The latest announcement from National Capital Parks is (unwittingly, from the sender's viewpoint) a terrible reproach. It tells us that seasonal mule-drawn barge rides along the C&O Canal from both Georgetown and Great Falls will begin next Saturday.

And, d'ya know what? In 27 years in Washington, I've never ridden a canal boat . . . or toured the Bureau of Engraving . . . or gone to the Hirshhorn Museum (which looks to me like an ugly, giant oil tank on the Mall) . . . or to the National Portrait Gallery . . . .

It's a case of the resident/tourist syndrome. Most of you, as I, live here the year around, and we promise to visit these places when the tourists are absent. But we don't, and our sap rises about the same time as the tourist crush returns, telling us to return another year.

Somewhere around 1991 the visits will be made, one suspects.

Returning to the matter that set us off: Starting next Saturday, individually ticketed 90-minute barge rides begin on the C&O Canal from 30th and Thomas Jefferson streets NW in Georgetown on Wednesday through Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and at 1 and 3 p.m., with an additional Saturday departure at 5 p.m. Departures are scheduled from Great Falls (Md.) Tavern on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m., with an additional Sunday departure at 5 p.m.

Tickets are on sale two hours before departures: $3.50 for adults, or $1.75 for children 5 to 12 and senior citizens.