Dan and Hannah Hike with Owen and Max at Great Falls National Park

GF Richmond mapThe Family Rothermel is descending upon Richmond, Virginia for the marriage of our son Will to Laurel Ann Crane. While Robyn flies in from Syracuse, Molly and family drive south from Massachusetts. Hannah and I leave five days before the late April wedding to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Great Falls National Park straddles the Potomac River with  Maryland and Virginia sides

Great Falls National Park straddles the Potomac River with Maryland and Virginia sides

After hiking the AT, Hannah and I head south to meet up with Molly and her gang at the Great Falls National Park just off the I-495 Washington beltway in Maryland. Arriving almost simultaneously at the parking area across from the Angler’s Inn on this mid-week Wednesday morning, we find two parking places still available. On the weekends, unless one arrives by 7A, none of these spots are open. In that case, drive further on the Cabin John Road to the extensive parking lots inside the park itself.

Max and his Omi at the playground in Billerica

Max and his Omi at the playground in Billerica

Since Molly and Tip moved north from Virginia, Hannah and I love our Billerica Tuesdays with Owen and Max.  We drive an hour south from York each week to spend the mid-week afternoon with the boys in Billerica; in the winter we head to the Loch Ness Fun Center, Wegman’s Supermarket, or the Billerica Library. In the warmer weather, we take the boys in strollers to the local playground, and then it’s off to the library.

The Family Rawding with Omi and Boppa

The Family Rawding with Omi and Poppa

After we change the boys’ diapers, read and sing to them on these Billerica Tuesdays, we then have dinner with Molly and Tip. Over one of Hannah’s homemade dinners, we have conversation as good as her cuisine.

Owen ready to roll

Owen ready to roll

Again today, Molly and Tip make time 400 miles from their home in Massachusetts to include us in their family life. On the road, getting two boys under the age of three ready for anything just takes time. They need to be changed; it usually takes us going two-on-one to make this happen for 11 month old Max. Today Tip packs Owen in a high rise backpack while Molly has Max in a Baby Bjorn for our hike.

Packing up across the street from the Angler's Inn

Packing up across the street from the Angler’s Inn

From the parking lot, we immediately find the canal walk along the Potomac River. It is a part of the C and O (Chesapeake and Ohio) trail system that goes 180 miles from the Washington area to Cumberland, MD.

On the Cheasepeake and Ohio Canal Path

On the Cheasepeake and Ohio Canal Path

Though rain is in the forecast for the afternoon, we have most satisfying warm, muggy weather, without it being too muggy; a welcome change for us six who have endured another long, cold, and snowy winter in New England. Late April weather in the Border States is just about ideal.

GF 1H MM canal path 3With the boys now abackpacked, we have time for easy conversation as we pair up with Molly and Tip. First Tip and I talk while Molly and Hannah walk ahead. Later we’ll switch it up. It’s a blessing when your daughter marries a trifecta man – one who makes a priority of their relationship, their family, and sees the good in life all around him.  That said, he hit the jackpot in Molly.

GF 5 rushing riverAn hour into the walk, we head to the Great Falls themselves. The Potomac’s white water rages beyond the fences, which keep the ever curious and energetic Owen out of harm’s way. After two challenging AT hikes, we much appreciate today’s mellow walk with the Family Rawding.

The mighty Potomac rushing to the Atlantic Ocean

The mighty Potomac rushing to the Atlantic Ocean

As Max begins to fade with the gentle jostling from walking the trail, Owen gets out of his backpack and runs. He notices everything – the planes in the distance, and every pebble and stick along the way. Bending down and grabbing them, he steps close enough to the canal to throw them to make a splash. Herein lays the challenge of being his Poppa and the one responsible for Owen, The Energetic, at Great Falls.

How Max loves to have his picture taken!

How Max loves to have his picture taken!

On one side is the mellow canal, to the other the raging tributaries of the Potomac River. Recent rains have made the river a torrent of brown water. As I shepherd Owen, I see nothing but Owen; when he zigs towards the canal, I zig; then abruptly, we zag towards the river. When he veers too close I grab his hand with an unspoken message – close enough!

GF 2E MT at falls

In conversation, we fill Molly and Tip in on our two recent hikes of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland while we learn of the $1100 damage to Molly’s car due to her hitting a raccoon at 65 mph on the Interstate by their home.  Since Molly and Tip lived in the Arlington, VA for nearly seven years, they fill us in on their pre-wedding plans – the breakfasts out, play dates, dinners, and overnights they will have with friends in the DC area.

GF 3B  H with MaxDue to the rains, the Billy Goat Trail is closed. Though the canal walk is as level as level can be, the Billy Goat Trail clearly represents its namesake. There is modest rock scrambling and eventually a 60 foot climb over a challenging, but not insurmounable rock face. Three years ago we were introduced to the Billy Goat Trail by our Virginians – longtime friend Amelia and her son Brandon, Molly, five months pregnant with Owen, and Tip. We’ll just have to come back.

GF 5A stormy skiesAs dark clouds gather, we head back to the cars a mile and a half away where we’ll have lunch together. Max is zonked out and Owen is still in exploring mode finding the joy in pebbles and sticks to throw.   As we hike, the clouds turn cobalt black behind us.   With excellent timing, we arrive at the cars just as the raindrops join forces and begin their soaking fall from the sky.

Will and Laurel Ann with her soon to be in-laws

Will and Laurel Ann with her soon to be in-laws

Though we each must eat lunch in our own cars, we’ll all meet again in three days at the Vintager B and B vineyard in Quinton, VA for Will and Laurel Ann’s marriage.

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One thought on “Dan and Hannah Hike with Owen and Max at Great Falls National Park

  1. Dan, this post is so beautiful. The love you share with your family and the joy you take in being together are tangible throughout. Experiencing this slice of your life along with you was a lovely start to my day. Fabulous photos as well!

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