Sunday, August 11, 2013

Day 38 - August 11 - The easy way through the Allegheny mts

Day 38 - August 11 -   Frostburg, MD to Hancock, MD- 73.3miles (118.0 kms) - total so far; 3078.7 miles (4954.7 kms)

Distance: 73.3 miles (118.0 kms)
Total time: 7hrs23mins (including lunch stop) 
Average Moving Speed: 12.5mph (20.1 kph)
Maximum Speed:32.7mph ( 52.6 kph) 
Calories burned: 2548
Elevation gained: 210ft (meters)

Weather: Sunny all day and temperature rose to mid 80s (30C). I did not feel any wind nor was the humidity noticeable.  A perfect day for riding a bike on an empty trail in the middle of the woods.

Powered by:   Breakfast - 2 boiled eggs,  bowl of Raisin Bran, bagel, yogurt, and fruit.  Lunch of 2 protein bars, 2 bananas,  and 1 liter Gatorade.  Snacks of 1 liter of Gatorade, I GU gel and 1 Clif bar. 

I had been looking forward to this segment of the journey for some time, especially on days when heavy truck traffic shared the road. The canal towpath did not disappoint.  It's now possible to ride on bike trails from Washington DC to Pittsburgh via the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) canal tow path and connecting in Cumberland, MD about halfway with the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).  While the GAP has a better surface for riding, the dirt mixed with crushed stones on the canal path is eminently ridable on the touring tires that I have.  I found that I could cruise at about 12mph (20kph) without effort though when the dirt built up between the fenders and tires, I slowed a bit.  After the recent rain, there were many muddy spots on the trail and I had to stop many times to pry the caked-on mud from under the fender where it was operating as a brake on the tire.  Since it's a canal towpath, the C&O is pancake-flat which was quite a contrast to the climbs of the past few days.

Beginning of the GAP in Cumberland at the end of the C&O canal trail

Hazard on the trail from the recent heavy rain

The C&O path is a National Historic park and was saved for the public through the efforts of former Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas in the 1950s.  He walked the length of the towpath to call attention to his (successful) campaign against turning it into a automobile parkway.  I was surprised by how empty the path is; I saw a total of 20 bicyclists in over 60 miles on it.Most were day bikers on rentals from some of the access points.  I chatted with two portly MAMILS (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) at the tunnel who were riding from DC to Pittsburgh.  For some reason, an image of Falstaff (it was probably the men in tights thing) who (according to Shakespeare) "lards the lean earth as he walks along" popped into my mind, though in this case, these two are larding the lean earth as they bike happily along,  jokes and teases flying at each other.

Confederate and US flags caught my attention to this small private family cemetery

The spy's brief biography

One of the many lock and lock-keeper houses on the canal (filled with algae)

The C&O is well documented by historical markers and has all sorts of little surprises, both historical and animal.  I saw lots of white-tailed deer, rabbits, a snake and almost ran over a turtle sunning in the middle of the path.  A small private cemetery just off the path contains the remains of a female Confederate spy during the Civil War.

Another natural hazard - by this time to him/herself as I almost ran over the turtle on the trail

Description of the Paw-Paw tunnel

Western end of the tunnel

Inside the Paw-Paw tunnel

Tunnel at the end of the light

The highlight of the day was passing through the Paw-Paw tunnel which must have been a heroic effort in construction.  It's recommended that bicyclists walk through the half-mile tunnel as there is a lot of water on the stones and it's absolutely pitch-black.  I had remembered to power up my headlight which provided enough illumination for my slow cycle through the tunnel. Since I have pedaled every meter of the way to this point, I wanted to keep to the aim of biking all the way to the coast.

The weather was perfect, the trail was beautiful and quiet (all I could hear were cicadas and birds), the pedaling was easy,and the distance for the day modest.  It was among the best days on the journey.

View of the Potomac from the C&O trail

Tomorrow I will continue on the C&O trail to Hagerstown and then head north back into Pennsylvania  to revisit Gettysburg on the 150th anniversary of the battle. I have not been there since 1970 so it will be interesting to see if my memories of the site are accurate.

No comments:

Post a Comment