The tunnel of green - My C&O and GAP Pandemic Tour - CycleBlaze

October 6, 2020

The tunnel of green

Cycling from Harpers Ferry to Williamsport

Harpers Ferry in the early morning light
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The fog was rising from the rivers as I pedaled through Harpers Ferry to the C&O. The quiet town was awakening to a beautiful day. 

Crossing the railroad bridge back to Maryland
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Breakfast was on my mind. I skipped the Quality Inn COVID19 hotel breakfast. Two years ago I breakfasted at Betty's in Shepherdstown. Good home cooked comfort food breakfast drove me to pedal faster.

Betty's in Shepherdstown. I command you to stop here for the best breakfast in the tri-states.
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Twelve miles later I cycled up the switchbacks to the highway to breakfast. Shepherdstown is a quaint town high above the Potomac on the West Virgina side of the river, A college town, it showed its progressive leanings. I looked around as I dismounted my bike and was greeted with many storefronts flying pride flags.

Small Town Diner wisdom as shared by Betty's
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I headed back down those switchbacks with my belly full of many cups of aromatic coffee and my sausage gravy breakfast skillet. The trail to Williamsport was a tunnel of green. Many years ago a fellow C&O tourist coined that phrase about the mile after mile of trees with an occasional glimpse of the river.

The powerful waters of dam 4 on the Potomac
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Dam 4 on the Potomac is one of my favorite photo-ops on this day of cycling. It is one of the seven dams that were built to divert water into the canal. This dam is particularly scenic with a stone building on the West Virginia side. It watered 22 miles of the canal to just above Harpers Ferry. 

You just can't beat the natural beauty of the big slackwater
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A few miles later I cycled onto the Big Slackwater above dam 4. This 2.7 mile section of the trail offers unparalleled view of the Potomac. The towpath is a sliver of land hugging the rock walls. Canal boats entered the river here as the mules continued walking along the towpath. C&O engineers  utilized the pool behind Dam 4 rather than dig a canal. 

McMahon's Mill on the western end of the C&O big slackwater
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McMahon's Mill sits at the western end of the slackwater. The bright red mill yells "Photograph me!" Mt touring companions and I sat back and enjoyed the bright sun and mid-70s temps with a million dollar view for a good amount of time. Relaxed, we pedaled the final miles to Williamsport.

The Williamsport Canal basin
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Williamsport has seen a good bit of work over the past few years. The Conococheague Aqueduct was rebuilt and watered. The canal basin east of the aqueduct is a prize photo-op. I cycled up into town after finding the new bridge into town. The towpath and route into town was previously on the now water-filled section of the aqueduct. 

Tom with helmet hair at Dam 4
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Tomorrow's ride takes me from Williamsport to Orleans. It's going to be another day of dam good photo-ops. I forgot to mention earlier that the refurbished 40 miles of the trail ended at Shepherdstown. Today's ride was dry and on a decent surface. No complaints.

Today's GAP and C&O History

How wide was the C&O Canal? The dimensions of the canal vary quite a bit. Below Lock 5 the width is 80 feet wide and 6 feet deep. Above Lock 5 to Harper's Ferry it is 60 feet wide and 6 feet deep. Above Harper's Ferry, 50 feet wide. And now you know!

Today's Route

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Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 116 miles (187 km)

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