Wednesday, September 9, 2009

C&O Tow Path Part Two: Slackwater to Cumberland

Day two put me in the Big Slackwater of the Potomac. A section where the river widens and slows due to Dam #4, and resembles more of a lake than a river. Some sections of the slackwater are over 60 feet deep. This was a section of the canal where boats would navigate through the deep waters of the river for 13 miles before entering the canal again. It's a popular area with many houses and docs on the Virginia side.

This also meant I had to ride the 5 mile detour as the tow path that hugged the cliffs along the river washed away. The ride on the road was a nice diversion and a welcome break from the constant vibrations of the tow path.

There is an initial climb from the canal which pretty tough but it quickly leveled out into rolling hills and beautiful farm land.

After reconnecting with the canal the rest of the day sped by in a beautiful blur of cliffs, canal, railroad and river. Toward 5pm I reached the Paw Paw Tunnel which is not only 3/4's of a mile of engineering masterpiece but the reason the railroad beat the canal to Cumberland. There is some fascinating history surrounding the tunnel.

At 81 miles I thought I might push it a little further, it was only 5:00. However, after grabbing a pizza in town I was ready to take it easy so I headed back to the Paw Paw campground. I talked to a bunch of nice folks at the park which after two days alone was a welcome diversion. The campground is in a meadow a half a mile passed the tunnel. There isn't much to the town so I walked around the park after setting up camp, then hit the sack.

taken with the 'blur cam'

In the morning I was greeted by a herd of deer that had stopped in the meadow for breakfast. I looked at the map and planned the day while breakfast boiled. I had only 30 miles left before Cumberland and thought that if I pushed it I could make it back to Hancock before the end of the day. Hancock meant I could sleep at the C&O Bicycle bunk house and forgo the tent entirely. At around 85 miles, this seemed like a decent goal so off I went.

The morning was beautiful and unlike most of the trail there was a lot of clearings full of sunlight.

Around a bend I happened upon a group of turkeys which oddly enough had a rabbit in their ranks (not in the photo).

Having a short distance to travel before Cumberland turned out to be quite the motivator. I cranked it out averaging a little over 15 mph and arrived in Cumberland by 9:30 am.

Cumberland is a very cool town with tons of little cafes and shops. The people where very inviting and I felt like a local in no time.

I had a breakfast sandwich at Cafe Mark and browsed the supplies at Cumberland Trail Connection. The cool thing about Cafe Mark is that there was an electrical outlet right out front where I parked the bike so I could charge the phone before heading back towards DC. (bottom right)

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