Brian Bell canal community story

On the evening of Thursday, January 18th, I stayed in Lockhouse 21 with my nephew, John Robert (who was visiting from Quincy, MA), my friend, Jose, and his niece, Nataly (who had just moved from Puerto Rico). The forecast called for snow, but as a hardy New Englander, I wasn’t concerned.

We got to the lockhouse that evening, and John and Jose lit a fire in the fire ring outside. It was glorious standing in the heat of the fire on such a beautiful, cold winter evening. We then walked across the canal and down to the riverbank. There were geese calling overhead and the sky was like a storybook, with the fast-approaching snow storm on it’s way.

That night, we played board games and popped outside every so often to see the beautiful, powdery snow coming down. It snowed all night and into the next morning.

Photo courtesy of C&O Canal Trust

I received a call from Aidan (of Canal Quarters), letting me know they weren’t going to kick us out by 10 AM since the cleaning crew wouldn’t even be coming that day due to the road conditions. Aidan told me then, that I may end up needing to spend another night there and asked if I was good for another night. I told Aidan if worst came to worst, John and I would walk up to the Giant to buy more provisions.

We made an attempt to drive out Swain’s Lock Road in the morning, but to no avail. My little Mazda 2, despite being the Little Engine that Could, couldn’t get us to River Rd. About an hour later, John Robert and I commenced a hike through the winter wonderland to Giant on River Rd. As we were walking along River Rd, I told John how my dear mother used to hitch hike everywhere in the 1950s.

Just then a lovely woman, named Mary, in a Lexus SUV pulled to the side of the road and asked us if we needed a lift. I happily said yes and jumped in her passenger seat while John hopped in the back. It was as if my mother who was smiling on us from heaven sent us an angel. We explained our situation that we were staying at Swain’s Lock and needed more provisions. She asked us how long we intended to shop. She would have waited for us and brought us back, only she had to be in Virginia by a certain time. I told her she had already completed her good deed for the day and thanked her for her tremendous kindness. For someone to pick up a couple of lads hiking on the side of the road in this day in age shows tremendous kindness and courage on her part. There really are so many kind people in this beautiful world of ours!

John and I got the provisions and caught an Uber back to the Lockhouse. We enjoyed an extra night at lovely Swain’s Lock and left with stories and memories that will last a lifetime.

I highly recommend to anyone considering a stay in Swain’s Lockhouse (Number 21), that they pull the trigger and make that booking. They won’t be disappointed!