Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Winter Canal Trip

Day 1:

I awoke at 3AM sunday morning, loaded the car, and headed for Cumerland, Maryland and C&O Canal's terminous. I began my trek while the deepest blues still hung on the horizon, with a mix of hiking and biking through 6"+ of crusty whiteness. Five miles in, I got my one and only flat tire; the result of two old thorns and frozen tire slime. With high tempsin the teens, my bare hand burnedas it contacted the metal surfaces. After patching the tube, I made slow progress, but as I entered Old Town, the deep freeze left the canal with ice up to 8" thick which made for easier riding. I spoke to a couple locals who were ice skating on the canal that pointed me in the direction of the School House Cafe for a hot meal. The cold weather hike-a-biking was a constant reminder of my once broken hip and the metal that still lay deep within, as a dull pain nagged for much of the day. I pushed on and set up camp just south of the Paw Paw Tunnel as the sun set over distant hills. A measly 30 miles for the day. Overnight temps hovered right around zero, as I was lolled off to sleep by the constant crunching of crispy fringed floes, floating slowly toward Washington, DC, which still lay some 150 miles downstream.



Click to enlarge...


A frosted forest...


Keeping the core temp up...


Some were here before me...


Point of lift off...





Self portrait...


Fresh tracks on the frozen canal...


The sun dips low on the far side of the Paw Paw Tunnel...


Ice formations...


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Long shadows...


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Day 2:

I was slow to rise but eventually rolled out of the sack just as the sun rose over the river. The tea I had prepared before bed stayed warm in the thermos I stowed in my sleeping bag, so I sipped a bit and made my way to Little Orleans on an empty stomach and took an executive lunch at Bill's Place, a bar/ store which lies on the site of an old canal warehouse, which is owned and operated by an 86 year year old local and history buff. I chatted with Bill for a while over the T-one, taters and coffee before getting back in the saddle, headed for Hancock, where one of the good locals there put me up for the night.

Sunrise from camp 1...


Derelict tressel...


Worth the trip...



An old lock house...



Day 3:

I found it difficult to pull myself out of the warmth and comfort of a bed to head back into the cold, so i got started a little late, but there was much less snow on the tow path below Hancock. I saw a couple of guys ice fishing near Big Pool before stopping for another long lunch at the Desert Rose Cafe in Williamsport. I enjoyed the warmth, conversation and pulled pork sandwiches before moving along. I topped off my tea in Shephardstown, West Virginia at sunset, passed Anteitan Creek at dark, where I paused and contemplated camping. I wanted to get some more miles behind me, so i rode by braille, negotiating the chicanes at Harpers Ferry, making my way to Brunswick, where I had a burrito and camped on the banks of the Potomac just outside of town.
Behind the back...


Gettin' a little dirt action above Dam 4...





Riding by braille...



A lock just above Harpers Ferry...




Day 4:

I woke up to a gorgeous mild morning, the sun already high above the river valley. I made the quick trip to Point of Rocks where I picked up some coffee, a sandwich and 2 cans of Yoohoo. The snow cover faded considerably so I inflted the tires for less resistance, rolling them into familiar territory. as I crossed the Monocacy Aquaduct, I heard the bellowing horn of a distant freight train, and those night hanging out on the tressel visible to left came to mind. This place of water and stone has a unique way of making one remember, as well as forget. Troubles, washed away by the rumble of the rushing river, replaced by thoughts of times along these banks, on the water, andthose that shared them with me. As I make my way through more "civilized" areas on my approach to Washington, I notice the smiles and nods of approval I once encountered through less developed areas, now have turned to look of contempt, as if to say "Look at that bum, living on his bicycle." i dont let it get to me though. Something about this journey, having nothing to think worry about other than the basics: food, water, warmth and shelter keeps things in perspective. i pedaled into the Georgetown Waterfront around 3PM and stopped ofr a coffee before moving north up 14th street headed for home.

Home, sweet home...


The view from Indian Flat...



Must be cold out on the water...


Close to home...


Rollin' down "L"...



more photos... http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/album.php?aid=141718&id=784379014&ref=mf

6 comments:

  1. amazing photos... great story... and of course... it looks like a great experience

    and of course
    I am envious

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  2. What kind of wheels and tires are those?!? I've never seen such wide bike tires.

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  3. nice post. Definitely the best time of year for the C&O

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  4. surly endomorph tires 26x4 and speedway 70mm rims, offset to run on the pugsley. best time of year for sure. i didnt see anyone on the towpath until i got to hancock. then it was just one hiker.

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  5. Nice ride, and ride report. Badass that you did it in mid-winter on a pug.

    Also, the looks of "disgust" were probably really looks of jealousy as the city bound are stuck in their ruts.

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