Canal Update: Tempting Conditions

A first-hand report of conditions down at the C&O Canal arrived this afternoon via comments to my query file of earlier in the week, Dare We Think About Shoveling Canal Snow Too?

Reader Josh reports:

“Drove by earlier today; Canal is (mostly) clear. Still a few small spots with some . . . slush, I guess, but there’s probably about 500 feet long that’s clear. Walked on the canal, still frozen. There’s a few spots around the edges to avoid (notably on the side where there’s a drainage to the Potomac — you could hear the water going through. In some places, there’s a very thin layer of snow still left (maybe like, 1/4 in); I’m pretty sure you could skate through it, though you might slow down a bit.

“Looked like the upper layer would get a little beat up if people skated on it — there were inch-deep holes where leaves had seemed to burn through the ice. Didn’t see holes deep enough to reach water in the center though.

“Biggest problem was access. The parking lot was cleared, but with only a few spots. Along the side of the road, the snow is still 2+ feet deep, and not too many people can park in that. Also, getting down to the ice is a little difficult — there’s not really a clear path right now — the snow got up to my knees where I walked down to/back up from the canal.

“If anyone has the day off and wants to go tomorrow though, I’d be up for it.

“Oh, and I cross posted this report at Japer’s Rink as well . . . “

I’m indebted to Josh specifically and to the caliber of reader we have here generally when it comes to this topic: the enthusiasm I found for more Canal skating in the comments to my file ran deeper than our snows. And I’m grateful too to Josh for carrying his spirit for shinny to the site of our colleague blogger JP. The more in shinny the merrier, I say.

I’ve had two concerns about forming a fresh game on the Canal in the aftermath of our Snowmageddons — the depth of the accumulated snow, requiring perhaps labor so strenuous in its removal so as to sap the strength of the elder shinny skater (namely, me). But also the accumulated snow plowed along Canal Road, obliterating much of the modest parking space down there. Josh’s report suggests that the primary concern — the Canal itself — is managable. One thing about deep snow blanketing ponds and streams — it acts as an insulating, refrigerating  shield against ruinous sun.

As for limited parking, there is unrestricted neighborhhood parking quite close by Lock 7 as alternative. And would any serious shinny player allow a few feet of snow clogging his path toward frozen nirvana to be much of an obstacle? Temperatures overnight are forecast to go low again.

So again I ask: who’s with Josh and me tomorrow morning?

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8 Responses to Canal Update: Tempting Conditions

  1. Alex says:

    I love me some shinny, but your science is dangerously inaccurate. Snow on ice does insulate it, but it has the complete opposite effect of what you say – it makes the ice significantly weaker and downright dangerous. Just ask the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, they know a thing or two about ice:
    “Ice covered by snow always should be presumed unsafe. Snow acts like an insulating blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under the snow will be thinner and weaker. A snowfall also can warm up and melt existing ice.”
    I love playing outdoors on the ice, but the snowstorms like we’ve experienced over the past couple of weeks, in addition to the fluctuating temperatures make the Canal ice too dangerous to skate on.

  2. Alex,

    Last weekend, when I lost power for 60 consecutive hours, do you know where I stored all of my refrigerator’s food? Out under the snowfall on my patio. Do you know what happened to it? I’m eating some of it now.

    There is a reason generations of shinny players have safely taken shovels to frozen bodies of water and with their labor uncovered pristine playgrounds.

    Shame on you for listening to bureaucrats. Hell could freeze over and they wouldn’t sanction skating there.

  3. Alex says:

    Sorry to hear you lost your power that long, that sucks. And it’s good that you had the snow to keep your food cold. But keeping a quart of milk cold and having ice strong enough to support the weight of quickly moving (okay, some of us less quickly moving than others) grown adults are two completely different things. Yes, snow will cool things that are warmer than the snow, but the ice is colder than the snow.
    And I’m not one to blindly follow bureaucrats and their recommendations, but this is from Michigan, a state that has no shortage of experience with snow and ice and the recreational activities taking place on them.
    Hey, I love playing pond hockey and grew up doing it; but I make a point of knowing my science and being careful about making sure it’s safe to play before I hit the ice.

  4. I went out to the canal this morning but unfortunately no one was around. I did see some tracks from people going down to the waters edge and checking it out.

    Snapped some pics and walked it a bit to get a feel for it some. Check out the blog for the photos if you’re interested.

  5. Dave says:

    This is probably a ridiculous thought, but every time I walk around the Capitol or by the Lincoln, I think that the reflecting pools would be amazing for pond hockey. Think of the backdrop for shinny photos. Probably illegal though. Anyone know for sure?

  6. Dave says:

    I decided to email an official at the National Park Service division responsible for the National Mall to find a firm answer. Apparently ice skating is illegal on the reflecting pools. However, when signs are posted permitting it, ice skating is allowed on the pond at Constitution Gardens (the pond next to the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial). Downtown DC pond hockey anyone (when it’s deemed safe)???

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