A couple of weeks ago the Times weekend section had a piece on trails near urban areas. Since we were headed down to Washington, DC for a day trip, we pulled out the information on the Capital Crescent Trail, an 11-mile route from Georgetown to Silver Spring, MD. The trail is one of those rails-to-trails efforts, and is built on the bed of an abandoned B&O Railroad route.
The trailhead is literally two blocks from the busyness of Georgetown’s main drag. We were calling on our Manhattan crowd-navigation skills just to get across the street sometimes during rush hour. But standing here by the water (again, two blocks away) there was just the peace and quiet of the Potomac.
There are actually two paths: there’s the trail, a paved route about 10 feet wide; and up above the old canal towpath. The towpath is much wider and, because it’s not paved, is both easier on the feet and tends to keep the cyclists away. Nothing against cyclists, but it was nice to not have to watch out for them.
Bits and pieces of history are hidden away in the thicket between the trail and the water. Here, what looks to be an old kiln or smelting furnace. No explanation was available that we could find. You really need to click on this image to enlarge it, for it to be legible.
But besides the Dr. Seuss-like quality of this, there are remnants of some large earthworks built by the railroad and, before that, the canal company. We spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how the inclined plan at mile 9.2 — of which all that’s immediately visible is a few boulders and iron bolts — fit into the topography, and whether or not the foundations of some buildings below, and some rail ties near the riverbank, were part of it or some other project.
We only had time — it gets dark early these days — to do about two miles out-and-back. Toward the end we explored some other remnants of transportation past, such as the now-unused canal that went from the Ohio river all the way into downtown DC.
We didn’t get nearly far enough to see any of the locks — that would have been another two miles or so. We’ll be back in the spring or summer, taking advantage of one of the numerous bike-rental places nearby so that we can take in the entire length.
[googleMap name=”Capital Crescent Trail” directions_to=”false”]3530 water st. NW washington, DC[/googleMap]