Day six C&O

I was pedaling down the trail by six this morning.
One of the reasons for the early start was that a detour was ahead of me that would require pushing the bike up and then down a trail designed for foot travel only. The other was that I was hoping another detour to the town of PawPaw would net a good breakfast and a possible resupply.
The resupply part was critical. At the beginning of the trip I had assumed that groceries would be available in any of the small towns the trail passes through. This has not proved to be the case, and I was completely out of dinners and down to one more breakfast. The little town of PawPaw came through with breakfast sandwiches at at convenience store and enough dinner and breakfast food to last the rest of the trip.
One of the day’s high points came not long after leaving last night’s campsite. I have seen beaver dams, and I have seen trees gnawed down by beavers. But, I had never seen a beaver. That finally changed this morning. Not only did I see one, but he just kept swimming in circles like he wanted me to get a good picture.
After breakfast and resupply were out of the way it was back to the trail. Within a very short time I was pushing a loaded bicycle up a hill that would have been a challenge under any conditions. The detour was made necessary due to repairs being made on a long tunnel through which both the canal and towpath pass. After a number of catch my breath breaks, one of which offered a nice view of PawPaw, I finally reached the top. There were a few other trails, service roads really, at the top, but the one I was supposed to take was clearly marked.
When I got back to the towpath something didn’t seem right. At the beginning of the detour, while standing on the towpath and facing the detour, the tunnel (not actually visible) was to the right. The detour took you over the tunnel, and it seemed to me that once back on the towpath the tunnel would be on the left when facing the detour. It wasn’t. My first thought was that I had made the climb to the top for nothing and come back down on the same side of the tunnel I went up on. With little other choice, I headed away from the barricade blocking the trail and continued on. It was a relief to find everything as it should be.
With the detour behind me, it was time to head for the next waypoint, Little Orleans. A hoped for lunch there didn’t happen, so after a short break I started for Hancock, MD. At some point it started raining hard enough that I stopped to put on my rain jacket. The rain ended in just a few minutes and the rain jacket went back in the front pannier.
Later, the rain returned. Seriously returned. I had the hood of the rain jacket pulled tight enough to keep it from blowing off my helmet, and the jacket was keeping warm if not all that dry. Did I mention it was raining? Several times (honest, I actually saw this) frogs crossed the path from the canal side of the trail seemingly headed to higher ground. I even saw three turtles doing it. There is photographic evidence of two of them. While this was happening the bike was gaining weight in the form of mud thrown from the tires to the frame. My feet were soaked, my shorts were soaked, and my shirt was as wet from the sweat being generated under the rain jacket as it would have been without the jacket.
The trail was almost a continuous puddle, some places deeper than others, and, being as soaked and dirty as possible in just a few minutes, there was no point in trying to avoid just plowing through all of it.
Nearing Hancock, I passed one of the hiker/biker campgrounds where the top of a huge Boxelder had broken of and landed on the picnic table and grill. By the look of the leaves, it had probably happened during the storm.
Once in Hanover I was able to resupply the one thing that was unavailable in PawPaw – Heet fuel additive for my alcohol stove. With that out of the way it was decision time.
Starting at Hancock and continuing to Fort Fredrick, the Western Maryland Rail Trail closely parallels the C&O Towpath. The Western Maryland trail is paved. The C&O, as my mud-caked bicycle attests, is not. Almost everyone takes advantage of the paved Western Maryland, but there is one drawback. It is my understanding, that C&O hiker/biker campsites are not accessible from the Western Maryland trail. I had grave doubts about my ability to make it to the other end of the Western Maryland trail and then to the first campground on the C&O. Option two was finding a place in Hancock. Option two won.
On the plus side, I slept warm and dry, my muddy clothing and self got clean, and several items that had gotten (at least) damp had the chance to air dry. On the minus side, I spent some money that wasn’t planned.


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