K9 Trailblazers Dog Hiking Club
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5 or 10 miles
Call it a loopy hike! We tried to accommodate the easy hikers who wanted to do one loop, and the hardy hikers who wanted to go 10 miles, so we ended up lopsided but a good time was had by all. Jennifer and Angel, co-leading their first K9Trailblazers hike, led 15 hikers and 12 dogs on the first loop north along the Potomac from Great Falls to Riverbend Park at an Olympic sprint pace. We passed the dam, which routes 200 million gallons of water a day to supply Maryland’s homes and businesses. We stopped at the Riverbend Visitor Center for rest and restrooms before winding our way through the park on well-maintained trails. We especially enjoyed the Paw Paw Passage Trail which passes giant old oak, beech and hickory trees in the upland forest and links to the Potomac Heritage Trail returning to the sycamore, maple and walnut trees in the floodplain forest along the Potomac. We saw numerous waterfowl, and some squirrels and deer but very few other people. As we headed back to Great Falls, we saw a group of about eight horseback riders and stepped aside to allow them to ascend the steep Upland Trail ahead of us. As they galloped uphill, all 15 hikers and all 12 dogs remained silent and motionless--It was the best advertisement for allowing leashed dogs in parks that I ever saw!
We arrived back at Great Falls a full 45 min. earlier than expected! So we gathered at picnic tables for a relaxed lunch while waiting for the rest of the group to arrive. We began the second loop at a moderate pace with 9 people and 8 dogs who hiked along the cliff above Mather Gorge to Cow Hoof Rock, where we watched kayakers on the Potomac as we took a water break. We met more people and dogs and horses and bicycles on this loop, but all were courteous and our group enjoyed having them greet and pet our dogs. We visited Lock #1 of the C&O Canal, America’s first canal, which was built by the Potowmak Company. George Washington, who surveyed the river and its tributaries, formed the company to realize his long-held dream of binding the young country together with trade and travel. The 190 mile canal opened in 1801 but operated for only 26 years until the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad proved to be a faster way to move goods further and cheaper. We also visited the sites of the old quarry and the town of Matildaville, built in 1790 under the guidance of Washington’s friend "Lighthorse Harry" Lee, also a hero of the Revolutionary War. The town’s fortunes depended on the canal, so it too was in decline by the 1820’s, and today only a few ruins remain.