K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
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C&O Canal-- 8 miles
Okay, so the weather was overcast and chilly. Not a problem for the 12 hardy hikers, and 6 leashed dogs, who gathered at Pennyfield Lock to greet old friends and meet six new folks hiking with us for the first time. Alice, co-leading again with Diva, brought two kinds of chocolate candy bars to share at the trailhead and throughout the hike. Pat brought Blue Dog biscuits, first introduced at the Christmas party by Jester, now Mickey’s favorites, too.
We set out in high spirits along the canal, crossed over a small bridge and headed into the woods along Muddy Branch looking for wildlife and early spring wildflowers. We missed Cindy, our club naturalist, but members of the group pooled their knowledge and their best-guesses to try to identify what we saw. Everyone agreed that there were "little white flowers!" And that big black bird circling us at lunch was a turkey vulture for sure.
The trail wound through mixed evergreen and deciduous forest, over rolling hills, past horse farms and cultural artifacts as we worked our way over to the tow path. Especially interesting was an old sign attached to a tree that had grown around it. Several hikers knew the age and model names of a fantastic variety of rusted out old cars in the woods and, later, at a house with a yard full of similar cars. We stopped for lunch at Blockhouse Point overlook and spent considerable time discussing the fine points of hiking with dogs. An unpleasant encounter with an off-leash dog earlier in the hike brought home the importance of using leashes at all times, even when there is nobody else in sight.
As we turned off the forest trails onto the tow path, we saw quite a few bicyclists and joggers, some of whom stopped to chat and pet our dogs. We also began to feel rain drops. Or, as Bruce tried to convince us, just mist from the Potomac River tumbling against the rocks. By the time we reached the parking area about 2 PM, it was definitely "rain" but by then nobody cared.