C&O Canal Closed during Government Shutdown.
Sally and I are in harpers ferry. We spent an off day here yesterday. We got lucky the government decided to open things back up. This is a cool town with lots of history. Today we are going to finish off the ride to DC. Then we are gonna spend a bit of time in DC exploring.
Lots of people whom I have spoken to said the C&O is rough and awful. We have enjoyed it. I like it better than the GAP. It can be rough here and there. There are a few mud puddles, rocks and roots. It is a great ride though.
Jason wrote:Lots of people whom I have spoken to said the C&O is rough and awful. We have enjoyed it. I like it better than the GAP.
I think it depends on a lot of things. I’m not a fan of a massive amount of insects which are overwhelming on the first leg of the C&O. There’s also the issue of bike setup; I was riding my road (touring) bike, while my hybrid would have done better on the C&O. If I ride it again in the future, I’ll be using wider tires. Honestly, I hated the C&O so much, that I’d seriously consider taking roads next time. To each their own…
Have fun in DC!
Drewbacca wrote:I hated the C&O so much, that I’d seriously consider taking roads next time.
Me too, but I’ve been unable to find anything like a good alternative. There are some back roads there which seem like there might have some nasty traffic issues, and even those peter out around the PawPaw tunnel, as I recall. There’s also US 40, which at least has a shoulder, but at some points it becomes limited access.
So if anyone figures out a way around using the C&O from Cumberland to DC I’d like to hear about it.
if only they made bicycles and/or bicycle tires suitable for rough terrain…
I didn’t think the c&o was too bad for the most part. the roughness itself didn’t bug me as much as the random roots and rocks sticking up to give you pinch flats (which I got twice). those were present even when the surface was otherwise nice, and tough to see with the light coming through the trees. I was running 32s, next time I’ll probably go 37 or wider, or I might even take my MTB for a nice plush ride.
salty wrote:if only they made bicycles and/or bicycle tires suitable for rough terrain…
I was running 32s, next time I’ll probably go 37 or wider, or I might even take my MTB for a nice plush ride.
It would be a great place to have a suspension fork with lock out… assuming you don’t want front racks or are willing to fudge around and make one work. OK… just for the record, I’m kidding (it would be nice, sure, but not remotely necessary).
I would say 32s at bare minimum. I was running 28s and it was giving me a lot of hand discomfort. Part of that was my saddle being too far forward (until that trip, I followed the K.O.P.S. or knee-over-pedal-spindle approach to bicycle fitting). I also had my tires pumped up close to 100psi. If I ride it again, I’m going to shoot for 35’s at 60psi max.
I need to get my other road bike set up so that I can use my touring bike as a dedicated tourer… in which case, I think 35’s would be a happy choice.
I was running 38mm tires. Probably aired up a bit high because I slammed a few rocks and never pinch flatted.
I think what also helped is we planned each leg to be about 60 miles. We would set out early and take lots of breaks to throw rocks in the river and take pictures. We were in no hurry.
so we arrived and rode the trail with no problems. the potties had metal bands around them, and there was a sign up at every road crossing that “all national parks are closed” but didn’t necessarily say don’t ride the trail. we didn’t see a ranger once, nor even had a stink eye from a cop. the trail was suspiciously empty, as it might be the only thing that was different
cool… fwiw the c&o was pretty empty when we rode it pre-shutdown, aside from near a few trailheads with huge parking lots…
So if anyone figures out a way around using the C&O from Cumberland to DC I’d like to hear about it.
I just banged together a route that might meet some of your criteria, Jon. The Oldtown-Orleans Rd section might be dirt, and it involves some climbing, but on the other hand it should provide a great view of “General Washington’s Horseshoe Bend” in the Potomac River.
paulheckbert wrote:The Oldtown-Orleans Rd section might be dirt, and it involves some climbing, but on the other hand it should provide a great view of “General Washington’s Horseshoe Bend” in the Potomac River.
I rode the Oldtown-Orleans Rd once.
The trail in light rain was so mucked that I was going less than half the speed I would expect for the effort. Soul sucking. I left the trail about 5 miles East of Oldtown.
Too thick woods to be much of a view. I don’t recall seeing the river at all after the first quarter mile.
You miss the Paw-Paw tunnel completely I’d seen the tunnel before and I was making a round trip, so that was not a huge concern to me.
Oldtown-Orleans is a graded, unpaved road for much of the distance.
Paved, it would be sweet rolling hills up on a ridge. As it is, at the bottom of each roller coaster, there is serious, spine-shaking, wrist-numbing washboard.
I have hefty wheels and had 700 X 38 tires, but it was still too much. I’d brake before hitting them, losing the energy that I had to work so hard to acculmulate going up.
Maybe with a good front suspension you could keep some of your momentum.
The road is so little traveled that I used extreme caution. Break a leg next to the road, and it might be a day or two before anyone comes by to scrape you up. Iffy cell phone coverage.
Zero traffic issues, once you get off of “Oldtown Road” (State rd 51) to David Thomas road. Literally zero – no one passed me for 15 miles or so. Rt 51 has trucks, but I dont’ recall it being a white knuckle experience or anything.
Looking at Google, there seems to be “Shellhorn Rd” which is an alternative to Rt 51 and the canal for part of the route between cumberland and oldtown – My guess is that traffic wouldn’t be an issue on that road.
Western MD along the Potomac seems unpopulated compared with the Yough & Castelman Valleys. (Wiki county population densities DISconfirms this, though)
Paul Heckbert’s route include the Washington and Old Dominion trail From Leesburg to the DC area trail. That is a sweet paved ride (but you miss Great Falls on the Potomac).
Route 15 north of Leesburg is quite treacherous, I respectfully suggest you avoid it as you look for transitions into the trail at Leesburg.
I made the mistake of riding it with two friends a few years ago when we thought the C&O was too muddy for human travel. Route 15 was much worse in terms of risky behavior (and we’re all road riders). I mean, wow-worse.
My friend Mike said it was the most harrowing experience he’s had. It’s a narrow two-lane, 65-mph road with no shoulders and rushed DC drivers.
Rt 15 from the White Ferry to Leesburg isn’t bad (and the ferry is a really cool way to spend one dollar).
Taking 15 from Point of Rocks would be ill-advised .
Also I was under the Rt 15 /Point of Rocks Bridge waitng out a thunderstorm, once. But after a while, there seemed to be some kind of … rendezvous … there between, like, Tony Soprano’s boys and the local methedrine cowboys. The black Cadillacs and battered pick up trucks were converging. Under the bridge.
I decided that maybe I could brave the thunderstorm anyhow.
I rode the Oldtown-Orleans Rd once… Too thick woods to be much of a view.
I haven’t tried it, but I think you need to take Carroll Rd some to get to Point Lookout. In case you didn’t see it, this is the commentary I put on that route (http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3571552 and click “>>” tab in upper right)
Follows Oldtown Rd out of Cumberland, Oldtown-Orleans Rd from near Paw Paw to Little Orleans (parts of this road are dirt), all of the Western Maryland Rail Trail (paved) to near Fort Frederick, crosses the Potomac at Williamsburg, then thru the Virginia towns of Martinsburg, Charlestown, and Leesburg, where it picks up the Washington & Old Dominion Trail (W&OD, paved) to Arlington VA.
The hilliest portion would be on Oldtown Orleans Rd. There is a historic overlook (on Carroll Rd very nearby) called Point Lookout: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/centennial/PointLookout_History.asp “From the overlook can be seen 243 acres of land that was once owned by George Washington.”
I have not ridden this route, except for the WMRT. If you try it, please let me know!
I hit up some of my friends in the DC Randonneurs for alternate-to-C&O route suggestions, specifying scenic, low-traffic, and (mostly)paved. Here’s a really good response from Crista Borras:
Here’s a route that works, all on roads well ridden on by a lot of DC Randonneurs. MD144/Scenic 40 from Cumberland to Hancock is really very quiet. Very mountainous, but the climbs aren’t terribly steep. If you stop in Clear Spring the first night that’s just 56 miles, or you could go on to Williamsport at 65 miles. There is a little detour to visit the Antietam battlefield, but it could be skipped if necessary. The next day to Leesburg would be 68 hilly miles (from Clear Spring) or 59 miles (from Williamsport). The last day to DC is all on the W&OD and Custis Trails and is only 35 mostly flat miles.
You didn’t specify exact start/finish. This route starts at the Amtrak station in Cumberland and finishes at the Exorcist’s steps in Georgetown.
Check out strava’s new route planning feature
As a route planning tool, it really sucks. I can’t seem to get it to route the way I want it to, ever. Also, It doesn’t allow you to route to non-streets (most of the off-street trails that I use frequently). It also doesn’t show bike-map overlays from openstreetmaps or google.
However, it does have a heatmap overlay using track data uploaded by users, and that’s pretty freaking cool. It gave me ideas of routes that I had never even considered, but are apparently well used.
I’m going to use that while actually doing my mapping with ridewithgps, since that’s the best route planning and editing tool out there and nobody will convince me otherwise.
Note that there’s a yahoo news group, coTowpath@yahoogroups.com , that would be a better place for these discussions. I bet this topic has come up; you could search their history.
Garmin’s routeplanner apparently also provides heatmaps. I’ve never used it myself, but have noticed them on the Flock routes @MrMarvelous posts…
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