Day 7: Harper’s Ferry, WV to Temple Hills, MD

Today’s Highlights:
Today we rode seventy-eight miles to complete our seven day, 354-mile cycling adventure from Pittsburgh, PA to Temple Hills, MD. This sets a new single day distance record for Stacia and Joe, and marks the successful completion of their first multi-day bike tour. For Chris and I, it was the first self-supported trip we have made, and we had some of our longest days on the trail in terms of time. Everyone finished strong and happy and without injuries, and with only a few sore body parts which will heal soon.

Riding these two historic trails was very enjoyable. Being in the wood is always peaceful. We were often alone with just the trees and rivers and wildlife. Road crossings were rare and towns even more so. All the people we met on the trail were either on a walk seeking the same peace, or on a bike seeking the same adventure and challenge. Being on a bike frees your mind even more than a nice walk in the woods, because you are always intensely focused on watching for obstacles, negotiating the terrain, and being mindful of eating and drinking in order to survive the long hours of aerobics. All this, while enjoying the surrounding nature, quickly eliminates the thoughts of work and news and normal daily distractions. So, although we had a physically demanding vacation, we are mentally refreshed. Most of all, we enjoyed each others company and comradery, and we will always remember the fun adventure we shared together.

So how did today go? The night in the hostel was just okay. It was interesting to be in a house that hasn’t changed much in 170 years, except for the new bathrooms, thank goodness. However, I would rather just visit an historic site and then stay in some place more modern. We got up early for a 6:00 breakfast that was served by a very pleasant gentleman. The food was very fine, although light for the day’s activity ahead of us. After breakfast, our cycling start was slightly delayed to fix a flat tire. We were on the bikes at 7:30 and rode out of the very quite town of Harper’s Ferry as the low sun warmly lit the buildings and danced off the Potomac River. This was our coolest morning of the week, starting out at 57 degrees, and the air was clear and dry from the north wind, giving us a bright blue sky. Although it warmed up later in the day, it was still very comfortable for riding.

We continued east on the tow path along side the old canal bed, which, as we noted all the way from Cumberland, varied from new forest to a dried ditch to small ponds or muddy pools. I did notice more mosquitoes today though. We were also closer to the Potomac, which widened significantly as we followed it toward the Atlantic, and provided beautiful scenery for us to enjoy. The tow path was dirt and gravel for the next sixty-one miles to Georgetown, and continued to wear on us despite the fun of negotiating roots and rocks and splashing through mud puddles. We passed many more lock houses today, including a few that you can rent for the night and experience what it was like to live in one over one hundred years ago. I guess that would be similar to the hostel we stayed in, except we thankfully did not have to go outside to an outhouse. Some of the locks we saw today were still operational or restored, and it was interesting to inspect them and think about the tremendous work that people put into building and operating the canal.

Although we were nearing Washington DC and the big cities to its east, the trial remained very remote until we were actually in Georgetown. We did not find any food stops along the way. However, we cleverly prearranged a meeting place with Taylor (my nephew) and Maggie for lunch. This was at the Great Falls Park, which was forty-nine miles from Harper’s Ferry, and we reached it at 1:30 PM. Meeting them was the highlight of today. They were so kind to bring us a much needed lunch and water. We had a nice visit and eat lunch on a rock outcrop overlooking the Potomac. Around 2:30, we departed and continued our ride toward DC.

Fifteen miles from Great Falls, we reached Georgetown and rode the last several hundred yards on brick walkways to reach the end of the C&O trail at 3:30 PM. After a brief celebration and a picture at the park sign, we continued to Chris and Stacia’s house. The route included a stop in front of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Then we rode over the Memorial Bridge to Alexandria where we cycled on a paved bike path for about ten miles. It was a relief to be on pavement again instead of the rough surface. We had a short ride though Old Town and then reached the bridge over the Potomac to Maryland. There was a big hill climb and some riding on busy streets to finally reach Chris and Stacia’s house at 6:00 PM. Wow, that was a long day! We breathed in a lot of fresh air today.

Once again today, we met Taylor and Maggie, who had done grocery shopping for us while we cycled the last 29 miles. We gathered for a cookout and celebration of our completed adventure.

It was all great fun. Thanks to Chris and Stacia and Joe for a wonderful bicycling adventure and the chance to learn about the Great Allegheny Passage and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

Pictures Of The Day:

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Go here to see the full GAP and C&O Bike Trip Gallery

Joe’s pictures of the day:

Zoom and pan the map to explore the route. Click the name or ‘View Detail’ to view more information at Garmin Connect.

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1 Response to Day 7: Harper’s Ferry, WV to Temple Hills, MD

  1. June says:

    What a great trip!! Congrats to Joe & Stacia for keeping up with you and Chris! Looks like a fantastic time was had by all. Pretty country!

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