I am always surprised when talking to lifelong Washington County residents, especially those who love the outdoors, when they tell me they've never set foot on the C&O Canal towpath.
Over the years, I've worn out a lot of running shoes on the towpath. By my estimates, I've run, biked or walked more than 10,000 miles on its gravelly surface, using it at first as my personal gym. But it's so much more than that.
Within a mile or so of every public parking lot along the 184-mile towpath, you can quickly feel at one with nature. I'm more jock than naturalist, but the sheer force of the towpath's beauty, its sounds and its wildlife, particularly the stretch in Washington County, has made me stop and appreciate all it has to offer.
And it's right here in our backyard.
About 10 years ago, while recuperating from surgery, I would go to the canal daily to walk. Late each afternoon, I met up with a rather large owl (a great horned owl, perhaps) perched in the same tree, acting as if it were the unofficial guardian of that portion of the towpath.