The day started optimistically. We were parked on a canal, and had been saying for ages we should start jogging again. This coupled with the fact that I couldn’t actually think of an excuse not to, resulted in us both getting ready for a morning run down the canal. Lee had an app that have you a time and speed to try and match on the ‘beginner’ level, so we set off. I failed pretty miserably at being able to complete beginner, but at least I had actually done running, so I still felt pretty smug.
Back at the van I attempted to shower behind Ruby in the corner of the car park, relatively out of sight except for those on the canal itself. Chance would have it that half way through, a large group of primary school children appeared on the canal, making me beat a hasty retreat inside the van. Lee decided not to risk his future career, by heading into the toilet for a wash instead.
The river itself marks the border to West Virginia, so for the sake of my fridge magnet collection, we headed across the border to try and find a gift shop. After ending up outside what looked more like someones house than a shop, followed by a shop that didn’t exist, I gave up and we headed towards Washington.
The plan was to have a look at Mather Gorge before stopping over in Walmart. We would then head to a paid campsite in the morning, drop the van and catch the train into DC, this would give us one paid night of camping and save us trying to drive through the capital.
Mather gorge was around an hour from the canal and river we were at, which is actually all the same Potomac river. We followed one of the circular trails from Great Falls car park, which initially walks down alongside the gorge.
At roughly the halfway point, the trail emerges onto the mouth of main river itself with a nice sandy beach.
From here, the return path loops back through the forest until looping back to rejoin the main car park. It was a pretty straightforward walk, but after my running attempts from the morning my legs were already feeling it!
Still it was a beautiful place, and we decided that we would definitely try paddle boarding at some point after watching other people meandering along the river in the sun.
Feeling pretty relaxed knowing that Walmart is a safe bet, we drove the last hour towards the city centre. As we have now learned, it is very important to check that the place you are going has a regular car park, not a multi-storey. As we arrived, it turned out that the parking was a paid multi-storey complex which I firstly had no intention paying for, and secondly wouldn’t have fitted in anyway. Therefore we went to plan B, which was to drive to the campsite we planned to spend tomorrow night in a day earlier, not the end of the world and its close location to the city was a bonus. According the the website, it was only $10 a night which was more our price range.
Another hours drive and we pulled into the park entrance where the campground was located. Driving in we noticed that the state police department was also located here at the entrance. I have never seen so many police cars out on so many separate scenes. We regularly passed large groups of police patrol on the side of the motorway and the city outskirts appeared to be teaming with police. Still, at least they all appeared to be occupied with something more major than a campervan trying to park. We drove into the park, only to be brought to a fairly quick halt by the road closed signs spanning the road. From a look at google maps, it was clear that there was no way around and that the campsite was closed. We therefore decided to risk parking in the visitor centre car park as we hoped if the park was shut, no one would bother us. Lee was pretty optimistic, me not so much (surprise, surprise!). The time it took us to unpack the van, get the roof up and start cooking, was the exact amount of time it took before the police arrived. They pulled up next to the camper, shone a ridiculously bright light in my face while Lee talked to one of them. The other stood outside the van window and stared unspeakingly, while pointing his torch at me and as I rearranged some onions. It was a slightly uncomfortable experience for me, but he seemed unperturbed and continued to stay silently at me around two feet away from my face.. After establishing that no, we couldn’t stay and that we would get a ticket if we did, I listened as Lee explained in detail that we needed at least 5 minutes to finish using our blender before we moved (the generator was running).
As we then went about repacking, the police moved off to the other car that was parked in the car park. I’m not sure exactly what was going on over there as we were both trying to get out of there fairly rapidly, but before long the other car was surrounded by another two police cars. We suspect it was a prostitution thing, but who knows, we were gone again. This was Walmart take two and again it was covered in police cars. It seems Washington definitely does no skimp on police response, for whatever the reason. Fortunately, Walmart car parks are so big we parked a distance away and as it was just a good old regular car park and we could finally settle down and finish our half cooked meal.