This was a huge goal for me. I was unable to accomplish this goal last month because of a certain burn on a certain leg that left a certain someone incapacitated. I wasn't able to spend time grocery shopping let alone spend a day in nature. But not to worry, I made up for it with this months trip to....... Great Falls, Virginia!
Great Falls is located along the Potomac river that divides the states of Virginia and Maryland. It also happens to be where my parents got engaged. My Dad climbed up some of the cliffs and carved their initials into the rocks before he got down on one knee. Paul was a pretty romantic guy huh? Before going on our actual hike (we will get to that in a second), we headed to the over look to take a peak at the real reason we came. The falls. Jake and I "debated" its origins for a while. Went something like..."I think its from the Ice Age" "No it isn't there were no glaciers here" "I didn't say glaciers I said Ice Age." And then we stumbled across this:
Note the Ice Age mention above. :o) Great Falls is also famous for one of George Washington's biggest failures. I don't think the man had many, seeing how he is the father of my beautiful country, but you never know. Washington was convinced that the Potomac River could be used as a "water highway" from Georgetown in DC all the way up the Ohio River to Cincinnati. However, the Great Falls threw a wrench into these plans. Thus the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal was born. This man-made canal winds along the Potomac and consists of a series of dams and locks that were used to move the boats along the river. The canal operated from 1831-1924 when it was closed due to lack of use, frequent flooding, high costs and the influence of the railroad. The locks still stand along the Potomac today.
There are trails on both the Virginia and Maryland side, but we hiked the famous "Billy Goat Trail" on the Maryland side. This trail lies between the canal and the Potomac river giving you breathtaking views of the river from over 100 foot cliffs. Why is it called the "Billy Goat Trail" you ask? Well because you basically need to be a billy goat to traverse it! Its a 2 mile long trail over rocks, boulders and cliffs. And it is all worth it!
We experienced some amazing views on our hike, but also some amazing wildlife! I finally got my first picture of a blue heron! If you don't know, blue heron are basically the mascot of the Chesapeake Bay. They are such beautiful birds with long stilt legs, and usually spook pretty easily which makes it hard to snap a photo of one. However, there was one hanging out in one of the abandoned canals fishing yesterday, and he didn't seem to mind posing for me! So I apologize for the large slideshow of the same bird... but I was really excited!!!
As we were walking towards the Billy Goat Trail, we (Ok, Jake) heard a * tap, tap, tap*. We stopped in our tracks. Looked up, and there was the biggest woodpecker I have ever seen! Huge!!! I thought they were small birds! Well, of course we (Ok, I) had to stop and snap some pictures!
Great Falls was a great way to make up two months worth of nature time. There was so much to see and do, and after you jump across crevasses, climb jagged rocks and boulders on the Billy Goat Trail, you feel like you could do anything. The weather was perfect also. Cloudy with a high of 55. You will work up a sweat doing this so I would recommend going during the early spring. We also didn't have to worry about ticks and snakes either. It would probably be beautiful to hike in the fall though with the leaves changing! This is definitely something you must do if you are in the MD or VA area, and a great thing to do with some adventurous friends who are visiting! Then you have to go to DC and have this from Surfside in Northwest: