Posted by: fateaglescout | October 12, 2009

Great Falls

Great Falls

Great Falls

293 pounds. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get out to West Virginia to help on the apple orchard.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to help some in the future.  So, my back-up plan went into effect and Sara and I had a wonderful time at Great Falls.

We left the apartment around 10 and took the  GW Parkway first to Gravelly Park, located just north of Reagan National.  Sara tried to go once with her friend, Mylynh, but it was closed.  We walked around for awhile and tried to get some pictures of the airplanes as they took off over our heads.   Getting those pictures was harder than I expected.  The sun was right over the airport so it was hard to track the planes as they flew overhead and banked left to avoid flying over the city.  The park was wide open and would be a great place to go kick around a ball.

Airplane flying over Gravelly  Point Park

Airplane flying over Gravelly Point Park

From Gravelly Point, we took the parkway up to Great Falls Park.  Despite living most of my life in the DC area I’d never been to Great Falls.  Apparently that’s where they keep all the mansions.  The number of ostentatious houses between the parkway and the park is ridiculous.

After parking, we walked down the old canal tow path to the three prepared viewing sites.  They were full of our fellow park goers, each clamoring for a better view.  Everyone was respectful and we never had to fight for a good view.  I have to admit, the overlooks were situated at the most exciting part of the falls.  However, the crowd of people was exhausting after awhile and I looked forward to finding some more secluded spots.

After looking at the river and taking some pictures, Sara and I decided to break for lunch.  My parents gave us a picnic backpack for our wedding two years ago and we still hadn’t gotten around to using it.  The backpack is really great for short jaunts where water and weight aren’t a huge concern.  It has a compartment with plates, utensils, and cups; two big insulated compartments for food; and an insulated sleeve for a bottle of wine.  We packed a couple sandwiches, Lebanon baloney, American cheese, and mayo on kaiser roll for Sara and corned beef, muenster cheese, and mustard on a pretzel roll for me.  We had a little potato salad from Wegmans on the side and a bottle of French limonade, since you can’t take alcohol in the park.  It was a great lunch.  We also brought apples and a couple cookies, but we saved those for a snack during our hike.

Our lunch on the picnic kit my parents got us.

Our lunch with the picnic kit my parents got us.

After lunch, we cleaned up and walked over to the visitor center.  As my parents, and now wife, can attest,  I love visitor centers.  I will drag anyone with me to even the most modest visitors center.  Time was, I would spend time getting every single bit of information in the place, but I have learned that not everyone is as interested as I am.  Also, I was anxious to get on the trail, so I wasn’t as inclined to spend a lot of time there this time.  I expect we’ll go back though.  We did take time to watch a brief film about the park and pick up a postcard for my folks.  The Park Ranger at the center also gave us a more detailed trail map, which was very helpful on the hike.

We decided to walk south along the River Trail and then back north along the Matildaville Trail.  According to the more detailed map, that was about a 5 mile hike.  The River Trail was wonderful.  It validated my belief that the best views are earned through hiking.  The trail ran right along side a gorge with the Potomac River running along the bottom.  It was still fairly busy, but nowhere near as busy as the prepared overlooks closer to the visitor center.  It wasn’t a terribly challenging hike in terms of incline, but the going was rocky and had some tricky footing.  Along the way we passed a number of rock climbers with their ropes anchored to the trees along the trail.

View along the trail

View along the trail

We passed a number of wonderful spots for future lunches on future trips.  It was an excellent walk; the two and a half miles just flew by.

The Matildaville Trail back up was a little less satisfying in terms of view.  However, there were a couple slight inclines that got my out of shape body working and I appreciated that.  The trail runs past the ruins of Matildaville, which was why we chose it in the first place.  The ruins were neat to explore and a little sad.  It was a company town built next to the canal and when the canal failed in the 1830’s, the town failed too.  It was weird to think that whole families lived and worked in a place now set aside for nature.

A Matildaville ruin

A Matildaville ruin

After another 45 minutes or so of hiking, we were back at the car and ready to head home.  Sara and I agreed that it was a great day and only whetted my appetite for more.  I can’t wait to hike up Maryland Heights in a month or so now.  The hike did show me two things.  First, I need to get another pair of wool socks, but my boots held up pretty well and were plenty comfortable.  I may be able to get away with not buying a new pair for a while.  Second,  I need to get a daypack.  We brought Sara’s old backpack to carry some water and it worked, but I worry that it would not work so well if we had to carry a full day hike’s load.  I’ll definitely be looking more into a new one.

For more pictures go to:

Two happy hikers

Two happy hikers


  1. I dunno how many day hikes you did in your lower-tech Eagle Scout days… but in the last two years, for my day hikes, I never had problems with water. I would usually carry 4 bottles, three of which would be frozen when we set out. Then trail mix, first aid kit, and that was really it. If you really need more water than that, I think I saw on Instructables an easy way to use like hairbands or something and a prussic knot to make a water bottle carrier.

    • We did a fair bit of dayhiking, but always erred on the side of caution. In addition to the trail mix, water, and first aid kit we would always bring a heavier shirt or jacket just in case and some sort of emergency blanket. I guess the idea of that weight on a hip belt rather than my shoulders appeals to me.

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