Time for Trails

The Washington Post ran a story this weekend from a couple who decided to bike the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.  It’s the D.C. end that interests me, and it’s one of our favorite places for long weekend runs, even on the shortest day of the year.  With additional afternoon sunlight and spring arriving a little more each day, it’s the perfect time to explore the running routes in D.C.

In the fall, the tow path and canal are almost empty.

Starting at Georgetown, the dirt tow path runs parallel to the paved Capital Crescent Trail.  On weekdays, the CCT bicycle traffic picks up with commuters, so it can be difficult to run with the dog.  The first time we ventured out on this trail, I even questioned whether or not dogs were allowed.  They are, as long as they are kept on a short leash.  On the weekends, you’ll see plenty of them trotting along the more natural tow path, leashed to walkers, runners, and the occasional bicyclist. This path also attracts fishermen and families who congregate along the banks when the canal is full.

The route we choose depends on the surface and scenery that we want.  The tow path, for all its small stones and pebbles, offers a relatively level surface and hugs the Potomac River into Maryland.  From the Key Bridge, it flows west past a rental boat house to reveal a kayak course that has been the subject of a CBS Sunday Morning segment.  After the dam, the views expand, so it’s worth parking at one of the many locks along the route and starting your journey from there.

The Capital Crescent Trail has a steep incline to begin, crossing over the canal and arching further inland through Maryland.  Though on the reverse route to Georgetown, the running is mostly downhill.  Plenty of side paths lead into the suburbs of Maryland and a McDonold’s emerges approximately four miles in, as a scented, primary-colored reminder of civilization that could almost be forgotten.  The trail skirts the outside of the city, as quick get away from hustle and bustle that more characteristic define the district. Perhaps that’s why Nancy Szokan found it so meditative during her biking trip.

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