It was love of a man that brought me to Potomac many years ago to live overlooking the Watts Branch stream in a log cabin that was moved in the 1940s from behind Great Falls Tavern. My husband George grew up here in the ‘50's and ‘60's in a childhood many of us only dream about with open space to ramble and a small village where he had his first job in the pharmacy as a teenager. Potomac has grown of course. It is no longer a place for adventurous pioneers like his parents who wanted a rural country life to raise their kids. A lack of amenities like paved roads and electricity were acceptable inconveniences. Glen Road was a one-lane stretch of concrete. If you met a car coming the other way, both had to drop right or left wheels off a steep edge onto washed out gravel. South Glen was still a dirt road. The Potomac Hunt met in our front pasture.
Settling here, I came to love the forests, the tree-lined rustic roads and, of course, the C&O Canal National Historic Park (NHP) where our home once lived. As years have gone by, I'm constantly discovering new natural areas to explore. The federally owned C&O Canal stretches 184 miles and you could walk to Cumberland or Georgetown on the edge of a mighty river. I consider this the ultimate luxury of living in Potomac, even if I never do it. But Montgomery County itself has a wealth of parks and some of the largest are in Potomac. Blockhouse Point Conservation Park is likely the best of preserved natural areas, stretching out along River Road from Muddy Branch all the way to Calathea Farm. It adjoins the NHP with over 600 acres of mature forest and trails that lead to an overlook of breathtaking proportions. On a clear day you can see the Blue Ridge in the distance and below you a narrow ribbon of towpath between the canal and and a long slice of dancing rapids with rock islands where water birds gather.
Visiting certain places has become a ritual and I feel bereft if I miss those that rely on the season. In spring, Violette's Lock is an ode to Bluebells that spread over river banks. In the long narrow pools along the Berma Road at Old Anglers, Wood Frogs are a loud chorus of mating frenzy. In summer, I take out-of-town visitors to Olmstead Island at Great Falls and watch handsome Great Blue Herons fish on the rocks below the falls. Autumn colors in forests at Widewater beside the towpath could not be more beautiful on a quiet Fall morning or afternoon. Untold pleasures still await any curious outdoor rambler.
A SPECIAL PLACE
Though I've lived here over 30 years and walked many local trails, it was only recently I learned about the Ford Mine Trail which begins at the farthest end of the Great Falls parking lot and meanders up and down steep wooded slopes for somewhat over two miles, returning along the berm side of the canal. The trailhead is well marked at the edge of the parking lot and nearest the canal. Since most of us usually park closest to the visitors center, this trail has to be a destination to find since it starts at the opposite end of the parking lot from the tavern.
ISSUES TO WATCH
The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) which operates the water filtration plant on River Road has applied for a mid-river intake to reach cleaner drinking water. If approved, this massive project will take up to five years to build, have significant environmental and physical impacts on the C&O Canal National Historic Park and increase heavy truck traffic through Potomac.
Montgomery County has recently revised the zoning code. While it does not change the basic rural zoning in Potomac, implemented will reveal how it may change the character of the Potomac Subregion.
Rockwood Park on MacArthur Boulevard is considered an enterprise property in the Montgomery County Park system. The house and grounds are promoted for weddings, conferences and special events. It is currently undergoing a study to identify improvements needed which may include proposals to alter traffic flow through the site and increase park impacts on the adjacent neighborhood and the larger Potomac community.