A Hike at Point of Rocks
Point of Rocks Travel Blog› entry 9 of 20 › view all entries
Another beautful late summer Sunday called for an afternoon of picture taking. I decided I would go to Point of Rocks, Maryland. The most picturesque railway station I can think of anywhere stands here. I have film photos of it from earlier years, but I decided I would get digital photos of it today. Plus, there would be opportunity for an afternoon hike along the C&O Canal. So, I headed off along the Fairfax County Parkway from Springfield north to Reston. From there I picked up the Dulles Toll Road and then the Dulles Greenway to Leesburg in Loudon County. US Highway 15 runs from this point through northern Loudon to the Potomac River and the Maryland state line.
Point of Rocks is named for the rock cliff formation jutting above the Potomac River at this point.
An eight span highway bridge carries US 15 across the Potomac from Virginia into Maryland. At the foot of the bridge is the community of Point of Rocks. A right turn brought me into the parking lot of the Point of Rocks railway station. The striking station, completed in 1875 and designed by archtiect E. Francis Baldwin, can't be missed. The Gothic style of the building, with a high steeple, looks something like a church. It's set in the middle of the junction of two railway lines, one leading to Baltimore and the other to Washington, DC.
Another goal of my afternoon visit to Point of Rocks was to hike for a ways along the C&O Canal towpath. The C&O Canal was constructed in the early 19th century as a means to link Washington with the Cumberland Gap and the route to the Ohio River. The canal remained in commercial operation until the 1920s and is preseved today as the C&O Canal National Historical Park. It is possible to hike or bike the entire length of the former canal beginning in Georgetown in Washington, DC.
I drove over the tracks and parked at the parking lot for the trail. Then, I set out along the towpath. The towpath was originally used by mules to pull the canal boats. It's well maintained by the Park Service and is easy hike upon. Little evidence of the canal itself remains. Trees have grown up in the canal bed and only a few sections have water. What has been preserved are the locks and lockhouses (houses where the lock keepers and their families lived).
Many people were out this afternoon--hiking, biking, jogging, and bird-watching. One group of scouts passed me, returning from a bike trip from Brunswick, Maryland, down to the Monocacy Aqueduct and back--about a 20 mile (32 km) round trip. The Catoctin Ridge rocks escapments from which Point of Rocks takes its name are visible from the towpath.
Eventually, I reached Lock 29 at Lander. The lock and lockhouse here are larger than at Lock 28 and historical markers tell its story. I had hoped to travel as far as Catoctin Aqueduct this afternoon, about 0.7 miles further along the trail. But, time was pressing and I turned back at Lander. Returning to Point of Rocks, I had traveled about 5.2 miles (8.5 km). It was a very pleasant afternoon spent along the forested trail with historical reminders popping up at frequent intervals. At some point, I want to revisit and see both the Catoctin and Monocacy stone aqueducts.