Saturday, June 11, 2016

DC to Pgh Bike Tour Day 2 - Washington, DC to Harpers Ferry, WV

We got an early start from the Inn at Rosslyn. 
After trying unsuccessfully to find a pancake place for breakfast, we settled on the Panera Bread at the Rosslyn Metro Station, since it was on the way to the bike trail. They weren't able to make breakfast sandwiches due to kitchen renovations, so we settled on bagels and such, myself the yogurt, granola, and strawberry parfait (or "par-FATE" as the clerk called it). We ate on a bench on the sidewalk outside.
We made our way through morning traffic across the Francis Scott Key Bridge to Georgetown, where the start of the C&O Canal trail is located. On a side note, although we felt more confident riding through the city last night once we knew our way after the first time, it would take a lot more ice water than I have in my veins to ride in that traffic every day. Arriving on the trail around 9:00am, we also appreciated the irony that 32 hours after leaving home, we were finally stepping foot on the trail that we'd be on for the next five days. We wanted a photo op at Mile 0 of the trail. I checked Google Maps on my phone, and found that the end of the trail was about three blocks south of where we were. So we headed that way. There was no Mile 0 sign, though, so we posed at a "Lock 1" sign nearby.
  Also nearby was the visitor center for the C&O Canal National Historic Park, which is "Closed Indefinitely."
Continuing north on the trail out of the city for a couple of miles, we noticed that the paved Capitol Crescent Trail runs parallel to the C&O so we dropped down to the other trail at the next access point to tnjoy the pavement. We knew from the maps that the two trails cross again later. After only a quarter of a mile or so, we came to a bridge where to Capitol Crescent goes over the C&O and realized we had to go back down to stay on the C&O. Luckily, there was a set of stairs going down, although it meant hauling our heavy loaded bikes down the stairs. The C&O continued with the remains of the old canal to our right, and often spectacular views of the Potomac River to our left. 
Later, we came to a point where the canal widens into a small lake, with rocks islands scattered throughout.
A few miles later, we came to the Great Falls Overlook, where the river branches into three separate waterfall segments, with amazing views from a boardwalk.
The trail has hand-pumped wells for water every few miles. If the handle is on the pump, then the water is available and safe to drink. Most pumps were active, but we did come across one or two that were not. The first one available is about 26 miles outside of DC.
The trail is rumored to be very rough and sloppy on parts. We were blessed with dry weather. There were some spots with mud patches, but almost always a dry line to get through. I could see, though, where it would be much more treacherous right after a recent rain. Today, though, it was no worse than any part of our own Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail.
The old canal itself is also much like our own in Ohio. Parts are deep flowing, and navigable by kayak or restored canal boats; other parts are nothing more than a muddy old former canal bed overgrown with trees and weeds.
We discussed a lunch break, with help from two ladies riding as volunteer bike patrollers. There were option in Poolesville, but that meant a 5-mile off-trail detour, which we weren't too ken on, or Brunswick, MD, but that would be only 6 miles fromour ending point for the day. Soon, however, we came to White's Ferry, a working ferry boat taking cars (and bikes) across the river, with the White's Ferry Grille cafe next door.  Group of a dozen or two other bw tourists had just arrived before us, and the Grille wasn't really staffed or equipped to handle that many people at once. We waited over an hour to get our food. It was good food, though.
After lunch, we had about 25 miles to get to Harper's Ferry. I was struck by the number of other people bicycle touring the trail that we saw all day. Just a few years ago, if you were on you bike and saw some body else on a bike loaded with panniers and gear, it was such a novelty that you would always stop to chat. "Where are you from?" "Where are you headed?" "How long will it take you to gwt there?" Today, if you took the time to stop and hear the life story of every bike tourist you saw, you'd never get anywhere.
When younget to Harper's Ferry, there is a spiral staircase that leads up to a footbridge which takes you into town. We found a restaurant (Potomac Grill) and decided to go ahead and eat dinner before checking into our hotel (Econolodge) for the night. Total mileage for the day was about 66.

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