We started our day early. We went to bed expecting the worst: lots of rain making the trail into mud, with rain chances towards the end of our ride. We had a very pleasant ride today with only a little mud and muck. Our bikes were still pretty messy, but not nearly as bad as we had expected. The temperatures were pretty warm. It was about 91° when we finished today.
We didn’t have much sight seeing today because there really isn’t much between Shepherdstown and Hancock. We did make a side trip to see Fort Frederick, but that was about it.
The C&O parallels the Potomac and is usually only a few yards from the river. If you can afford the moments to look up, you are treated to some beautiful views.
There are two major dams that are on the Potomac in this area – Dam 4 and 5. Huge slackwater areas are behind them and the roar of water over the dams is very impressive. The dams used to support water-wheel power generation for mills, but have been converted to hydro-electric power with small generating plants. You can see the regenerating station in the top-left of the picture:
There is a really neat part of the trail that is on a concrete platform along the edge of the river. The rock walls to the right are beautiful and the water on the left is peaceful.
When we were leaving Pittsburgh, there was a young guy who was heading to DC that had just completed his trek. He warned us about a section just west of this where there was a washout with about 10″ of water to wade through. When we arrived at one of the trailheads, the parks district had put up a barricade and “trail closed” sign. No detour posted.
I have made very good use of my Garmin’s built in GPS routing. This time I told it to take me to Williamsport. We took a ~5 mile detour on surface streets to get us into downtown Williamsport. It was a good detour and actually felt pretty good to get out on the roads and away from the mud.
We stopped at the Desert Rose Cafe for a quick lunch. We’ve stopped here once before and decided to do it again because the food was good. I picked up a PB&J, chips, and a coke.
The staff here is really fun. We remembered one guy, Alex, from the last trip. We made a comment that we had been there before. Alex said “yeah, you are the guys who were here on bikes, who were not from around here and were wearing spandex, right?”… He didn’t remember us. Joe made some small retort and Alex came back with “I’m sure your wife is glad you’re on vacation this week”. Game, set, match. We laughed and laughed.
But then, he saw Joe’s ring and asked if we were clergy and the light began to flicker on. After a brief discussion about our ride mascots, he did remember us. It was a fun conversation.
After our detour around Williamsport, we were back on the canal and making our way to Fort Frederick. We saw several black snakes like this one. He watched me very intently as I cycled around him. Sit, stay… good boy.
Eventually we arrived at Fort Frederick. I’ve never found it open before. No tour guides inside the park, but we did watch a 10 minute video at the visitors’ center. I hadn’t realized that the fort had fallen into complete disuse and disrepair. It was restored, or should I say reconstructed to what you see today.
Leaving the fort, we picked up the Western Maryland Rail Trail. This is a paved path that parallels the C&O for 22 miles. Glorious! This took us all the way into Hancock for the night.
Our bikes were pretty filthy by now and I couldn’t shift my front derailleur. But the B&B had a hose to clean up our gear. Here’s what a day on the C&O canal does to your bike. Just imagine if it had rained, too!
We stayed at the River Run B&B again. It’s very clean and comfortable. Susan didn’t remember us at first. She meets hundreds of new people each year, I’d guess. But after a little conversation and mentioning our ride mascots, she said “I do remember you guys – you guys are fun!”
Dinner was at a local place: Buddy & Lou’s – named after the restaurant owner’s two dogs. I had Ahi Tuna steak … and a beer of course. You have to trust me that it looked nice before I ate it. It was deeeeelicious.
Happiness is clean laundry. Yay!
It’s time for bed. Ms. Bug thinks so, too.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a very rainy day on the mushiest part of the trail. Prayers for the rain to hold off would be greatly appreciated!
– Deacon Matt