Sunday, May 8, 2011

More C & O Canal Adventures: From Point of Rocks, MD to the Lander Lockhouse

Hike Date:  Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Todays hike took us up to the Section of the C & O Canal towpath from Point of Rocks in Frederick County up the the Lander Lockhouse.  Hiking this time of year gives you the opportunity to see wildflowers blooming, and listen to all the frogs and toads calling.  Parking was minimal along train tracks so be prepared to parallel park.  As with all of hour hikes on the towpath, remember that you must walk back to where you parked.  Our hike was three miles each way.

Lander Lockhouse
Along the hike there are two lockhouses.  These served as homes for the lockmasters and their families.  They had to be available at all times to open locks for boats passing through.  While the C & O Canal was only operated between 1831 and 1924, many of the lockmasters families continued to live in the houses well into the middle part of the 20th century.  These lockhouses are now rented for overnight guests.
Trout Lily

At this time of year, many woodland wildflowers are in bloom.  The trout lily, pictured at the right, stands only 4 to 10 inches tall and blooms from March to May and when in full bloom, the petals curl backwards.  Their name comes from the mottled appearance of their leaves, which some say resembles brook trout.  They also occur in a white form and are also known as adders tongue.  These plants form colonies of plants of different ages.  Young plants are only able to produce single leaves, while the older ones produce two leaves and a single flower.

 Pictured to the left is the red trillium; the petals, leaves, and sepals all occur in threes.  This species is also called the "Wakerobin."  It blooms in April and May and have an offensive odor that attract the flies that pollinate it.  While these flowers are beautiful, they contain calcium oxalate crystals which are poisonous.  If ingested they can produce sores, swelling, burning sensation, and numbing effects.

Flowers seen but not photographed include the May-apple and Dutchman's breeches.  May-apples shoot up in early April with their umbrella like leaves that hide a single white flower underneath.  The leaves, seeds, and roots are also poisonous.  Dutchman's breeches are in the bleeding heart subfamily.  The flower hangs upside-down that have the appearance of pantaloons.

Not only are all the flowers beginning to bloom, frogs and toads are also beginning their mating seasons and turtles are coming out of the water to bask.  Wood frogs were commonly heard during our hike and we saw many painted turtles and sliders basking on logs in the canal.  For reasons unknown, along one section of the canal, there were many dead snapping turtles along the far edge of the canal and in the water.

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