06 May 2012

Three Days on the C and O Canal

Just finish with all my notes so I could post about this trip. If you remember back to last year I had planed this trip and had to cancel it due to a storm and work. Well the weather radar was not looking any better for this year with rain and snow in the forecast.

After months of research and planning I had decided to ride the C&O Canal from Georgetown to Cumberland MD and back unsupported. A out and back trip of about 370 miles. I can tell you that it did not go as plan and that's OK. What I think I am going to do here is blog about things that went right and things that I learned that will help others with their C and O Canal trip.

I have ridden from Great Falls Maryland to Harper's Ferry W. VA before and other section with my son's Scout Troop. So I knew about the trail and had been on it. I used 4 difference sources to plan my trip bikewashington.org,bikecando,National Park Service and C and O Yahoo Groups.

All of these sites are great to use. The maps are great and how you can use the different features of the site to plan your trip. But the Bike Washington and the Bike Cando are outdated because of the information on trail side resources such as stores are not up to date. Just in the short time it has been (a few years)that I was last on the trail, the economy has paid its' toll on some of the business that riders used to support their trip of the C and O Canal.

I think it would be best if there is a phone number listed on either website you should call it to see if that business is still open. Because if it is part of your plan for resupply and it's not open anymore that is going to cause you a problem. I know first hand...

Planning your starting point. This might be one of the biggest issues that you have to figure out and what works best for one might not be best for everyone. I started my epic adventure at the economy parking lot at the Reagan International Airport. The cost is $12 a day. You can search for cheap airport parking and find that there are some deals with the local hotels that provide long term parking at their parking decks and they are just a short distance to the Mount Vernon Trail. Most of the hotel parking will run you around $10 a day. So this can save you a few bucks. The one reason I did not go that route was I have had my credit card number stolen from a parking deck in this same are. Other than at airport parking I use cash anytime I use a parking deck.

Park near a row sign and either write it down or mark it with a GPS. With several hundred cars and miles behind you the last thing you want to do is spend 30 mins looking for a car. To leave the lot head to the north left corner and there is a side walk opening to leads to back the the road that you drove to get to the parking lot. The Mount Vernon Trail is about 25 ft across the road. You will have about a five mile ride from the airport to Georgetown. The Mount Vernon Trail follows the Potomac River and you get to see the National Monuments from the river which is cool.

Planning your daily mileage. I figured I would have some good long days in the saddle. Since I was going solo on this trip and I would have all day to ride. I also figured that I have done some 50 and 65 mile races in the four and five hour time period that 80 miles in a day was doable. It's only a one percent grade for 184 miles. That is like flat right? It is and it looks like this.

You will be in the saddle all day! There are no hills other than the rise at a lock and the fall after one. When you stop pedaling then you stop. So one percent equals pedaling all the time... This might not seem hard but if you add bad weather or a head wind or just riding by your self it is going to be a hard day.

Put in one these

and then push your loaded bike up this

If you are using trail side stores for your lunch and dinner resupply then this might dictate your mileage for the day. My plan was to get me to Huckleberry Hill Hiker/Biker campsite just north of Harper's Ferry. This made for a 68.4 mile day which took 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Day Two starts off by the NPS maintenance crew coming by a check the pump well at the campsite. It was cold so I started my day in the tent cooking up some coffee and something to eat.

Now here's something that you need to know about the water in the pump wells. The Park Service treats the wells with iodine. It might be me but I don't care what you do it tastes like crap and will turn a weak tea brown in your water bottle. You might want to bring a little more cash with you and purchase the water off the trail.

I think you could spend the good part of a day in Harper's Ferry. I would say this is a must see town. Take the two vehicles out of the picture and I am sure that is what it looked like 150 years ago.

Now this is cool. The next picture is taken at the point where the Potomac and Shenandoah River come together. It is cool seeing the water of each river mix into one.

I used my Field Notes Brand Notebook as my map and trip journal for this trip. The notebook is about the size of a passport and I used all the time since I put the NPS map in the back of the book (second picture).

Come on back later this week to check out the next post on this trip. I will be covering the rest of day two and day three. I will also go over some of the equipment that I took with me. I don't have this ultra-light weight bikepacking thing out yet but I am getting there.

1 comment:

Dan O said...

Awesome! Looking forward to the next post. I've always wanted to do a trip like this.