Ravages of Nature
Along the Towpath - At one time the canal was a silver line stretching from Cumberland to Georgetown and a a major transportation thoroughfare. It's now dry in many parts and just about everywhere the former canal prism is lined with trees. Casual tourists have a hard time imagining the once common scene of mules pulling barges.
In describing the Mississippi river and man's useless attempts to tame it, Mark Twain quoted the following Bible verse, "Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? (Eccl 7:13)" Let me offer up this other verse from Ecclesiastes,
"As he came forth of his motherís womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?"
The nest of gypsy moths are common not just along the canal but everywhere in the Eastern US. A few years back they'd gotten really bad and the moth caterpillar was decimating the forests in Maryland. You would go into the woods and could hear them munching all the hardwood! The forests were spayed with a biological agent which was very effective at controlling them but I can see they're making their inevitable comeback.
Gnarly! When something in the forest dies, there's a cleanup crew that quickly appears to pick over the remains. Carrion beetles and turkey vultures are attracted by decaying animals while wood boring beetles, ants, termites and even fungus help break down the trees and shrubs.
This tree trunk is encircled with large and hairy poison ivy vines. Fresh leaves, dripping with that caustic resin sprout along the length of the vine. Poison ivy grows very well along the edge of clearings everywhere in Maryland. As long as you stick to the towpath you'll be okay though. I've personally suffered through many nasty bouts of the cursed weed. I recommend Zanfel or maybe a trip to the doctor. You can get Zanfel over the counter and it works by washing away the blistering agent urushiol. I find that untreated, it takes 2 weeks to recover. Zanfel shortens that to about 3 days and feels great the first time you put it on.