27 June, 2010

C & O Canal + Mt. Vernon Day 1

Day 1: Starting in Cumberland

Sunday June 27, 2010, 45 miles (72 km) - Total so far: 45 miles (72 km)

We started the morning late. The night before I assembled the bikes in the hotel room and we reviewed our route. We heckled the Miss Virginia Pageant on TV and flipped between movies (Rush Hour 3, Transformers, Blades of Glory). Add in a little nerves and you get a recipe for a late night.The drive out yesterday made me realize how isolated we would be and I decided to bring more food and another liter of water. We had 2 bottles per bike and the pumped well-water was drinkable so it was unnecessary, but better safe than...
After getting some groceries we rolled out of town at about 10:30 and it was already hot and humid.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the picturestart: mile 184.5 and altitude 627 ft

The scenic vistas were decidedly Appalachian. One doesn't get muggy green summers in the West. Turtles are present whenever the canal has water. I've never seen so many turtles in my life and we saw a large snapping turtle today.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the pictureThe Potomac River at Cumberland

75 Locks were used to raise or lower boats along the length of the canal. The steepest part of the whole trail is a 33 foot drop over 4 locks. Although the altitude change is minor it helps to be going downhill when toting camping gear.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the picturea dry lock

The lock had a lock keeper who would live in a house next to his lock/s. A few of the houses could be reserved for overnight stays! The canal brought economic opportunity for the region. Small towns formed along the canal to support the boats with services and warehouses. The nearby train and repeated flooding put the canal out of business.
The canal was suppose to take 10 years to build at a cost of $3 million in 1828. It took 22 years and $13 million ($516 million today) and stopped more than 100 miles away from its destination in Pittsburgh.
Wasted government money? It sure does make a nice bike path.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the picturea lock with lock house

The largest construction project was the tunnel near Paw Paw, West Virginia. It was plagued with disaster and disease. It runs more than half a mile and I'm glad we brought flashlights!

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the picturePaw Paw Tunnel

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the pictureinside the tunnel

The mid-day heat was fierce. Temperatures hovered around 100 and it hit 105. Combined with the humidity we ended up drinking/sweating a lot of water.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the pictureEast side of Tunnel

The path was used by mules to pull the boats along the canal. I love mountain biking and this narrow section just screamed adventure!
I got a "pinch" flat on a sharp rock since I was running under-inflated tires. My tire choice was bald 700 X 28 and that was just enough to handle the rockiness when properly inflated.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the pictureI love singletrack

One of the only refueling stations along this 60 mile stretch is Bill's. What is lacks in choices it makes up for in location. We bought a can of fruit, sodas, and ice cream bars.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the pictureold Bill's

We got an awesome campsite right on the Potomac. I couldn't help but to bathe in the river while taking in the views of the hills in West Virginia.

Relation | Bookmark | Edit |  | Report | Link
Click here for a larger version of the pictureIndigo Neck Campsite