All 43 hikers who began walking the 185-mile C&O Canal two weeks ago in Cumberland, Md., hobbled into Washington yesterday accompanied by a crowd of about 100 local hikers, bicyclists and several dogs who joined them yesterday morning at Great Falls.
"We hiked from winter in Cumberland to spring in Washington... It was a great hike. 100 miles of bluebells and violets." said Englishman Tony Perrins, an executive with the Reynolds Aluminum Co. in Richmond.
Perrins. who grew up beside canals in England and has helped Reynolds preserve the Richmond Canal, was one of two Englishmen in the group that also included two 9-year-old boys who did their homework at night in tents along the canal towpath and two men in their 70s who were usually among the first to finish each day's 12-to-18-mile hike.
The 185-mile walk, the blisters and strained knees, were taken in stride by members of the C&O Canal Association as they celebrated the 25th anniversary of the hike led by Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. In 1954, Douglas challenged editors of The Washington Post to make the hike with him in a last-ditch effort to save the historic canal. The Post had endorsed federal plans to pave the canal and turn it into a parkway, but reversed its position after two editors hiked the 185 miles with Douglas and 31 other conservationists.
Although the 80-year-old Douglas is in ill health and was unable to join the hike, his wife Cathy briskly walked the 15 miles from Great Falls to Georgetown yesterday.
Maryland legislators who led the congressional fight that made the canal a national historical park in 1971 joined in yesterday's anniversary which included a banquet last night at Glen Ecoho Park.
Freshman Rep. Michael D. Barnes (D-Md.) also hiked part of the way from Great Falls. State Del. Robin Ficker (R-Montgomery) and his 16-month-old daughter Desiree went most of the 15 miles, and Sen. Charles McC. Mathias (R-Md.) was the main speaker at last night's banquet.
District Councilman Jerry A. Moore Jr. (R-at large) worked more than five miles before jogging off to perform three weddings at his church.
The canal "needs to be repaired in many places," said canal association president Nancy Long. And trailer parks have been permitted to go up across the Potomac in West Virginia... and we've heard depressing news that the National Park Service's canal staff is to be cut by 20 per cent when it's understaffed now."
"But oh, it's beautiful." says Tom Hahn, author of several books on the canal, "We saw a deer cross the towpath right near Washington, millions of wildflowers and a wild goose nesting beside the Antietem Aqueduct. It was a great hike." CAPTION: Picture, C&O Canal Hiker Cathy Douglas was joined by Maryland delegate Robin Ficker on final leg of hike. Ficker's daughter Desiree rode part of the way. By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post