Saturday, July 4, 2009

July 4th on the Canal

I often find myself on the C&O Canal on holidays since I moved back East six and a half years ago. The explanation is pretty simple... I live in Virginia, and most of my family lives in Maryland, where I grew up. If you look at a map... or remember your Civil War history... or live near here... you will see that the Canal runs alongside the Potomac, which of course, is the boundary between the two states, so I cross over both of those whenever I journey over to see family, as I did today when I went to visit my mom.

On the way home, having no big plans for my July 4th evening, I decided to take a ride along the Canal before the sun went down. I'm glad I did... it was a gorgeous evening, the towpath wasn't very busy, and I saw something I've never seen before! I'm not 100% sure what was going on, but I have a pretty good idea I saw two snapping turtles engaged in a mating ritual of some kind. I was alerted to it by seeing two other folks stopped on the path, taking pictures of something in the water. When I stopped, there I saw the two turtles, seemingly engaged in a staring match. You can just make them out in the shadows below the leaves in the center of the frame. (Apologies for the photo quality... I didn't realize the camera was set to low resolution at the time.)

Moments later the two appeared to attack one another! There was a sudden splash and flailing of feet and they were rolling over and over, each seeming to try to climb over the other. From time to time one would rear its head up and let out a remarkably loud hiss. Then there would be a short interlude where they would simply place themselves belly to belly, and roll over and over. This activity went on for quite some time, with the two turtles alternately tussling and seeming to quietly hold one another, until finally one climbed on top of the other, positioned itself at right angles to the other, and they quietly drifted with the slight current in the Canal. Very odd... I've never seen anything like it... it was fascinating. Given the peaceful "ending" I suspect this was more mating ritual than fight, but there were times where it looked quite violent.

The rest of the ride was great as well... saw several Great Blue Herons, and near the end, quite a few deer. And geese, of course, geese. Those fuzzy little goslings I saw and wrote about a while back are now young adults, indistinguishable from their parents except for a slight difference in size. I enjoyed the usual vistas along the way, stopping now and then to take pictures. I find it fascinating how different it looks along the Canal, season to season.

All in all, a good way to celebrate the day.


Bruce Wright said...


That looks a lot like poison ivy that your bike is leaning against in the last photo. Are your arms really itchy today?


Tim said...

Bruce -

Hmmm... you may be right. Fotunately, I have thus far never had poison ivy symptoms in my life, but I suppose one day that will change.