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Month: March 2014

Exploring Great Falls National Park

A map of Great Falls National Park
Great Falls National Park
© OpenStreetMap (ODbL)

I had never heard of Great Falls National Park before a week ago when we put the park on our weekend agenda.  Amanda said that there were waterfalls there that she’d like to see.  I immediately checked and found a few caches I’d like to look for as well as hiking trails to explore.  Something for everyone!

The temperatures were a little cool but absolutely fantastic when compared to the winter weather we had been dealing with over the past several months.  We packed a picnic lunch and headed out to the park around mid-to-late morning.  After arriving at the park I made two unfortunate discoveries.  First, the Geocache pocket query I ran of the greater Herndon area didn’t cover the park (nearest cache was over a mile away).  The second discovery was we had no cellphone signal at the park.  I noticed that on the western edge of the park was a hill that looked tall enough to get me out of the valley.  Maybe I’d be able to download the nearby caches from there.  Success!  After climbing the steep hill to the ridge the weak signal was enough to grab the twenty closest caches.  Now we could get down to business.

Our first stop (after the visitor’s center) was Overlook #1.  Wow, I was taken aback by the view.  I’ve seen lots of mountain waterfalls and even been in a couple mountain waterfalls but nothing like this.

The Falls

Yep, that’s a lot of water coming through.  I was able to grab a minute-long video since I felt still-pictures just wouldn’t do the scene justice.  The views from overlook #2 and #3 were just as fantastic.

Harlan helped me find the answers to the Geocaches we were attempting (one Earthcache, one virtual, and one multi) as he does love to find caches wherever we go.  This journey took us along the “River Trail” that was mostly smooth with interruptions of rocks and trees here and there.  Harlan, being the two-year-old that he is, found a “pot hole” to hide in along the way.  This pot hole probably took around 500 years to form (according to a nearby sign).

Harlan's hiding spot.

We ventured back to the Visitor’s Center with information in hand that we needed to find the multi (which was “hidden” at the front desk).  Harlan went right up to the Ranger and asked for the cache.  The Ranger was a little surprised but was very happy to see someone enjoying the game and the outdoors as much as Harlan does.

We toured the Visitor’s Center, which explains the history of the park including flood pictures that astounded us.  Without being able to show you the pictures we saw I’ll just refer you to the earlier “falls” photo and then tell you that there were no falls during these floods.  The water was so high that all the rocks are completely submerged and the water rises right over the shores.  That’s a lot of water.

Oh, I finally started something I had been meaning to do since Amanda and I started traveling.  I picked up a “Passport to your National Parks” book.  It has a listing of all the National Parks and then provides pages for you to “cancel” your passport at each National Park.  Guess we’ll just have to revisit all those places we’ve already been to so we can get the stamps in the book!

Cancellation stamps from Great Falls National Park
Cancellation stamps from Great Falls National Park

All-in-all this park was great. I didn’t get to do as much exploring as I would have liked but I’ll surely be back to take advantage of the hiking and biking trails that skirt the Potomac River.  Of course on the other side of the river is the historic Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail but that’s a different adventure all together!

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