Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Spring Gap

I hadn't been back from the road trip but three days when Pat asked, "Do you want to go camping this weekend?"

That's code for him saying, "I'm going fishing this weekend." ;)

I tossed out the idea of Spring Gap. It's the furthest west of the C&O Towpath campgrounds, and we hadn't been there yet. He was game, on Saturday afternoon, after stopping for provisions, we made the trek to Cumberland and then dropped down MD51 to the Spring Gap Campgrounds.

The site was more like the other campgrounds we'd been to than Paw Paw, which was like camping in someone's back yard. It was also wide open, though whether than was due to the hot weather or lack of area interest, it wasn't clear.

We chose site seven and set up camp, then Pat went off to go fishing. I decided to bike eastward to see what there was to see.

The campground is just west of mile 173, and I rode past mile 168. There were a lot of painted turtles, especially in the 169-168 area.

There were a LOT of tires in the canal and the Potomac River in this area
I don't know if I should post photos of thistles or not

Believe it or not, not the same turtle nor tire as above!

Past 168, I finally decided I should head back. Not too far up the towpath, I catch a glimpse of something, stop and think, "Are those worms? Wait, no...."
A copperhead has a gartner snake for a late afternoon meal
The garter snake was just larger than earthworm size, and the copperhead was just a little larger. The photo above was taken with a telephoto. I did take a "close up" with my cell phone that I posted on Instagram, but I was still a respectful distance from a definitely poisonous snake.

While snakes usually don't both me, the scene had me a little shaken. It would only get worse a little ways down the trail.

I'd seen this blue heron on my way down the trail, so I was surprised he was still in the area when I came back.

Then I saw something.... weird.

It kind of looked like a beaver, or maybe an otter. I was thinking, "Cool!" Then I realized how much the animal appeared to be struggling to swim and keep its head above water.

That isn't a beaver's tail.
It's hard to see in my photos, even in the last one, but I saw it with my own eyes, so take my word for it. The beaver -- and it was a juvenile -- had been attacked and latched onto by a copperhead. During the animal's struggles, the snake's tail would get flung above the water level. The beaver was smaller than a football (smaller than even a Brady deflated football ;)), so it may have been a viable meal for the copperhead, which looked to be at least as thick as my wrist (let's go with ~2-2.5").

It was horrifying, and the longer I stayed to watch and try to photograph the animal's struggles, the more I was horrified.

Turtles. Yes. Turtles are cute and harmless.
Yes, see the turtle sunning itself.

Oh, look, it's a white tailed doe in the stream running out of the culvert.
I was still mildly disturbed by the time I got back to the campsite. Pat wasn't around, so I puttered around a bit, then once 7PM passed, I started to become concerned. Because copperhead.
Let's look at the river behind our campsite
How about the river behind a different campsite?
The river from the far (east) end of the campground
Street tires ruin everything
An older Ford pickup had come up and parked at the end of the camping area, and two guys with fishing gear had wandered down a path at the end. Then one of the other campers (there were only three sites being used at this time) drove over to the same area to scavenge some firewood for his firepit. Finally, Pat emerged from the wooded area.

They weren't bison burgers, but they were still quite tasty
I had the campstove ready to go, so I lit it and we dropped the steakburgers on. Everything was going great until Pat went to take the nearly done burgers off and managed to flip on upside down. The problem with that was it had cheese on it! So, there was cheese all over the grill attachment. I figured I'd worry about it in the morning.

It was a relatively cool night, as the humidity still hadn't built to excrutiating levels. Our tent was oriented in such a way, though, that the early morning sun woke me up by 8AM (well, the birds tweet, tweet, tweeting had really done the damage), so I crawled out of bed and scoped the area.

I decided to throw the breakfast sausages on the grill and cook the eggs by about 9AM, because any other time, Pat's back by then. He wasn't. I texted him, "Breakfast is ready!" 9:30, and he still wasn't back.

I wasn't sure where to start looking for him, but around 9:40, he showed up. He'd gotten caught up with trying new lures.

I'd already packed up some of the stuff to hasten our departure, so after we were done eating, I told him I wanted to bike westward to see if I could get to Lockhouse 75.
Remains of a railroad bridge
Remains of a steam pump
More from the steam pump area
Lock 72
I made it just past lock 72 when I went to take a sip of water from my water bottle, and it wasn't in the bike's carrier. Knowing it must have fallen out, I turned around, asking bikers and hikers along the way, "Have you seen a red water bottle?" Everyone mentioned it was "just down the way," and sure enough, it was just laying there in the towpath. That's the last time I attempt to carry that particular water bottle (it's a collapsible bottle/bag) in the bike's carrier.

Back at the campsite, Pat's starting to put things in the truck.

This butterfly has been hanging around all morning though, and we couldn't quite figure out why. It appears to be a purple admiral, and if that's the case, then it was evidently eating the bits of cheese that had been cleaned out of the campstove from the previous night's burger flip.

Just for grins, and because it was still in the camera bag, I took a photo with the diecast Camaro.

We headed home soon afterwards. Pat was satisfied with his fish haul, and while I was a little disappointed with my historical sites, I more than made up for it with some crazy nature photos. :)

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