catch me fall

25 Jun

Rather than ride my usual NoVA trails this afternoon after work, I tried someplace new. Turns out there’s a small National Park just a short drive up the road from my office neighborhood, Great Falls Park in lovely McLean, VA.

It’s situated along the Potomac River as it “builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge” (to borrow the copy from the web site linked above). The falls are the main attraction, but there are remnants of the historical Patowmack Canal (used to ferry goods around the falls) and a visitors center with information about the history of the area (which sadly, was closed by the time I got there).

In any case, if you’re curious, I shot a bit of video of the Falls, which I present here. They’re rather pretty, and look really imposing without much sense of scale (the actual drop is about 80 feet):

I visited the park, because it contains several miles of hiking and biking trails, which anonymous folks on the internet say are some of the best mountain biking in the area (although the most popular trail has only limited access right now due to erosion from the high water caused by recent rain).

Still, It was close, and I wanted to take a look, and I wasn’t sure I was entirely ready for the really difficult trails – I’ve been putting mostly road and improved trail miles behind me this season, and don’t quite have my wilderness legs under me. I put about eight miles of the Carriage Road and Ridge trails behind me, with more uphill sections than I expected, but I managed to push through it, but I felt every bit of the going up. I’ve become too used to relative flatness.

Near the beginning of my ride, I had an encounter with a resident:

This little deer didn’t seem to mind me much at all as I pedalled along. As I stopped to take a few photos, she actually approached me, to the point where I thought she was getting a little too friendly. I had to actually shoo her away after a while. I suspect people are feeding the wildlife (although they’re not supposed to).

This was the fourth National Park I’ve visited this year, which isn’t a bad total for June. It’s also the second park I’ve been to in the last week, since, as you’ve probably figured based on previous posts, the whole pack of us spent a couple of days in Tennessee visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park last weekend. It was very nice, and I will eventually post all sorts of pretty photos and describe the interesting dichotomy between the (mostly) unspoiled wilderness of the park being right next to the (totally) spoiled tourist trap (atro)cities of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN. The problem is that all the really pretty pictures are on the real camera; all I have with me right now is my phone.

I’ll get there.

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