In July of 2009, my wife, Pat and I along with 4 of our children bicycled 90 miles on the [tipsy content="The 184.5 mile long C&O Canal Trail is located along the north bank of the Potomac River, starting in Washington, DC and ending in Cumberland, MD. The canal was built between 1828 and 1850, and it operated sporadically until 1924. In 1954, US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas organized an eight day hike up the canal’s towpath in an effort to save it from being converted to a parkway. His efforts succeeded, and in 1971 the canal became a National Historic Park." group="0" use_oembed="true" ]Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Trail[/tipsy] from Cumberland, MD to Williamsport, MD. The 184.5 mile long C&O Canal Trail is located along the north bank of the Potomac River, starting in Washington, DC and ending in Cumberland, MD. The canal was built between 1828 and 1850, and it operated sporadically until 1924. In 1954, US Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas organized an eight day hike up the canal’s towpath in an effort to save it from being converted to a parkway. His efforts succeeded, and in 1971 the canal became a National Historic Park.
For those who do not bicycle regularly (including my wife and children), 90 miles may seem like a long way. However, when you have 4 days to ride and no choice but to keep going, it is a piece of cake. We arrived in Cumberland, MD around 1:00pm, had lunch, unloaded the bicycles and supplies and were on the trail by 2:30pm.
Our trip was completely (over) self-supported having packed everything but the kitchen sink. Each bike had a luggage rack, everyone carried a backpack and we had 2 bike trailers in tow. There was plenty of food, water, clothing and shelter. And lots of enthusiasm!
We rode through changing landscape, including a walk through one of the world’s longest canal tunnels. The ¾ mile Paw Paw Tunnel construction began in 1836, took 14 years to complete and was one of the greatest engineering feats of its day. At times we passed thru open fields with bales of hay. At other times we passed the Potomac River to our right and the algae covered C&O Canal with its abundant wildlife to our left. We witnessed a Great Blue Heron catching fish and turtles sunning on logs. Numerous deer were seen grazing short distances from the trail. Beaver dams were abundant. Old farm houses with apple orchards dominated the landscape prior to arriving in Williamsport.
Two nights we camped next to the Potomac River in semi-primitive sites with sandy beaches, hand pumps for well water and a portable toilet. The second night of camping was very secluded and was heavily wooded. We set up our tents and took a swim in the gentle flowing Potomac. The water, nearly waste deep, was clear as tap water with an occasional fish swimming around us. Excluding the sounds of wildlife, the only sound we heard was a train whistle in the distance.
Two of our overnight stays were in cabins within campgrounds. Both campgrounds were beautifully landscaped and very well kept. The cabin at Happy Hills Campground, located at mile marker 129, was one room with cots for six, air conditioning and running water from a pump outside. The campground had a large pool, laundry room, camp store, showers and restrooms. We took advantage of everything they offered. The day we were there was the hottest day of the trip. We showered, took a dip in the pool, washed our clothes and slept like logs.
The KOA Campground that is located near Williamsport by mile marker 99 was a real treat! We had ridden 38 miles, 20 of which were in the pouring rain. Originally we had planned to camp in Williamsport; however, we decided to upgrade to a cabin. Dinner at the camp diner was wonderful. We particularly enjoyed the “I Love Lucy” theme of the camp restaurant. Multiple activities were available, which included canoeing the Conococheague Creek.
Proving that bicycling is for everyone, we met 3 other overnight bicyclists along the trail headed in the opposite direction. One gentleman in his 70’s started his trip in Washington D.C. and was headed to Pittsburgh. He was averaging about 70 miles a day. The other group consisted of a grandfather in his mid 60’s with his 12 year old granddaughter. “Granddaddy” had taken the same trip years ago and wanted his granddaughter to experience the trip.
We all experienced a trip that will be long remembered. From the creative skits we performed around the camp fire to the beautiful scenery to the time we spent without the everyday interruptions of busy lives, this trip will be everlasting in my family’s hearts.