Ligia and I made a trip to a place out of the ordinary this past Saturday. Not many people have been there, that I can guarantee you. It’s pretty close to civilization, and you can get there by foot. What was it? The middle of the Potomac River, near Glen Echo, MD.
Our area’s experiencing a drought. It’s not very bad (yet). One side effect of this is that the Potomac River runs fairly low to the ground, and that means one can hop and skip from stone to stone all the way to the middle of the river — if he or she can keep their balance and find their way around.
We found a path that led from the C&O Canal to the Potomac River, and followed it. A multi-hued cover of fallen leaves lined it nicely.
A side branch of the river divided the mainland from a small island. The river bed here was mostly dry, so we made our way over the stones to that island. I spotted the beautiful reflection of trees in the water, and stopped to take this photo.
We trekked carefully over the island. There are snakes in that area, and they usually lie in the shade among the rocks. We didn’t want to give any of them a rude awakening and risk a bite.
Ligia stopped on a big boulder at the edge of the island to rest and take some photos, while I ventured out over rocks covered with dry mud and algae. Shrubs grew among the rocks, taking advantage of the moisture still present in the mud underneath.
As I got farther and farther out into the river, there were less and less plants, and mostly bare rocks. One stray acorn made the unfortunate decision to sprout a little tree on a patch of mud. I wondered what would happen to it when the water level would grow once more.
When I reached the approximate middle of the river, there was no more sure footing, and I didn’t want to risk acting like a mountain goat. That would have been a sure-fire way to get wet really fast and/or break a limb. Besides, I had a great vantage point.
One thing that always attracted me to the Potomac River was the exact same reason that it’s not navigable by boat: the many rocks and boulders that can be found everywhere. That’s something you don’t see in many other places. It’s this sort of raw, untamed natural beauty that makes me think of James Fenimore Cooper novels, and to imagine Indians still roaming the shores. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see this gigantic boulder looming just a foot or so under the water level. That’s really impressive to me. Its sheer mass would crush a boat’s bow to pieces without flinching.
Meanwhile, I was standing on another solid rock. You know how they say 90% of an iceberg is under the water’s surface? Well, this is a good way to illustrate that concept.
I must have stayed there in the middle of the Potomac for at least half an hour, gazing at the nature that surrounded me. The brisk river breeze carried the unmistakable scents of autumn down the river. Ligia came to join me and we sat there together, looking at what you see below.
There’s a peace and a thrill that takes hold of you when you visit a place like this. It’s peaceful because there’s no one around. And it’s thrilling for the very same reason, and for the knowledge that others probably haven’t been nor will be there any time soon.
The golden afternoon sun streamed through the autumn leaves, untamed by the clouds that raced along the sky. This is one of those photos where everything seems to come together to create the perfect capture of a fleeting moment.
The Potomac moved by at a slow, untroubled pace, the water reflecting the sun in a sort of knowing, passive resistance to its power. It knew that power would soon fade as winter moved in.
Just up the river, about a mile or two, I could see the American Legion bridge. I-495 crosses over the Potomac there, and I drive on it every day on my way to and from work. That same bridge has been under repairs for most of this year, and I blogged about the traffic problems that the construction caused. Thankfully, that’s over now. You can see the bridge in the photo if you look carefully. It’s in the top left portion.
As I drove over it each day, I used to look over the side wistfully and imagine myself somewhere in the forest, photographing the river and the morning fog. I can’t imagine how many people pass over that bridge every day and care nothing for the view. I must remember to come back some early morning to catch the fog. It’s a real pity that there isn’t some sort of overlook built onto the bridge itself, to allow people to look down the river. It would be a magnificent sight.
As Ligia and I started to head back, we counted our blessings. We’d just visited an amazingly beautiful place, one mostly untouched by human feet, and we managed to get photographs that would preserve that memory for us for a long time to come.