No Wrong Plan: Day 4 – Pigmans Ferry to North Mountain on the C&O Canal Towpath and the Western Maryland Rail Trail

Whippoorwill’s make an amazing alarm clock. As to peepers. And croakers. And honkers.

Okay. I’ll get up already!

Kevin reported hearing a couple of very large animals near our campsite. We initially thought it could be bears but it turned out to be cows foraging in the weeds a few yards away in the dark.

Ryan and Kevin had coffee using Kevin’s coffee gizmo. Ryan made some oatmeal. I made do with the fruit in my belly from last night. We talked a bit with Anti-Meth Man. He was incredibly organized. I suppose you have to be if everything has to fit on your back.

We rode off into the tunnel of green. I wasn’t drinking much because of my distaste for iodine and metallic well water. The fuel from the fruit was soon used up. I was running on empty looking forward to going to Bill’s Place in Little Orleans. It’s a landmark on the Canal that I have heard much about.

The first order of business though was the Paw Paw tunnel. This 3,100 foot tunnel is lined inside with bricks. It’s incredibly dark. The path is narrow and the footing is all kinds of bad. Sometimes there is washboard, sometimes puddles, a rock or two to trip over. It takes quite a while to get through to the other side. Lights are most definitely recommended.

One the eastern side there is a boardwalk that could use a little work. It gets you over some rather nasty looking rocks though.

Temperatures today were noticeably cooler than the 60s and 70s of the previous three days. We wore layers and hardly noticed.

Flowers everywhere.DSCN3912_1039

River vistas.

Bumps on the trail.

We rode on fumes and stopped at a clearing after about 30 miles. There was a building over there but we were focussed on getting to Bill’s Place. After a short rest we rode on. In 4.7 miles we stopped again at the turn off for the Western Maryland Rail Trail. A sign said Hancock 11 miles east, Little Orleans 4.7 miles west. We had missed Bill’s Place. We stopped right near it but didn’t see it for our fatigue.

We decided not to DSCN3914_1041backtrack and moved over to the paved WMRT.

Normally we would be zooming along but we were gassed. This was one of those times that you put your head down and just get it done.

We pulled into Handcock. At a bike shop Ryan topped off his rear tire. I bought some snacks and inhaled most of them. The bike shop folks gave us directions to a place with beer and burgers and we headed there for lunch.

I had been trying not to eat meat on this trip but this became futile. ‘Merica. We expected humongous burgers for some reason. We got hockey pucks. Fortunately, we threw dietary caution to the wind and ordered up some cheese fries. I find these disgusting but we needed CALORIES!!!  I ordered coffee. There I was at a bar in rural Maryland with two grimy bike riders alternating drinks between water, beer, and coffee. There are no rules on a bike tour.

The barkeep filled our water bottles and gave us directions to a produce store up the road. Apparently “produce” means junk food because there was nothing but snacks, candies, jellies and breads at this place. Kevin and I bought some Hancock produce and we headed back to the WMRT on a rocky access path.


Ryan’s rear tire blew. We decided it was time to pull out one of his new tires and give up the old one to the bike gods. And then we rolled on.

Near Fort Frederick we cut back over to the towpath where we met a volunteer trail ranger on a Sun Tomahawk recumbent. He and I talked ‘bents and he reassured me that recumbents are a much more comfortable ride on the towpath. Yeah, well.

We were near a pay campsite but the ranger advised us of a free site not too far up the trail so we headed there. The North Mountain site was down a bumpy decline from the trail. It was nice though. We could hear the trains rolling along the tracks across the river in West Virginia but the trees dampened the sound. Or so I thought.

I ate all my junk food in one go. I would pay for this will gyrating blood sugar and reflux for the next 12 hours. Dumb.

As we went to sleep the temperature dropped into the 40s. My sleeping bag is rated to 55 degrees. I wore all the clothes. No problemo.

We slept as if we had ridden 59 miles. Which we had.

Pix are over on my Flickr site.

One thought on “No Wrong Plan: Day 4 – Pigmans Ferry to North Mountain on the C&O Canal Towpath and the Western Maryland Rail Trail

  1. I love reading others’ accounts of riding the C&O towpath mostly because we all have different experiences. Where you saw flowers, we enjoyed long autumn views into the woods. We had similarly cold nights in September. But one thing is the same: the towpath is beautiful but rough on bikes. I broke a fender because a stick was flung into the plastic. I expected to be able to relax and spin the pedals. Instead I was on constant alert, negotiating around sticks and stones lining the path. Still, I wouldn’t trade my tour for anything. I’m glad your adventure was similarly wonderful.

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