Continuing with her Potomac Heritage Trail Project, Mary Ewell invites me to join her for Part Three: Algonkian Park to Difficult Run, via Riverbend Park and Great Falls National Park. We leave the MINI Cooper in the parking lot just off Georgetown Pike (VA-193) and ride together in Mary's Prius to where we finished our prior PHT trek on the 4th of July. Mary is coming back from multiple illnesses but as usual is cheery and great fun to run with.
A svelte young lady zips by us after we've done a third of our journey and advises us on which paths to take ("Follow the River!"). Mary and Caren Jew independently tease me afterwards for remembering the color of her jog-bra top (Sky blue!). A group of dog-walkers tells us we've got some rough terrain ahead ("Barbed wire fences!"). A couple with a dog say that civilization is far far away ("We've been hiking for two and a half hours already!"). But they're all wrong in various ways. Even after taking a couple of inadvertent detours and adding half a mile to the journey, soon we familiar terrain and emerge from the woods at Riverbend Park. We're both dehydrated but Mary has cash and kindly buys me a soda and candy bar.
A few miles later after taking the blue-blazed PHT past flocks of tourists we follow the Carriage Road from the Great Falls National Park headquarters back to Georgetown Pike and my car. Mary directs me along the road to Algonkian (the Potomac Lakes SportsPlex) and then leads me in her car until I am on the right road to Carolina Brothers BBQ in old Ashburn.
Postscript: a day later both Mary and I develop poison ivy rashes and blisters on our left arms and legs. Apparently we brushed against something on that side of the trail and didn't wash the oils off in time. Fortunately the reaction isn't as bad as it sometimes is, and we're both mostly recovered within a fortnight.