Our progress is slow. Weekdays when my daughter and I are both free (she stays with her dad on weekends) are relatively rare. Furthermore, she is fourteen, and a certain percentage of those days she just doesn't feel like hanging out with me. When we do hike, we have to park our car, hike a portion of the trail (usually 3-4 miles), take a break, and then turn around and hike the same miles back again. So we have actually walked about 40 miles of the C&O Canal path instead of 20. We are considering the possibility of arranging a multi-day backpacking trip, in which somebody could drop us off at one point on the trail and pick us up substantially farther on, eliminating the need to backtrack. We've seen at least one set of campsites along the towpath so far, and it seems that you can reserve the lockhouses to sleep in as well. A lovely idea, but requiring us to find multiple days in a row that we can spend together. Maybe in the summer.
Dec. 29, a cloudy, chilly but not cold day, was our second shot at the Swains Lock to Pennyfield Lock leg. (Incidentally, we also did Great Falls to Swains Lock twice, because I got confused and forgot we had already done it. So lets revise that total mileage now to about 47 miles.) The first time we started walking it, back at the end of August, I was ecstatic about everything I was seeing in the water: the trailing weeds and bright green algal mats forming channels and caverns in the streambed, with tiny fish darting in and out. Beautiful. I was practically dancing. My daughter, on the other hand, stalked ahead, mysteriously upset. I figured she was annoyed with me because I was walking too slow and being embarrassingly effusive and she is fourteen. As it turned out, however, she was in the midst of an internal crisis that eventually pulled us off the trail that day and inspired an autumn of soul-searching and growth for her. I wasn't sure if she'd want to return to the scene of her former meltdown, but actually she proved eager to do so. Striding the same stretch of ground with confidence, demonstrating her resilience, brought her around full circle to a place where she can continue on the path with a light heart. She is a tough cookie, and I mean that in the best possible way.
So, Dec. 29. The weeds and algae were withered, the fish invisible. Muddy brown water met leafless trees and gray skies. And we were happier. We spent some quality time with a blue heron (there are always herons) and got a few semi-decent photos. A kingfisher swept by repeatedly as we were eating our nuts and dried fruit at Pennyfield Lock. And everything that had been knocked off-kilter before, we made right.