2005-01-20 - Towpath Trot Two

12+ miles @ ~11.5 min/mi

Yesterday's inch of snow is the perfect amount to "cool a hobbit's toes" and to display footprints that guide me during today's jog. I drop Paulette & Gray off at an anti-inaugural concert in DC, drive somewhat aimlessly toward Rock Creek, and find a nice parking space in front of a Mini Cooper near the eastern side of the Calvert Street bridge.

Local snowball-hurlers direct me to the Connecticut Avenue ramp down to the park, and I proceed southward, branching immediately onto a natural-surface trail that trends along the western side of the stream. I realize that I've forgotten to bring hat and gloves, and I note that nobody else seems to be bare-legged ... but with the sun shining and temperatures in the mid-30's I feel comfortable enough as long as I keep moving.

I pass by the NormanstoneTrail entrance and continue along the well-beaten path uphill and through a playground into the streets of Georgetown (near 30th and R). High fences around the Oak Hill Cemetery are either designed to keep the living out, or the dead in --- but either way create an impassible barrier. I jog past Dumbarton House and a kind cyclist points me down the steep hillside back into Rock Creek Park, on the other side of the Mount Zion Cemetery.

From there it's the usual paved route south to Thompson's Boat Center, where I hope to buy a candy bar. Alas, the building is closed for the winter. So I reverse course and soon spy the entrance to the C&O Canal National Park, 40 minutes into today's jog.

This end of the canal is new to me, so I turn west and follow the towpath, detouring at intervals where construction blocks the way. Melting snow makes some cobblestone slopes slippery, but less hazardous than the traffic at many of the road crossings. Under one bridge there's a bundle of blankets where a homeless person is camping out. The water in the canal is mostly frozen over. A couple of fast runners pass me as I plod upstream, pausing occasionally to walk and sip my red Gatorade.

At about the 1 hour mark I spot the mile #10 post on the Capital Crescent Trail (which here runs parallel to the C&O Canal, on the Potomac River side ~20 feet below me). I click my watch and continue past Fletcher's Boat House to CCT mile marker #8, where I turn back. I'm astounded to find my average pace for these four miles is 10:20, far faster than I can usually manage. But the towpath is nearly flat and cool conditions seem to be optimal for me to have a happy ramble.

Back at Lock 1 of the C&O Canal I turn northwards along Rock Creek and proceed briskly (since the winds have picked up and I'm starting to get a bit chilled again!). Just before the National Zoo tunnel I cross the parkway and clamber upslope until I reach the steps leading to Calvert Street, and thus return to my car. My left calf muscle (or achilles tendon?) feels a bit tight, but overall all systems seem ok.