer, we realized we’d be comfortable doing it as long as we camped the whole time and separated from others. I’m so glad we didn’t postpone the trip! We went in August 2020 and took 6 days total to complete the journey. It was amazing to bike that far without having to interact with automobile traffic. We met some friendly people along the way and supported local businesses (my mission was to find an egg sandwich every morning in the first town we passed through, and I was pretty successful!). You can read more about my journey on the towpath on my blog here: www.bywayofthetrails.com and the journey starts on this post here https://www.bywayofthetrail.com/post/pittsburgh-to-dc-bikepacking-adventure-day-0.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Kevin: Like a lot of people, I turned to the Park during the pandemic. It was a place I felt safe outside with limited amounts of people. I reconnected with friends and family too. My friend Kate lives near Brunswick and started getting into biking just before the pandemic. When we felt safe to do so, we’d meet somewhere in the middle and bike together. We explored around White’s Ferry and Brunswick and Harper’s Ferry. I appreciate that it is always there and always open. It gets a lot of love – sometimes maybe too much love with the numbers of people who use it on popular days – but I think a lot of love is a good problem to have.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?
Kevin: My favorite place in the Park was camping at the Sorrel Ridge campground. We won the lottery that night. We had just made it through the Paw Paw Tunnel and were tired and hungry. Sorrel Ridge was the first campground, and we set up shop. The weather for August could not have been better. Slight breeze in the air, low humidity, and the campsite was right along the Potomac. We ended up having the campsite to ourselves and even took a little dip in the Potomac (I knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it further down river so this was my chance!). There were no mosquitoes too, which made it even better. 10 out of 10

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Kevin: I’ve moved around the country as an adult, but I moved back to Washington, DC in 2013 and have lived within a few miles of the canal ever since. The canal is a place to slow down. A place to feel history and nature in the modern day. A place to see wildlife – blue herons are my favorite, they look like tiny dinosaurs. The towpath is an accessible resource to a lot of people – it’s flat, the surface keeps getting better, and you can do a lot of things on it. It is a great outdoor adventure close to home. You don’t have to through-bike the route to experience the adventure, it’s right there for everyone. As a member of the LGBT community, it’s also a place where I always feel welcomed. I’m grateful that it exists and look forward to taking my children on it one day!

Canal Story #27: Doug Reigner

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Doug Reigner, Director of Community Relations at the Great Allegheny Passage Conservancy

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history with the C&O Canal?
Doug: About 10 years ago a friend wanted to pedal from Pittsburgh to Washington DC.  This is my first memory of researching and planning a visit to the national historic park, the towpath and the learning bits and pieces of the amazing history.  We enjoyed pedaling past and stopping at many of the remnants of old canal and lock houses, the dams, and scenic views of the river.  We visited Hancock, Harpers Ferry and Brunswick that year stopping to eat.  It was such an adventure since it was my first time doing a multi-day travel by bicycle trip.

C&O Canal Trust: During your time volunteering with the Partnership, what is your favorite project you have been a part of?  
Doug: Trails & Rails.  I met Rita Knox, Park Ranger in Cumberland one year.  Rita invited me to check out a Steward program where I’d ride the Amtrak train and engage travelers about the park.  I signed up, drove 90 miles to Cumberland, met a bunch of enthusiastic park rangers and was hooked.  During our training day I met Simon Barber and other great people who knew so much history about the park and nearby towns.  People like Rita and Simon Barber were so inspiring to learn from.  It was never a dull Amtrak ride meeting people, answering questions, giving out park information.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?  
Doug: Silly but oh so true, my favorite canal memory is going to the Conocacheague aqueduct ribbon cutting ceremony in Williamsport and getting my picture taken with a park mascot who said “Hello Doug.”  I was shocked the mascot knew me.  Turns out it was a dedicated enthusiastic ranger whom I’ve met on several occasions.  That ranger (Ben Helwig) like all the rangers I’ve met over the years are incredible people.  

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?  
Doug: Tough question to answer, I have Favorites-s-s-s-s.  The blue bells blooming near Hancock, the rock wall and river views west of Williamsport, the way the towpath reveals the Potomac river to me every time I pedal towards Harpers Ferry.  Coming out from an otherwise quiet tunnel of towpath trees, I enjoy the explosion of people near Great Falls, then again near Georgetown.  It’s like you’re in a forest then boom you’re in Georgetown!  So many spots come to mind, like I said I have favorites, plural.  Ask me after my next visit through the park and I’ll have more favorites to add to the list.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?  
Doug: To me the canal means I have a national park within few hours of my home where I can visit a dozen times a year.  There is so much to see and it looks different from sunrise to sunset, from east to west that no matter how many bike rides they are all a little different.  It means I don’t need to race around the country truing to see every park, this one has so much I enjoy seeing it more often! 

Canal Story #26: Clara Thiel

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Clara Thiel, C&O Canal Botany Fellow

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Clara: While growing up in Clarke County, VA, my mom would often take my brother and I to bike on the Canal in the summers, starting in Brunswick and biking to Harpers Ferry for an ice cream treat. I currently live in Knoxville, MD, where my fiancé and I enjoy walking or biking on the Canal with our dogs almost every evening. I am also currently the Botany Fellow for C&O Canal, and focus on studies relating to rare, threatened, and endangered plants along the Potomac River. 

C&O Canal Trust: When and how did you become involved with the C&O Canal / what is your role in the Park?
Clara: In spring 2020 I was offered a brief internship with C&O Canal to assist with surveys of rare, threatened, and endangered plant populations. In March 2021 I began working as the Park’s Botany Fellow and lead the RTE monitoring efforts. 

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite part about working with the Park?
Clara: I have really enjoyed seeing the diversity of natural resources that are found within the Park – C&O Canal is so unique! I have learned about so many different plant species and ecosystems, which has inspired me to focus my current research on species adapted to high-stress environments.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite plant that you have seen on the canal?
Clara: It’s hard to pick, but some of my favorites are two rare grasses, Melica nitens (three-flowered melic grass) and Melica mutica (two-flowered melic grass). Both of these species produce beautiful, relatively large fruits for grasses, and are restricted to specific soils and rock outcrop communities. 

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Clara: I have so many to choose from, but my favorite by far is when I got engaged. My boyfriend proposed to me at Lockhouse 75, where we then saw two otters swimming in the canal!

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?
Clara: The Paw Paw bends and Great Falls areas are my favorite places in the Park to work. Both have such unique natural histories and provide high-quality habitat for several rare and interesting plant species. 

Canal Story #25: Justin Cole

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Justin Cole, TowpathGO! Fundraiser

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history / relationship with the C&O Canal?
Justin:
Like many people, my relationship with the Canal has been mostly focused around its recreational use; although I volunteered for a time at the National Park Service’s Adventure Station at the REI in DC, where I got a chance to learn much more about its incredible history and talk to people about the region’s plentiful parks and trails.

C&O Canal Trust: When did you first learn of the C&O Canal?
Justin: I first learned of it when I moved to the DC area in 2011. At the time, I was living in Arlington and training for marathons by going on long runs on the W&OD trail. While I love that trail, I was looking for variety and learned about our broader network of incredible trails in the DC area, including the Anacostia River Trail, Capital Crescent, Mt. Vernon, and Metropolitan Branch Trail. While each trail is unique in its own way, the Canal’s wildlife, views, and surface make it my favorite in the DC region.

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us about your lockhouse stay to celebrate your 30th birthday.
Justin: I’ve always enjoyed trail running, history, and camping, so my girlfriend knew that staying in a lockhouse would be a special way to spend my 30th birthday. Not only did she book Lockhouse 49 for a weekend, but she surprised me by inviting my best friends to join us, who traveled from as far away as Montana and Michigan to celebrate my birthday, resulting in a weekend that I’ll never forget.

C&O Canal Trust: Why did you sign up for TowpathGO!?Justin: I’ve benefited so much from the C&O Canal, so I thought this would be a great way to honor the work of the many people who have made it possible for me (and millions of others!) to enjoy it each year. As for the distance I chose (50 miles), that was influenced in part by a challenge that my two favorite presidents, Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, each proclaimed 60 years apart, challenging the military to march 50 miles in order to remain in good order. In fact, after JFK issued his challenge in 1962 there were numerous ‘JFK 50 mile’ ultramarathons that existed across the country. I’ve run a 50K before, but never this distance, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to do so.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Justin: My favorite memory has got to be going for a run with my friends on my 30th birthday weekend and then cooling off by going whitewater rafting in Harpers Ferry.

Canal Story #24: John Kehne

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

John Kehne, Canal Steward & TowpathGO! Fundraiser

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal? 
John: I grew up about 7 miles from Williamsport MD, the canal town that is the current headquarters of the C&O Canal Trust. Over 50 years ago, I and a group of fellow Maryland scouts biked in segments the entire length of the towpath, a tremendous adventure that opened our eyes to the beauty and history of the canal and provided us with a multitude of experiences that enriched our lives. After high school, I left the state to pursue training and a career in Neuroscience and forty years later, returned to Maryland. My wife and I fortuitously live close to the canal, 7 miles from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. For the last decade, the Park has been a welcome refuge for hiking, biking, running, and a place to enjoy nature in all seasons. Recently, I began volunteering at the Park through a C&O Canal Trust-managed “Canal Stewards” program and am further committed to give back to the Park seeking donations to my TowpathGO! fundraiser, challenging myself to complete a one day 50-mile ride on the towpath.

C&O Canal Trust: When did you first learn of the C&O Canal?
John: Fishing trips to the Potomac River during my youth made me aware of the canal, but I didn’t really fully experience it until my bicycle trip. 

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us about your Maryland scouts biking trip.
John: We had done a lot of camping but not major biking, so this was a new, exciting adventure that was also humbling. The trip was done in five segments, completed over a summer. Riding a Schwinn 2-speed “kick-back” bicycle, I soaked up the scenery and gained an appreciation for the park’s size and the quiet remoteness of many stretches. The trips did not lack drama and taught us some lessons. “Expect the unexpected”. We expected rain and mud, but not a washed-out section of the towpath or encounters with four-foot high, bike-stopping grass.  More often than not, planned early evening arrivals at our destinations occurred in early morning. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over”. I voluntarily gave up my bike and pushed, for the last 5 miles of the final segment, a fellow scout’s bike that had catastrophically broken down. I ran to keep from falling behind the others, and suffice it to say that the mile markers were slow in coming and the last mile seemed like ten. I “dug deep” and finished exhausted but happy to have helped out.  Twenty five years later, I found myself again digging deep to finish the final five miles of my first marathon (Chicago) and in a time that qualified me to run in the 1996 Boston Marathon, its’ 100th anniversary.  Two dreams of mine achieved!  The canal experience can be impactful.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing about being a canal steward? 
John: It’s a “win-win” – I get exercise in a rich outdoor setting and make contributions that enhance the park’s towpath and trails. A bonus is my occasional interactions with the Trust and Park staff, other volunteers and enthusiastic park visitors.

C&O Canal Trust: Why did you sign up for TowpathGO!? 
John: The C&O Canal Historical Park is a monument to an important period of American history and an amazing natural resource, a great example of why the National Parks are truly “America’s Greatest Idea”. I was motivated to sign up as another way to give back to the park and knowing that donations to the Trust in TowpathGO! will benefit important and innovative programs, including the Trust’s “Towpath Forever” and “Canal Classrooms” initiatives. Regarding my personal challenge to bike 50 miles on the towpath in one day, it seemed appropriate since it has been a half-century since the canal became a park and since I biked the entire towpath.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park? 
John: When training for the 2013 and 2015 Marine Corps Marathons, I did my “long-runs” on the towpath, doing loops starting at Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center and heading downstream toward Georgetown.  On one memorable early morning run, not a person in sight, I was captivated by the canal as a blue heron flew gracefully by, the rays from the rising sun illuminating the mist above the shimmering water. What a way to train!

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?  
John: The section of the Park that extends a mile downstream (to MM13) and upstream (to MM15) from the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center. In addition to the highly popular Great Falls Overlook, Widewater section, Rocky Island views, and challenging Billy Goat Trail A, these two amazing miles contain a selection of many trails, some lesser known or used. The mile long River Trail takes you down to river level with great river views and bird watching, and the rich soil supports gigantic sycamore trees, and, in the spring, spectacular wildflower shows. On the other side of the canal, the Ford Mine Trail is a 3 mile loop that winds through stands of tall trees, ascending and descending knolls to cross small streams. This being said, I still have much exploring to do.

Canal Story #23: Katie Rapp

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Katie Rapp, TowpathGO! Fundraiser, Bike Rider, & C&O Canal Photographer

I owe my sanity over the past year to my frequent bike rides along the C&O Canal. The beauty, wildlife, solitude, fresh air, and nightly light show over the Potomac keep me coming back. I’m raising funds for the C&O Canal Trust so they can continue to maintain this 184.5 mile treasure that runs from Georgetown to Cumberland. Because TowpathGO! is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the canal becoming a park, my initial goal was to ride 50 miles and raise $1,000 (matching up to $500). I met those goals in a couple days, so switched to 100 miles and $1,500. I’m past 100 miles already, so I’ve upped the ante again and am now planning to ride 184.5 miles (the length of the canal) and raise $1,845 for the Canal Trust by July 10. I’m probably going to pass my mileage goal this coming week, so I’ll just keep riding! Please help me pass my fundraising goal, too! https://secure.givelively.org//donate/c-o-canal-trust-inc/towpathgo-2021/katie-rapp-2

Follow me on Facebook to see lots of photos and updates from my bike rides: https://www.facebook.com/katie.rapp1

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Katie: I love riding my bike on the towpath. I also love learning about the history. I’ve taken many guided hikes in the Park over the years – Seneca Quarry where the stone used to build the Smithsonian Castle came from, Blockhouse Point with its wildflowers and Civil War history, Monocacy Aqueduct, birding walks (heron nurseries! eagles’ nests!). I’ve been hanging around the canal for a long time!

C&O Canal Trust: When did you first learn of the C&O Canal?
Katie: When I lived in DC many years ago, I visited Great Falls a few times and saw the canal, but I didn’t know about the towpath running from Georgetown to Cumberland until I moved to Gaithersburg in 1999. I don’t like riding my bike on roads around here and the terrain is a bit hilly for me, so the towpath is perfect.

I’ve been busy raising my kids (now teens) and so my bike rides were few and far between due to kids’ activities and general busy-ness. Then came COVID and full stop on all the lessons and practices. My very first thought with nowhere else to go was I need to get out on the towpath. I didn’t have a bike rack, so I shoved my bike into the back of my car! Weather permitting, I’ve been riding almost nightly after work since last March.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place to photograph in the Park?
Katie: I am addicted to sunsets over the Potomac. There are a bunch of spots where I love the sunsets at different times of the year. Violette’s Lock sunsets in winter and early spring are amazing. There’s a spot about a mile below Violette’s Lock that has an amazing view up the Potomac and the river glows pink and purple. It’s really gorgeous. There are also bends in the towpath where the sun shoots through trees and just lights the sky on fire, reflecting in the canal. I love all these spots and many more.

I’m not really a photographer, at all, even though I enter the Trust’s photo contest a lot and had some photos in the Washington County Arts Council competition! A couple years ago I told my friend how beautiful it was on my bike rides, and she asked me to send her photos. I started taking quick snapshots on my cellphone and texting them to her during my rides. It’s so beautiful on the towpath, it would be impossible to take bad pictures! But my photos are all just quick snapshots on my cell as I’m riding my bike. I miss more shots than I get, and it’s always way more beautiful in person than whatever I capture in my photos. 

During COVID I looked back at my cell phone photos and realized I’d taken some nice pictures. I started sharing them on Facebook just to cheer people up and as a nice distraction this past year. I attach my photos to emails at work, as well. Just something cheerful in a hard year. People like them. 

C&O Canal Trust: Why did you sign up for TowpathGO!?
Katie: Tymber at the Canal Trust suggested it to me. I’m happy to help! I never kept track of how far I was riding, so this has been fun to see how fast the miles are adding up. I’m updating my Facebook with photos after each ride. I also post about wildlife I see and any highlights each night. I mention some history and (of course!) the amazing work of the Canal Trust – resurfacing the towpath, Canal Quarters, etc. I’m so happy to support the Trust.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Katie: I’m not exaggerating to say the Park helped me get through this whole year. I will always remember this and be thankful that I had this beautiful place to go. Along with the pandemic and all the things in the news, my dad passed away last summer and I had other stresses. Every night, as I drove out of my neighborhood toward the Park, I felt all the stress melt away. I can’t even explain how much this has meant to me!

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?
Katie: I love the section below Blockhouse Point where the towpath is suspended between the canal and the Potomac with the beautiful stone bluff above the canal. It’s so dramatic and peaceful. There’s often no one else around and I just stop and enjoy it. One time last summer a beaver mom and her baby came up out of the river right next to me! Another spot I love is at Nolands Ferry. Someone cuts stairs into the dirt on the river bank and there’s a secluded little pebble beach on the Potomac. It’s gorgeous.

Canal Story #22: Lois Turco

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Lois Turco, long-time volunteer with Canal Towns Partnership

Growing up in Washington, D.C., along River Road, my parents and I often took a drive down to Falls Road into McArthur Blvd. and parked across from Old Anglers Inn and walk the towpath to Widewater. Back then, the large basin was undergoing some repair. Walking along the washed-out towpath was tricky. I remember seeing many fishermen and canoes. Access to the Falls was through a toll gate, and the hardy walkers held onto the somewhat unstable rails to see the Great Falls. The park was in my backyard and D.C. and MD residents took advantage of its proximity.

Returning to the United States after five tours abroad, we rediscovered the canal as a National Historical Park within the NPS. From where we lived in Rockville, MD, near Falls Road, it was an easy drive to the park. Again the park, the towpath, and its proximity to the river provided needed respite and renewal.

After retirement, we moved to Shepherdstown, WV, and quickly discovered that the park was again in our backyard. I became a Shepherdstown Rotarian and worked with the C&O Canal National Historical Park to design a ramp which would make accessibility from the Lock 38 towpath up to the new Rumsey Bridge a reality. From there, I worked with the NPS River, Trails, Conservation Assistance (RTCA) to facilitate the creation of a new program within the C&O Canal Trust: the Canal Towns Partnership, which promotes the sustainable economic development of our Canal Towns by promoting recreational tourism and the experience of the town and the park in partnership. Since 2011, I have been a board member and for four years chair of the Partnership. I enjoy being a Shepherdstown trail ambassador. Indeed, the canal, whether then or now, remains a fixture in my life.

Canal Story #21: Dan Spedden

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Dan Spedden, President of Visit Hagerstown

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history with the C&O Canal?

Dan: I moved to Washington County permanently in 1986, when the Maryland Park Service promoted me to Park Manager for the South Mountain Recreation Area. Studying visitor patterns, I realized what trail connectivity meant for park visitors. The Maryland portion of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail ends at the C&O Canal. The South Mountain and Greenbrier State Park Trail systems are also accessible to the C&O Canal through the Appalachian Trail. After that, I began to study the history of the C&O Canal and discovered even more value in it. As President of Visit Hagerstown, Washington County’s destination marketing entity, I can say without a doubt the C&O Canal is our number one tourist attraction.

C&O Canal Trust: During your time working with the Trust, what is your favorite project you have been a part of?

Dan: Towpath resurfacing emerges as my favorite project. It is a high priority, and we are meeting it. C&O Canal users very much appreciate this effort.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?

Dan: The ribbon cutting for the aqueduct restoration in Williamsport is my favorite memory. The event was exciting, well attended, received wide media exposure, and was the satisfying culmination of years of work for a broad-based partnership.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?,

Dan: The Cushwa Basin is my favorite spot. The entire story of the canal can be told there.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Dan: I promote and advocate for the Canal as part of my occupation, but it is so much more than that. When I retire in this community, I will use the towpath to remain healthy and active and be happy in the knowledge that it will always be there for me.

Canal Story #20: Hannah Debelius

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Hannah Debelius, Canal Steward

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Hannah: I grew up on the C&O Canal with frequent family walks from Violettes Lock and semi-annual canoe camping trips to the Paw Paw Tunnel. However, my family’s Canal legacy actually goes beyond that. My Grandparents owned a farm near Clear Spring, MD that is now part of the park. My Grandfather, Richard Costlow, was recognized by NPS in the 1970’s for the vast number of trees he planted, and he often told me how wonderful he thought the plans for the national park were when he saw them over 50 years ago.
C&O Canal Trust: When and how did you become involved with the C&O Canal Trust?
Hannah: In 2014, I saw a sign at Great Falls promoting Canal Community Day. I volunteered that year painting the mule shed and was hooked! Since then, I have also volunteered for Park After Dark, supported the Trust on Canal Giving Days, become a Canal Community Day project leader, and served as a Billy Goat Trail Steward with NPS since 2016.
C&O Canal Trust: What is / was your favorite part about being a volunteer?
Hannah: I love the community of volunteers I’ve met over the last few years. Everyone is so passionate about the Canal with their own stories and favorite spots. Having a scheduled excuse to be outside and enjoy the park is also a nice benefit.
C&O Canal Trust: What is / was your favorite part about being a project leader?
Hannah: At Canal Community Days, I love being able to work with different groups of volunteers, from school programs to hiking clubs and families. In the introduction, I always ask people what brought them out to volunteer today, and they have the best responses. Doing something tangible for the park I can see when I’m there, such as a freshly painted mule fence or filled pothole, also brings a sense of pride and connection.
C&O Canal Trust: Can you share a specific memory working a canal giving day?
Hannah: At Canal Giving Day, it always surprises me how many people want to walk up and give cash without any recognition or token in return. They are just out there enjoying the park and feel moved to give back.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Hannah: In 2019, my husband proposed to me on Billy Goat Trail section B. I was busy taking a photo of our dog at an overlook, and when I turned around, he was down on one knee. I cried a lot of tears of joy and am very thankful for a small group of hikers passing by that helped us capture the moment with a photo.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?
Hannah: Although I spend most of my time at Great Falls and on the Billy Goat Trail, my favorite place is Lockhouse 49. It’s a special place where I’ve made a lot of memories with friends staying overnight with the Canal Quarters program, and the front porch with a morning cup of coffee can’t be beat.

Canal Story #19: Carol Moore

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Carol Moore, Meditation and Yoga Instructor

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history/relationship with the canal? 
Carol: I was born and raised in the D.C. area and grew up hiking, biking, and generally enjoying the abundant beauty along the canal. When I planned to move to Phoenix, Arizona in my early 30s, my friend who lived there told me we could go running along a canal close to his house. I naturally pictured something akin to the C&O. Imagine my surprise when, instead of a peaceful, winding, water-laden landscape draped with gorgeous trees and filled with wildlife I encountered a canal made entirely of concrete. It extended straight as an arrow as far as the eye could see, surrounded by nothing but hot, dry, sandy dirt. I adjusted my expectations and had many happy runs on that “canal.” AND, in 2008 when my husband, our two sons and I moved to Potomac, Maryland, I fell in love with the C&O Canal as if I were seeing it for the first time. I can honestly say I’ve never taken it for granted since.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal? 
Carol: I love to walk vigorously for exercise and pause frequently for marveling – mesmerized by an utterly motionless great blue heron on a gray-blue rock perch. Or delighted by an entire log jammed with turtles sunning themselves! 

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite spot on the canal? Why is it your favorite? 
Carol: I’m particularly partial to the stretch between Locks 22 and 23. I relish the soaring rock faces on one side and the spacious river views on the other.  

C&O Canal Trust: Can you share your favorite canal memory? 
Carol: This is a collage of memories — a guided imagery meditation I created about a hike near the Pennyfield Lock in August of 2020: https://mocomeditation.org/co-canal-stroll/

C&O Canal Trust: What does the C&O Canal mean to you? 
Carol: connection ~ calm ~ strength ~ nature ~ beauty ~ peace

Canal Story #18: Francis Grant-Suttie

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Francis Grant-Suttie, Board Member of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history with the C&O Canal?
Francis: Growing up in Zimbabwe, my earliest recollections were of hiking out in the wilderness with wildlife. Arriving in the United Sates in the mid-sixties, my family adopted the C&O Canal as our local ‘American wilderness’ in our own backyard. So I grew up exploring the billy goats trails, skating on the canal, canoeing from Swains lockhouse up the canal for picnics and long hikes with our dogs along the towpath. The C&O Canal  has an endless bounty of wild things and spaces for adventure.

C&O Canal Trust: During your time volunteering with the Trust, what is your favorite project you have been a part of?
Francis: I have thoroughly enjoyed being a quartermaster to Swains and Pennyfield lockhouses. Every time I set foot inside a lock house or cut the grass, or spruce the place up for spring cleanup, I am taken back to the 1830-50s and allow myself to re-imagine what life was like in the early days being a lock keeper or a canaller, the canal boats pulled by mules with all the attendant business of canal living with travel going up and down the towpath. To me, the lockhouses are representative of the entirety of the history of the canal to the present. It is always satisfying hearing our lockhouse guests regale how much fun they had staying over while feeling history seep through the stone walls, whispers of long ago beckoning to them in the middle of the night. One always remembers that night or weekend spent in a lockhouse.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Francis: Mike Mitchell, former chair of the Trust’s board and I decided to hike the towpath from Georgetown to Cumberland last September raising funds for the Trust as our Park After Dark annual fundraiser was canceled due to the covid pandemic. Both of us are photographers, so we took photographs documenting the beauty and grandeur of the canal, the towpath and river all the way north. 

The hike was a wonderful and exhilarating experience along an endless towpath. It was a walk through history: The American-Indian wars, The American Revolution and, especially The Civil War, in the steps of Union and Confederate armies slaughtering each other whether at Antietam or Gettysburg or any number of battles or skirmishes along the way. At times, I think the ghosts of warriors are coming out of the cornfields or the woods fixed bayonets charging straight our way. Or the skeletal hand, rearing up out from a forgotten graveyard trying to pull me back down into the netherworld of the slain. Canal hallucinations of a past reawakened!

But this was really about the present and future generations, who can enjoy the wonders of nature with ancient lockhouses guarding the canal and towpath, nestled by the Potomac River often built in wild and inhospitable places. One could only marvel at the engineering feat and sheer determination of those who built it. This was a continuous adventure with camera in hand, as there was something of interest around each corner: a run down grist mill, whiskey distillery, massive bluffs, the Paw Paw tunnel, caves where civil war refugees would seek safety, stunning vistas of the river with tall sycamores hovering over in their majesty, osprey, red-tailed and Cooper hawks, bald eagles, finches, warblers and eyes seemingly upon us constantly. One also experiences the astonishing refreshment of solitude.

But all hikes have a last step at an intended destination, and so Mike and I crossed that threshold and, of course, went to the closest pub for a celebratory beer! We toasted all our supporters of The Trust for what has become a memory of a lifetime. The photographic albums now tell the story. 

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Francis: Just down from the Marsden bridge and campground, follow the path along the river up around some bends in the river there is a rock promontory jutting out into the Potomac. Our current family, the kids and dogs would hike to what we nicknamed “Lookout Rock” on a regular basis for picnic lunches. The dogs swim in a semi-enclosed pool and we sit on the rocks and spot eagles, songbirds, beaver, count turtles and all manner of wildlife. It is a place of bliss, togetherness and peace. To get there in the spring, one walks carefully amongst beds of Virginia bluebells wondering if you are floating on a sea of blue butterflies. Nature at its best. 

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Francis: The canal is a walking mediation where serenity, contemplation and awareness fill your every sense and being with energy, spirit and renewal. The canal is a never-ending story, a history of place and belonging where you just be. It gathers people into memories and stories that become family folklore.

A photo essay by Francis Grant-Suttie

“Moments in Time”

That fades to a fuzzy yet beautiful afterthought

Standing on the edge of a river, early morning mist, staring up at the endless towpath

Inspired

Passing by ancient dwellings, a lock house, a grist mill, memories of what was once a way of life

 

 

 

 

 

Mya, our future

Arriving at a destination, the last track

Only to turn around and go home

Francis

Canal Story #17: Margaret Clingan

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Margaret J Clingan, Photographer

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the canal?
Maggie: The canal is where I go for restoration from life’s stresses and busyness. A trip to the canal always lifts my spirits and makes me smile. Nothing beats the sweet sound of birds singing and leaves swaying in the breeze during the warm seasons or the peaceful quietness that comes to the canal during the winter months.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the park?
Maggie: My favorite memory of the park is when I first discovered the large patches of bluebells that bloom in early Spring. I was amazed at their beauty, and I couldn’t believe how much they filled the air with their perfume on a warm day. Ever since that discovery, I make a point to follow the progress of the bluebells each Spring and to be there when the magic happens.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place on the canal and why?
Maggie: The area surrounding mile markers 66 and 67. This is the area closest to where I live that I am able to enjoy the largest patches of bluebells and other Spring flowers such as the purple trillium. I know exactly where each trillium hides beneath the bluebells, and I return to the same spot each Spring to enjoy them. I’ve taken many photographs in this area and return every year. It is a very quiet and peaceful location along the canal with few visitors.
C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Maggie:
Even though I don’t live right along the canal, it means home to me. The canal is a 5 minute drive from my house and a quick bike ride from my house also. Whenever my husband and I think about moving to a new home, the proximity to the canal is our number 1 consideration. I could not imagine living in any location where the canal is not close by.

Canal Story #16: Vinod Thomas

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Vinod Thomas, Frequent Visitor and Photographer of the Canal

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history/relationship with the canal?
Vinod: Both Leila and I have lived in the DC-MD area since the mid-70s, and our introduction to the C&O Canal started at Georgetown, which we both frequented when we resided, studied, and worked nearby. We learned about the canal as tourists, and the longer we stayed here, the more family and friends we took there to enjoy it with us. Nowadays, we consider the easy access to the canal one of the blessings of living in Bethesda, from where we have ventured on the towpath that offers many delightful sights and sounds of nature, including fantastic views of the Potomac River. 

Vinod’s keener pursuit of photography after his retirement from the World Bank has made it possible for him to visit certain spots more frequently, whether it is to watch the Blue Heron at Fletchers Cove, wait for Painted Bunting appearances at Great Falls, or catch some interesting sights at the Monocacy River bridge and viaduct. About five years ago, we lost our youngest child, who had significant experiences biking and jogging along the towpath nearest us, and we began to deeply appreciate the canal for that reason; we always find peace and solitude there. We have come to know of friends, old and new, who also consider it the national treasure that it is. They visit or volunteer to keep it appreciated, safe, and beautiful, and we are grateful for their devotion.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?
Vinod: It is always a delight for both of us to walk along the towpath and take in all the marvels natural beauty has to offer on any given day, be it a flock of ducks foraging for food in the water, a cardinal calling from a tree or a bush, or butterflies flitting among wildflowers.  C&O Canal symbolizes harmony with nature and conservation of flora and fauna, which the world so desperately needs today. When a picture of the Blue Heron that Vinod took at Fletcher Cove was featured on C&O Canal membership pass a couple of years ago, we were happy for the chance to show everyone in that way one of the many regulars to be found along the canal.  

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite spot on the canal? Why is it your favorite?
Vinod: Our special place on the canal is a bench that was installed in memory of our son. We like to pause there as we walk on the towpath, reflect on the wonders of nature we feel he has led us to, and then stand awhile by the closest riverbank to reflect some more and pray. The area seems to be the habitat of several bird species and butterflies. 

C&O Canal Trust: Can you share your favorite canal memory?
Vinod: One of many favorites is a chat we had with a couple who happened to be renting the cabin at Lock 6. They said they were teachers and had come from Chicago with a few of their students. We thought it was simply wonderful of them to share the experience with young people who need to learn and appreciate the history of the C&O Canal while discovering the treats that nature brings to all the senses.  We spent time talking with them and taking photographs to remember this special meeting.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the C&O Canal mean to you?
Vinod: The C&O Canal is a beautiful way of experiencing history and nature near where we live. The Canal has a rich history and heritage, it brings people and nature together and represents the best of conserving nature and preserving history. It is a reminder of the American can-do spirit, as well as the importance of preserving the past while protecting nature for the benefit of future generations.

Canal Story #15: Tina Cappetta

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Tina Cappetta, Current Superintendent of the C&O Canal National Historical Park

C&O Canal Trust: You’ve just passed your one year anniversary as Superintendent of the C&O Canal, and it has been an extraordinary year. What have you learned about the C&O Canal community during that time?
Tina: ​The Canal community is broad and committed with varying interests – and very passionate. Whether I am talking to historians, anglers, birders, cyclists, neighbors, educators, partners, you name it – the common theme is how much people care about the long-term protection of the park and the role it plays in our larger communities.

C&O Canal Trust: You served as the C&O Canal’s Chief of Resources from 2002-2004. What are the major changes you have noticed since you were last on staff here?
Tina: ​I see a partnership program that has grown and flourished in those nearly 20 years, and while I still see excellence in the park staff, I see a significant decline in the number of that staff.

C&O Canal Trust: What are your goals for the Canal in the next few years?
Tina: ​I am focused on trying to make sure we grow our staffing capacity and that employees have what they need to do their jobs safely. There are some important “back to basics” things we want to accomplish in caring for our visitors and resources, in addition to capitalizing on some of the big funding opportunities that may present themselves through the Great American Outdoors Act and other funding streams.

C&O Canal Trust: On a personal level, what is your favorite thing to do on the canal? Do you have a favorite spot?
Tina: ​This is not a political answer, but I don’t know the canal well enough yet to say I have a favorite spot. Every time I am in the park I see something new, which is in part why I like it so much – the variety of resources and things to see, do, and learn.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Tina: ​That’s an interesting question. It is obviously an engineering marvel and a monument to vision and perseverance. As a relatively new neighbor to the canal, I have discovered it is my oasis when I am stressed (ironically often about work), and it brings joy to my doorstep with a diversity in birds that we had not known before. I carried babies in front and back packs when I was here before, and now I walk with them as young adults, enjoying the time together that the towpath offers.

Canal Story #14: Michael Marmer

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Michael Marmer, Lifetime C&O Canal Visitor

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us about your history with the C&O Canal.
Mike: I was born in 1955 and grew up in Wheaton, Maryland. I didn’t know of the C&O Canal until I joined a Boy Scout Troop in June of 1967. The scout master, Mr. Augustine, decided that summer that the troop would hike the C&O Canal on weekends.

On a snowy day, January 10, 1970, we finally completed section hiking the entire canal. It took us two years, four months, and two weeks. One time, we got lost on the canal near Paw Paw Tunnel and didn’t get home until 4 a.m.! But overall, it was a great experience, and it’s something that stayed with me after I left scouting, the memories of the outdoors.

C&O Canal Trust: What memories do you have of the canal?
Mike: One memory I have of the canal is from doing the hikes with the Boy Scouts in Big Pool, the big body of water along the towpath in Western Maryland. During my senior year of high school in 1973, I would take my mother’s 1970 Ford Maverick to go to Big Pool to go fishing. I would get up at 5 a.m. and get on the road by 5:30. It was about a two hour drive, so I was probably there by 7:30 A.M. 

As I looked for a fishing spot along the towpath, I saw a mile marker along the towpath. When we were hiking with the scouts, we called out “Mile Marker” every time we saw this welcoming sight. There it was, surrounded by eroding soil and tree roots, with the familiar color of green paint on it. Yes, today, they have brown paint on them, but there was a time when they were painted green! The lines on the marker remind me of smiles, simply happy to see you, says the mile marker. And then you go on to the next mile marker. And to this day, when my wife Linda and I are either biking or hiking on the C&O Canal, I still call out “Mile Marker!” as this thing appears in the distance. 

C&O Canal Trust: How do you use the towpath today?
Mike: My wife Linda and I do a lot biking on the C&O Canal. In fact, my second date with Linda, in April of 1981, was biking on the C&O Canal at Point of Rocks. It was a very muddy day.

We have included the C&O Canal Trust in our will, along with the C&O Canal Association.

Canal Story #13: Ashley Duncan

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Ashley Duncan, C&O Canal Trust VISTA

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Ashley: I currently work for the C&O Canal Trust as their VISTA intern. I have learned so much dealing with the non-profit and has opened my eyes up to different opportunities.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite part about being a C&O Canal VISTA?
Ashley: My favorite part about being a VISTA is that there are so many opportunities and training available for you. Depending on the direction you are going in your career, you are allowed to choose certain training to help develop your skills.
C&O Canal Trust: What drew you to the C&O Canal’s VISTA program?
Ashley: I was drawn to the C&O Canal Trust because it was a non-profit. I have always been immersed in the field or part of the private sector. I thought it would be a great way to enter through this avenue since it is a pathway program that offers guidance and support.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the Park?
Ashley: My favorite memory is partaking in our Canal Community Day events since keeping the environment clean is one of my driving forces.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite place or section of the Park?
Ashley: Great Falls is one of my favorite places in the park. The scenery is breathtaking and the trails definitely build character.

Canal Story #12: Linda & Thomas Perry

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Linda & Thomas Perry

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Linda Perry: Is there is a national treasure in my backyard?  Yes.   “The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal has been described as one of this country’s loveliest failures,” writes Elizabeth Kyle in her book, “Home on the Canal.”  The canal began building in 1828 and 184.5 miles were completed until the money ran out.  It parallels the Potomac River.  But, alas, the canal was never able to surpass the railroad; the canal was expensive costing $14 million in 22 years.  It resulted in misery, hardship, the death of thousands of the immigrants who built the canal with its exquisite stonework of aqueducts, tunnels, bridges, locks and the canal.

The C&O Canal is lovely.  I enjoy its peacefulness when I look at the pastoral serenity of sycamores, oaks, maples, and birch, walnut and poplar trees.  I meditate when I look at the beautiful wildflowers with their vivid colors and varieties.  This picture is as picturesque as any portrait of the most skilled painter.  

The canal is filled with living animal life:  squirrel, groundhog, white-tailed deer and it is a bird’s paradise with its Baltimore Oriole, robin, cardinal, scarlet, woodpeckers, flinches, and thrushes.  It even has owls.  The shining blue-grey luster of the Potomac River with the sounds of water hitting the shoreline is a treat to hear and see.  To me, it is relaxing to delight in the C&O Canal’s beautiful scenery and quietness.  

I have biked the entire canal several times and walked parts.  In 2004 I participated in the five year walk by the C&O Canal Association.  For years one project I had with my husband was keeping Lock House #76 open for visitors.  I was able to tell visitors who were hiking or biking the history of the canal. 

Personally, I have fed and slept riders of the canal.  My most memorable incident was one in which it had been a cold, rainy week with a potential tornado.  I had taken off work to have a root canal fixed, so I was not available for my husband’s frantic phone calls.  He brought six dirty, drenched adults who were riding the canal to spend the night at our house.  I was astounded to see our house filled with six wet strangers.  I was in no shape for fix supper, so one of the men treated our entire group at Tony’s, our local pizza joint.  Fortunately, I had enough towels and sheets to provide for these unexpected bikers.  Miraculously, the hot water heater co-operated so everyone got hot showers/baths.

Additionally, a friend and I walked the towpath almost every day for exercise until the virus.  I rejoice that we live three blocks from the canal.  It is a favorite.   To me, the C&O National Historical Park may have been a dismal failure financially, but its loveliness is a national treasure that I treasure.    

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Tom Perry: Many years ago, or so it seems, I was able to combine my love of biking with my service as a Lutheran minister as I led the youths of Mar Lu Ridge Summer camp on the l84.5 miles of the C&O Canal National Park. We enjoyed camping out in nature and learning about our history together. One of our favorite stops was, of course, Williamsport. The long-retired keeper of the lift lock there was Harvey Brant who enjoyed telling about what it was like living in the lock house and across the street after the canal closed in 1924.  Another welcomer was Sue Ann Sullivan, whose house was adjacent to Byron Memorial Park and who would ask what she could do to help us.  Year after year I would seek her out and enjoy her company.

Thirty Five years ago in retirement my dear wife, Linda, and I were ready to find our own house somewhere in Western Maryland, and you know what place came to mind, so every Friday we took off and looked.  In 1984 we moved onto Conococheague Street in Williamsport very happy. I looked up Sue Ann Sullivan, who said to me: “Well, isn’t it about time you joined?”  “Joined what” said I. “The Canal Association of course”. She was right and I became a member. I have served  as a Level Walker, president, and the chair of a committee whose purpose it was to push for the repair of the Big Slackwater section east of Williamsport.  It was in such bad repair that bikers had a five mile dangerous detour. We were successful and rejoiced when the whole towpath once again was useable.

Now as we celebrate 50 years of our canal being a National Park I am rejoicing in what a treasure we have in “our back yard”  I am still encouraging people, old and young to get out there with me.  I just gave a free membership to a younger biking buddy!

Canal Story #11: Holly Lambert

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Holly Lambert, Physical Education Teacher

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Holly: What started out as an idea to connect kids to nature through physical activity turned into an annual school hike on the C&O Canal for our Physical Education students. Over the last 17 years with the help of various C&O Rangers and Canal Corps Teachers, I estimate that we have hiked the Canal Towpath with over 3000 students in grades 2-5. With a focus on lifetime physical activities and an exploration of local resources, students research Canal history, biology and geography as they participate in a pre-hike jogging/walking program

at school. Students “travel” the C&O map as they log their miles. The program culminates with a 3 mile hike along a stretch of the towpath where C&O Rangers and Canal Corps Teachers help students explore the trail. I am thankful to all the C&O Rangers, Educational Coordinators and Canal Corps Teachers over the years who have helped make this possible for our kids!

In the spirit of Justice Douglas…”I wish PHYSICAL EDUCATION STUDENTS…would take time off and come with me. We would go with packs on our backs and hike the 3.1 miles to Antietam Creek.”

Canal Story #10: Béla Demeter

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Béla Demeter, Canal Steward

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Béla Demeter: I’ve been a Canal Steward since July 2018. I’ve hiked the Canal and the Billy Goat Trail for nearly 50 years (when I came to Washington). I often had a plastic bag with me and rarely came out without some bottles and trash. It felt good to do my small part in cleaning up our shared landscape, especially when it involved so little effort. Signing on to the Canal Steward Program seemed like the next logical step.

In my 35 years as reptile keeper and Biologist at the National Zoo, I was the liaison between the department and our keeper aides and interpretive volunteers. I came to appreciate how incredibly important these folks were to the enhanced functioning of our operation. We simply couldn’t have reached out to the public as efficiently without their help. Upon retirement, I felt it was time to pay back some of that energy (my initial volunteer gig was at the National Gallery of Art as a docent, leading tours of the collection). As essential as government agencies are to the operation of parks and museums, staff are often limited by budgets and resources. Tapping into the immense pool of retirees and other people with time on their hands is an excellent way to enhance the benefits that these institutions offer. I also feel that it’s beneficial in so many ways when the public takes a proprietary interest in these areas.  

I think recruiting more volunteers (especially young ones) is money well spent. It always makes my day when young people comment on what I’m doing and remark that they have either done that themselves or are now inspired to do so in the future. I can spend every day on the canal, but it takes everybody pitching in to keep it pristine.

It’s difficult to pick a favorite spot in the Park — sorta like choosing your favorite child. Two spots on Billy Goat B come to mind, however. From an artistic point of view, there is a fallen tree about a quarter mile from the West trailhead. I call it the “Ent” (from Lord of the Rings). It’s incredibly expressive, and I always stop to gaze at it. It changes with moisture and is even more dramatic after a rain.

My other favorite area is about a half mile from the West trailhead. I call it “Skink Rock” due the numerous Five-lined Skinks that make this spot their refuge. It’s fun to find the little guys hiding in the crevices in the summer. This area also has a fair population of Pine Swifts as well as Black Racers on the upper portion of the trail.

Canal Story #9: Michael Mitchell

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Michael Mitchell, Former Board Chair of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your history with the C&O Canal?
Mike Mitchell: I first visited the C&O Canal Park in 1975 when I moved to the Washington area for graduate school, running and cycling on the towpath when I had time away from studies.  I visited the Park with greater frequency beginning in 1992 when I became an adult leader in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs in the River Falls neighborhood in Potomac, with dozens of camping, cycling, and hiking events in the Park with the Scouts over the years.  In 1999 I began long distance cycling trips with friends on the towpath, and in the ensuing years have cycled on the towpath from Cumberland to DC five times and from Pittsburgh to DC twice.  In 2012 I was invited to join the Board of the C&O Canal Trust and for several years chaired the Program Committee of the Trust.  From 2014 through 2018 I chaired the Board of Directors of the Trust.  I am an avid photographer and six of my ten exhibits to date have featured images from the Park.  The Park continues to be my “go to” place for time in nature, peace and reflection, and I am in the Park on average three times a week.

C&O Canal Trust: During your time volunteering with the Trust, what is your favorite project you have been a part of?
Mike Mitchell: While it was not a “project” per se, my four years as Board Chairman of the Canal Trust provided me my fondest memories and sense of accomplishment in regard to the Park.  That experience afforded me a great opportunity to spend extensive time in the Park, attain a familiarity with the entire 184.5 miles of the Park, and to have a sense of legacy impact on my community adjacent to the Park as well as the entire span of the Park.  It also gave me the opportunity to develop a range of new friendships with fellow Board members, the incredibly dedicated Canal Trust staff, and the National Park Service leadership and staff of the C&O.  If I were to pick one favorite specific project on which I was a participant it would be the acquisition and installation of the new Marsden Bridge seen in the photography below.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Mike Mitchell: It would be impossible to select a single favorite canal memory.  I have a kaleidoscope of fond memories including cycling the length of the towpath multiple times with the Four Amigo friends from my days in the aerospace industry; hiking the entire length of the Park last September with a neighbor and current Canal Trust Board member in support of the Canal Trust mission; endless hours of photography in the Park in all seasons and all times of day; walks in the Park with fellow Canal Trust Board members; hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing in the Park; staying on overnights in the Canal Quarters lock houses with friends and family; and the sense of mission and achievement in working with the Canal Trust Board and staff, and the National Park Service staff in support of the Park.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Mike Mitchell: My favorite spot on the canal is wherever I happen to be on the canal at that moment.  Then entire 184.5 miles of the Park is a celebration of nature.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Mike Mitchell: I like to tell people that I have three sanctuaries in my life, Bethesda United Methodist Church, Washington Nationals Park, and the C&O Canal National Historical Park.  BUMC services are on YouTube and no fans in Nats Stadium now because of the pandemic, leaving the C&O Canal Park an ever more important place to spend time with friends, enjoy nature, to reflect and to recharge.  The C&O Canal Park is a place for adventure and discovery, but it also is a deeply spiritual place for me.    

Canal Story #8: Kari Cannistraro

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Kari Cannistraro, Avid Canal Bike Rider & Vlogger

C&O Canal Trust: Tell us your canal story!

Kari: During the quarantine, I longed for some release. I craved the freedom to discover something new, explore hidden treasures, connect with nature, and engage in some fun exercise. Bike riding on the C&O Canal Towpath was the answer. I started planning each bike adventure as a tour with points of interest. Each tour would be about 20 miles to complete. As a videographer, I included my GoPro camera on these excursions. Thus began my new adventure creating videos to inspire more people to get out there and ride the C&O Canal Towpath Trail. Over time the bike touring made a profound change in my life.

Knowing that there were once Indians habituating right in this area sharpens my experience. I ride along the Potomac River on one side and the canal on the other side. I envision the mules pulling the boats through along the waterway and stopping at the lock gates to pass through the lock. I yell “Heeeey, Lock!” That is what the canal boater would yell to the lock keeper to open up the gates so as to pass through. As I ride along, I watch the trees sway in the wind with leaves splashing on the trail, feeling a kinship with the tranquil and of the stirring of nature drawing me in. I often pause off the bike trail and listen to the sounds of nature around me. I continue to ride along the Potomac River with the wind blowing through my hair just being in the moment. I let my mind wander and breathe in the pure air. I am in a gothic cathedral of trees. It’s a drug. I pass a historic marker that has a description of a Civil War battle crossing and a desperate escape. It really happened right here! I have to stop and take a closer look. Filming while rolling along and stopping at points of interest has intensified my experiences and my feelings of well-being. There is gold in “them thar hills”…yes…gold mines. I fight the rough hilly terrain feeling the thrill of danger to conquer it. I pass one of the most picturesque railroad depots and then quarry ruins that look like Roman ruins, but this is Maryland. On another trip, I push my bike off the path towards an 18th-century old village. Even though only stonewall ruins remain, it gives me a sense of adventure and travel. I feel as if I am on vacation. I need more! My goal is to continue to film my bike adventures and post them on YouTube and cover all of the 184.5 miles of the C&O Canal Towpath. I am biking the trail in segments and have already posted many videos. Each video has a travel destination to stop, enjoy and learn about the history surrounding the C&O Canal Towpath. There are hidden gems out there that enhance the biking experience. Besides various historic ruins, waterfalls, charming towns, gold mines, horse farms, ghosts, eagles, there is the ever-pervasive nature and wildlife. So many stories of interest are nestled nearby and often hidden along the trail. The C&O Canal Towpath is a wonder waiting to be discovered.

As I say at the end of all my videos…. “Hope to see you riding!”

Below are some of the C&O Towpath videos shot during the bike rides.
1.Lock 18 to Lock 23- Great Falls to Seneca Mill and Quarry Ruins
https://youtu.be/nzri5KVbrcs
2.Cabin John, Maryland to Georgetown, DC Lock 10 to Lock 5
https://youtu.be/x563f3aoG9I
3.Point of Rocks, MD to Harpers Ferry, WVA Lock 29 to Lock 33
https://youtu.be/si8ZClfKcOo
4.Harpers Ferry, WVA to Shepherdstown, WVA Lock 33 to Lock 38
https://youtu.be/q4T2Q5VdLsI

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3og6FPSbicKUUhhnJmgLGw

Canal Story #7: Bruce Rosenblum

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Bruce Rosenblum, Frequent Canal Visitor

C&O  Canal Trust: Tell us your C&O Canal story!
Bruce: During the summer of 2020, I cleared my head and some got exercise by going for a brisk walk along the canal most mornings, as early as possible (usually starting by 6 a.m.) While I have travelled the canal by bike and foot for many years, being there regularly and at a time when there was not too much other “human activity,” I saw many things I had not noticed before–river otters building a den and traversing the space between canal and river; a great blue heron catching a frog for “breakfast”; two owls singing a “duet”. I wrote a song for my grandson (age 5) about the canal, and on a late August trip to visit him (my only sojourn away from the house in the last 10 months) had a chance to sing it with him and add a verse he wrote about his experiences with nature walking on Cape Cod. A version of the song is posted to You Tube, complete with photographic “illustrations” from some of my canal walks and you can view it here.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Bruce: I have visited the canal for many years, either as part of my bike routes or on foot.  Walking, biking and watching the views/wildlife are my favorite things to do there.  

 C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Bruce: I have many fond memories of being on the canal, but it has been extra special during the last 10 months to be able to access this natural beauty so close to home when travel is difficult to impossible.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Bruce: My walks center on the segment between Swains Lock and Seneca Lock (Swains Lock is 4-5 miles from my house), which has beautiful views and a fair amount of wildlife.  I have been on the path from the start in Georgetown to Edwards Ferry, and there are a lot of beautiful and varied spots along that (circa 30 mile?) section–but that also means I haven’t even seen most of the canal yet!

Canal Story #6: Daofeng and Angela He

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Daofeng and Angela He, C&O Canal Trust Donors

Daofeng and Angela He, through their Daofeng and Angela Foundation, have sponsored 40 benches along the C&O Canal National Historical Park’s towpath, providing $185,000 to the C&O Canal Trust for park maintenance and beautification projects.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?

Daofeng & Angela: We live very close to the Park and always use the towpath and trails to walk and ride bikes. We feel we need to feed back into nature and national parks. People take more from nature then we feed back into it. That is the biggest challenge we as humans have to face. 

C&O Canal Trust: Why did you decide to sponsor benches along the C&O Canal towpath?

Angela: For me, nature is very important. People need to take care of nature. At Great Falls, we saw the boat and the people enjoying the Park. Every Friday, I went to the Park to walk along the Billy Goat Trail. I would sit on a rock, and it was very peaceful. People use the Park to leave behind their stressful lives and feel peaceful. In nature, everything is peaceful. For this reason, nature and the environment is very important to everyone. It is the small things that are important. In the community and in our families, we take care of the small things and this helps us to take care of the big things.

Daofeng: Before I retired, I was involved in establishing a nonprofit in China. So I know about the nonprofit industry. Here in the U.S. I wanted to sponsor a local nonprofit that worked at the grassroots level. I wanted to make the funds from my foundation to flow to where it is really needed. A bench is a symbol of how we can reconstruct the relationship between humans and nature. It is important that the benches are made of reconstructed materials. Nothing is destroyed to manufacture them. We think of each bench and its location as a microclimate in the Park.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?

Daofeng & Angela: We enjoy hiking the towpath between Bethesda and Great Falls.

Canal Story #5: John Guttmann

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

John Guttmann, Board Chair of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the canal?
John: I live in the Palisades neighborhood of Washington, DC. Our house overlooks the Canal. It is part of the fabric of life for us. I have also served on the Board of Directors of the C&O Canal Trust since 2015, serving as Development Committee Chair, Vice Chair, and now Chair of the Board of Directors.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite project or accomplishment during your time on the C&O Canal Trust’s Board of Directors?
John: Towpath Forever! Nothing is more basic than the Trust’s efforts supporting the Park’s work to maintain this great American resource for our communities today and tomorrow.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal?
John: Years ago, I biked from Hancock to Georgetown with one of my close friends. It was my first sustained experience on the Canal. That trip opened my eyes to what a remarkable resource the Park is for our entire region and, in fact, for all of America.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
John: Definitely Widewater. Every time I am there, I am newly astonished that such a remarkable place of peace and beauty exists so close to a major city.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
John: The Canal is a constant reminder of the importance of our National Parks. It is part of our history. It is a remarkable piece of the natural world, full of an abundance of wildlife –  a place for contemplation and regeneration. However, like all of our National Parks, it requires support and attention from the public because of shameful resource shortages. That is where the Trust and its supporters come into play.

Canal Story #4: Brody Reppe

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Brody Reppe, Eight-Year-Old Park Volunteer, C&O Canal Trust Fundraiser, & Towpath Bike Rider

 

This past summer, eight-year-old Brody Reppe learned how to ride his bike and spent time riding with his father on the C&O Canal towpath. Upon learning that the C&O Canal Trust raised money to help maintain the towpath’s surface, Brody decided he wanted to help. He signed up for our TowpathGO! fundraiser and raised over $6,500! In January, Brody was awarded WTOP’s Top Kid Award; he donated 25% of his award winnings back to the Trust. To read more about Brody’s extraordinary accomplishment, visit WTOP here.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the canal?
Brody: My dad told me about the canal as a great place to ride our bikes.  I was excited to try it and loved it right away!
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite accomplishment on the canal?
Brody: I rode 50 miles in one day as a fundraiser for the canal.  It was fun and it felt good to help.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal?
Brody: My summer of riding the whole C&O Canal with my dad.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal? Why?
Brody: My favorite spot on the canal is Great Falls.  I think the falls are really pretty.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?
Brody: Riding my bike of course!
C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?
Brody: The canal is special because there is so much history and things to see along the canal.  It’s a lot of fun!

Canal Story #3: Patricia Barber

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Patricia Barber, Retiring Director of Development of the C&O Canal Trust

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the Canal?

Patricia: I was introduced to the C&O Canal in 1979 when I arrived in the DC area from what was then Rhodesia to attend grad school. The civil war in Rhodesia in the 1970s had rendered the countryside unsafe, so I was enchanted that I could explore this national park alone and in safety. Since then, I have been an enthusiastic Park user  – hiking, biking, walking three generations of hounds, paddling on the river, learning the canal’s history, and just loving its natural beauty. My husband and I have also owned two homes within walking distance of the canal and I have been privileged to work for the C&O Canal Trust as its Director of Development for five years.


C&O Canal Trust: Our readers may not know that you are retiring from the C&O Canal Trust at the end of January 2021. What is your favorite project or accomplishment you were a part of during your time with the Trust?

Patricia: Engaging with so many wonderful  Trust supporters whose generosity will leave an enduring legacy for the C&O Canal lovers of the future.


C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite Canal memory?

Patricia: Watching my son (now 30) toddling among the bluebells along the towpath.


C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal and why?

Patricia: An impossible question. Great Falls and the Potomac Gorge for their grandeur. Monocacy Aqueduct for its beauty. Pennyfield for its froggy chorus. Paw Paw Tunnel for its testimony to the hard labor of those who built the canal. Antietam Aqueduct to Taylors Landing because it’s my “home stretch.”


C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Patricia: Peace, beauty, adventure, escape from the rat race.

Canal Story #2: Jon Wolz

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Jon Wolz, former Boy Scout who testified in support of making the C&O Canal a National Park and current volunteer

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal? 

Jon: In 1970, Congressmen Gilbert Gude and J. Glenn Beall of Maryland co-sponsored a bill to make the C&O Canal into a National Historical Park. Congressmen Gude contacted Mr. Charles Stover of Rockville to find a couple of Boy Scouts to testify before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Parks and Recreation of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs on their feelings for making the C&O Canal into a National Historical Park. Mr. Stover had recently helped plan and arrange the Montgomery County District Camp O’Ree at Fort Frederick, Maryland next to the canal in October 1970. At that Camp O’Ree, Congressman Gude spoke to the scouts about the need for making the canal into a National Historical Park. Subsequent to that campout, the House of Representatives passed a bill in support of Congressman Gude’s vision for the canal. Charles Stover contacted Jack Alleman, Scoutmaster of Troop 246 of Silver Spring, Maryland. Mr. Stover had met Mr. Alleman at the Camp O’Ree that was attended by Troop 246 and through conversation, learned that several scouts from the troop had hiked the entire length of the C&O Canal. Mr. Alleman selected me for this honor to speak before the Committee. At the time, I was a fifteen-year-old sophomore at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring and an Eagle Scout. In addition to me speaking, Life Scout Mark Stover from Troop 1072 was chosen to speak. Both of us were asked to speak on the meaning of the C&O Canal and why it should be preserved as a National Historical Park.

On December 15, 1970, I rode with my parents, Charles and Shirley Wolz, to the Capitol where we were met by Congressmen Gude and Beall, who escorted us to the hearing room. Senator Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland was the first to testify, followed by Congressman Gude. After Congressmen Gude spoke, he introduced me and Mark to subcommittee chairman Senator Alan Bible of Nevada and the other subcommittee members. I spoke after Congressmen Gude and then Mark spoke. Cub Scout Charles Stover presented to each of the ten men of the subcommittee the C&O Canal Scout patches and medals awarded Scouts for hiking the Canal.

On December 22, 1970, the bill was passed by the Senate, and it was sent to President Nixon on December 23, 1970 for his signature. On January 8, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Act making the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal a National Historical Park.

After I retired from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in 2014, I became a level walker with the C&O Canal Association (COCA) in 2015. I have two levels that go from White’s Ferry to the Monocacy Aqueduct. Over the last 5 1/2 years, I have been involved with a few C&O Canal Pride Days, painted 36 picnic tables with a friend in 2019, serve on the audit committee for the C&O Canal Association, given talks to the Monocacy Lions Club and the Poolesville Oddfellows about the C&O Canal, led a walk to Latrobe’s Marble Quarry for Poolesville Area Seniors, participated in garlic mustard pulls, helped build three picnic tables for the Park under the guidance of Jim Heins of the COCA, organized and led Potomac River clean-ups at the Monocacy Aqueduct/Lock 27 beginning in 2017, adding the White’s Ferry area in 2019, and recommended a few special projects for the Park to the COCA’s Special Project’s Committee. One project that I am currently involved with is replacing the mule kick boards on the Monocacy Aqueduct that is jointly sponsored by the C&O Canal National Historical Park and the COCA. In 2021, I will be leading walks on behalf of the COCA to Latrobe’s Marble Quarry, White’s Ford Fort, and the Johnson Quarry. Also, in 2021, I hope to lead Potomac River Clean-ups at the Monocacy Aqueduct/Lock 27, Lock 26/Dickerson and White’s Ferry with the support of Boys Scouts from Montgomery County Maryland.

C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite memory of the canal that you can share?

Jon: The many hikes and campouts along the towpath as a Boy Scout. I remember camping at various places from Point of Rocks to Swains Lock. I learned to canoe at Swains Lock and once we canoed from Swains Lock up to Violettes Lock. As a scout, my troop bicycled from Cumberland to Brunswick, a total of 125 miles and camped along the way.

In September 2020, I was invited to walk with an American Legion Post and local Girl Scout troop across White’s Ford and back. We met at Calleva Farm where I spoke of the history of White’s Ford and the immediate area along the canal. We walked down the hillside to the towpath. A few of the girls asked about the “path.” They had never been on the towpath before, so I talked to them about the towpath and the canal.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal? Why?

Jon: I have a few favorite places. From White’s Ferry to the Monocacy Aqueduct, there is a variety of wildlife and birds. I first visited this stretch as a Boy Scout and had many fond memories of this area from my youth. In recent years, I have seen deer, fox, muskrats, a variety of birds, and turtles. I enjoy finding animal tracks along the culvert streams or in the snow.  I have discovered there is a lot of history along this stretch of the canal including Latrobe’s marble quarry, White’s Ford Fort, civil war history, a variety of culverts, two locks, two granary ruins and the Monocacy Aqueduct. In the springtime and into the summer, there are a variety of wildflowers. I enjoy keeping an eye on paw paws as they grow throughout the spring and summer.

C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite thing to do on the canal?

Jon: Walking along the towpath in all four seasons, noticing the changes with the wildlife and to trees/plants. I also look forward to seeing each spring the wildlife, tree leaves, and plants make their reappearance in the park. I enjoy seeing the ice formations flowing down berm side cliffs and the icicles beneath the end arches at the Monocacy Aqueduct. I enjoy finding a quiet place to sit observing my surroundings and listening to the sounds of the park.

C&O Canal Trust: What does the canal mean to you?

Jon: It is always an exciting place for me to walk alone or with friends or family. Each time I visit the canal, I always have a new and unique experience. I greatly appreciate the efforts by the C&O Canal National Historical Park and others to maintain the physical park, tell, and maintain the history of the park. I feel that in my own way I can help maintain the park and tell the history of the park as well so the park will live on for future generations.

Congressmen Gude and Beall, cub scout Mark Stover and boy scout Jon Wolz, December 15, 1970.

A note to Jon Wolz from Gilbert Gude on top of the hearing book from December 15, 1970.

Canal Story #1: Karen Gray

By Canal Story

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the C&O Canal becoming a National Historical Park, we are featuring 50 Canal Stories throughout 2021. Each story will take a look at a person’s relationship with the C&O Canal. Whether an NPS ranger, a volunteer, or a visitor, everyone has a story to tell about the canal! If you want to share your story, submit it to us at the link here, email it to us at info@canaltrust.org or post it on your social media feeds with the hashtag #MyCanalStory.

Tell Us Your Canal Story

Karen Gray, long-time C&O Canal volunteer historian

C&O Canal Trust: What is your relationship with the C&O Canal?
Karen: I have a 3-love relationship with the C&O Canal. (1) I love the park–its natural, historic, and human resources. (2) I love the history and engineering of the canal and especially the historic masonry structures. And (3) I love the people who work in the park and those who love it as I do–in multiple ways.
C&O Canal Trust: Can you share your favorite historical fact or story about the canal?
Karen: I am so fascinated by the times the canal should have died but survived. Much of my study has been driven by the need to explain to myself those survivals and to understand the historic context and the people who played decisive roles in its survival.
C&O Canal Trust: Do you have a favorite canal memory?
Karen: I have competing memories that are on pretty much the same level of joy and satisfaction and they involve restorations or improvements: The dedication of the newly reconstructed Catoctin Aqueduct, the dedication of the Monocacy stabilization, my first visit to the fully restored and rewatered Conococheague Aqueduct (I was traveling at the time of the dedication or I would have been there), and the dedication of the bench at the Monocacy in memory of our incredible National Park Service (NPS) mason, Randy Astarb.
C&O Canal Trust: What is your favorite spot on the canal?
Karen: I especially love Dam 5 and Little Slackwater up to and including Locks 45 and 46. I consider the Dam 5 and Inlet #5 location the most dangerous for the boat people on the canal and the engineering uniquely interesting. But it is also now one of the most dramatic, unique, and beautiful places along the 184.5 miles–to a great extent because of one’s proximity to the beautiful, historic Upper Potomac River.
C&O Canal Trust: What does the C&O Canal mean to you?
Karen: It is very hard for me to put into words what the canal means to me. Trying to do so would require speaking about the connection to past people and events; the many friendships among the people associated with the NPS and the park that have enriched my life; the times that walks on the towpath have intensified my sense of life and the life and land I am a part of; and finally the times that the towpath has been my refuge when troubled or in sorrow and in need of interior healing which it always provided. What does it mean to me more briefly? A home–a place for belonging, unfailing pleasure, and unending personal enrichment.