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Topic: Billy Goat Trail - A TR< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 10:29 am  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So I’m nearing completion of my second book: “The Mid-Atlantic Hiker’s Guide: Central Maryland”. Most of the hikes in it I have completed multiple times and the details are still pretty fresh in my mind. There are a handful, however, the memory of which seem to be somewhat blurred. I set these aside so that I could re-hike them and refresh my memory. The Billy Goat – A Trail was one of them. Besides, I had no GPS data to make an accurate map. Thinking back, the last time I did this hike was in the previous century. I was having a rough day working on the book and after I performed a suggested Windows Update lost internet accessibility. That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back … a statement that I was surely not where I was supposed to be. I didn’t even change into my hiking clothes. I just grabbed my pack, GPS and a trail snack and headed out. Thankfully the D.C. Beltway traffic had calmed down by the time I hit it so I made good time. I was walking down the towpath by 10:15. It was the middle of the week in December so I was figuring I would have the park mostly to myself. Much to my chagrin there was a heard of fifty high school students and teachers outside of the visitor center. I quickened my pace, hoping to stay in front of them for as long as possible. First I made the obligatory trek out to the main Great Falls Overlook on Olmsted Island – a winding stretch of boardwalks and bridges. The Potomac squeezes its way through cracks in the island with a force greater than anything I have experienced. Back in the day I can remember the American Olympic Kayaking team running this gauntlet. The main falls was as I remembered it - impressive.









I quickly backtracked and continued south on the towpath thinking I was still in front of the kids. I turned right onto the Billy Goat – A Trail. I was alone with the exception of a small family unit. We played leap frog until I decided to take an intentionally long photo op along Mather’s Gorge, letting them get well ahead of me before I continued. About 0.5 miles into the trail there is a sign warning of extremely difficult terrain ahead. I continue on and soon find myself leaping from one boulder to another. Needless to say I was a bit more cautious than I was fifteen years ago. I’m just not that nimble anymore. No sooner had I started the moderately difficult bouldering then I heard voices coming toward me. It was the Mountain Club of Maryland Club that goes hiking every Wednesday and they were led by a good friend of mine – Bubbles (He’s a scuba diver!). We chatted for a while and then went on our separate ways. I gave them a few minutes and then turned and took a photo of the rock hop called a trail. Just as I reached the end of this first bit of bouldering the first wave of kids hit me – about twelve young and svelte men, one with his arm in a sling. Their teachers had decided to attack the trail from the north! I stepped aside and let them pass. Shortly after the main horde came through, some laughing and carrying on, but many not quite so happy. I continued on only after I was assured by the “sweep teacher” that the last kid had passed me. From here to the towpath I think I encountered 3 hikers and 2 runners. (I really can’t believe people run this course. One misstep and it would be all over!) The one part of this hike that was still fresh in my mind is a fifty foot traverse of a rock ledge and there it was before me. To many who have come here this had become a defining moment in their life. In reality the climb is not as bad as it looks as you simply walk up a crack in the face of the cliff. You can see it in the photo. Only near the top did I have to use my arms to pull myself up.









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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 10:33 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Nice area.

Just curious--what's a towpath?
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 10:35 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE







Shortly after the traverse I arrived at the emergency cut-off trail. I took a break here and seriously thought about truncating the hike but If I ended it here I would have an incomplete story to tell so I continued on. In total there is only about 100 feet of elevation gain in the entire hike but it seems like the trail stewards went out of their way to make sure that the trail went over nearly every rock outcrop along the rim of Bear Island. Many of the boulders had been polished over time as a result of the weather and frequent use, creating a slippery surface in places. At times it seemed like going down was more tedious then climbing up. At this point, especially being alone, I was not too proud to use my posterior parts in these situations. I passed a couple of vernal ponds (There was a real trail around them!) and crossed a small stream before turning away from the river. The trail was easy for a bit as it seemed to follow a mini-gorge created by the closeness of Sherwin Island. From here I could smell the towpath but there was still two rock scrambles to negotiate before it came into view. There was a fallen tree across the path a mere 30 yards from the towpath. The only one I’d seen all day. “It must be for me!” I said to myself and proceeded to take a brief break and give myself a pat on the back for completing this rugged little trail. The walk back to the car was more of a saunter than a hike, maybe even just a stroll, as I took in the beauty of Wide Water and the historically significant Locks and a lock house. (Lockmasters lived in them when the canal was a functional means of navigation up and down the Potomac. They would collect tolls from the barges.) To top off my trek I startled a hawk that was having lunch along the banks of one of the near empty locks. He begrudgingly left, flying to a nearby tree with his leftovers in his talons.









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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 10:46 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The wide gravel trail is the towpath. Beasts of burden would pull the barges up and down the canal on it.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 11:30 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This is in Maryland?  Wow.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 12:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Maryland has lots of little gems like the Billy Goat.

MRH, will your book include the Seneca Greenway Trail?


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 12:30 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Makes my ankles hurt just looking at those rocks.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 2:44 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(hikingFF77 @ Dec. 05 2013, 11:30 am)
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This is in Maryland?  Wow.

Ten minutes outside the D.C. Beltway.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 2:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(tomas @ Dec. 05 2013, 12:02 pm)
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Maryland has lots of little gems like the Billy Goat.

MRH, will your book include the Seneca Greenway Trail?

Just down to Clopper Lake.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 2:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

FYI, this is the hike I did. Add 0.7 miles for the trip to the overlook.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 2:49 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(MRHyker @ Dec. 05 2013, 2:45 pm)
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(tomas @ Dec. 05 2013, 12:02 pm)
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Maryland has lots of little gems like the Billy Goat.

MRH, will your book include the Seneca Greenway Trail?

Just down to Clopper Lake.

Will your trail description start at Riley's Lock or north of Clopper Lake?

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 2:51 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The park headquarters to the north - the same hike that is on my website.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 05 2013, 3:45 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Ah, now I see what you are talking about.

Have you tried this trail yet? http://www.senecatrail.info/

It's a little known trail that goes from Riley's Lock up past Rt 355. Wonderful trail that gets little traffic and provides lots of opportunities to fish in Seneca Creek as it ambles alongside for a good amount.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 08 2013, 9:48 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

This is a great little trail. I spent a lot of time on it years ago, even more time on roped climbs on the Va side of Mather George, honing my climbing skills.
So close to DC, but once near the river, you can feel like you're a hundred miles away.
The tow path is part of the Chesapeake & Ohio canal,  built to transport coal around the various falls and rapids on the Patomac that barges could not navigate. Operated from 1831 to about 1924. Mules were used to pull the barges from Georgetown upstream.
It is now a park paralleling the river for nearly 185 miles. A nice bike ride by the way, with overnight stops along the way.
The park service used to have a mule pulled barge that would haul passengers up and down the canal just outside of Georgetown in DC.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 08 2013, 11:25 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(3pinner @ Dec. 08 2013, 9:48 pm)
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The park service used to have a mule pulled barge that would haul passengers up and down the canal just outside of Georgetown in DC.

The boat rides now leave from right where MrHyker would have parked. I took my daughter on the boat last summer.

Billy Goat A is a gem. I took some great folks from work that don't hike much and everyone loved it. Billy goat B and C are almost flat woods walks.

As for the tow path, I took a day this past August and did a 20 mile dayhike on it, 10 miles out and back. Man that was dull...  I have a goal to walk from the Georgetown end of the path to Harper's Ferry. It will take a few days but it sshould be a fairly easy walk.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 9:59 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

The average elevation gain for the entire thing is around 3 feet per mile.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 1:06 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(MRHyker @ Dec. 09 2013, 9:59 am)
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The average elevation gain for the entire thing is around 3 feet per mile.

Presumably concentrated at the locks.
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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 1:14 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

MR, yet again you've given me ideas! Every Christmas we head to New Jersey to see some family. In the past I've visited Great Falls from the Virginia side, but never went to the Maryland side. This Christmas looks like a nice time to visit! :)

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 1:18 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Your boys will probably like it.

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 2:02 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Gali,

A lot of the rapids pictures are actually on the side trip out to Olmstead Island.  That branch can't be but about 5 minutes from the parking lot and is always a fantastic spot for pictures.


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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 09 2013, 6:09 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

That's exactly what I'm looking for - less hiking, more photography!

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PostIcon Posted on: Dec. 10 2013, 8:38 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

I know you like to explore so I should point out that on Olmsted Island you are confined to the boardwalks and bridges.

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21 replies since Dec. 05 2013, 10:29 am < Next Oldest | Next Newest >

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