11-26-10: Hiking the C&O Canal
This interview originally aired on March 16, 2010.
This year marks the 56th anniversary of a 185-mile hike that saved the C&O Canal from destruction and eventually led to its preservation as a national park.
Workmen began digging the C&O Canal in 1828 to facilitate commerce between Washington D.C. and Western Maryland. By the 20th century, the growth of railroads made it nearly obsolete. After World War II, Congress began funding plans to fill in the canal and build a parkway.
On January 3, 1954, The Washington Post wrote an editorial supporting the parkway. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas, a passionate environmentalist who adored hiking along the canal, wrote the Post a letter two weeks later. He rhapsodized about the wild, natural beauty, so close to the nation’s bustling capital, and he challenged the editorial’s authors to hike the entire canal with him.
This past spring, Sheilah spoke with two people connected to this incredible story. Cathy Stone was married to Justice Douglas from 1966 until he passed away in Bethesda at the age of 80. She also talked with Allen Swope, who was part of that historic hike in 1954.
Then Allen Swope took producer Lawrence Lanahan on a tour of the “golden half-mile” of the C&O Canal in Williamsport, Maryland.
You can take a hike of your own along the C&O Canal — next Saturday, December 4, there’s a Frostbite Hike planned in the Great Falls / Widewater area of the Canal.