go here and make arrangements, they know better than anybody.
I set out on the C&O trail and noticed a singular difference right away. It is flat, very, very flat and the surface is much like any gravel two track you might find in the country.
This was one of the great debacles that shut down the canal. The construction of the tunnel took nearly 3 times estimated and gave the B&O railroad a chance to get ahead and ultimately allowed them to begin taking shipments to prove themselves before the canal was completed.Now the tunnel is a tourist curiosity. The towpath through the mile of darkness is wide enough for single file traffic. Two hundred years of condensation and dripping has eroded the concrete into a pattern of waves 3 inches deep. The guard rail preventing me from falling in the canal was a 2x4 set at standard 3' height. I was walking the bike. I switched the BM dyno against the tire and started into the tunnel all lit up for a stroll with reliable light. 300 feet into the tunnel one of the wires came loose from the dyno and the lights went out.
After the interesting trauma of the tunnel, I sailed right through another 30 miles and passed Hancock, Md. Staying at one of the trail side campsites for the evening, I had a pleasant visit with a priest who was angling there.
Some stretches are repaved with the nicest aggregate I have ever seen on a trail.
This section has been resurfaced 4" deep and compacted tightly.
The lock houses still stand and many are available as lodging
to get an idea how the lock attendants would live, for years on end.
At Dam #4 there is an extensive interpretive display which details the mechanics necessary to tap the river, flood the canal and manage the water needed to eliminate the current and navigate with a mule team. It's overwhelming to imagine this construction with the technology 200 years ago. One of the people I met on the trail said there is a cemetary in Shepherdstown dedicated to 30 Irish immigrants who died on that portion of the project alone.
Wednesday I made it as far as mile 76, just short of Shepherdstown. After pitching camp at the campsite, I made my way into the small college town to get supplies. Another wind and rain storm passed as I did my shopping at Food Lion. The bad weather was kind enough to wait until I had finished dinner to start drumming on my tent and driving me to sleep.
The historical significance of the canal and railway during the Civil War
is obvious as you get farther down the river.
Passing Point of Rocks, I ran across Sam.
Sam and I rode along together most of the day. His intention was to make it to Georgetown before the end of the day. I wanted to get within striking distance and camp out. He is a good traveling companion and interesting company. When I mentioned that he was an experienced backpacker, I was understating the facts. He had backpacked the entire Appalachian Trail a few years ago. Right now he is between jobs and going to a meeting Friday night in DC. We rode along for about twenty or so miles and I was searching for supplies when we discovered that the Mileage Chart I had been using for reference and had been so reliable, proved to be entirely false from this point on. Dum-de-dum-dum!
The ride was nice, brisk enough most of the time with occasional muddy patches.
I didn't need to be in Washington until 4PM Friday so all I needed was dinner and a snack.. As long as I went to sleep at a regular hour I'd be fine and Sam was planning to be in Washington that night . Whites Ferry was the next stop on my list which had a retail connection. We planned to stop there. Whites Ferry has nothing. We weren't worried because Poolesville was right there also, or so we thought. After realizing White's Ferry is a small collection of dilapidated buildings, we ran across a biker who happened to live in Poolesvillle. He explained it is, "exactly 9.8 miles" from where the chart listed it. He also said there were no services there either. Hmm.
Undeterred, we still had Seneca and a campsite a few miles ahead.
Reaching the campsite at the 26 mile point we found Al (aka Steve) and Fritz already camped out there. After some convivial exchange with our new friends from Indianapolis, Sam and I both decided to camp there. The plan at that point was for me to set up, then ride the remaining 6 miles to Seneca and pick up some food for myself and maybe some beer for the rest. No problem. Until I road down the way and found that Seneca is 6 miles officially, I mean the village limits may be there, but nothing else. It started to rain. Another 4 miles (total 10 now) I found a way to cross the canal and get access to the town. Climbing a mile and a half up a cliff road to reach Seneca, I found absolutely no retail possibilities, only huge, high priced architectural marvels. I figure these were the families that owned the railroad that drove the canal out of business. Following the cliff road a bit, I found nothing but more gated neighborhoods with extravagantly huge and expensive homes. There probably are some retail areas in this town, but not near the canal. The extra mileage I put in would have put me in Georgetown, but with no place to stay. After my discovery, I obviously made it back late, the other guys offered some of their stuff and we all went to bed a little wiser than before.
Sam got up early and left long before the rest of us were motivated. Al, Fritz and I had coffee together and a chance to inspect and compare gear. They are petty experienced cylo tourists and backpackers taking a week off work. I was quicker to break down and pack up. I figured they would catch up as soon as I saw a place to sit and buy a fresh meal.
It didn't happen, The road to Georgetown is all down hill and down wind, the river changes character dramatically as it nears the Chesapeake, but there ain't no place to get nothin' . Despite what the Mileage Chart had told me, once past Brunswick and Point of Rocks area, there is no modern convenience until you reach the visitor center in Potomac and that is just a tourist accommodation. Just fair warning. It taught me to hold back an extra freeze dried meal or two. I have had so much success over the years buying on a daily basis that I set myself up for failure here. Fortunately, this is an easy part of the trail and I had time, just had time, to get to Union Station, pack up the bike and catch my train. Except for the little faux pas at the end, this was one of the best long trips I have had.
The important pleasure, 360 miles-no cars!
I'll wrap this up in a summary when I get some time in the next couple days, the important issue was the trip to retrieve my car outside of Pittsburgh.