Sunday, July 9, 2017

Day 5 2017

The primitive campsites the the Park service provide along the towpath are an OK set up as long as you are prepared. They offer a cistern with potable water with a pump that brings it to the service. The water is purified with iodine so if you are sensitive to that you would have to haul your water in. In my site last night I shared with a troop of boy scouts riding the towpath earning their cycling merit badge. No problem as there was plenty of room. They have a port-a-john at each of these sites and maintain them pretty well as I found all the ones I had to use during the ride to be acceptable clean-wise.
I got packed up and brewed up my usual 1st breakfast of hot oatmeal. My stove of choice is a Jetboil because all the camp cooking I do just involves boiling water to add to instant food. The Jetboil stove is very, very efficient in doing that. It boils up 16 ozs of water in a minute and a half, maybe two. Plus, it cools off fast so you can pack it back up quickly before you can even eat your food.
I was excited to explore the towpath today. My route today will take me along to the town of Paw Paw and a brief visit to West Virginia before I have to tackle the detour up and over the closure of the Paw Paw tunnel, ending in the town of Hancock, MD.

Here we go!!

First turtle in the trail of the trip!!
 He (or she, how do you tell??) was moving along towards the edge of the trail so really did not need rescuing.
The canal is with you as you pedal and usually is changing for something to look at. I would estimate after the whole trip is finished that 50% of the canal still has water in it and the other is grown with trees and brush. There are a few places where it has been very reclaimed by the forest and you can only tell the slight curve of the former dug out canal. Other parts have water and a very active bio-habitat going on with birds and plants and fish and other creatures.

The locks and the lockhouses continue to be an interesting thing to view as I roll along. The trail is very flat until you come to a lock and then you get a little downhill boost after the lock. Remember, heading west to east on the trail is heading down stream of the Potomac River. The river is always on the right of me with the canal on the left. I wish for a few more views of the river but the forest is just too thick!!
 Most of the time the trail takes you along side of the locks but every now and then the trail rolls down into the canal and you get to ride into the lock. the stone work construction is amazing that it is still together after over 150 years. 
I reach Paw Paw and ride the 1/2 mile or so into town to find some lunch. I find a funky little diner that is in an old brick house but the food was fine. She iced up my water bottles for the hike-a bike that I was facing.

The Park service was doing some rock scaling around the entrances to the Paw Paw tunnel so it was closed for about a month. Too bad because it looks to be an interesting experience to ride through. The canal and path going through the mountain in a tunnel. I'll just have to come back!!!
The detour involves a 2.5 mile hike-a-bike on a trail up and over the ridge that the the tunnel goes under. It starts bad for me when I almost can not get up the steep, gravelly footing, path to get up on the trail. Then it was a steep, sweat-fest for the mile of push-a-bike up to the top of the ridge.

I rounded up over the top and hopped on to ride down the back side. Whoa.....too steep at the top!!! I had brakes squeezed tight and still could not stop!! I turned it into the hillside and hopped back off before any crashing ensued!! As I hiked down I did the math. When I checked all my gear for my Amtrak ride it was 46 pounds, the bike I am guessing weighs about 32 to 35 pounds, and I go at 215, so, almost 3 bills rolling down the trail. No wonder the brakes could not hold!! After the first 200 yards or so the trail mellowed out and I could jump on and ride!!
All fun (?) things must end and I was back on the towpath heading for Hancock.
About ten miles before Hancock there is an alternate trail called the Western Maryland rail trail. It is a paved trail that parallels the towpath. I jump up on that and my average speed jumps up 3 MPH.
 This is good as I am feeling the effects of 50 plus miles on the towpath plus my little hike-a-bike route. I have decided I would find a bed for tonight because I don't see any campground sites in Hancock. Plus three nights sleeping on the ground and my train station chair night it was time to treat myself!! I roll into town and I am studying the map where they pinpoint the food and lodging and services available in town. A couple roll up that I have been passing back and forth for the last two days, John and Theresa. They are from the DC area and doing the same ride as me. They are strong cyclists and are faster than I am but stop at most towns and locks and read the history and take pictures so I pass them and sure enough they catch me out on the trail. They have a reservation at a B&B and tell me I should come with them and see if they have an extra room available. Turns out they do and my goodness......what a beautiful old house Bill and Darlene have renovated into a fantastic B&B. 1828 House is the name of it and I highly endorse it!! Small world stuff here.....I filled out my registration card and Bill looked at it and Said "Estes Park??". I said "yes, have you heard of it?" He told me that his daughter and son-in-law lived there and had been there many times!!
It was a great find and an example of cyclists being friendly to help each other out. There was a nice place right across the street to eat. A shower and  clean sheets and a beautiful bed, I slept soundly!!

We'll pick up there for tomorrow.
Thanks for reading along!!


  1. Good that you were able to have the presence of mind to take control of your descent before it got out of control. I am surprised, however that you disc brakes were not strong enough to hold. My cantilever brakes are poor, but the discs on my Fuji would throw you over the handlebar if you grabbed hold all the way. Maybe the discs aren't as great for touring as I might have thought. Great scenery, and the little singletrack looked like much fun.

  2. Glad to see your treating yourself Jim -nothing like sleeping on the ground for a few nights to make you appreciate a nice bed. Good job controlling your descent -that is a real sinking feeling to know your brakes aren't going to stop you. Looking forward to your next report.