30 June, 2010

C & O Canal + Mt Vernon Day 4

Day 4: Great Falls Park, Potomac

Wednesday June 30, 2010, 34 miles (55 km) - Total so far: 179 miles (288 km)

We woke up late to let the hordes of mosquitoes disperse. The weather is cooler and the bugs are still hunting after 10 so we just pack up quickly and flee.The path was choppy at times but butter smooth once we got closer to the suburbs of DC. The river starts to get rocky like we saw at Harpers Ferry.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturethe rocky Potomac

As we approach Great Falls the path is gorgeous. We start to see herons and many different types of fish in the canal. We also start to see more people.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturenear the town of Potomac

Great Falls Park offers short rides on the canal in a historical boat. The park was under repair due to flooding but we still found a place to buy a snack.
The entire canal is "trash free" which means you pack out your trash. I didn't have a problem with this policy until we reached this park. No garbage cans at a snack stand means that people leave garbage everywhere.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturehistorical canal boat with mules

I had low expectations for Great Falls Park but the pictures do no justice. The rockiness is dramatic and it continues for at least a mile on the Potomac.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturegreat blue heron

It reminded me of the wild scenery I associate with the national parks of our western states. Throngs of tourists have ruined another gem. We moved on after only a few minutes even though the views were divine.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureGreat Falls Park

The riding south of Great Falls felt extra special with wooden bridges and boulders lining the canal.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturesuper scenic path at Great Falls

We stopped at the Angler's Inn since it was the only nearby food on the map. Once we found this high-priced restaurant we wondered if they would even seat dirty cyclists. The servings were small but we ate happily.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturegeology of Cumberland to DC



29 June, 2010

C & O Canal + Mt Vernon Day 3

Day 3: Harpers Ferry, Brunswick

Tuesday June 29, 2010, 33 miles (53 km) - Total so far: 145 miles (233 km)

Today we started more leisurely since we're already halfway done and my parents are picking us up on Thursday.The Potomac becomes rocky and we see groups of rafters/kayakers. We are excited to visit Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.

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Click here for a larger version of the picture

Harpers Ferry is important for two reasons. The Potomac and Shenandoah river combine here and John Brown led a famous armed insurrection in an attempt to free our nation's slaves.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureriding towards Harpers Ferry

The location is surrounded by scenic rocky cliffs. We must haul the bikes onto a train bridge to cross over into West Virginia.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureno ferry, a bridge to cross the Potomac

Once in town we secure some mediocre pizza and then hit up the free museums. I respect that John Brown wanted to free the slaves and many see him as a hero of the abolitionist.
John Brown led a raid on a Federal armory and hoped that slaves would flock to this town to receive the weapons. A day later Robert E. Lee and his Marines easily shut down the operation. John Brown was hung and Southern states started to prepare for the Civil War.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureJohn Brown getting crazy

The town was beautiful and integrated into the natural setting. Lots of rock was used in construction of walls and buildings.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturesteps carved into hillside

We found Private Quinns Pub and sat on the balcony while sipping the local Mountaineer Brew. Appalachian Trail hikers and abolitionist history buffs make for interesting people watching.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturedowntown Harpers Ferry

Right next door we stopped at Scoops for some frozen refreshment.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturebanana split

Harpers Ferry was our favorite stop for the whole tour.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturePotomac + Shenandoah

The Appalachian Trail follows the canal for a short while south of town.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureon the Appalachian Trail

The trail gets bumpy and pothole ridden from time to time for the next couple days. Although it was nothing dangerous, it can get tedious with smaller tires.
We needed more groceries so we stopped in the town of Brunswick. Unfortunately the store was on the outskirts of town. A couple of BMX riding kids gave us directions and looked at us crazy. The roads to the grocery store were not bicycle friendly and we were a rare sight to the cars (no bikes or bike locks at the shopping center). We were glad to be out of Brunswick. It is a pity that so many towns require a car to get food.
The campground was mosquito ridden and the river had trashy muddy banks. A power plant plumed smoke nearby. These were my fears coming into the tour but the Indian Flats campsite was better than the previous few we passed since it had a working water pump and it wasn't right next to the train tracks.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureleaving Harpers Ferry on the A.T.



28 June, 2010

C & O Canal + Mt Vernon Day 2

Day 2: Williamsport, halfway point, detour

Monday June 28, 2010, 67 miles (108 km) - Total so far: 112 miles (180 km)

The lightning bugs are beautiful. A pair of mammalian animals were nesting nearby and combined with cicadas, trains, and distant barking dogs to make a cacophony of sound last night.A tube on Heather's bike was defective and I replaced it. We hadn't ridden the bikes before the tour so this had gone undetected.
We wasted no time getting going since it would be a long ride till we could find a town for lunch.
We passed this old concrete factory that had repeatedly burned down. During its operation it made high quality concrete used in the Washington Memorial amongst other things.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureconcrete factory

We rolled into the town of Hancock to find our targeted restaurant didn't open till 11 and it was just after 9. We stopped at the local bike store for a tube, snack bar, and refrigerated juices since it was already hot.
Although we had some food, none of it sounded appetizing so we decided to ride another 25 miles to Williamsport where I had read about a health food cafe.
We jumped onto a paved path converted from a railroad line (rail to trail) since it went parallel with our dirt path.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureWestern Maryland Rail Trail

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureWMRT tunnel

The sights slowed our progress. We stopped at locks and aqueducts (bridges for the canal). Conversely, hunger was quickening our pace.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureFour Locks

The sky was dark. It was cooler but looking like rain.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureclouds form over Potomac

The Desert Rose was calling us. We saw deer and turkeys with young. It started to rain and the air was filled thick with gnats. It seemed we would never make it to Williamsport!

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureDesert Rose, an oasis!

The Desert Rose was everything we had hoped. We ordered a feast and chatted with Rose and a local. Then we ordered more food. Then we ordered food to go. Good prices and totally acoommodating to cyclists. She even filled our bottles with ice/water since the sun had now returned.
http://www.desertrosecafeandcatering.com/

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Click here for a larger version of the picturehistory at every turn

Soon after we leave town I spy a muskrat swimming in the lock. We talk about how we're going to wash our clothes since we only have a couple outfits.

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Click here for a larger version of the picturea full snake

There is a 5 mile detour. The river has reclaimed the path but recent funding has started long awaited repair work.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureunfinished trail repair

Eventually we must ride with light traffic and a sign warns that the road is "extremely dangerous" but we found this to be ridiculous. They are very cautious in Maryland and even have a sign suggesting you walk your bike down a supposedly steep hill. If you have brakes ignore that sign.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureperfect bike trail

After passing a number of caves that we failed to explore we settle into our next campsite. Fish are constantly jumping in the river.
I impatiently try to start a fire with magnesium/flint for the first time. I'm getting very sweaty before I find some good tinder. We don't need a fire but it was fun.

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Click here for a larger version of the pictureKilliansburg Cave Campsite

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Click here for a larger version of the picturesunset from the tent