Thursday, March 9, 2017

Maryland Heights and the C&O Towpath

A friend of ours was in town for a couple of weeks of training, so we had the opportunity to spend a day hiking with him last weekend. The Harpers Ferry area was centrally located and the Maryland Heights hike is such a great introduction to the area. It can be really crowded, but we were hoping that the sudden cold snap would keep a few of the crowds away. One way to beat some of the crowds is to park at the Weverton Cliffs lot, three miles down the C&O towpath from the Maryland Heights trailhead. The walk along the towpath is pleasant and quiet and you don't have to club people for a spot in the tiny Maryland Heights lot.

It was just above 20 degrees when we started, which was a bit of a shock after the 80 degree day we had three days before. This is one of my favorite sections of the towpath to walk. The river is pretty and there are good views of Harpers Ferry and Loudon Heights. We didn't see anyone on the towpath until we were almost to Harpers Ferry. We did see a bald eagle, thanks to the sharp eyes of our friend. The hike up to the overlook at Maryland Heights was just as steep as I remembered. We had a nice clear day with a view of the north end of Massanutten in the distance, 40 miles to the southwest. As we took pictures, more and more people kept arriving at the overlook, so we decided to continue with our hike.

Once back at the trail junction, we took a right and headed up the hill towards the Stone Fort, the ruin of a civil war fort overlooking the valley to the east. We ate lunch in the sun at one of the other civil war structures on the mountain, the Powder Magazine. From the top of the ridge, we were actually able to see Sugarloaf Mountain off in the distance as well as the high-rises of Tysons Corner in Virginia. It was definitely a good air quality day. We had a nice walk back down and we took a break across the bridge in Harpers Ferry on the way back. We had a wonderful hike.

 Harpers Ferry from the C&O Towpath.
 Harpers Ferry from the Maryland Heights Overlook. The Shenandoah River flows into the Potomac on the left side of the photo. If you click to enlarge, you can see the line where the waters of the two rivers are different colors.
 Looking up the Potomac River from Maryland Heights.
 The wall of the Stone Fort.
 Looking east down the Potomac. If you click on the picture, the tall buildings of Tysons Corner are visible in the center of the horizon.
 Rodent teeth marks on a sign at the Stone Fort.
 A Downy Woodpecker along the towpath.
Another view of the Downy Woodpecker.