Reaching the end

Let go of the, let go of the future.


A good rest day in Harpers Ferry. Interesting town in that it seems a tourist attraction with its old buildings, history, and an attempt at maintaining that and earning a living from that. Re-enactments of civil war stuff, locals (I assume) walking around in period costumes of 1860.

For the entire trip we have heard about awful trail conditions especially mile 88 and 55. We did 88 around a muddy section the day before. Leaving harpers ferry we come across the “bridge out” at 55. We have heard numerous stories ranging the gambit of problems. I went to park service in Cumberland and all I got was “bridge out” without further direction. In harpers ferry went to park service but told they do not do c & o trail, only harpers ferry historical town. Told to check website and call park service in Hagerstown where c& o park headquarters is. I checked website and found this.

Towpath Closed. Due to a washout. There is no detour in place at this time due to unsafe conditions on adjacent roadways. From the west, exit the towpath at Brunswick (MP 55), or from the east at Lander Lock 29 (MP 50.9). Please contact Shepherdstown Pedal and Paddle at 304-876-3000 or River and Trail Outfitters at 301-834-9950 to arrange for a shuttle around the detour. Construction has begun on a temporary bridge but has been delayed due to frequent high water events. Work will resume when the risk for flooding is minimal and take approximately 2-3 weeks

I called park service and received a “hello”. The fellow said he just answered the phone but was not the park service. He did give me detailed instructions for a detour and said it was very hilly but since we were bikers we could do it. He questioned our future stay in Leesburg as it was 6 miles off trail.

Staircase from pedestrian walkway across Potomac River

Jeanne said she just wanted to see what the bridge out was, so we decided to ride to it. Leaving harpers ferry we came across a heavily loaded rider who had just come from there. He maintained it was no problem. He went up to railroad and crossed on aqueduct, stating room at side if train came by, but there were workers there who seemed not to care. He said the trees across trail between here and there were a worse problem. He originally called to inquire about shuttles and cost was $175 for the 5 mile detour.

Arrived at site and bridge most definitely gone. Hurricane Florence, a month ago, had reeked havoc. The area has received a massive amount of rain this past summer. Nearly double the normal.

Bridge mostly definitely not there

We looked around at the railroad and a short trail to it and downstream where a large trail led even a shorter distance to the stream edge. I went there and it appeared shallow with flat rocks on the bottom. Took off shoes and socks, and 30 seconds later I was on other side in a bit of mud but not bad. Went back for Jeanne’s bike, and we were off, wondering if the problem was still ahead as this had been a non problem. Perhaps on another day with more rain it would be different but for us we are sill questioning the problem.

Impossible steam crossing

Arrived at ferry across the Potomac, and called for the motel shuttle advertised. They said not available for 2-3 hours. We decided to ride and ok although a 4 lane busy highway with shoulder.

Building beside river showing recent flood levels at stories 2 and 3.
Whites ferry

In the morning departed via shuttle, although it was apparent motel was not happy having to shuttle us. Arrived at trail and I saw a park service car and thought I would inquire about yesterday’s event. He said he was purely law enforcement and knew nothing about trail. Once again, it is reiterated, never ask a cop for help.

It was a rainy day and trail muddy. Occasional gravel but a lot of mud. I did try riding the edge of one puddle and went down. I see a lot of people riding without helmets and wonder as I seem to hit my head every time, although this time just a simple fall although neck hurt a bit. Park service in Cumberland did warn me do not ride edges of puddle.

More construction areas with short detours as we approached city. The atmosphere was becoming noisier with air traffic and as we got closer traffic noise through the tree above, us although we were still very much in forest.

Stopped at Potomac falls, a very impressive rapid.

Potomac falls
Heron fishing

As we approached Washington the trail had a paved section next to it and we hopped on it, for riding out of dirt and mud. My rear brake was beginning to act up, sticking as Jeanne’s had done back on Erie Canal. I washed it, but kept sticking. The trail separated and we were on a road on a bike path by street. We wanted the c & o and returned back to find trail. It wound around some buildings, obviously trying to maintain historical canal, but also trying to develop the area. Development was winning and we got pushed back to the bikeway. We worked our way through various intersections finding ourselves at a rowing club getting ready for sculling practice. Met some other cyclist who had found the end and said go through the club and around corner. We wound our way through the folks carrying 8 man sculls to the water, finally around building and a tiny park with milepost 0.

Arriving Washington DC
Numerous sections changing trail or finding trail
Rowing club practice
Milepost 0 with watergate hotel in background. Watergate is named for water gates a start of c&o canal

On departure found a hose on side of building of which we washed our bikes. One fellow walking by congratulated us saying it was quite a feat, although had no idea what we had done or how far.

My rear brake was now totally locked so I removed pads which were completely worn out, after being new at beginning of trip. Plugged in a walking route to motel which said an hour. We walked rode in 1/2 hour through city.

Exhausted more than I have been in a long while, sore, and dirty. No explanation for the tiredness but it was. We had made a dinner date with our friends son for dinner and only night available. Shuttle to metro station and metro train in Washington DC for a weird dinner restaurant but a good visit.

Celebration dinner

Hence biking for this rip is done. My rear tire has developed a bulge and rear brake gone. Time to get some bike boxes and pack up.

One thought on “Reaching the end

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