Fun in Potomac Part 2

Fun in Potomac Part 2

* Bike all of the C&O Canal. The C&O Canal offers the opportunity for long, scenic rides that more serious bicyclists will enjoy. There are two detours along the 184 miles, one just below Great Falls along Widewater (a restoration project is scheduled for completion this fall), the other 84 miles upstream from Georgetown at Big Slackwater near Williamsport, Md.

The National Park Service conducts occasional canal through-rides, with overnight camping and a support vehicle to carry gear. Other organizations, including the Alzheimer’s Association, conduct through rides for charity

Find out more: Visit the C&O Canal National Historical Park Web page at Learn about the Alzheimer’s Association’s Tour de Canal at

* Go fishing. There are lots of great fishing spots along the Potomac River that can be accessed from the C&O Canal — Violettes Lock and Rileys Lock are popular spots to catch smallmouth bass and sunfish. Maryland requires a fishing permit for all fishermen 16 and older in non-tidal waters.

Find out more: An annual recreational fishing permit costs $10.50. Find extensive information about fishing in Maryland on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Web site,, or call them at 301-974-3365. Buy a permit online at or at any of the following local businesses: Hudson Trail Outfitters, 12085 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland; The Sports Authority, 12055 Rockville Pike, Rockville; Poole's General Store, 16315 Old River Road, Poolesville; Atlantic Guns, 601 Hungerford Drive

Rockville, Maryland; Adrian's Market, 14125 Seneca Road, Darnestown.

* Go rock climbing. Carderock Recreation Area is one of the region’s hottest rock climbing spots. It can be accessed by bicycle from the Great Falls or Old Angler’s Inn entrances to the C&O Canal National Historical Park. On foot, it’s about an hour’s hike from Great Falls. By car, take the Clara Barton Parkway and follow the signs, exiting at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s access gate.

The Carderock area has restrooms and picnic tables and non-climbers can enjoy walks along the towpath and great views of the river, as well as views of the climbers from both above and below. (The tops of the climbing walls can be reached on trails without actually climbing.) The climbing includes a wide range of difficulty levels, but no one should climb without the necessary training and safety equipment. Novices should climb with an instructor, school, or reputable climbing organization.

Find out more: One local climbing school is Adventure School at

* Go horseback riding. Horses are a huge part of Potomac’s history. Before it was a wealthy Washington suburb, Potomac was home to scores of horse farms and historic hunts and horse organizations. These days, much of the horse activity has been pushed to Poolesville, Darnestown and other areas upcounty, in the 90,000-acre Agricultural Reserve, where development is severely restricted.

Find out more: Potomac Horse Center is at 14211 Quince Orchard Road, Gaithersburg. Call 301-208-0200 or visit Tulip Pond Farm at 14901 Partnership Road, Poolesville, hosts clinics and lessons. Call 301-977-6767 or visit

* Go ice skating indoors. The Cabin John Center is operated by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. It has changing facilities, a snack bar and three ice rinks and offers public skating sessions, skating lessons, and use for hockey and other ice sports. General admission is $3 for children 4 and under, $5 for seniors and children 5-10, $6 for adults, and $6 for all ages on public holidays. Skate rental is $3. Visit the center’s Web site for information about groups admission, admission discounts, rink rental and more.

Find out more: The Cabin John Ice rink is at 10610 Westlake Drive. Call 301-365-2246 for information or visit

* Go ice skating outdoors (cautiously). During cold winters, the C&O Canal freezes and becomes a huge outdoor skating rink for enthusiasts, children, and families. Even walkers enjoy the view of the often snow-dusted ice — and the ability to cross the canal wherever they want. But attempting to skate on outdoor ice poses serious safety risks. The National Park Service monitors the thickness of the ice, which should be at least four inches for safe skating. When the ice is thick enough, park rangers post signs reading “Ice Skating at Your Own Risk.” If the signs read “Unsafe Ice,” if there is no sign, or if you are unsure, stay off the ice.

Find out more: During the winter, call 301-767-3707 for a recorded message about ice skating in the C&O Canal National Historical Park, updated by park rangers.

* Go camping. The C&O Canal National Historical Park offers several free and fee-charging campsites in the Potomac region. There are “hiker-biker” campgrounds — which are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis with a limit of one night — at Swains Lock. The sites have picnic tables and outhouses.

The Marsden Tract, located at C&O Canal mile 11 near Old Angler’s Inn, is a group campsite, available by reservation only for $20 per night.

The Robert C. McDonell Campground at Cabin John Regional Park offers 7 walk-in primitive sites, accommodating up to 10 campers each. Campsites feature grills, tables, a campfire circle and pit toilets. There are two tent pads on each site. Campsites are available year-round with no running water between November 1 and March 31. An $18 per site, per night permit is required.

Find out more: Information about camping in C&O Canal National Historical Park is at Marsden Tract is available only to scout groups, civic organizations, and groups on organized camping trips. A permit can be obtained by calling the Great Falls fee office at 301-767-3731.

The Robert C. McDonell Campground is at 7701 Tuckerman Lane. Learn more or apply for a permit at

* Swim outdoors in the summer. Washington summers are famously humid and muggy. One sure way to cool off is a swim at a local pool. Potomac has numerous private swim clubs and easy access to several public pools. The Montgomery County Department of Recreation operates three indoor and eight outdoor pools. The closest are the Montgomery Aquatic Center in North Bethesda (indoor) and the Bethesda Pool (outdoor).

One place definitely not to swim is the Potomac River. Every year people — both locals and out-of-town visitors — die in the Potomac River, and others are rescued from life-threatening situations. Though a few victims fall in, most either wade in, try to swim to an island, or just decide to “take a dip,” and are swept away. Though the surface may appear calm, strong currents exist underneath.

Find out more: Bethesda Pool, Little Falls Pkwy and Hillandale Road (where Little Falls intersects Arlington Road), 301-652-1598. Facilities include a six-lane, 50-meter pool, 1- and 3-meter diving boards, junior pool, tot pool, separate 6-lane 25-meter lap pool, bath house, and snack bar.

* Swim indoors year round. Even on the coldest of winter days, local swimmers need not despair. The Montgomery Aquatic Center has an indoor pool, hot tubs and hydrotherapy pools, 10-meter diving platform, exercise room, snack bar, locker and shower facilities, saunas, racquetball courts.

Find out more: Montgomery Aquatic Center, 5900 Executive Boulevard, North Bethesda.

For schedules and fees for both pools visit

* Spot a national celebrity. Potomac is home to congressmen, media personalities, current and former professional athletes, and local leaders. There are no Beverly Hills-type “star maps” for Potomac celebrities and there is no real secret to finding them. Keep your eyes open and if you see someone famous, say hi. They’re your neighbors.

* Become a local celebrity. Performers will feel like true celebrities onstage at the Blair Family Center for the Performing Arts o the Bullis School campus. Potomac Theatre Company performs at the Blair Center, and each year holds auditions for a range of roles in performances like “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Plaza Suite.”

Find out more: The Potomac Theatre Company is at 10220 River Road, Suite 303 in Potomac. Call 301 299-8571.

* Turn your children into celebrities. At Imagination Stage, there are options galore for children who wish to perform in a play or movie — or to compose one. Imagination Stage was founded in 1979 in response to the urgent need for arts education for young people. Imagination Stage has grown from a handful of children in a single classroom to a full-spectrum theatre arts organization. Its classes, student ensembles, summer programs and outreach programs complement a year-round season of professional children’s theatre.

Find out more: Imagination Stage is at 4908 Auburn Avenue, Bethesda. Call 301-961-6060 or visit

* Play golf. You don’t have to be a millionaire to play golf in Potomac. Home to world-famous tournament courses at Congressional Country Club and the Tournament Players Club at Avenel, Potomac also has its own public golf course on Falls Road, with another public course up the road in Poolesville. The courses, operated by the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, include clubhouses, driving ranges, and pro shops offering equipment and lessons.

Find out more: Falls Road Golf Course is at 10800 Falls Road, Potomac, and Poolesville Golf Course is at 16601 W. Willard Rd., Poolesville. Visit

* Learn to dance. Glen Echo park offers classes in waltz, swing, contra, salsa, and more. Dances take place in the historic Spanish Ballroom and Bumper Car Pavilion.

It also hosts regular social dances, open to the public, for all ages, with no prior experience or partner required. Many of the dances offer an introductory lesson, and live music. Tickets are $7-$15 and are sold at the door. Dress is casual, and layers are recommended, because the dance halls are neither heated nor air-conditioned.

Find out more: Glen Echo Park is at 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Call 301-634-2222 or visit

* See a Civil War site. In 1861, the Nineteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry was ordered to protect a 13-mile stretch of the Potomac River from Seneca to Great Falls. The regiment completed three blockhouses, four feet thick and twelve feet high, just in time to be reassigned — they sustained 50 percent losses in the battle of Antietam. An astute observer can see the earthen rampart and Greek Cross formation in the remains of one of the blockhouses.

Find out more: Visit, then click on “Park Maps,” then “Blockhouse Point Conservation Park” for a map. A small parking lot is on River Road. From Potomac Village, drive north up River Road, pass Pennyfield Lock Road, and turn left into the parking lot a mile past Pennyfield.

* Join the Volunteers in the Park program. Joggers, birders, bikers, day-trippers, hikers, and historians of all ages love the C&O Canal, and now there’s a way to give back. The C&O Canal Association’s Volunteers in the Park leads monthly upkeep and maintenance projects along the canal. Sessions are aimed to be pleasant, rewarding, and somewhat informal — no volunteer is obligated to commit to multiple projects.

Find our more: Jim Heins or Steve DeLanoy by e-mail at c&, or call Jim Heins at 301-949-3518 or Steve DeLanoy at 301-530-6862.

* See the annual Landon-Georgetown Prep lacrosse game. One local lacrosse coach likened it to a “Braveheart” scene — giant, roaring mobs of battle-painted Prep and Landon students charge into the student sections before the game to cheer their schools on in America’s greatest high-school lacrosse rivalry. Both schools send an annual crop of graduates to Division I college programs. Landon won the first 18 matches, often by the skin of its teeth, but Prep finally triumphed in 2003. Since that game, the rivalry is split 3-3 — the teams met in the Interstate Athletic Conference finals in each of the last three seasons.

Find out more: Georgetown Prep will host the regular-season game in the spring of ‘06. Visit the schools’ Web sites at www.gprep.og and

* Meet other seniors. Area seniors meet each Tuesday at the Potomac Community Center from 10-2 p.m. Each week offers something different, from speakers, entertainment, potlucks and opportunities for seniors to get to know one another.

Find out more: The Potomac Community Center is at 11315 Falls Rd., Potomac. Call 240-777-6960.

* See a replica canal boat. During the peak of the C&O Canal's days as a commercial venture, some 500 mule-drawn boats were making the 184-mile trek between Georgetown and Cumberland, Md. By Great Falls Tavern, visitors can board the "Canal Clipper" boat, modeled after the commercial barges, and interpreters are often aboard to answer questions on weekends. The bad news is that the Canal Clipper is immobile — irreparable damage to the hull put an end to the rides that 18,000 annual visitors enjoyed on the boat for 30 years.

Find out more: Canal boat rides are available at Georgetown — see Friends of Historic Great Falls Tavern are sponsoring a drive to replace a canal boat by Great Falls Tavern — see

* See Freddy Adu play professional soccer. When Freddy Adu, then 14 years old, debuted as a soccer professional with D.C. United in April 2004, he became America's youngest professional team sports athlete in more than a century. Freddy grew up in Potomac and attended The Heights, a private school in Potomac, until he joined the U.S. Under-17 soccer team's residential program in Bradenton, Fla. D.C. United brought Freddy home when they drafted him in 2004, and he was United's third-highest scorer in his rookie season as D.C. won the MLS Cup.

Find out more: D.C. United plays at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. from April through October. Visit for a schedule and ticket information.

* See the next Freddy Adu. There are more elite youth soccer players where Freddy came from. Walt Whitman High School’s girls soccer team won last year’s state championship, and the boys teams at Whitman and Winston Churchill also won state titles in the past five seasons. Each season, local public high schools schedule several doubleheaders featuring the same two schools’ varsity boys and girls teams. Many private schools also have outstanding soccer teams — Freddy little brother Fro Adu plays for Georgetown Prep, Holy Child won the Independent Scholastic League championship.

Find out more: Varsity soccer is a fall sport for both girls and boys in Montgomery County. Visit, then click on “Sports Schedules,” then “Girls Soccer” or “Boys Soccer” for full soccer schedules for county public schools. See,,,,,,,, and (St. Andrew’s Episcopal School) for local private school schedules.

* Become the next Freddy Adu. Before Freddy joined the U.S. Under-17 soccer team, he played on a club team in Potomac Soccer Association and then in the Bethesda Soccer Club. Local soccer leagues offer a variety of levels for school-aged children, from club teams that travel to Brazil to beginners’ teams that travel a short ways down Falls Road.

Find out more: Visit (Montgomery Soccer, Inc.), (Bethesda Soccer Club) or (Potomac Soccer Association).

* See a canal lock in operation. How did canal boats ascend and descend through the elevation changes in the C&O Canal? They went through 74 lift locks on the 184-mile trip between Georgetown and Cumberland, Md., each one maintained by a lockkeeper who lived in a house beside the canal. Lock 20 by Great Falls Tavern is operational, and park rangers give periodic demonstrations on how the locks functioned.

Find out more: Park rangers at Great Falls Tavern give Lock 20 demonstrations Wednesdays through Fridays, 2-2:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, 1:30-2 p.m. Visit and click on "Great Falls Tavern."

* Visit F. Scott Fitzgerald’s gravesite. Fitzgerald's classic novels were set in Long Island, France and Princeton, N.J., but the author himself is buried alongside his wife Zelda in Saint Mary's Cemetery in Rockville, a National Register-listed historic site. Fitzgerald never lived in Montgomery County, but had friends and relatives in the area, and made periodic visits throughout his life. Find our more: Saint Mary's Cemetery is at 600 Veirs Mill Road, Rockville. Visit, click "Peerless Places," then "F. Scott Fizgerald's Gravesite."

* Visit Walter Johnson's gravesite. All apologies to Livian Hernandez, but Washington's greatest all-time baseball pitcher was Walter Johnson, one of the five original-class Hall of Famers. Johnson had 417 career wins with the Senators from 1907-1927. After retiring from baseball, Johnson served on the Montgomery County Commission, precursor to today's Montgomery County Council, and lived on a farm in Germantown. He's buried in Rockville Union Cemetery.

Find out more: Rockville Union Cemetery is at 1350 Baltimore Road, Rockville. For pictures of Johnson's gravestone, visit and click on "Walter Johnson."

* Take a challenging hike on the Billy Goat Trail. More than 16 side trails are accessible from the C&O Canal towpath near Great Falls Tavern. Among them, the granddaddy is Section A of the Billy Goat Trail, which begins 0.6 miles below Great Falls Tavern and requires climbing over rocks and boulders as it follows a cliff until its end, 0.7 miles above Old Anglers Inn. Don’t be fooled by the moderate-sounding 1.1-mile distance — this section is strenuous.

Find out more: For a map and description of the trails off the C&O Canal near Great Falls Tavern, visit and click the links under “Trails.”

* Take a moderate hike on the Billy Goat Trail. The downstream portions of the Billy Goat Trail — sections B and C — are longer than Section A, but are also flatter and less treacherous.

Find out more: Area or the parking lot across from Old Anglers Inn. Section C of the Billy Goat Trail is 1.4 miles of “moderate” hiking, according to the National Park Service. Hikers may access it from Carderock Recreation Area, and it is marked with blue blazes.

Section B of is 1.6 miles long, also dubbed “moderate” by the Park Service. Hikers may access it from Carderock or at Old Angler’s Inn. For a map, visit and click the links under “Trails.”

* Take a leisurely hike on the C&O Canal towpath. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas raised support for turning the C&O Canal into a national park when he led a group of nine men on a hike along the entire 184-mile canal. Naturalists will enjoy the flora and fauna along the towpath, while history buffs can see surviving lockhouses and locks of the 176-year-old canal. Remember to walk on the right-hand side of the path — pedestrians are sharing the towpath with bikers, who don’t always signal as they approach a hiker (although they’re supposed to).

Find out more: Visit for hiking information and a trail map.

* See a fire station. When the Jaws of Life cut up a car, it’s a sight to behold. The simulated car extraction is just one of the attractions at Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department’s annual open house. Other activities include live action demonstrations, including stop, drop and roll, and stove fire demonstrations. Proceeds benefit the station.

Find out more: Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department’s open house takes place every fall, usually in October. Visit for information on this year’s open house.

* Walk or bike to school. Every weekday morning throughout the school year, elementary schools are choked down amid gridlock from buses and a parade of SUVs dropping students off. In recent years, Beverly Farms was one of dozens of county schools participate in Walk to School Day, to show families that there’s another option for many students and a healthy way to get to school in times of increased child obesity and Type II diabetes. Walking isn’t an option for every student in Potomac, but it may be worthwhile for parents to explore this possibility with their children.

Find out more: International Walk to School Week 2005 is from Oct. 3-7 — visit

* Learn Tae Kwon Do. Literally translated as the art of punching and kicking, tae kwon do is a martial art with origins in Korea that aims to build positive attributes of an individual’s personality. As a college student, Parshotam Sharma founded the University of Maryland’s tae kwon do program. These days, he instructs students in the Potomac area at East West Tae Kwon Do. In recent years, East West Tae Kwon Do students have qualified fro the national tae kwon do tournament. Many students are school-aged, but not all — some entire families train at East West.

Find out more: Call East West Tae Kwon Do at 301-983-6388.

* Watch a high-school football game. Stadiums come alive on Friday nights each fall. Rivalries between local the football teams at Winston Churchill, Walt Whitman, Thomas Wootton and Walter Johnson are intense, and Churchill and Whitman each reached the playoffs once in the past two seasons. It’s not just the football players putting on a show, either — Churchill, Whitman and Wootton all have pep bands, cheerleaders, and a pom squad (dance team) show at halftime. Local private schools Bullis and Landon compete in the Interstate Athletic Conference, whole Georgetown Prep debuts in the Maryland Interstate Athletic Association in the ‘05 season.

Find out more: Visit, then click on “Sports Schedules,” then “Football” for a full football schedule for county public schools. Visit,, and for football schedules at the local private schools.

* Watch real wrestlers compete. The excitement of a high-school wrestling match begs the question: Why did somebody bother to create the scripted, gimmicky spectacle of “professional” wrestling? Varsity teams feature 14 different wrestlers, from 103-pounders to 275-pound heavyweights. Walt Whitman High School won the state team (duals) tournament last year, Eren Civan (Whitman ‘07) won the state championship for his weight class in 2004 and ‘05, and several Winston Churchill wrestlers also won state individual titles in recent years.

Find out more: Visit, then click on “Sports Schedules,” then “Wrestling” for a full wrestling schedule for county public schools. See,,,, and (St. Andrew’s) for schedules of private school teams.

* Visit Clara Barton's house. As founder of the American Red Cross, Clara Barton used this house as its headquarters. The house is shown by guided tours on a daily basis from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Find out more: Visit

* Volunteer with KEEN. Come and make a difference by working with kids and young adult athletes with disabilities. Keen has provided sports from soccer to tennis to swimming to the martial arts for area athletes with disabilities. No athletic experience is required for volunteers.

Find out more: Visit