It was love of a man that brought me to Potomac many years ago to live overlooking the Watts Branch stream in a log cabin moved in the 1940s from behind Great Falls Tavern. My husband George grew up here in the ‘50s and ‘60s in a childhood many of us only dream about with open space to explore and a small village where he had his first job in the pharmacy as a teenager. Potomac has grown of course. It is no longer a place for adventurous pioneers like his parents who wanted a rural country life to raise their kids. A lack of amenities like paved roads and electricity were acceptable inconveniences. Glen Road was a one lane stretch of concrete. If you met a car coming the other way, both had to drop right or left wheels off a steep edge onto washed out gravel. South Glen was still a dirt road. The Potomac Hunt met in our front pasture.
Settling here, I came to love the surrounding forests, the winding rustic roads and of course, the C&O Canal National Historic Park (NHP) where our home once lived. As years have gone by, I'm constantly discovering new natural areas to explore. The federally owned C&O Canal stretches 184 miles and you could walk to Cumberland or Georgetown on the edge of a mighty river. I consider this the ultimate luxury of living in Potomac, even if I never do it. But Montgomery County itself has a wealth of parks and some of the largest are in Potomac. Blockhouse Point Conservation Park is likely the best of preserved natural areas, running along River Road from the Muddy Branch stream all the way to Calathea Farm. It adjoins the NHP with over 600 acres of mature forest and trails that lead to an overlook of breathtaking proportions. Named for the structures that allowed Civil War soldiers to see enemy movements, on a clear day you can see the Blue Ridge in the distance. Below you is a narrow ribbon of towpath between the canal and a long stretch of dancing river rapids with numerous rock islands where water birds gather to sit and sun themselves.
Visiting certain spots along the towpath has become ritual and I feel bereft if I miss those that rely on seasons. In Spring, Violette's Lock is an ode to bluebells that spread their dreamy color over the river banks. In the long narrow pools along the Berma Road at Old Anglers, wood frogs are an urgent chorus calling for mates. In summer, I take out-of-town visitors to Olmstead Island at Great Falls where we watch handsome great blue herons fish on rocks below the noisy crashing falls. Autumn colors in the woodlands lining the towpath at Widewater could not be more beautiful on a quiet Fall morning or afternoon walk. Untold pleasures are always awaiting any curious outdoor rambler.
A Special Place ...
In the last year, I've taken frequently to the wooded slopes above the Berma Road at Old Angler's for long walks in the Gold Mine Tract. Here live some of the most beautiful individual large trees to be found anywhere. You come upon them unexpectedly. You stop and marvel. Considered an invaluable biodiversity area, located between MacArthur Boulevard. and the towpath, it was once the home of nesting wild turkeys and bobwhites. It still bears evidence of the destruction wreaked by gold mining in the late 19th century but offers some quiet walking on trails that can take you back to childhood reading of a tale from King Arthur. Noble knights traveling slowly through a narrow hidden valley, forest rising on either side of a small musical stream. The Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center has maps of the trail network.