A New Beginning

Second Verse?  Same as the First!

Wanting to recover from Monday’s numerous fiascos, I returned to Thompson’s Boat House, near the Canal’s origin, mile marker (MM) 0, hellbent on starting a successful thru-hike from Georgetown to Cumberland by Thanksgiving.  Um, well.  Maybe Pittsburg, too — if my wife lets me.

Some wag with a grease pencil updated the miniature marble obelisk with the compass’ ordinal headings.  Luckily, the marker was initially placed with one corner pointing to North, so the graffiti actually contributes a wee bit of context to the obelisk’s somewhat cockeyed orientation relative to nearby landmarks.

The remnants of a lock are collocated with the MM, but it wasn’t labeled as Lock 1 — that’s several blocks upstream.  Is this Lock 0?

Conflicting map directions resulted in a few more mis-starts.  Google Maps and perhaps even FarOut recommended following Georgetown’s modern-day road network.  Eventually, I successfully left the Canal’s MM 0 by following the NPS’s C&O Canal Trail map to Lock 1.  From that point, it was easy peasy.  Just don’t trip and fall in the water.

As I transitioned from Lock 1 to Lock 2 and soon thereafter Lock 3, etc., I tried to imagine the now-tony businesses and even canal frontage homes as they might have been 100 or even 200 years ago, all the businesses that have come and gone, even the families who lived and perhaps toiled on this once-dominant thoroughfare.  Actually, the setting is idyllic. If I ever drop a couple million dollars on a 200-year old, red brick home, this is where I will do it.  Now, as to where I’d get a couple million dollars … that’s another matter.

As canal barges proceeded from Cumberland towards Georgetown, each lock lowers the barge perhaps 15-20 vertical feet.  In the developed Georgetown area, the locks are spaced every few city blocks.  Although carrying an overloaded backpack, I’m relieved to say I didn’t feel the slight elevation changes as I climbed from Lock 1 to Lock 2, etc.

Why the C&O Canal Trail?  Why Now?

Like most of us, I suppose, I lead a different life now than in the pre-COVID days, which I call “the before times“.  Deciding to walk the C&O Canal Trail occurred in stages.  Confined to my home for 3 months, as I walked the dogs on their routine course, I began to hate walking.  Why bother?  In my small village there was nothing I wanted to venture off to see, and even less to do.

One fateful day, I noticed a new sign on the B&O trail the dogs and I frequented.  It announced the trail, the very trail running behind my suburban home, had been added to the East Coast Greenway (ECG).  The ECG runs from Key West, FL, to … someplace much colder, on the Maine-Canadian border.  When I informed my wife I wanted to walk the ECG — either to Canada or Key West, she was certain I’d get myself killed cowboy camping in some remote village, burg, or hamlet.  It was out of the question.  Who does such a thing?

Apparently, not men with wives — or, in my case, my wife.

At some point I discovered Homemade Wanderlust’s Dixie on the YT.  I figured, “Hell, if this young woman can walk the AT — I Can Too!”.  It turns out, the AT was merely the first of her adventures.  She’s a Triple Crown holder (AT, PCT, CDT).  Walked a portion of Europe’s El Camino.  Summited Kilimanjaro … among other feats.  My logic was unassailable.  My wife relented.

While I was at it, I figured, “I might as well walk the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT), too.”.    The ECT starts, ironically, in Key West, FL, proceeds through 1,000 miles of Floridian countryside to Alabama, and finally joins the AT and proceeds merrily through to Maine’s Mt. Katadyn.  Just north of Mt. Katadyn, the Canadians wanted a cut of all these hiker bucks and “extended” the AT, ie, the International Appalachian Trail.   The IAT meanders along the Canadian coastline to Newfoundland.

Luckily for my wife, the polar caps are melting, preventing me from continuing further northward … in search of cuddly baby seals.

There you have it, the What — purposeful walking, the Why — life was bypassing me, so I stepped off the carousel, and the When — I begin the ECT on January 1st, 2024.

In summary, the C&O Canal Trail is my shakedown for the ECT.

Making it from Georgetown to the first available campsite, Marsden Tract, at MM 11 was more than I could accomplish on my first day.  Eventually, I chose to cowboy camp at a quiet location beneath the Sycamore Island Bridge, approximately MM 6.2.

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